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 !

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Trip to Montréal

I just booked my flight to beautiful, sunny errr… snowy(?) Montréal, Quebec, Canada.  I will be travelling there for two weeks in April to attend the Siebel Institute’s Brewing Microbiology short course.

I’m excited both for the learning opportunity and another chance to travel internationally.  Before the start of this year, the extent of my international travel was 6 hours on Grand Nassau in the Bahamas on a cruise ship stopover.  That almost doesn’t count (I didn’t even need my passport…).  In January, my wife and I spent a week in Mexico, deeply embedded in the local culture, and now I’ll have nearly two weeks in Montréal.  Of course, I’m there for the education, but my evenings are free and there’s a free weekend in the middle, so I’ll get to do a little bit of exploring.

Unlike Baja California Sur, Montréal is teeming with craft breweries.  I hope to make it to a handful on my own, and the last day of class the Siebel folks take us on a “brewery tour”.  I don’t know what the stops are, but anywhere we go will be new to me unless it’s one of the ones I happen to run across on my own.

My hotel is walking distance from the class location and there’s a subway station a block away, so I’ll be spending a good amount of time on foot and aboard mass transit.  In my experience, after learning the ropes in Portland and then branching out to cities like San Francisco and San Diego, buses and trains are a great way to see the city and to get around.  As long as you can figure out where you’re going. The subway system seems to be laid out pretty well and cover most of the city.  The buses on the other hand are a little confusing.  There is a bus that goes to the school, but halfway there you have to get of one 115 bus and get on another 115 bus.  I haven’t quite figured that out.  It’s only about a mile walk.  If the weather is halfway decent I’ll just walk.

I’m very happy to work for a company that values education and is willing to send people to these kinds of trainings.  Oh yeah that’s the other great thing, this is a business trip.  There’s no way I could afford this on my own.

I fly out Sunday April 8th, the course runs from Monday, April 9 to Thursday April 19 and I fly home Friday April 20.  (And come straight back to work on Saturday the 21st. It will be a whirlwind of time zones and jet lag, but I’m excited for it.  Can’t wait!

Stay tuned for a recap when I get back!

2018 Festival of Dark Arts

It’s that time again! Fort George’s annual Carnival of Stout was this past weekend.  My wife and I both took off Friday so we could go up the day before.  We decided to go up through Cannon Beach to swing by a couple new places there.

First stop was Public Coast Brewing.  Opened in 2016 and inspired by the 1967 Beach Bill that made the entire Oregon Coastline open and public land free for all.  The open brewpub has a very casual laid back feel.  Perfect for the beach.  Great beer too.

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Next stop was Mo’s Seafood, because of course.  If we’re at the coast we’re going to eat seafood.  My wife got the bouillabaisse, which is essentially a seafood soup, and I got the fried combo with cod, shrimp and clam strips.  It was delicious as always, and you can’t beat the location, which is literally on the beach with a great view of Haystack Rock.

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Even in the rain and fog, there’s just something about eating fresh seafood within 50 yard of the pounding surf.  Can’t beat it.

Last stop in Cannon Beach was the new Pelican Brewpub, which also opened in 2016.  Big open space with lots of wood similar to Public Coast and Pelican’s original Pacific City location.  I got the new Beak Bender IPA and we also tried a Oyster Stout, made with actual oysters.  After that we headed up to Astoria and got checked into our hotel and went to grab dinner at the Rogue Pub there, out on Pier 39, which honestly might be one of the most interesting Rogue locations.  We joined some friends for a night cap at Fort George and then called it a night.

The weather forecast for Saturday was nasty.  Several hours of 100% chance of rain, high winds with gusts up to 25mph, including some of the times we would be standing in line waiting to get it.  Thankfully, it ended up not being that bad. We got rained on a little bit, and a couple times had to duck for cover, but for the most part it wasn’t awful.  It was cold and windy but stayed relatively dry.  By the early afternoon, it was actually gorgeous.  The skies cleared up and the rain went away, which made the cold and wind a lot more tolerable.

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View from Fort George’s new upstairs patio, looking across the river to Washington.

The made some changes to the Festival this year, which I believe really helped out.  First, they got rid of the Noon VIP and 2PM General Admission tickets.  They opened the fest at noon for everyone and severely limited the amount of tickets sold.  It was still super crowded, but the idea was the VIP experience for everyone.  This year they also set up stanchions and ropes to guide the lines up to the bars.  This was much, much better than what happened last year which was 5 lines headed straight out from the taps which turned into a mob, and no way to know which line you were even in.  The lines often extended well past the end of the ropes, but it still kept things organized.  The lines were long, but moved quickly.  They also blocked off one of the side streets with a tap trailer out there and some food vendors, which offered more taps and also spaced things out better.  There was more space for the crowds to spread out.  Along with more taps, they also had everything available from the moment the fest started.  In the past they’ve held back certain kegs and would list them as “Tapping at 3PM”, “Tapping at 6PM” etc.  Usually by the time we found where it was on, it would be gone.  So very early on I went for the couple of rare ones I knew I wanted, Founders KBS and The Breury’s So Happens it’s Tuesday.  I also didn’t notice a lot of kegs blowing.  I’m not sure if they had more kegs, or if it was a function of less people.  It was really crowded from Noon to about 1pm as everyone got in and got started and then it started thinning out.  From about 4-6 was actually pretty chill.  I think a lot of people left to go get dinner or something and then plan on coming back later.  We called it pretty early, leaving the fest around 6pm with no plans to return.  We grabbed dinner at Bouy with a group of our homebrew club friends and then headed back to the hotel.

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Random crowd shot in the barrel room.

As in years past, I don’t take time to do detailed tasting notes, but there are always beers that stick out above and beyond the rest.  In my opinion, one of the best beers there was Block 15’s 2018 Super Nebula.  Some other standouts included Walking Man 2013 Bourbon Barrel Jaywalker (which I also had in 2017, it’s still awesome), Fort George ReclusaModern Times Rum and Bourbon Devils Teeth, and Stoup Night Night Imperial Stout.  This years Matrtyoshka Series was also very ambitious.  There was the base stout aged in bourbon barrels, Bourbon with Vanilla, Bourbon with Vanilla and Marionberry, Bourbon and Pinot Nior Barrel aged, and Bourbon/Pinot Barrel with Cocoa Nibs.  Between my wife and I we tried the Vanilla and Vanilla/Marionberry variants.  They were both quite good, I actually preferred the plain vanilla one slightly better than the marionberry one.  We weren’t that interested in the wine barrel variants. I’ve had wine barrel aged beers that are awesome, but I’m not sure about blending wine barrel and bourbon barrel.  We also didn’t stay for the bottle release this year, both for time and money reasons.  It was snowing Sunday morning as we left and the weather got worse as the day went on.  We were home before it got too bad in Portland.  There was only one beer that I tried that I would list as “bad”.  The Lagunitas Imperial Stout Variant with vanilla, chocolate and french oak chips.  This one had a pretty harsh astringent bitterness to it, I’m guessing from the oak chips.  Probably sat on the wood too long.  It wasn’t awful, but compared to the other stuff it certainly stuck out.  There were also a couple very interesting ones that weren’t bad, but not exactly my cup of tea.  Sour stouts from Jester King and Three Magnets that some of our friends liked and some didn’t.  Quite a few stouts aged in wine barrels which were some good, some very heavy on wine character to the point of being off-putting.  Always interesting to try them though.  Several places have made crazy stuff just for this festival.  Lots of creativity on display.

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Well, that pretty much wraps it up for this year.  See you in 2019!

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!

Cervezas de México

My wife and I just returned from a week-long visit to Baja California Sur in Mexico.  This is the southern portion of the Baja California peninsula.  We were visiting friends who live there half the year to see the sights, enjoy the nice weather and learn about the culture.

Craft beer is not nearly as prolific in Mexico as it is in the U.S.  There’s a few places scattered here and there, often in the border towns like Mexicali and Ensenada.  The main purpose of the trip didn’t involve beer, but it always works it’s way in there.

Normally I’m not a big fan of lime in beer (e.g. Corona) and especially when they don’t give you a choice (shove the lime wedge down the neck of the beer).  However the first beer I had was at a beach front restaurant eating nachos after spending an hour or so swimming in the Sea of Cortez.   In that environment, a Modelo Especial with a tiny squeeze of lime went down very well.  I had previously rated Especial as a 3.0, but bumped it up to 4.25.  Freshness and place help out a lot.

The town we were staying in (El Sargento) didn’t have a big grocery store, but several small C-stores.  The one we shopped at the most was called Oscaritos and it was closest to the house we were staying there.  We went there almost daily to pick up vegetables, local cheese and other things for cooking at the house.  It was there that I found a series of beers from Cerveza Fuana. This brewery is located in Mexicali, which is up on the border of Baja California and the U.S.  So not “local” for El Sargento, but at least from Baja California. They had four beers in the case.  Mala Vida Belgian Blond (4.25), Penelope Coffee Porter (4.5), Nox Arcana Imperial Stout (4.0), and Tristan Blonde Ale (3.75).  Unfortunately, most of these beers had some serious age on them.  The Belgian had good yeast character with some oxidation, the Imperial Stout was sweet and boozy, but pretty tasty.  The Coffee Porter had held up the best, with good flavor and only slight oxidiation.  The Blonde Ale, unfortunately, didn’t really have any strong flavors to hide the oxidation.

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On another trip to Oscaritos, I picked up a six pack of Bohemia Vienna lager, Obscura (4.0).  This beer is made by Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma.  One of the two macro breweries that have pretty much a monopoly on Mexican beer.  The other is Grupo Modelo, makers of the Especial I had earlier.  This brewery is in mainland Mexico but it’s at least a Mexican beer.  This beer was decently good, but a little sweeter than I would have expected for the style.  A lot of Mexican beers are based on German styles, but I’m sure they’ve tweaked them.

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On the next to last day of out trip, we happened to be spending a second day in Todos Santos.  Something I had missed the first time, there was actually a small craft brewery called Todos Santos Brewing.

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This was mostly an American style craft brewery with several varieties of IPA and Pale Ale, accented by a Stout, a Red Ale, a Brown Ale and a few others.  I settled on the Chuck Norris Red Ale (4.75) and my wife got the Midnight Oil Double Black IPA (4.25).  The hop profiles on both were fantastic.  Very American/New World style.  The owners are from Australia originally, so I’m sure they throw in some New Zealand and Australian hops that are all the rage now.  The Black IPA was on Nitro, which was a little unfortunate, but it was still good.  Neither my wife or I really care for beers on Nitro and it’s sort of out of place on an IPA anyway.  To my palate, nitro beers tend to be a little sweet, lacking the carbonic “bite” of carbonation.  That’s fine in a creamy Irish stout like Guinness, but for an IPA you want that bite. All in all, very good, friendly staff, great service.  It’s out of the way, but if you’re ever in Todos Santos, B.C.S, I highly recommend you stop by.

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The last beer I had on the trip was actually in the airport on the way home.  San José del Cabo is a really small airport and the one choice for a sit down place to eat was a sports bar themed in Corona dressing.  They had beers from Grupo Modelo, and the two draft options were Modelo Especial and Negra Modelo.  My wife and I both opted for the Negra Modelo (4.5).  Negra is a dark Vienna style lager similar to the Bohemia Obscura, but quite a bit better.  I’ve enjoyed Negra here in the States on a couple of occasions, but fresh on draft at the airport in Mexico was a very enjoyable experience.

Another interesting thing that I noticed was that all of the C-stores, and even some of the small cafes were completely decked out in beer logos.  A lot of the C-stores had their name painted on the side of the building, but the light up sign on a post would be a beer logo.  The three I saw most often was Pacifico, Tecate and Modelo.  Restaurants would also have logos on chairs, tables, napkins, etc.  It seemed as if each place was “branded” by one of the breweries.

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This logo was painted on the side of Oscaritos, and as you can see the whole building is decked out in the blue and yellow of Pacifico.  The other C-store down the street was completely decked out in the red and black of Tecate.  This seemed to be the way all of the stores were decorated.  (Car shops were also completely decked out in white and green with a Quaker State logo on the side, so it wasn’t just breweries who advertised this way).

So there we have it, a small sampling of some beers from Mexico!

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!

Xicha Brewing – Salem, OR

Over the holiday weekend, I had the opportunity to visit one of the newest breweries to open in the state, Xicha Brewing in Salem.  We were visiting friends in town and one of them was friends with the head brewer, so of course we had to check it out.  Apparently, the crew running the place are all West Salem natives and have a huge backing of community support.  They weren’t that busy when we got there on the early afternoon of Black Friday, but apparently most nights they’ve been slammed and it was hopping by the time we left.

They’ve been open less than a month so the beer selection is somewhat limited, but still very solid.  They had five beers on when we were there.  An IPA, a pale ale, an Amarillo dry-hopped pale ale, a porter and a variant of the porter with Hatch chilies.  I believe we tried all of them aside from the standard pale ale.

The beer is solid and I expect it to continue to impress, but the reason you want to go here is the FOOD.  Cooking for them is the owners of Pura Vida Cocina in McMinnville, and it’s really unique Latin and South American food.  It’s similar to Mexican but with some unique twists.  I got Sopes, which was a crispy masa cup with their guava BBQ chicken, black beans, cheese and pickled cabbage.  It was really good and very different than anything I’ve ever had.  My wife got the daily special which was Venezuelan style shrimp arepas, which are a stuffed masa dish similar to a empenada but usually served open faced rather than fully closed (at least the two times I’ve seen them).

They are tucked away in an industrial park, but it’s well worth searching out.  I’m already looking forward to going back.  I literally cannot recommend it enough.