Little Beast Portland Pub

On Friday evening, I had a unique opportunity to attend a soft opening for Little Beast Brewing’s new Portland Brewpub/Beer Garden.  Located at 34th and Division in the old Lompoc Hedge House location, the official opening is today.

We were invited by a friend who is friends with Owner/Brewer Charles’ wife and partner Brenda.  Interestingly enough, I judged at Best of Craft Beer with Charles and got a chance to talk to him at the opening.  Seems like things are doing well for them.  Brenda formally worked at Olympic Provisions and lends her expertise to pairing food with the beer. They had 12 or so beers on tap plus a food menu of small plate/charcuterie type things.  Mostly snacks, but some simple sandwiches as well.

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They haven’t changed a lot (the wrought iron Hedge House bike rack is still there) which is a good thing since the location as a lot of charm.  Updated bathrooms and a new back bar area but mostly similar to the way Hedge House used to be.  Very happy to see this location re-utilized and not bulldozed.  So many places are getting replaced with condo towers, especially on Division, which is what prompted Lompoc to leave the location.

If you’re a fan of farmhouse style and wild fermented beers then I would highly recommend stopping by Little Beast.  They specialize in saison-style and Brett fermented beers.  I’m not a huge fan of Brett beers, but I tried their flagship Fera which uses Brett for the whole fermentation and not just secondary aging, and it’s not as funky as most Brett beers tend to be.  It actually had a bright, citrus character and a light tartness which is insanely refreshing, especially as the weather warms up. The oak aged Flanders-style red ale was also quite delicious.

I highly recommend stopping by.

Cheers!

 

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Montréal Trip Recap

Last Friday I returned from my nearly two week trip to Montréal, Quebec.  This was my first time in Montréal and first time in Canada.  Following the trip to Mexico in January, all of a sudden I feel like a world traveler.

Education:

Of course, the reason I was there was to attend the Siebel Institute’s Brewing Microbiology short course.  The course was held at the Lallemand Yeast labs at the National Research Council of Canada’s Montreal Facility.  The course consisted of a 3 hour lecture in the morning and then after lunch a 4 hour (sometimes longer) practical lab session.  We covered nearly everything from how to make media and pour plates, to streaking and inoculating all different kinds of media with known organisms and then finally, classifying and identifying unknown organisms.  All useful skills if you have an infection problem in your brewery.  We also spent a good amount of time talking about yeast physiology and yeast handling techniques.  No yeast means no beer.  Unhealthy yeast means bad beer. The course was really intense.  They covered a lot of material in a very short time period.  The first day I felt like I knew what we were talking about, reviewing stuff I already knew.  The second day they shoved the funnels down our throats and started pouring it in and I was quickly overwhelmed.  I managed to keep pace and stay above water but it felt like treading water at times.  I made a 89 on my final exam, so some of it stuck!

Breweries:

Surely a place that has a yeast research lab has to have a thriving beer scene yeah? Montréal does in fact have a bustling beer scene.  I managed to make it to seven breweries while I was in town.  5 on my own, 2 were with the group on the last day of the class.
First was Brasserie Harricana, a pretty hip spot with a decent crowd for a Monday night.  Something I noticed with them, and several other places in town, they served different style beers at different temperatures.  Light beers and lagers colder, dark beers and Belgians warmer. I think this is common in Europe, but extremely rare in the US.  American beer drinkers are conditioned to “the colder the better”.  Craft places may serve a little warmer than “ice cold Miller Lite”, but still all the same no matter the style. The next night I made my way out to Le Saint Bock, in the trendy University of Quebec-Montreal neighborhood.  I only got one beer here, but it was a Black IPA (aka Cascadian Dark Ale) which is my wife’s favorite style.  I ran across several in Montréal, actually.  Saint Bock also had several varieties of poutine.  The one I got had pulled pork and a BBQ sauce made with Orval beer.  All the poutines had a beer sauce.
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I took a couple days off from exploring at this point, both to rest and the weather had turned a little sour.  On Friday night I made it out to Dieu du Ciel, a brewery whose beer I’ve actually had here in the States.  It was mobbed and I had to wait a while for a table, but that was OK.  Two beers here, a double IPA that was quite nice and another Black IPA, this one more chocolaty than Saint Bock’s but it was still very tasty.
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After Dieu du Ciel, I headed over to the Montréal taproom of Quebec City brewery Pit Caribou.  This doesn’t count in my “breweries visited” list, but one of my classmates was from this brewery and so I wanted to try it out.  It was very good.  He also brought some bottled beers for us to taste on the last day of class (his was the closest brewery to Montréal) that were outstanding.  I hightly recommend looking up Pit Caribou if you’re in Quebec.  On Saturday, I went to a couple museums and wandered around the old Historical part of Montréal.  There I ran across the Rue St. Paul outpost of Les 3 Brasseurs.  Originally from France, 3 Brasseurs is a chain of brewpubs with several locations in both Quebec and Ontario.  Similar to a Rock Bottom, Gordon Biersch or RAM Brewery chain here in the states, each place brews three or four company standards and then rotating local beers for each unique location. The beer was serviceable and the food was good.
Tuesday of the second week I made the last two stops of the breweries I wanted to see on my own.  First was EtOH Brasserie which had good beer and good food.  The third Black IPA I found was here.  It was chocolate-heavy like the one from Deiu du Ciel, but it was quite nice.  After that I made my way to Le Cheval Blanc, which was the first microbrewery in Montréal.  Good beer here as well, but almost got myself in trouble.  Went to pay and the barkeep told me they only took cash or debit drawn on a Canadian bank, no credit cards.  I had enough cash to cover it, but only just barely.
The last two places I visited were part of the group tour at the end of the class.  After we had taken and graded our exams, they took us across the river to Chambly.  A bit of a cherry on top to round out the course.  The first place we stopped was a tiny brewpub Bedondaine & Bedon Ronds.
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Working on nearly a homebrew scale with an 18 gallon capacity and using 5 gallon Corny kegs, everything they brewed was consumed on site.  No bottling, no outside draft sales, not even growler fills.  The owner was a funny and humble man who made good beer and had a ridiculous breweriana collection.  The walls and ceilings were covered in bottles, cans, posters, coasters, serving trays, tin signs, anything you can imagine, dating back to the 1920’s or earlier.  Final stop was at Unibroue.
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Unibroue makes some of my favorite Belgian style beers so I am very familiar with them and their products.  I have to say, they rolled out the red carpet for us.  Our tour was led by none other than Brewmaster Jerry Vietz himself.  After the tour he led us through a beer and cheese pairing that finished with chocolate truffles made by him and his wife.  We tasted through 9 beers at Unibroue, including both the Canadian release and US release of the 25th Anniversary series, which were different.  He also sent us home with a cookbook and a bottle of the lastest in the Éphémère series, Strawberry Rhubarb.  I’m normally not a rhubarb fan, but this beer was great, and has a strong strawberry flavor which is hard to keep in a beer.  It’s so light and subtle it tends to fade quickly.
I also bought some bottled and canned beer from stores while I was in town but sadly, most of the packaged beer was in rough shape compared to fresh draft.  Several old cans (as old as November of last year) and oxidized bottles.  Check for dates, or stick with draft.
I started the trip 2418 unique check-ins on Untappd.  I finished the trip with 2461.  A total of 43 beers.  I had one in the Washington DC airport on the way and one in the San Francisco airport on the way home.  The other 41 were all Canadian beers.  Most from Quebec, but in some of the bottled beers from other provinces.

Culture:

The class was an all day thing, and since I was travelling for work with obligations to meet it was difficult to fully “relax” but I managed to get out and about.  The brewery trips listed above were mostly weekday evenings trips out for dinner.  I had a free weekend in the middle and made the most of it on Saturday.  My first stop was Parc Jean-Drapeau which consists of two islands in the middle of the river, accessible by the Metro.  The main reason I wanted to head out there was a feature called the Biosphere.  It’s a geodesic sphere, designed and built by Buckminster Fuller. Home of the US Pavilion of Expo67 in Montréal, it now houses a nature and environmental museum.  Also on the island was Musée Stewart.  An old British stronghold turned history museum, focusing on history of the fort itself, and the island it’s on.  Brief history of the founding of Montréal as well.  After this, I headed back across the river to the old historic part of downtown.  I had been forewarned that it’s mostly full of cheesy tourist shops, and it is, but it also has some interesting buildings and amazing architecture.  Walking through this part of town made me feel like I was in Paris, despite the fact I’ve never been to Paris, it just had that old school European vibe to it.
30708850_10214488632664149_5171834068328775680_n The second museum I visited was the Musée d’Archéologie et d’Histoire.  I didn’t know what to expect when I went in, but quickly discovered this museum is quite literally built on top of an archaeological dig site, the former location of the first building in Montréal, and later a bank building that was a city landmark.  The tour takes you downstairs into the foundation of the old building.  You traverse through an old granite brick sewer tunnel (now clean and dry of course) to get from one building to the other, they are connected underground.  One part of the building had a thick glass floor where you could see the dig as it had been left and a note that one day a fresh batch of archaeologists with newer tools and techniques would resume the dig and likely discover even more.  It was hands down one of the coolest museums I’ve ever been in.
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French is an official language in all of Canada,  but the majority of French speaking Canadians are in Quebec.  I took French in high school and I’ve been working on learning more, but it’s slow going.  Reading written words (like the signs on the museums) I can do pretty good with, but hearing someone speak I can’t comprehend much at all.  It ended up being pretty frustrating as I tried to use what little French I knew (Hello, goodbye, thank you, please etc) to be polite and then having people assume I spoke French.  Nearly everyone there is bilingual French/English but even sometimes the English was hard to understand.  One funny account though from the archaeology museum, the man at the ticket counter said “Hello” as I walked up, and I replied “Hello” and he began describing the layout of the museum in English, but I didn’t quite understand what he was saying, so with my brain in French mode I said “Pardon ?” and he started speaking French, perhaps assuming then that I didn’t understand his English. I apologized and said “No no, sorry, en Anglais?” He effortlessly switched back to English and then we had no more trouble.  Montréal is a pretty easy city to get around in, but when you get lost and your phone doesn’t work (mine didn’t) and you can’t easily ask someone for help, it tends to get a little panic inducing.

All in all, it was a rewarding trip, if not always smooth running.  Parts of it were extremely stressful, but the experience will come in handy, both in future work and future travel.

Salut !

2018 SheBrew

I had intended to write something beforehand and never got around to it, so this becomes a recap rather than a preview.

This past weekend was the 2018 SheBrew festival.  This unique beer festival highlights female-identified brewers in the industry.  The beer industry is still very heavily male dominated, but it’s changing.  Perhaps faster here than elsewhere since Portland tends to be pretty progressive about such things.  Last year’s festival featured 20 or so beers from companies that employed a female brewer, with about 10 (so I heard) actually brewed by that brewer.  This year there were 22 offerings, 15 or 16 beers, 5 or 6 ciders and 1 mead, all brewed by female brewers.  The festival is a fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign and is organized by the Portland Branch of HRC.

Last year, the HRC approached the Oregon Brew Crew (of which I am a member) about running a homebrew competition in conjunction with the pro festival.  This year we had about 130 entries from 22 states and, in only it’s second year, SheBrew became the largest female-identified homebrew competition in the country.  My wife served on the planning committee and also on the day of the comp organized entries for judging as Cellarmaster. 10 homebrewers were also selected to pour beer at the Festival for people’s choice style judging.

For the second year, I volunteered to help run the festival.  The night before I went to help set up tables and jockey boxes and then the following morning we helped finish setup.  I poured beer for the first two hours of the festival, while my wife sold raffle tickets.  After that, I got to enjoy the festival, which was awesome! All the beers were fantastic.  A lot of creativity of styles and ingredients, including two beers with glitter in them (glitter beer is apparently a thing now) and one of the glitter beers was green! Inspired by Todrick Hall’s take on the Wizard of Oz it was just the right amount of flashy.  It sure got people talking.  I have no idea how many people came through the door, but it was packed! I hope they sold a lot of beer and a lot of raffle tickets.  All the money raised goes towards the fight for equality.

I neglected to take any pictures, but there’s some great shots from the Festival (and brewer bios) on the SheBrewPDX Instagram page HERE. Big thanks go out to Buckman Coffee Factory for hosting and Chicks of All Trades flagging company for sponsoring, both local female-owned companies.

I’m honored to have played even a tiny part of helping this fest go, and I’m already looking forward to next year.  March 2, 2019 is already on the calendar!

Ridiculous Beer Gadgets

There was a post on Dont Drink Beer a couple days ago about a device called the Beer Caramlizer(sic), which was a copper post you heat in a fire and then dunk into your beer to “caramelize the sugars for a richer flavor” or some such.  What followed what a hilarious DDB-style rant about all of the reasons that’s a bad idea.  Make the beer warm, make the beer flat, break your glass, get ash and dirt in your beer, and of course the coup de grâce, WHY?? On what planet is this a good idea? You should go read the post HERE and if you don’t follow DDB on Instagram, you should.

This reminded me of all the other ridiculous things I’ve seen that go with beer.  I see them all the time on Facebook and even in the pages of Craft Beer and Brewing and Zymurgy magazines.  Let this serve as my humble warning.  You don’t need these things at all.  They will not enhance your drinking experience and they will ruin your beer.  I’m purposefully not linking to the product’s websites since they don’t need the traffic from me, but you can find them if you Google.

First we have the “Chill Stick”.  A stainless steel rod, which I assume is filled with that blue re-freezable gel from ice packs, that you stick in a beer bottle, to keep it cold.

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First question, how long does it take you to drink a beer? Second question, why is this a thing? Here’s the problems they don’t tell you about on the fancy website.  One, the beer has to be cold to start with.  It will “keep your cold drink cold for up to 30 minutes”.  If you stick this in a hot beer to try to cool it down it’s going to foam up all over the place and you lose half the beer.  Two, you have to make room for it.  You have to drink half the beer to be able to stick the damn thing in there.  Really, really pointless.

The price has been dropped from 29.95 to 19.95 for two of them… Gee I wonder why. (Also, that’s a case of beer right there).

Next, we have the Fizzics.

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Tada!! The idea behind this machine is that it allows you to dispense a bottle or canned beer, as if it were on draft.  Not only is this completely unnecessary, but now that I read the website it’s even more ridiculous than I originally though.  I assumed it pumped CO2 into the beer to push it out.  Oh no, it uses “pressure” to dispense the beer (but does not require CO2 or Nitro cartridges, somehow) and then with the last two ounces of beer it runs a sonic wave through the beer to add the perfect head of foam.  There’s another technique that accomplishes this exact thing.  Opening a can and pouring it into a glass.  The website claims (and I quote) “Fizzics uses patented sonic wave technology to deliver the fresh taste of draft from any bottle or can”. Whoa whoa whoa.  I’m gonna stop ya right there boss.  A fluffy head isn’t going to save a bad beer.  Throw a two year old, oxidized and skunked bottle of Hienie through that thing and you know what you get? Skunked, oxidized nasty beer with a fancy fluffy head.  The other problem I have with this thing is you’re exposing your beer to air and lets be real,  after the novelty of the first couple, you aren’t gonna use for a while, you aren’t gonna clean it, some nasty shit is gonna grow in there and every beer after that you run through it will taste like bleu cheese.  Oh yeah, and this can be yours for the low, low introductory price of $169.00.

Next we have the Growler Chill.  This is the Fizzics, but for growlers (and three of them!).  Ok, so this is a bit of a novel concept, but also unnecessary.  To-go beer, be it growlers or crowlers are meant to be consumed the same day.  The beer in a growler doesn’t stay fresh, even if you keep it under pressure, as this machine claims to do. At least this one uses CO2, but still. It’s just not the same as a factory sealed bottle or keg.  The problems with this are similar to the Fizzics.  How the hell do you clean the thing? A growler full of water isn’t going to do the trick.  And then, well… it weighs 69 pounds, takes up 2 feet of counter space and costs $500 bucks! Do you know how many growler fills you can get for $500 and then drink them before they go flat? A lot.

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Last, we have GrowlerWerks.  I almost hate to rag on these, because they are made in Oregon and they are absolutely works of art, but again I fail to see how it’s necessary.

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They look good, I’ll grant you that.  But that copper comes at a price ($169.00!!).  This is a pressurized growler designed to keep beer fresh for “up to two weeks”.  Again, growlers should be consumed pretty much right away.  I can almost guarantee that when it’s half full it’s going to go flat.  The pressure needed to “serve” a beer is way lower than what’s needed to carbonate a beer.  It’s just not going to stay.  They also don’t work very well, in my experience, but some people like them.  To each their own, but the only way I’ll have one of these is if I win one, and even then I’d be hard pressed to actually use it.

A fool and his money are soon parted…. be wiser.

Best of Craft Beer Awards 2018

This past weekend I returned to the Best of Craft Beer Awards judging in Bend, OR.  This year my wife joined me and served as a steward, helping run the competition.  This event continues to grow, surpassing 2,000 entries this year, and they announced that it is now the third largest competition in the country only trailing GABF and the World Beer Cup.  In 2016, the World Beer Cup had over 6,500 entries, and GABF in 2017 had nearly 8,000 entries.  BoCB has some catching up to do, but still impressive to be third largest.

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Last year it was extremely cold, with 3+ feet of snow on the ground.  Thankfully this year it wasn’t nearly as cold and there wasn’t as much snow.  Although, we did wake up Saturday morning to a surprise of snow on the ground from overnight.  It was only an inch or so, and over the course of the day it melted, but still a bit shocking to see this out of the hotel window.

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This year I judged an interesting range of styles.  Before lunch on Saturday I judged American Style IPA, British Bitters and then Double/Imperial American IPA.  After lunch I judged Northeast Style IPA (new category this year), Brett Beers and then Wood and Barrel Aged Strong Beers.  Needless to say, I was pretty beered out by the end of the day.  Sunday was a much calmer day.  I judged medal rounds for Fruited Berliner Weisse, Belgian Table Beers and Wood and Barrel Aged Dark Beers.  I don’t know if I paid that much attention last year to which flights were preliminary, semifinal or medal rounds, but this year I got to judge at least one semifinal and 4 medal rounds.  When they announce the results I’ll get to see which beers I awarded those medals to!

And of course this year ended again with the granddaddy of all bottle grabs.  All of the leftovers have to be destroyed (they can’t be resold since they are industry samples) and well, nothing says they can’t get “destroyed” in someones belly.  Stewards get a head start to grabbing bottles, so my wife already grabbed some nice stuff before I got out there.  With two of us picking, and more trunk space, we ended up with a tad more bottles than I brought home last year.

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Represented on the table are beers from 14 U.S. States (Mass., Washington, North Carolina, Hawai’i, California, Oregon, Virginia, Nevada, Utah, Texas, Indiana, New York Michigan and Colorado).  Also, two bottles from Bogotá Beer Company which I originally mistook as being from Mexico, but is actually from Colombia.  Very excited to try my first South American beer.

We already have specific plans to share some of this (because no way can we take care of all of it..) including some gluten free beers we grabbed specifically for friends.  Needless to say, we’re going to have some very happy friends in the next couple of weeks! Now, off to go find some room in the cellar…..

Cheers!

Into the Woods – Part 5

Happy New Year! The holiday season brings out the special beers from cellars and collections and this year is no different.  Cheers to 2018 with these special brews.

2017 Hopworks Kentucky Christmas: The whiskey barrel aged version of their Abominable Winter Ale.  Aromas of dark fruit, light oak, light whiskey.  Flavors of dark fruit, heavy oak character, lingering tannins and a surprising hop bitterness.  I’d prefer more whiskey character, but still good.  (4.5 stars)

2017 Pyramid Bourbon Barrel Snowcap: This year’s barrel aged version of Snowcap.  Aromas of dark fruit, sherry, faint whiskey.  Flavors of dark chocolate, apple, Christmas spices.  Interesting this year, but maybe not quite as good as last year.

2016 Worthy Dark Muse: Barrel aged Imperial Stout.  Aromas of dark fruit, whiskey, faint chocolate.  Flavors of dark fruit, whiskey, brown sugar and coffee.  This was really delicious. My wife picked this up at a white elephant bottle exchange and it was quite a lucky draw.  (4.75 stars).

2017 Anchorage Brewing Time Waits for No One (Batch 2): Port barrel aged Imperial Stout.  This was was pretty interesting, but a little heavy on the port character for my tastes.  Gave it an odd flavor.  Super rich and thick, jet black like India ink.  If you like port this might be for you.  (3.75 stars)

2016 The Breury Mocha Wednesday: Tasted this at a party, so didn’t take full notes, but my first experience with The Breury and this stuff was amazing. Very balanced, coffee not too strong.  The price on their bottles always gives me sticker shock, but obviously some amazing craftmanship going into this.  (5 stars)

De Garde Saison Mélange 3: Blended farmhouse ale aged in Gin and Vermouth barrels.  A departure from the usual stouts and barleywines, but this was incredible.  Very well balanced, lightly tart, good gin character.  I don’t like gin at all, but I tend to like gin barrel aged beers.  Bizarre.  This was one of our blind picks off the beer wall at Brews for New Avenues and it was an absolute winner.  (5 stars)

Cheers! More to come this year for sure.

2017 Beer in Review

There’s still a few weeks left in 2017 but all of the major beer events are over for the year.  Competition season has wrapped up, festivals are long since over, our homebrew club holiday party was this past weekend putting a bow on the club year as well. This past year was pretty interesting when I looked back on it even though some things didn’t go as planned.

Brewing: I didn’t brew as much this year as I have in the past couple of years.  I am brewing today what will be my 8th and final batch of the year, a repeat of my Rum “Barrel” Aged tropical stout.  For comparison, I brewed 12 batches in 2016 and 11 in 2015.  However, what I lacked in quantity I made up for in quality.  As I outlined in my Competition Review post, I managed to win 8 awards with three different beers.  2 Bronze and 3 Silver for my Belgian Dark Strong, 2 Bronze for my Belgian Wit and a Silver for my CDA.  I have some lofty goals for 2018 so hopefully this momentum continues.

Judging: I also didn’t judge as much this year as I have in years past, which was unfortunate but things just didn’t line up as well.  I started the year with a really unique opportunity to judge commercial beers at the Best of Craft Beer Awards in Bend.  My wife and I will be returning to BCBA in 2018, myself as a judge and her as a steward.  Besides schedule, another reason I didn’t judge as much is I got more involved in the administrative side of competitions, serving as Cellarmaster at SheBrew and Judge Director for both Heart of Cascadia and Fall Classic. This year I took the 10 week BJCP styles class offered by the OBC and took the tasting exam in June.  I wasn’t happy with my score, but I did increase from a 68 to a 76 and increased my rank from Recognized to Certified.  I re-took the tasting exam again in November and have not received my score yet, but based on talking to the proctors afterwards I feel really good about how I did.  I’m nervous about taking the written exam, but I am hoping to eventually make National rank.

Travel: The highlight of this year had to be the trip to Denver.  15 breweries in 4 days and that just barely scratched the surface of the beer scene there.  New Belgium was awesome, I can’t recommend strongly enough doing the tour there.  Our friends who we were visiting there have now moved back to Oregon, which is great, but now that means we need another excuse to go back.  Someday, I’d like to attend GABF.  We also visited new breweries in Astoria (Reach Break), Salem (Xicha) and a couple places in Seattle (Reuben’s Brews and 9 Yards).

Job:  June marked 1 year at my job at Portland Brewing, so now I’m at about a year and a half.  Things are still going well.  I’m hoping I might have an opportunity next year to do some Siebel training courses. If I do I’ll be sure to write about it here. I’m still learning a lot and the networking opportunities have been pretty crazy.  I’ve been doing some testing for smaller breweries in our lab and it feels really good to help out other members of the community.  There is really a lot more cooperation for us than competition.  At least in Portland.

Looking Ahead: 2018 looks to be pretty interesting, starting the year out with a trip to Mexico and returning to Best of Craft Beer, then over the summer we’re going to be travelling to Houston to work as volunteers at a large event there and then visit family in Austin, so another “not beer” related trip, but we’ll squeeze a few places in, especially in Austin.  The National Homebrewers Conference is coming to Portland next year, sadly the same weekend that we’ll be in Houston so we’ll miss it, but we’ll get to help with some of the set up and I plan on judging the preliminary round of the competition which will be in Portland this year as well.  Also, next year it’s my wife’s turn on the Board of the OBC, serving as Secretary, so our club involvement will ratchet up yet again after taking it kinda easy this year.

So, cheers to 2017 and here’s to 2018!