Support Local

I’ve always advocated for supporting local on this blog, but in these strange times it’s even more important to find some way to support the businesses we want to see still in business when this is all over.  I wanted to make a list of the places we’ve gotten take-out or delivery from in the last couple weeks. A few of the places have told us they weren’t sure if people knew they were still open so I wanted to highlight them in whatever way I could.  Obviously, based on delivery range this will be focused on Southwest Portland and the Tualatin/Tigard area where we live, but hopefully some people will find it useful.

Hops on Tap – This taproom/growler bar has quickly become our “local” since moving to this side of town. Pat, David and Jo are amazing people and they keep a interesting and fresh rotation of beers on tap.  Focusing only on “West of the Rockies” they feature predominately Oregon and Washington beers with an occasional California, Utah or Colorado handle popping up.  They also have a fantastic selection of wine, mead, cider, seltzer and kombucha on tap.  They have light bar food (quesadillas, sandwiches, chips and salsa etc).  They are open Noon-8 daily for take-out food and growler fills.

Sanchez Taqueria y Panaderia – This place is a local institution that just celebrated 20 years in Tigard.  The food here is not only amazing, it’s the closest thing we’ve found that matches the food we ate in Mexico. Very authentic. The bakery is amazing as well. It used to be self serve with bins and tongs, I doubt that is open anymore, but I saw a job posting on their Facebook page for the bakery, so it would seem it’s still open and you can order things from it.

Roxy’s Island Grill – Hawaiian food at it’s finest! I can’t speak for the other locations but the one in Tualatin is still open.  This is one of the places that told us they were slow and weren’t sure if people knew they were still open. The food here is really good, and priced a little bit cheaper than some of the other plate lunch joints in town. For 12-14$ you can get the normal plate lunch with meat and two scoops of rice and it’s enough to have leftovers.  You can’t beat that.

Ancestry Brewing – They have closed their Sellwood and Hawthorne locations, but the main brewery in Tualatin is still open.  We got dinner and a growler from them the other night and it was great. We got the mushroom bacon burger and the teriyaki pineapple chicken sandwich and both were amazing.  They are literally around the corner from us and before this is over I’m sure we’ll order from them again.  Also, highly recommend the Jerk Lime fries. Really good, and not super spicy.

Hip Chicks Do Wine – This is an urban winery in Southeast Portland that we joined as members when we lived in Woodstock and we continue to be members.  They make really good wine that’s super affordable and not pretentious. They also support things like Pride and New Avenues for Youth and things that we support as well. They are open for curbside pick up or free delivery of 4 bottles or more. There’s a link for online ordering on the website.  I recommend the “Wine Bunny” series (Blanc, Rogue, Blush). Those are my favorites. They also do an amazing Tempranillo, which is a varietal I had never heard of before.  It’s a Spanish grape that grows really well in Southern Oregon.

WinCo Foods – Don’t get me wrong, we love Fred Meyers and shop there all the time, but let’s be honest, the Kroger Corporation is going be just fine when this is all over.  WinCo is a “local” (Northwest/West coast) chain that is Employee-Owned. In fact, WinCo stands for “W”ashington, “I”daho, “N”evada, “C”alifornia, “O”regon. Their prices tend to be a little cheaper than Freddie/Safeway and their store brand stuff is perfectly acceptable. Even at Freddie we buy mostly store brand over name brand. We’ve shifted our grocery shopping to reflect a more local community.

Grocery Outlet – We happen to have a Grocery Outlet very close to us in King City. The prices are very good, since most of what they carry is closeouts. Most of their stores, including our in King City, are independently owned and operated by a local family. So the money we spend there stays in the community. Plus, lower prices make it a good place to shop for those on fixed income (like the seniors who live in King City).

Labyrinth Forge Brewing – Our friend Dylan from the Brew Crew opened this brewery shortly before all this madness started.  He’s quickly transitioned to online ordering and delivery to continue selling his beer.  He brought us a couple growlers the other day and it was frustrating we couldn’t hang out and talk.  He’s busy of course, and then the whole social distancing thing. Basically he knocked on the door and then stepped back around the corner. We waved and yelled thank you!

Petco – Like Grocery Outlet, our local King City Petco is independently owned and operated.  We’ve met the owner and he’s friendly and passionate about serving the local community.  We could get food and litter at the grocery store, but we adopted our kitties at a Petco (through a separate agency, but we met at a Petco) and the food the kitties started on was a brand from Petco, so we continue to buy it there.

I feel like there is something I’m missing but that’s all I can think of at the moment. Make sure to get out into your community (SAFELY!!) and find out what businesses are still open and how you can support them.

Sports and Beer

Beer and sports naturally go hand in hand. But what happens when there are no sports?

The last couple of days have been an avalanche of information, and weirdness.  It started with Italy cancelling all sporting events, include their top soccer league Serie A. In the US, the Ivy League cancelled entirely it’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, while smaller conferences like the MAC and AAC played games in empty arenas with no fans. Power 5 conferences like the ACC, SEC and Pac 12 continued on as normal, but with a weather eye on the horizon.  Yesterday, the two big bombshells hit. The NCAA announced that all tournament games for winter sports, including Men’s and Women’s Basketball would be played with no fans. Limited to essential personnel and selected family members only.  A few hours later, the NBA took it a step further and suspended the season. No games will be played until further notice. This morning what followed was the expected chaos as dominos started falling.  The Power 5 conferences cancelled what remained of their conference tournaments. The NHL and MLS announced the seasons would be suspended for at least 30 days, if not more. MLB is delaying the start of the season, and NWSL probably will as well. The XFL had announced they would play in empty stadiums but at this point may delay/cancel as well.

In the grand scheme of health and safety, sports really aren’t that important, but they can be a barometer for how things are going overall.  Sporting events get cancelled when really serious shit happens. Whether it’s smoke from wild fires, flooding from hurricanes or the shock and confusion that followed 9/11. When large major public events start getting cancelled you know things are bad.

What will the ramifications of this be? I have no idea. But I’ll say this. The players and teams won’t be affected.  For the most part, the fans won’t be affected. Sure, some people will be angry (some people always are) but you’ll either get to go to the games, or you’ll get your money back. Who this will hurt is the people who work at the stadiums. Let’s be real, that person pouring your $19 beer is making minimum wage, and that is likely their 2nd (or third) job considering pouring beer at a basketball game is a two night a week job.  Those are the people that are going to get hit hardest.  And secondarily will be the vendors who supply the stadiums with food and beer.  People will also be less likely to go out to bars/restaurants, so food and beer sales there will drop as well.

Things are going to get weird, and they may not get back to normal for quite a while. Tourism has already been hit hard, food service will get hit hard too. Some places may actually go out of business.  The big guys like Sysco distribution and AB-InBev will be just fine, but what about the small local places?

I don’t have any answers, hell, I don’t even have any good suggestions, except this. Be nice to your fellow humans. This is going to be hard on all of us. Beyond getting sick and possibly dying, some people will lose their jobs, possibly even their homes. We’re going to need everyone to support each other. Lift up your communities and stick together. Obviously, the advice is to isolate ourselves to prevent the spread of the virus, but don’t just peace out and forget everyone. When we emerge from our caves and blink into the sun again we’ll have to see what we have left and rebuild.

In the end, sports are mostly meaningless, but in this instance they can serve as the canary in the coal mine. Things are getting bad and we need to get ready. I’m not intending to scaremonger or anything like that, but get ready. Things will change. Public transit will be affected, your work schedule will be affected, schools and sports are already cancelled. Shit’s going to get weird. Take care of each other. We’re all we’ve got.

The hits keep comin’ and they don’t stop comin’…

I haven’t posted on here in a long while and it’s a little bit sad that this is the post that I come back to.

It’s been a rough couple weeks, nay, months in Beervana.

It started in September, when Cider Riot announced that it was up for sale due to some upcoming debt payments and investors getting antsy about losing money.  They have now announced that they’ve run out of time and will close Nov 9th.  Cider Riot was known for being a stickler for “real” cider. Dry, English and Irish style ciders made with European apple varieties that opposed the sweet fruit ciders of things like Angry Orchard and others. Unfortunately, being to tight in a niche can be very risky.  I’ve had the pleasure to meet Abram and he’s a stand-up dude and it’s only fitting that he was going to stay true to his vision to the bitter end and not try to make products for the sole purpose of making money. He didn’t “sell out” so to speak.

This was followed by the closures of two (or more) meaderies.  Nectar Creek closed it’s pub and production facility on Oct 5th. It’s an unfortunate reality that mead is a very expensive product to make. Honey is not cheap.  It’s also unfortunate that they had just recently moved into a larger facility.  I’ve seen this trend happen too many times to count, hot sales, maxed out production, expand and then die. Whether it’s from taking on debt, or sales suddenly dry up or any other multitude of reasons it seems to happen fairly often that right as a brewery takes that next big step the reward for that is a big fall.  I was very fond of their “Nectarade”, a lemon-lime mead that was super refreshing.

I had heard a rumor that Honeywood Winery, which makes traditional high alcohol mead/honey wine, had closed but now I can’t find anything about it. So maybe the rumors of their death has been greatly exaggerated.

I found out through a Facebook post (as these things happen these days) that Hi-Wheel Fizzy Wine was closing.  They are having a Funeral Party, appropriately tomorrow on Diá de los Muertos, to celebrate the end and serve up as much as they have left before they close on November 9th. They made light sessionable cider like “wine” from citrus juice. Very unique product and will be missed.

Then some of the big names started dropping.  23 year old Portland stalwart Lompoc announced it was closing.  Sadly, in this case, this was a “not surprised, just disappointed” kind of announcement.  They closed the Hedge House 2 years ago (which reopened as Little Beast) and then a year ago they got pushed out of their NW 23rd location in favor of apartments.  This seemed like an “only a matter of time” situation but they tried to tough it out. Another one of the Portland “legacy” breweries that’s struggling following the closing of Bridgeport Brewing.  The Oaks Bottom Pub in Sellwood will remain open and sell out the rest of what is left of the Lompoc beer and then transition to a neighborhood pub selling local beer from other places.  I’ve been to Oaks Bottom three times, the first two times were great and the third was unfortunately awful.  I’d be willing to go back but I don’t live on that side of town anymore.  I won’t rule it out if I’m in the neighborhood.

Speaking of Sellwood, Laurelwood brewing got bought by the company known as Legacy Breweries (which is partially owned by, or whose first brewery purchase was Ninkasi) and they are closing the Sellwood Taproom.  Laurelwood brewery will still exist, just not in Southeast anymore.  That neighborhood is taking a beating as far as breweries go.

Within a few days of the Lompoc announcement, Rock Bottom announced that is was closing it’s Portland pub in Downtown.  Rock Bottom is a national chain, and so for some people this might not be a “big loss”, but it can still act as the canary in the coal mine, so to speak.  The back and forth story goes that Rock Bottom claimed the building owner “didn’t renew the lease” while the building owner claims that Rock Bottom “chose not to renew” and honestly both of those can be true.  If the rent got jacked way up (double or more) which seems to be happening a lot here recently, certainly Rock Bottom could have “choosen” to not renew the lease, but also feel like they weren’t given a choice and are being forced out.  It’s a both/and kind of situation.  Whether people “miss” it or not, it’s still a dark portent for the Portland beer scene as a whole.

And then just yesterday, of all days, Coalition Brewing went off into the dark night with just a whisper. Coalition was one of the first, if not THE first, to get approved for adding non-pyschoactive CBD to beer.  Dubbed “two flowers” in reference to hops and hemp/marijuana, they’ve been selling it for years while others were trying to figure out to enter the space. They were CBD before CBD was cool. They were also known for their super hoppy IPA, Space Dust.  The Coalition location will re-open as Gorges Brewing, so it’s not all quite doom and gloom.

You’ll have to forgive me if later tonight there’s a tear in my beer as I go through my “Breweries Visited” list marking several more with the *Now Closed marker.

 

If ya can’t beat em…

The big news in the brewing world this week is the Boston Beer purchase of Dogfish Head Brewing.  Billed as a “merger” as the Dogfish crew will join the Boston Beer board and continue to help run Dogfish Head, it still involved Boston Beer paying for DFH in a mix of stock and cash and paying off Dogfish’s private equity investment so they will be wholly owned by Boston Beer. Based on the BA guidelines, the combined entity will continue to be considered “craft” since it’s a craft brewer buying another craft brewer.

I’ve written on the blog before about the BA definitions of “Craft” in my 2017 post “The war goes on..” Since that post, they adjusted the definition again to include “non-beer” products like seltzers and FMBs (flavored malt beverages), which seemed to favor Boston Beer almost exclusively.  And for me, that’s where the rub lies.

Compared to most people in the craft community (or at least the vocal minority), I have an “unpopular opinion” when it comes to Sam Adams/Boston Beer.  Not about the company themselves, but more about this ridiculous idea of “craft” beer versus the big “industrial” brewers.  Where it breaks down for me is the fact that Boston Beer IS a giant multinational conglomerate.  They are the 4th largest brewery in the country and in my opinion, literally no different than AB In-Bev or MillerCoors.

Boston Beer is a publicly traded company with a market capitalization of 3 billion dollars and nearly a billion dollars in annual revenue. They have several brands under their umbrella, including Sam Adams, Truly Sparkling Water, Angry Orchard Hard Cider, Twisted Hard Ice Teas, The Traveler Brewing Co and Coney Island Brewing. They are nationally distributed and can afford to advertise during the Super Bowl. There is no other BA defined “craft” brewer who is even remotely close to this level.  Now they’ve reached the point of buying craft breweries to pad their portfolio and increase their “street cred”.  No different than AB InBev buying Wicked Weed.

Now, I want to be clear, I don’t mean this as a judgement statement.  I want to present this as a statement of fact.  Simply what Boston Beer IS. To me, it’s neither good nor bad it just simply is. What I want to highlight is a tendency in the beer community to bash on AB InBev for using it’s size to push other products off the shelf, bash them for making “mocktails” like Bud Light ‘Ritas and Mikes Hard Lemonade etc, and especially for bashing them when they buy your favorite local brewery, and yet Boston Beer does all of those exact same things and yet they are the crown jewel in the BA Craft portfolio, the feather in the cap if you will.  To me, that’s hypocritical.

The BA has made it clear, doubling down on the logo deal, that the ONLY thing that matters is ownership.  Not product line, not innovation, not local interaction, not distribution, not advertising etc.

This is my opinion and I understand it’s not going to make a lot of people happy, but Sam Adams is not craft. A giant company pumping out 5 million barrels of nationwide distributed industrial lager is exactly what those of us in the “craft” are fighting against.
To me, a local 10,000 barrel brewery that pushing the boundaries with 10 or 12 different beer styles, rotating seasonals, experimenting with sours or barrel aging, THAT is craft. Even if it’s a brewery like 10 Barrel or Wicked Weed who is owned by the big boys.  If I walk into a bar with limited choices, I would choose a 10 Barrel (ABInBev) or Hop Valley (MillerCoors) beer over Sam Adams.  I don’t hate Sam Adams, but I’m not likely going to choose a light amber lager if there are more flavorful options like an IPA or a Stout. Especially, if they are the same price.  If the Sam Adams is on special or a lot cheaper, sure that might influence the decision.

To be transparent, I work for a brewery that does not fit the BA definition of craft, because of our ownership situation, but I held this position before I started working here.  Does working for a “conglomerate” color my opinion on this? Of course it does and I wouldn’t claim otherwise, but my experience is at a small local brewery (less than 60,000 barrels) who is involved in the community and constantly innovating and to me that fits more into “craft” than ownership.

In the end.. it should just be about the beer, man.

Burnside lives! …Sorta… For Now..

When Burnside Brewing closed back in February, it was ugly.  Leaked employee emails about not getting their last paychecks, padlocks on the doors and a note that they hadn’t paid rent in three months, announcing they were closed for a snow day and then never opening again.  Lots of rumors, and to my knowledge still no official announcement from the Burnside Crew.

The Oregonian dropped a bombshell on Friday that really flips the Burnside story from negative to somewhat positive.  Apparently, famed Danish brewer Mikkeller (who also has locations in New York and California) is going to take over the Burnside location in a series of pop-up pub situations as they try to navigate the regulatory hurdles to open a permanent brewery/restaurant in that location.

There’s a couple of really juicy tidbits in this story that caught my eye.  The first is that Mikkeller and restaurant partner Chefstable have purchased all of Burnside’s physical assets (brewery equipment, bottles, kegs etc) and paid off all of Burnside’s debts. Not only is this a huge windfall for the Burnside crew, of course, it also signals that the Mikkller crew is all in on this location.  Technically, they probably paid way more than they would have for a blank empty location.

Also, in the agreement is that Burnside keeps all of their “soft” assets. Names, trademarks, etc.  So, in theory, Burnside Brewing could reopen in a different location and start up again.  Not sure how likely that is, but it could happen. The Burnside “brand” still lives somewhere out in the ether. This, according to a follow up story from New School Beer.

A lot of the discussion around this is how well Mikkeller will fit in to the crowded inner Southeast Portland space, but I think they’ll do just fine. What is interesting to me is that Portland has been considered a “beer destination” for a long time, from the point of view that people come here for the beer.  That is starting to flip (and is a direct byproduct of the beer tourism) to a “brewery destination”, i.e. breweries are looking to expand and they think “Well, we have to have a place in Portland.”  It was relatively close to the old Burnside location where San Diego brewery Modern Times took over the old Commons location (the Commons also retained their names/rights etc and are rumored to reopen at some point). Even small local breweries are getting into the act, Vagabond Brewing out of Salem just recently opened a Portland taproom.

2019 has been a rough year for the local beer scene.  Hopefully this is a little ray of light to offset some of that bad.  There will still be more breweries that struggle and close. Such is the nature of business, but hopefully some places will continue to grow and shine.

My experience with Mikkeller is very limited.  I’ve had four of their beers, but the first one was certainly a doozie.  The first Mikkeller beer I had was Black (Grand Mariner Edition) at the Festival of the Dark Arts.  It was an imperial stout aged in Grand Mariner barrels and clocked in at 21% alcohol. That was a beer that when I saw it on the menu I just had to try it, but was also very glad it was only a 3 ounce pour. I can’t imagine drinking much more than a few sips of it.

The Mikkeller pop up is scheduled to open in June and then run till the end of the year, when it will close again with the hopes of reopening permanently.  One of the articles also mentioned that Mikkeller has to find out what the building owner intends to do with the space. So, it seems they have an agreement for the short term, but the owner may still decide to sell the space or tear it down.  My assumption when Burnside closed was that it was going to be bulldozed for condos, like basically everything else in Portland (especially inner Eastside). This keeps the location intact. At least, for now.

2019 Best of Craft Beer

The last couple posts have been pretty glum, so it’s time for some happy news.  We weren’t able to make it out to the judging this year for various reasons, but when I started seeing Facebook and Instagram posts of winning beers it made me really happy to see a lot of places that I know people. It makes me proud as an industry peer to see our local places winning awards and being recognized for the greatness we already know is there, but now gets shouted on a bigger stage.

By virtue of the judging being held in Bend, OR, the entries are very West Coast heavy, but they do get entries from all over the country and even some from outside the US. It’s really nice to see how our local breweries stack up against the rest of the industry.

(Presented in Alphabetical order since that’s how the results sorted)

10 Barrel – Bend, OR: 10 Barrel took home 5 awards this year, Gold medals in Imperial Red Ale, Fruit Wheat Beer and South German Style Wheat, plus silvers in Berliner Style Weisse and German Style Pilsener.

Alesong Brewing and Blending – Eugene, OR: Alesong took home three medals, including Gold AND Silver in Experimental Beer or Other Strong Ale for wine barrel aged and tequila barrel aged beers respectively, and a Gold in Mixed Culture Brett Beer.

Ancestry Brewing – Tualatin, OR: Ancestry only took home one medal, but it was Gold in a classic style, Irish Red Ale. Very impressive.

Back Pedal Brewing – Portland, OR: Back Pedal took a Silver in American-Belgo Style ale for a Belgian Style Pale Ale.  I don’t know much about Back Pedal, but I’m pretty sure they also run the Pedal Bar tours around town and then started brewing their own.

Baerlic Brewing – Portland, OR: Baerlic also took home 5 medals.  Gold in American Style Black Ale for their Dark Thoughts CDA (One of the few CDA’s still in regular rotation around town), Silvers for Classic French and Belgian Saison and Dortmunder Style Export and Bronzes for British Bitters and International Style Pale Ale. Quite the spread of styles!

Bend Brewing Co. – Bend, OR: Bend Brewing adds to their impressive medal wall with a Gold in Export Stout and a Bronze in Berliner-Style Weisse with Fruit.  The first time I went into BBC and saw the wall full of GABF and World Beer Cup medals I thought to myself “How have I never heard of this place?” Quietly doing solid work out in Bend.

Boneyard Brewing – Bend, OR: Bend mainstay Boneyard picked up four medals, Silvers in American Style Fruit Beer and Belgian Style Lambic and Bronzes in Belgian Style Lambic and Imperial Red Ale.  Seems like they can do more than just IPAs, although their IPAs are amazing.

Breakside Brewing – Portland/Milwaukie, OR: Breakside took home a stunning 8 medals. 6 from the main production brewery in Milwaukie and 2 from the original Portland pub.  Gold medals for Contemporary Style Gose, American Style Lager, International Style Pale Ale and German Style Schwarzbier.  Silvers for American Style Sour Ale and American Style Strong Pale Ale. Bronzes for American Style Sour Ale and German Style Pilsener. Quite the haul!

Brothers Cascadia Brewing – Vancouver, WA: Bronze medal for Session India Pale Ale. I’ve driven by their place a couple times but haven’t made it in yet. Someday that needs to be fixed.

Gigantic Brewing – Portland, OR: Surprised to see Gigantic only take home one medal, but it’s a Bronze in German Style Koelsch. Craft lagers are starting to take off and Kölsch is a very competitive category right now.

Golden Valley Brewery – McMinnville, OR: A Silver medal for English Style Summer Ale. Another brewery that is very quietly cranking out quality stuff.

Immersion Brewing – Bend, OR: Immersion took home 4 medals. Gold for a California Common, Silver for Imperial Red Ale and Bronzes for American Style Stout and German Style Schwarzbier.  Less than 3 years old, a relative newcomer onto the Bend beer scene making a splash already.

Loowit Brewing – Vancouver, WA: Literally just across the river in Downtown Vancouver, Loowit took home two Silver medals. One in Irish Style Red Ale and one in German Style Doppelbock.

Mazama Brewing – Corvallis, OR: Mazama (named for the collapsed volcano that created Crater Lake) took home 4 medals.  Gold for Belgian style Dubbel, Silvers for Bohemian Style Pilsner and German Style Marzen and a Bronze for American Style Barleywine.

Migration Brewing – Portland, OR: Migration also only took home one medal, but it was a Gold Medal in American Style Strong Pale Ale which is a very competitive category. The BA guidelines are razor thin between Pale Ale, Strong Pale Ale and American IPA (they all overlap) so this is basically an IPA category which are always huge.

Monkless Belgian Ales – Bend, OR: Another newcomer to the scene, focused on Belgian style ales and they took home a Silver medal in Belgian Style Dubbel.

Mt Tabor Brewing – Portland, OR: Mt Tabor took home a Bronze medal in Australasian, Latin American or Tropical Style Light Lager, which I believe is a fairly new category.

Old Town Brewing – Portland, OR: A while back Old Town took on the big dogs (AB InBev) and won.  A brewery that seemed to be forgotten suddenly had a huge swell of support. Score one for the little guys.  Old Town collected 3 medals, a Silver for German Style Schwarzbier and Bronzes for English Style Pale Ale/IPA and Irish Style Red Ale. That’s a local sweep for Irish Style Red Ale.

Ordnance Brewing – Boardman, OR: I have two friends who work here so it’s hard not to get excited to see them take home three medals.  A Gold in American Style IPA (125 entries!!) and silvers for American Style Lager and Oatmeal Stout.

Oregon City Brewing – Oregon City, OR: We were at OCB recently and saw the award for their Cherry version of Coming to Fruition fruited sour, this time it’s the Marionberry versions turn with a Silver in Mixed Culture Brett Beer.

Pelican Brewing – Tillamook, OR: Pelican took home two medals this year. A Gold in Golden or Blonde Ale for Kiwanda Cream, which is not a shock and a Silver in Wood and Barrel Aged for the Queen of Hearts Barrel Aged Saison.  Also, not a surprise.

pFriem Family Brewers – Hood River, OR: pFriem is another surprise to only take one medal, but it’s a Gold in a classic style, German Style Pilsener.  Having had it before I can concur that it is World-class.

Rogue Ales and Spirits – Newport, OR: Rogue picked up a Gold medal in Honey beer for their Honey Kolsch.

Rosenstadt Brewing – Portland, OR: Rosenstadt focuses on classic German styles and took home a Bronze medal for Munich Style Helles.

Silver Moon Brewing – Bend, OR: Silver Moon took home a Silver medal in American Style IPA and a Gold in Brett Beer.  I wonder if American Style IPA will be a local sweep as well.

Stickmen Brewing Co. – Tualatin, OR: A small pub brewer, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make good stuff.  Stickmen picked up a Bronze in Belgian Style Pale Ale.

Stormbreaker Brewing – Portland, OR: Stormbreaker has been around for a while, but I feel like they’ve had a resurgence lately with some strong offerings and award recognition.  Stormbreaker snagged 4 medals, a Gold in American Brown Ale, Silvers in German Style Altbier and California Common and a Bronze in Juicy or Hazy Pale Ale.

Sunriver Brewing – Sunriver, OR: Sunriver grabbed a Gold in American Style Wheat Beer for their Fuzztail, which is one of their flagship offerings.

The Ale Apothecary – Bend, OR: Ale Apothecary took home a Bronze in Experimental Beer or Other Strong Ale. A lot of their stuff is barrel aged or blended so Experimental is probably right in their wheelhouse.

Three Creeks Brewing Co. – Sisters, OR: Three Creeks took home a Bronze medal in Scotch Ale. Three Creeks does really good stuff and is starting to get recognized for it which is exciting.

Three Mugs Brewing – Hillsboro, OR: Three Mugs is another place that flies under the radar, way out in Hillsboro, but they have had great success. This year they took home a Gold in Strong Ale or Old Ale for Biggie D’s Strong Scotch Ale which is a favorite among the regulars.

Thunder Island Brewing – Cascade Locks, OR: If you blink in Cascade Locks you’ll miss it, but how classically Oregon to have an award winning brewery there? Thunder Island took home two Silver medals, one in Classic Irish Stout and one in Golden or Blonde Ale.

von Ebert Brewing – Portland, OR: Another relative newcomer to the Portland scene, but started with an experienced crew from the award winning Fat Heads Portland outpost, von Ebert sprang up when Fat Heads decided to not continue it’s Portland franchise and now they are independent.  von Ebert took home a Bronze in American Style Light Lager.

Widmer Brewing – Portland, OR: One of the OG Portland breweries, Widmer continues to crank out winners.  A Bronze medal in American Amber Ale for year round Drop Top Amber, a Bronze medal in German Style Altbier for their Alt (which is the first beer Widmer ever made) and a Gold medal in Coffee Beer for Creme de la Cafe, which I’m assuming is one of their small experimental pilot batches.

Wild Ride Brewing – Redmond, OR: Wild Ride took home two medals this year, a Bronze for American Style Light Wheat Beer, and a Gold in Field Beer for their Nut Crusher Peanut Butter Porter.

Worthy Brewing – Bend, OR: Worthy Brewing pulled out two awards, a Silver for International Style Pale Ale and a Gold for Chocolate or Cocoa Beer for Peace Pipe Porter. Having had the Peace Pipe before I can attest it is VERY chocolate heavy.

So that rounds out the winners from Oregon and Southwest Washington.  There were also a lot of winners from the Seattle area and California.  You can check out all the medal winners HERE at the Winners page of Best of Craft Beer.

Cheers!

Time Waits for No One.

What better way to build up hype leading up to Zwicklemania* than a rash of industry closings, yeah? While I’m sure it’s not what the Oregon Brewers Guild had in mind, as the saying goes, the show must go on.  But the timing is ominous at best.

About two weeks after the announcement of Widmer closing their pub/tasting room for good this time (they pulled out the kitchen in a remodel and shortened hours/changed menus etc about a year ago), this past week has seen a couple brutal blows to the Portland beer scene. The past week has seen two breweries and a taproom/growler station close, and while there are of course other issues at play, the recurring theme with all three of these (that I see) is really expensive real estate.

Early last week, amidst the snow and ice, Burnside Brewing announced it was closing for the day due to bad weather, and never reopened.  A post on Reddit shared what appeared to be an internal email telling everyone the business was closing and they may not even get their last paychecks. At that point rumors started flying, including a picture of an eviction notice posted on the door that implied the business hadn’t paid rent in 3 months.  As far as I know, there hasn’t been any official announcement.  The Burnside website still looks as if they are open and the last post on the facebook page is the “Tomorrow we’re going be closed for a Snow Day” post.  Based on comments I’ve read online and conversations I’ve had with people in the industry it sounds like their landlord is seeing dollar signs from condo towers and owns a sweet patch of East Burnside real estate.  Obviously those are unsubstantiated, so take it with a grain of salt, but that’s what I’m hearing from the grapevine.  There may have been forgiveness and patience for late payments in the past and that patience may have run out.  Giving Burnside the benefit of the doubt that they weren’t doing anything shady (and that will be my assumption until I hear otherwise) it seems almost like a gamblers desperation.  The thought that “Just one more good weekend and we’ll make it!” And time simply ran out. I’ve also heard whispers they may reopen somewhere else and may not be completely out of the game just yet, but time will tell in that case.

This Monday, a post appeared on BeerAdvocate that the Growler Guys location on SE 8th (between Belmont and Morrison) was closing.  In this case, the reason was absolutely cut and dry.  At the end of their 5 year lease they were offered a chance to renew at a “significant increase” in rent.  They don’t say how much, and honestly that’s no one’s business, but I just so happen to have lived in the same apartment for 5 years and in that time my rent has increased about 50% (1.5 times what it started at).  Those were incremental increases that I was able to absorb, if it had all come at once I’m not so sure I would have been able to.  Based on the location (inner SE) and being a commercial property I wouldn’t be shocked if the increase was double (or more).  The area where they are located has changed dramatically in 5 years. A couple apartment towers have gone in, Market of Choice opened a store there along with Shilling Cider House across the street.  Rogue rebranded and renovated the old Green Dragon into the Rogue Eastside Pub and Pilot Brewery and The Commons gave way to a Portland outpost for California brewery Modern Times.

The very next day, a bombshell hit that, to quote Jeff Alworth, was “shocking but hardly surprising”.  In a statement from owner Gambrinus, it was announced that Bridgeport Brewing was closing after 35 years.  One of the literal godfathers of the Portland craft beer movement, the first to open in 1984 (after fledgling Cartwright Brewing failed) and followed in short order by Widmer, McMenamins and Portland Brewing. Jeff’s post about it gives a lot of background info over on the Beervana Blog.  Most of us knew Bridgeport was struggling.  Two years ago they laid off half their brew staff, shortened/cut pub hours and took other cost cutting measures.  I assumed they were dead at that point, but then they introduced new labels and a couple new products that looked like they *might* just make a comeback, but alas it wasn’t to be.  According to Jeff’s blog post, their highest volume was 27k BBL(beer barrels =~ 31 gallons), which in all honesty is a lot smaller than I thought. I’ve always thought about Bridgeport as one of the “Big Three” along with Widmer and Portland Brewing at 100k+ bbls.  But even so, their volume the last couple years had been around 6000 barrels, or less than 1/3 of capacity.  One thing I’ve learned in my short time in the beer industry is that empty tanks are really, really expensive.  You still have to maintain them, clean them, keep them hooked up to glycol and CO2, but with the opportunity cost of not making something in them you can sell. This quote from Jeff Alworth says it all; “The former rope factory in the Pearl is valuable real estate, and operating a moribund industrial business out of there hasn’t made sense for at least five years.”

I’ve lived in Portland for almost 6 years. Just long enough to get that “Dammit people need to stop moving here!” vibe even as a transplant myself.  I’m not foolish enough to think that any of this change will stop.  Portland is growing the same way all cities grow. In fits and starts, some of it good, some bad, some controlled, some rabid.  I’ve watched it in Charlotte and Atlanta growing up and heard about it in Seattle and San Francisco.  These things happen, life goes on.  It’s simply how shit works.  The only thing about it that makes me sad is I see these neighborhoods that are really funky and cool, like Hawthorne or Division or the Goat Blocks and a lot of people visit those places because it has shops, cafes, theaters etc.  Eventually, people don’t want to visit there, they want to live there. But what happens when you need to build apartments? You tear down the shops, cafes, theaters etc.  After a while, a bunch of people live there but all the hip, cool shit that got people to move there is gone.  As the original group of residents move out and new ones move in no one knows what made it cool anymore, it’s just a “place to live”. All three of these closures reek of “We’re in a super hip cool spot, but now it’s so hip and cool we can’t afford to stay here anymore.” That’s the part that sucks.  Artists make a place cool, but then you kick out the artists so the yuppies can live there and be “cool” but then it’s not cool anymore.

Note: Literally as I was writing this, a post on Facebook claims that Scout Brewing is now closed.  There’s no information beyond “Scout Brewing may have poured it’s last pint”.  I don’t know anything about Scout and never went there, but I have seen their location on Division (see hip neighborhood comments above).  They opened a place with a built in food cart pod. Seems like a good idea yeah? Based on the Facebook comments it sounds like they were contract brewing elsewhere before they opened their own place, and I don’t think the Division spot has been open very long, so maybe this is more of a thing that was doomed from the start? 30% of all new restaurants close within a year or so I’ve heard.  Some stuff just literally never makes it off the ground.

*Zwicklemania is Oregon’s annual brewery open house.  One day a year breweries open their doors offering tours, tastings, beer specials etc, a lot of it free and open to the public. Often breweries will offer a taste of beer directly from a fermentation tank. Zwickle (or Zwickel) is the name of a sample port on a beer tank (named for the company that makes a type of them, same as how “BandAid” and “Coke” just became universal).  Germany even has a type of young, unfiltered beer called “Zwickelbier”.

Super Bowl Hangover

If you managed to stay awake for the Super Bowl (no shame if you didn’t, it was a snoozefest) you might have noticed AB-InBev pull out their claws and go for the throat.  They specifically called out both Miller Lite and Coors Light for using corn syrup in a series of Bud Light ads throughout the night.  How will this play out for Bud Light and ABI? In my opinion, not well.

In the current age of instant fact checking, people quickly realized, while Bud Light might not use corn syrup, many other ABI brands do.  So, technically, they aren’t lying when they say Bud Light doesn’t, but it’s a bad look to call out a competitors ingredient that you also use.

BudLight

This post from the Mad Fermentationist was posted at 4:38PM (Pacific Time), in other words, DURING the game.

Jeff Alworth’s Beervana Blog offered a quick recap posted later that night, AB InBev’s Weird Super Bowl Message, which also points out that ABI makes more than just Bud Light, including a beer that also got a Super Bowl spot, Stella Artois which uses corn as an ingredient.

The Beer Business Daily newsletter published on Monday morning did not pull any punches.  A couple things popped out to me while I was reading it.  This was the first.

“One of the first rules they teach you in marketing school is you never, ever, under any circumstances, name your competitors when they are smaller than you. Second, if you do, don’t disparage them because it makes you appear to be a bully. ” BBD 2-4-19

I hadn’t really thought about the bullying angle.  I had always heard, the leader in a category doesn’t mention it’s competitors in ads because it doesn’t have too.  Take Coke for example.  Pepsi is running ads about how Pepsi is consistently ranked higher than Coke in blind taste tests, while Coke is running ads about polar bears drinking Coke.  Pepsi has to try to PROVE it’s better.  This is what makes this so wild.  ABI isn’t acting like the industry leader.  They are acting like a wounded animal, lashing out violently but randomly.  They seem to be acting out of fear.

The next thing that struck me is this (emphasis mine):

“IS IT FAIR? Well, all is fair in love and war, and this is war. A-B knew it could leverage it’s huge audience without the majority of consumers checking the fine print. High fructose corn syrup, of course, has been widely publicized as an evil ingredient in most products. I’m sure A-B tested for that. But no MillerCoors products are brewed with HFCS.

Many beer brands brew with regular corn syrup, which includes ABI’s second largest brand outside the U.S., Corona. But not sure the average consumer gets the distinction. And of course, in brewing, the vast majority of the corn syrup is fermented anyway into ethanol and carbon dioxide, just as any starch, including rice. But that is lost on the majority of the public.” BBD 2-4-19

This cuts to the heart of not what they are doing, but why.  Throw out a dirty word that the public hates (sliding by on the lack of distinction between HFCS and CS) and pin your opponents name to it.  Unfortunately, nowadays this will most likely have the opposite effect of focusing people on Bud Light and asking, so what’s in YOUR beer that you don’t want us to know about? This drives me mad with Coors Light commercials all the time.  They make huge bold statements (COLD FILTERED, COLD PACKAGED) that, while they are true, are not unique to Coors Light.  Every beer on the planet (save perhaps bottle conditioned Belgians) is cold aged, cold filtered and cold packaged.  You can’t filter or package warm beer.  But, the majority of the public doesn’t know that, Coors is the only one to put it in their ads and therefore Coors is special.  That’s what ABI is doing here as well, it’s an advertising sleight of hand. “It’s not that we DON’T use Corn syrup…. but they DO!” It’s not lying, but….

So, let’s talk about sugar here for a minute.  Maltose (the sugar from Malted Barley) is a disaccharide (two sugars) formed from two glucose molecules.  Dextrose (usually refered to as Corn Sugar) is a single glucose molecule. Yeast break down the maltose into single glucoses (dextrose) and from that point on they are identical.  Sucrose (sugar from cane or beets, common granulated sugar) is a disaccharide formed from one glucose and one fructose. Fructose is commonly referred to as fruit sugar since it was likely first discovered in fruits, but these different configurations of carbon structures exist in all starch/sugar containing foods.  Corn Syrup is made by treating corn starch with enzymes to break down the long chains into dextrose and double glucoses still referred to as (you guessed it) maltose.  They are chemically identical whether they come from barley or corn.  The yeast cannot tell a difference.  High Fructose Corn Syrup has a bad wrap mostly because it’s in everything that’s bad for you, soda, cakes, cookies, etc.  But here’s the thing, it’s identical to sucrose.  HFCS is corn syrup that’s been treated with enzymes to convert some of the glucose to fructose.  How much you ask? About 42% fructose to 50-52% glucose and the rest longer chain starches, which is the exact same formulation as sucrose.  That’s intentional.  Fructose “tastes” sweeter than glucose, which means corn syrup isn’t as “sweet”, so HFCS has been modified to have the same flavor profile as table sugar.  Now, I’m not saying it’s good for you, but it’s no worse than sucrose.  The new sodas made “Without HFCS” and “Made with REAL sugar” etc are implying that regular sugar is better for you. Of course, legally they can’t make that claim, so they expect the consumer to make that jump, which most do.  This beer ad does the same thing. “We can’t say it’s bad, but you know it’s bad so you’ll do that math for us.”

Miller Lite of course fired back with a full page ad in the New York Times which was not surprising, and also not surprisingly they play off the corn syrup vs HFCS trope as well saying: “What might have gotten a little lost […] is the distinction between “corn syrup” and High Fructose Corn Syrup”

As far as our bodies are concerned, sucrose and HFCS are chemically identical.  Any implication that one tastes better (or even different for that matter) is bogus and any implication that one is better or worse for your body is bogus.  We all know sugar of any kind in large quantities is bad for you.  The type of sugar honestly doesn’t matter.  Your body converts all of it to glucose.

This holds true for brewing as well.  Whether the sugar comes from wheat, barley, corn, rice or cane sugar, in the end it all gets converted into ethanol and carbon dioxide.  It really doesn’t matter.  To try to claim rice is better than corn is foolish.  And yes, lets acknowledge the fact that a lot of this “rice and corn bashing” in macro beers is coming from the same people who will happily drink a beer with lactose (milk sugar) and/or actual Lucky Charms in the mash tun.  Hypocrisy is not a good look for anyone.  I have the same reactions when “craft” people bash regular beer.

The last caveat I’ll add to this is the same I would for any such post about a single ingredient in a larger mix.  This is alcohol we’re talking about, which is (in the wrong doses) a poison.  Now, surely if you’re reading this you know I’m not anti-alcohol.  I’m a homebrewer and work in a brewery, an avid consumer of both beer and whiskey, I play on both sides of the beverage alcohol industry, production and consumption, but lets be real for a moment.  We all know (or should) the dangers of alcohol consumption.  In too high of volumes or for too long a period of time it can be detrimental to your health, up to and including death.  Maybe we shouldn’t be too terribly concerned about what form of sugar is used to make our poison? I see similar posts about artificial flavors in tobacco products (such as certain brands being listed as “All Natural”) and just shake my head.  It’s not the cherry flavor in tobacco that’s going to kill you.

AB InBev is playing a dangerous game and I don’t think it’s going to play well for them at all.

When one door closes…

Last year, the number of breweries that opened and closed was about the same. Jeff Alworth has written about this several times demonstrating how this is actually a good thing, sort of.  Of course it’s sad for the places that closed, but it shows the beer market in Portland is beginning to mature.  Instead of a new place opening every 6 months (which still happens) and some places closing after a year or less (which still happens) you have places that have been around for a while and have stabilized and usually the places closing have been around for a long while as well and for whatever reason are throwing in the towel.

The last few weeks have seen an onslaught of bad news for the Portland area, this week in particular, within a 24 hour time span.

A few weeks ago Lompoc announced they were closing their location on NW 23rd Avenue, a new up and coming part of town.  This was the original Lompoc location, opened in 1993 and renovated in 2013.  Lompoc will still operate their North Portland location and brewery as well as the Oaks Bottom Public House in Sellwood (SE).  This comes on the heels of another satellite location of theirs, the Hedge House, closing last year and becoming the pub location for Little Beast Brewing. Lompoc is still alive, but they seem to be struggling.  What’s interesting is I found out the same day that the Abbey Bar’s second location, right next door to Lompoc, was also closing.  That leads me to speculate that they are getting priced out of that building.  An article from Eater website (READ HERE) mentions the Lompoc location will be replaced by another taproom.

This week, places started dropping like flies.  On Tuesday, it was announced that NE Portland stalwart Alameda was closing it’s doors and putting it’s production brewery up for sale.  A 22 year vet of the Portland beer scene this was an established player, not a flash in the pan.  Sadly, reading the articles it sounds like it came down to money, with an investor who jumped in a few years ago and then pulled the plug a few years later. But, one thing that also stands out with Alameda, as Jeff Alworth mentions in his post about it on Beervana, Alameda’s beer line up hadn’t changed in many years.  In this city, and in the current “try the new thing, tick the box” beer culture, that’s a death sentence.  You don’t have to chase every trend and release something new every 3 days, but you to have to revamp every now and then.  Amber, malty IPAs aren’t in style anymore.

Then yesterday (Wednesday), it was announced that Seven Brides brewing was closing its taproom and restaurant.  It appears as though they will continue brewing for off premise sales (kegs and bottles) but how sustainable that is is unknown.  I have to confess, I only visited Seven Brides once.  Down in Silverton, it’s not that easy to get to from Portland and I’m sure that hurts them as well.  Included in the post about Seven Brides was a note that Two Kilts in Sherwood had also closed, and apparently had been closed for a few months, but nothing had been said or announced.  Again, in a way off location and very small volume, even a handful of GABF medals can’t save you if no one can find your products.

What this means for the Portland beer scene is probably unknown and I’ll leave it to the experts to suss out, but it is troubling nonetheless.  The last few years people have been asking when will the beer bubble burst, and maybe this isn’t a burst, but it’s not the rocket growth we’ve seen the past few years either.  Things are slowing down for sure.  As sales continue to drop industry-wide, smaller operations will feel the pinch, including speculation about increases in ingredient costs.  If you’re barely hanging on, you likely won’t be able to hang on much longer.

Upcoming 2018 Breweries

New School Beer recently published an article called The Most Anticipated New Oregon Breweries of 2018.  I got a chance to read the article before we left for Mexico but I hadn’t had time to react to it.  I would suggest reading the whole thing, but here’s what jumped out at me.

First, several of these breweries were also listed on the Most Anticipated of 2017 list.  It’s becoming more and more apparent that city planning and permitting and licensing in the City of Portland goes at it’s own pace, and that’s very slow.  I don’t understand why that is, considering these businesses, especially breweries, bring a lot of money into the city coffers.  They should be excited to get them up and going.  But, such is the way of bureaucratic red-tape.  In at least one case, it’s been nearly fatal.  Ross Island Brewing is struggling to stay open, despite only being in business around a year, due to over a year in delays before opening.  They went deep into debt while they waited, and anyone with student loans can attest how hard that can be to get out from under.  Hopefully, Ross Island makes it (Go there and drink beer! They do good stuff!) and these other ones can survive as well.

Next, Southeast Portland is getting some love! Assembly Brewing which is opening at 61st and Foster is just a stones throw from IPA-bar N.W.I.P.A and is walking distance from my house.  That will be the third brewery in the area (including Zoiglhaus and Double Mountain’s Portland Pub) that’s within walking distance.  Ruse Brewing will hopefully finally open at their location on 17th Avenue in inner SE.  This is one of the  holdovers from 2017, although, they were targeting a December open so it didn’t take a huge delay to push them over.   Looking at Spring 2018 opening now, this one is certainly on my Most Anticipated list.  I haven’t had much of their beers (currently co-op-brewed at Culmination Brewing) but what I’ve had has been amazing.  Threshold Brewing sounds interesting and Montavilla is a hopping place these days.  Although, one thing does give me pause.  It says they plan to make barrel-aged beers, mixed fermentations and hazy IPAs.  All things that are super trendy right now but how long will that last? I hope they have a back up plan or can be flexible.  Some people are arguing against “flagship” beers since the Untappd and RateBeer style encourages as many new styles as possible, but a good solid Pale Ale or IPA can go a long way to cement you while still giving you room to experiment.  Case in point, Gigantic Brewing.

Lastly, while only tangentially mentioned in the article, one thing that hangs over the whole list is the 10 breweries that closed/transitioned/sold in 2017. I read, in an article that I, of course, cannot find now, that this smoothing of the peak (10 closings vs 14 openings) is not necessarily a bad thing.  It’s a sign of a market that’s maturing and stabilizing.  It’s bad, of course, for the 10 places that closed, but it could mean good things for those that live on.   I’m not an expert in any sort of business stuff but it seemed to make sense to me.  If I ever find that article again, I’ll link it here.

Three places on this list fit into that category.  First, the 10-ton gorilla in the room.  San Diego, CA based Modern Times, who has desired to be in Portland for a long time, is finally opening their Portland Brewery dubbed the Belmont Fermentorium.  The hitch is, they are opening their new place in the space formally occupied by The Commons.  A brewery that, by all outside indicators, seemed to be doing great and very suddenly shut down.  I will give Modern Times a ton of credit.  They have been very delicate about the “take over”, saying they were fond of The Commons and they aren’t “replacing” The Commons and hopefully The Commons can exist again in some other form.  The Commons still owns the building and some of the equipment that MT is leasing from them, so a steady source of income, and there are rumors that The Commons may not be as dead as previously thought.  I hope it’s true.  They had a small niche market, with sours, saisons and Belgian style beers but they were world class.  Next, we have Bazi Bierbrasserie, a Belgian focused beer bar that is being bought by Thirsty Monk.  While sounding vaguely familiar, I was surprised to learn Thirsty Monk is based out of Asheville, NC and has a location as well in Denver, CO.  Bazi was only a beer bar, but Thirsty Monk plans to install a small brewery at the location to make house brews.  They will likely also serve other commercial Belgian style beers.  The unfortunate story behind this sale is the owner needed to move back to Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey to help her family and be closer to them.  Hopefully, Thirsty Monk can live up to the history the place has, and it sounds like that’s the plan.  Last is Von Ebert Brewing.  This is a weird one for sure, but I feel like it will work out for the best.  The team behind Van Ebert will be the same team behind the award winning beers out of Fat Head’s Portland location.  Turns out, the Ohio based brewery is expanding operations in the mid-West including a new production brewery in Ohio and they couldn’t continue to support the franchise in Portland.  Both sides mutually agreed to end the agreement and go their separate ways.  Von Ebert is keeping the brewing team intact and restaurant employees will be given the opportunity to keep their jobs as well, so this should be a pretty quick transition, but as far the official stats go “Fat Heads” will close and “Von Ebert” will open, even though it’s essentially the same brewery.

Lots to look forward to in 2018, it’s going to be a busy year!