2015 GABF Medal Winners

I was scrolling through the GABF Medals List and ran across quite a few familiar names! Pretty excited to see a lot of Oregon and North Carolina breweries on the list.  See the full list here.

Here are the winners from my former home and my new home:

Silver Medal American Amber/Red – Proletariat Red – Lompoc Brewing – Portland
Bronze Medal American Style Dark Lager – Black Diamond – Bend Brewing Co. – Bend
Silver Medal American Style Fruit Beer – Rasplendent – Mazama Brewing – Corvallis
Silver Medal American IPA – Pernicious IPA – Wicked Weed – Candler, NC
Bronze Medal American Light Lager – Southern Girl Lager – Sycamore Brewing – Charlotte
Gold Medal American Stout – Disorder Stout – Barley Browns – Baker City, OR
Gold Medal Strong Pale Ale – Ratchet Strap IPA – Barley Browns – Baker City
Bronze Medal Strong Pale Ale – 3C India Pale Ale – Triple C Brewing – Charlotte
Bronze Medal Baltic Style Porter – Duck Rabbit Baltic Porter – Duck Rabbit – Farmville, NC
Bronze Medal Belgian and French Style Ale – Petite Classique – The Commons – Portland
Gold Medal Belgian Style Lambic or Sour Ale – Turbulent Consequence, Peche – Block 15 – Corvallis
Gold Medal English Style IPA – Shanghai’d IPA – Old Town Brewing – Portland
Gold Medal English Style Summer Ale – Beaverton Blonde – Golden Valley Brewery – McMinnville, OR
Gold Medal Extra Special Bitter – The Guilty Party – Gibb’s Hundred Brewing – Greensboro, NC
Gold Medal Field Beer – Beets, Rhymes and Life – Fonta Flora Brewery – Morganton, NC
Bronze Medal German Style Marzen – Duck Rabbit Marzen – Duck Rabbit – Farmville, NC
Silver Medal German Style Pilsner – Pilsner – pFriem Family Brewers – Hood River, OR
Silver Medal German Style Sour Ale – Volkssekt – Bend Brewing Co – Bend, OR
Silver Medal Gluten Free Beer – IPA No 5 – Groundbreaker Brewing – Portland
Silver Medal Imperial IPA – Eazy Duz It IIPA – Laurelwood Public House – Portland
Bronze Medal Imperial Stout – The Miller’s Toll – Raleigh Brewing – Raleigh
Bronze Medal Old or Strong Ale – Massive! 2013 – Gigantic Brewing – Portland
Gold Medal Rye Beer – Blitzkrieg Bock – Fat Head’s Brewery/Portland – Portland
Gold Medal Scotch Ale – MacPelicans Wee Heavy – Pelican Brewery – Pacific City, OR
Silver Medal Specialty Ale – Hazelnut Brown Nectar – Rogue Brewery – Newport, OR

Congratulations to all the award winners!!


Fred Eckhardt – RIP August 10, 2015

I never got the opportunity to meet Fred Eckhardt but he is a legend around these parts and for good reasons.  He was an author, educator, National ranked beer judge and overall beer guru.  He was a champion of homebrewing and wrote one of the definitive beer guidebooks in his 1989 publication of Essential Beer Styles: A Catalog of Classic Beer Styles for Brewers and Beer Enthusiasts.  He is much beloved in the Portland homebrewing community.  He has a festival named after him that is on his birthday: Fred Fest and he has a beer named after him, “Fred” from Hair of the Dog.

Fred was 89 years old.  He’ll be sorely missed.

Be sure to raise a glass tonight to the “Dean of American beer writers”.


Montavilla Brew Works – Grand Opening – July 17th, 2015

Yesterday, I was excited to attend the brewery opening of Montavilla Brew Works for several reasons. First and foremost, the brewery is being opened by a member of the Oregon Brew Crew who has made the jump to pro brewer.  Second, while it’s a little too far out to be “walkable” this is the first brewery (that I know of) opening up in Outer Southeast Portland, so it’s nice to have something in “my neighborhood”.  Lastly, I just happen to go by Stark on the way home, so I stopped in after work.


There was quite a crowd when I got there, which is a great sign but service was pretty quick.  Montavilla does not serve food, but there are several places around where you can get food and they encourage people to bring in food.  Another interesting thing I noted with their point of sale system which I’ve never seen anywhere else is the fact that you can start a tab, swipe a card and then they give you your card back rather than hold it.  That way after you have a beer, if you want to step across the street and go get some food and then come back for another beer you still have your card with you.

Their tap list includes a lot of classic beer styles as well as some rotating seasonals. They have a Blonde Ale, Red Ale, Pale Ale, Brown Ale (Seasonal), Barleywine (Seasonal), Pilsner (Seasonal) and Imperial Stout (Seasonal) listed on the website.  Yesterday they had a couple of beers also not listed on the website, a Galaxy Double IPA, a Horizon Dry Hopped IPA and a Belgian Golden Strong.  They also had a handful of local guest brews on tap, including Rogue Root Beer as a non-alcoholic option.

The two beers I tried while I was there were the double IPA and the Belgian golden strong.  The IPA was very nice with strong bitterness but also lots of dank, floral and piney hop aroma and flavor.  I’m guessing from Galaxy in the name that it’s a single hop beer with just Galaxy hops.  The Belgian Golden (pictured below) was a very nice ale with characteristic Belgian characteristics.  It was fruity with some bubblegum esters and just the right amount of “funk”.  Well done with both of those beers.


I highly recommend checking out Montavilla Brew Works.  It’s really good beer, and nice to see something open up in Outer Southeast.

2015 Ninkasi Ground Control

I saw this beer at the store, and although I was tempted, I resisted because it was $20 for a 22oz bottle.  But after telling my wife about it when I saw it at the store again I had to pick it up before I missed my chance.  She was interested in the hazelnuts and chocolate, I was interested in beer made with yeast that had traveled to space and back.  It’s space beer!


Ground Control – Ninkasi Brewing (Eugene, OR) – Imperial Stout, 10% ABV, 80 IBU

This beer pours a dark black/brown with a thin white head that quickly dissipates.  Not uncommon for a strong beer. The aroma has notes of molasses, dark dried fruit and chocolate.  No hop aroma to speak of.  The flavor is also rich with dark dried fruits, the chocolate that was added as well as the star anise.  The licorice flavor of the anise and the chocolate played surprisingly well together.  I was afraid it would be way too overpowering, but they are both subtle and mesh nicely.  The mouthfeel of this beer is incredible, thick and velvety.  There is a small amount of alcohol warmth, but not as much as you might expect for a double digit ABV beer.  This is an incredible beer and the cool factor above and beyond just makes it even better.

Rank – 5.0 (of 5 stars): To my knowledge this is the first beer I’ve ever given 5 stars on Untappd.  This beer is really incredible and would earn a 4-4.5 star ranking on it’s own but the cool factor of the yeast from space just pushes it over the top.  Sure, that’s my geek side shining through but hey, that’s what the blog is for right? I recommend you grab a bottle of this before it’s gone.  I don’t know how much of it the made, but it has to be a pretty limited release.

National Homebrewers Conference – San Diego CA: June 11-June14, 2015

I haven’t blogged in a while since I’ve been pretty busy, but luckily some of the stuff that’s kept me busy has been beer related, so there will be some content soon! We’ll start out with a recap of the NHC Conference two weeks ago.

The American Homebrewers Association (AHA) conference in San Diego was something I had been looking forward to for a long time.  In fact, I joined the AHA purely to go to the conference, which is open to members only.  Even though I hadn’t been brewing for very long I knew the conference would be a great opportunity to learn a lot, and boy was I right, so much so it was almost overwhelming.

I had never been to San Diego before, so when I landed I dropped my stuff off at the hotel and then jumped on the trolley and headed down to the Gaslamp district.  I had a couple hours to kill before stuff kicked off at the conference and I wanted to head down to the Hard Rock and get a guitar pin (my wife and I collect them).  I walked down the waterfront for a little while and went down to the docks to see the USS Midway.  I didn’t have time to take the full tour but even from the outside it’s an impressive sight.

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Sadly, I didn’t have too much time to explore but I had enough time to determine that next chance I get I want to go back and spend some more time there.  I headed back to the Conference and jumped right into the action with my first seminar which was “Brewing with Experimental Hops” and it turned out to be a really cool presentation.  Basically the guys had Yakima/Hop Union had a new hop hybrid that they thought had some great potential, but rather than release it to commercial brewers first as the normally do, they are releasing it into the homebrew market first to see what kind of wild and crazy things homebrewers will do with it rather than your run of the mill Pale Ales and IPAs.  They let us taste beer made with the hops and also gave us samples of the hops to take home which I can’t wait to brew with.

The first night was the Welcome Reception which was essentially a beer festival with all the local breweries pouring samples for the attendees.  I jokingly referred to this as Pokemon night… as in “gotta catch them all”. Suffice it to say I did not catch them all.  There were way to many to get through safely in one night, but I managed to taste samples from Russian River, Rock Bottom, Oskar Blues, Stone, Mission Brewery, Belching Beaver, Coronado, Karl Strauss, Green Flash, Figueroa Mountain and probably a few others.  I got to try a couple of big name beers, most notably Russian River’s Pliny the Elder.  It had a long line but I figured I might as well try it.  I have to say, while it was quite good, it didn’t blow me away as the best beer I’d ever had. But it just got voted as the best beer in the World for the seventh year straight in the AHA member poll, so what do I know right?

The second day was all business, well… mostly.  I had several more seminars I wanted to go to.  I had so many scheduled in fact I had to drop a couple when I realized I would miss out on everything else since the seminars overlapped the hours for the expo and the other special events.  I ended up attending three seminars the second day.  Roasted vs Kilned specialty Malts, Intro to Professional Quality Assurance and Hands on Activities for Mastering Beer Styles.  Thankfully all the seminars are archived on the AHA website so I can go back and catch the ones I missed.  I also spend a good amount of the time on the Expo floor checking out ingredients, tasting samples and drooling over fancy equipment.  The one that impressed me the most was an all in one system that was essentially a fancy conical bottom fermentor with some added equipment and a grain strainer and you would do your mash, sparge, boil and then ferment all in the same vessel.  For someone who currently brews in a very small footprint this was very impressive.

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The second evening’s festivities was Club Night.  This was another beer festival essentially, but this time with homebrew clubs pouring the beers.  Clubs from all over the country participated although most were from near by in California.  Easier to drive with kegs than ship or fly with them.  As much as I hated to admit it for a homebrewing conference I wasn’t as excited about this night as I was the pro night the night before.  I also didn’t want to “party hard” two nights in a row, so I planned on taking it easy the second night but I still got to try a decent amount of beer, some better than others.  The great thing about homebrewers is they try all kinds of crazy concoctions… the bad thing is they don’t always turn out that great.  I heard rumors of a Clam Chowder Saison that was out there, and there were all kinds of sour beers since those are all the rage now.  Also in typical homebrew style, there were a couple of beers with just staggering alcohol percentages like a barrel aged stout that clocked in at 18% and several that were in the 10-11% range.  Taster beware for sure.  I fairly quickly had my fill and called it a night.

By the third day I was starting to get overwhelmed.  So much information to absorb and being around large crowds which absolutely drains me.  I was determined to press on.  I concentrated mostly on my seminars.  I was “Expo’d out” at this point.  There’s only so long you can walk around looking at the same stuff, most of which is equipment you can’t afford and don’t have room for so it starts to get discouraging.  I attended four seminars on the fourth day.  Mastering the Art of Hop-Fu (How to brew a medal winning IPA), Intro to Experimentation, Growing your own Hops and lastly Sensory and Flavor Training for Brewers.  The “brain is full” feeling lasted most of the day, but I finished strong in the last seminar which was a demonstration of some common off flavors and their causes which was extremely useful.

The last night of the conference was the Grand Banquet.  A plated dinner of some really awesome food all paired with beers from the evening’s sponsor Lagunitas.  We had a pilsner, IPA, Lagunita Sucks (double IPA) and finished with dessert and an espresso stout. Very tasty.

After the dinner a few of us headed out to a couple San Diego nightlife spots in the famous North Park neighborhood.  We stopped in at the Blind Lady Ale house which had a great selection of local brews plus a small on site brewery, and then the Toronado Public House, which had a great selection of local brews but also had bottled offerings from Cascade Barrel House and Hair of the Dog, as well as Deschutes Abyss on draft.  Great to see Portland beers represented in another beer crazy city like San Diego.

All in all, an amazing trip and I learned a ton, but still was able to cut loose and have fun a little bit.  I can’t wait for the next conference I get to go to.  Sadly, I already know I won’t make the 2016 conference in Baltimore, but here’s hoping for 2017!


Bend Brewing Company – Bend, Oregon

My wife and I were in Bend this past weekend for some hiking and adventure.  We don’t make it to Bend very often, so part of that adventure was to find a brewery to visit.  In this case we were looking for one that also served food.  There’s a couple great places in town like Boneyard that have a tap room but no food.  Not knowing the area that well we figured we’d save for later the adventure of finding a local cart, cafe, take out place etc, to grab food at and then take it to a place like Boneyard.

We ended up not actually eating at Bend Brewing, since we had had some heavy snacks at the McMenamin’s Old St Francis school while we were there completing our McMenamins passports, but we still stopped in to try the beer.  We decided to split their taster tray, so we could try everything.  The BBC taster is 10 5oz pours which includes everything they have on draft at the moment.  5 of them are standards and 5 of them are rotating seasonals.  The tray is a little pricy at 18$, however once you realize that 50 ounces is the equivalent of slightly more than 3 pints, it’s well worth it.  The five standard brews we had were the High Desert Hefeweizen, Metolius Golden Ale, Elk Lake India Pale Ale, Outback Old Ale and Pinnacle Porter.  The Hefe is an American style, so it doesn’t have the spicy, fruity notes of the German style, but still was a good wheat beer. The IPA was really incredible with a good mix of piney and citrusy hops.  I like the pine but it can be overpowering, and I love the citrus hops, so this was a great balance.  I can see why it’s their most popular beer.  The other beers were also good, if not remarkable.

The five seasonal brews on the tray were the Outback X Strong Ale (a riff on the Outback Old Ale), Big Bad Russian Imperial Stout, Baltic Porter, Eclipse CDA, and Ludwig German Pilsner.  The RIS and the Baltic are both pretty similar, strong notes of dark dried fruit and full of alcohol, clocking in at 10% and 10.5% respectively. The Outback Strong was similar to the old ale, but a brighter flavor and more upfront.  The CDA was pretty good, dark roast with piney hops and the German Pilsner was nice and clean with a little bit of fruitiness, mostly apple.

The interesting thing once we got there was I was shocked I’d never heard of them.  They brew some really great, award winning beer.  And not just local festivals, they have a wall full of awards from the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup.  With so many breweries in this state, it’s impossible to keep track of them all, but I was surprised to have not at least heard of such a prestigious brewery.  It’s tucked away on a corner in downtown Bend, but it’s well worth finding! The taproom over looks the Deschutes river and also Mirror Pond.  (A couple of names that should be familiar to fans of one of the larger Oregon breweries, who also calls Bend home).


Saison Reviews

I had recently grabbed a couple of bottles of beer at local bottle shops and realized I was collecting Saisons, which is a style I really enjoy.  I ended up drinking them on consecutive nights, so this is what I think about them.

Saison d’Etra – Mazama Brewing (Corvallis, OR) – 6.3% ABV, 25 IBU

This beer pours a nice golden color with a nice thick white head.  As I drank it it had a great characteristic Belgian lace in the glass.  The aroma of this beer just jumps out at you, especially the peppercorns.  The flavor has the nice saison yeast characteristics, as well as a nice floral/herbal note from coriander and a caramel/cotton candy like sweetness.  This beer has a LOT going on.  Really, really enjoyable. With the addition of the orange peel, coriander and peppercorns it really straddles the line between a saison and a Belgian wit, but very well made.

Rank – 4.5 (of 5) stars: Really incredible, one of the best Saisons I’ve had.

Three Eyed Raven (GoT) – Ommegang Brewing (NY) – 7.2% ABV, IBU Not Listed

This beer bills itself as a “Dark Saison” and it pours a deep brown with a nice reddish tone to it.  This beer was extremely foamy with a thick off-white head.  It’s in a cork finished bottle, and likely bottle fermented, so be careful to not pour it too vigorously. The beer as a nice spicy aroma as would be expected for a saison.  The flavor is nice and clean, with the good Belgian characteristic.   Not sweet like the Mazama but still enjoyable.  I’ll be honest that I bought this beer mostly for the bottle and the label, but it’s actually quite good.  A nice well made saison.

Rank – 4.0 (of 5) stars: Good and drinkable.  Great bottle is a bonus.

Organic Belgian-Style Saison – Hopworks Urban Brewing (Portland) – 6.6% ABV, 18 IBU

This beer pours a light straw yellow with a thick white head.  The aroma has a little bit of spice, and a little bit of Brett-like farmyard.  The flavor has a good spice to it and a little bit of sourness.  The mouthfeel is a little thin, and while the beer is not “bad” it just seems to be missing something.  Not a lot going on in the flavor department, which I would expect for a Belgian.  It does say “Belgian-style” so perhaps it’s not intended to be perfectly “to style”.  Enjoyable but just not world changing.

Rank – 3.0 (of 5) stars: Good, just not great.  Missing some intangibles.