2019 Beer In Review

I’m a little late on this post because I’ve been busy, which is basically the story of all of 2019. Both busy and not busy but in different ways.

Leadership:

In 2019, I served as the Competition Chair for the homebrew club, while my wife served as President. Needless to say, we were extremely busy with these responsibilities. Involved in planning every event, two meetings a month (board and general), running and planning two of the competitions plus the mid-year picnic and holiday party, it was a big deal.  The irony is that being up to my neck in homebrew club prevented me from being a homebrewer. Fewer open weekends, so I didn’t brew as much, didn’t go to as many festivals, didn’t enter as many competitions and didn’t judge as much. It was a difficult year, but I got to stretch my boundaries and everything worked out in the end.

Brewing:

This is where this year took the hardest hit. I was only able to brew three batches this year. A batch of CDA in April for our spring IPA competition, a Norwegian style farmhouse ale in August (playing around with a new yeast strain) and then another batch of CDA in September, to be ready in time for our big competition in November. That’s it.

Competitions:

Along with not brewing much, I didn’t enter many competitions this year either. The stout that I entered in Stout Bout and the Belgian Dark that I entered in NHC and Fall Classic were 2018 brews.  The CDAs and Norwegian Farmhouse got decent scores and good feedback but I didn’t win any medals this year. It felt like a bit of a letdown compared to the last two years, but of course I wasn’t entering a lot.

Travel:

2019 wasn’t quite as crazy travel-wise as 2018 was, but we still managed to squeeze in a couple small trips and one big one. We started the year with a short trip to San Francisco in January, which honestly feels so long ago I nearly forgot about it. Managed to hit up three breweries while we were there, San Francisco Brewing Co, which is right next to the Ghiradelli Chocolate shop. Primo location.  Cellarmaker Brewing, which was in SOMA near our friends apartment and Half Moon Bay Brewing which was out on the coast. Apparently, I never got around to writing a blog post about this trip. That whole busy thing. In May, we took a trip down to Southern Oregon and Northern California. We set our home base in Grants Pass Oregon which gave us access to Crater Lake and the Redwoods National Park. We found three breweries in Grant’s Pass. Wild River Brewing and Pizza, Climate City Brewing and Conner Fields Brewing. In July, we took a trip up to Tacoma, Washington to get stamps at the newest McMenamins property and finish our second set of passports.  While we were there, we also hit up Harmon Brewing, 7 Seas Brewing, Barhop Brewing (Port Angeles), Pacific Malting and Brewing, Odd Otter Brewing Co. and the McMenamin’s Elks Temple itself, which has a brewery. Lastly, our big trip in November was to New York City. We only made it to three breweries, two in NYC and one on our side trip to Philadelphia. We hit up Coney Island Brewing and Other Half Brewing in Brooklyn and then Yards Brewing Co. in Philly. We got to try a lot of the local stuff as well at bars and bottles from the store.

Looking Ahead:

We skipped it in 2019, but this year my wife and I will be returning to Bend for the Best of Craft Beer competition in early February. I’m looking forward to judging again this year. I’m also hoping to make it up to Seattle this year to judge the National Homebrew Competition regionals. I haven’t been able to make it before. I think judging something that big will be a good and useful experience, I’ve also heard it’s a blast. Judges go home with a ton of swag, or so I’ve been told. I’m not ashamed to admit my judging services can be “bought” with a nice lunch and a couple bottles to take home. That’s what’s so alluring about Best of Craft Beer. It’s also just a lot of fun.

I haven’t brewed yet this year, but I have a couple of ideas. I want to brew a Kolsch while it’s cold. I don’t have any temp controls, but the second bedroom gets down to about 62 if we close the door and don’t run the heat. Perfect for a cold fermented ale. I didn’t brew my strong Belgian this past year, but I’m thinking I’m might go for something lighter (at least in color) and brew a Belgian Golden Strong or a Tripel. I’m hoping for something that maybe doesn’t need to age as long and can be drunk fresh. I’m sure there will be at least two more batches of CDA down the line, gotta keep those coming for sure. Beyond that we’ll see how it goes. I have some ideas.

2018 Beer in Review

It’s that time of year again, another year gone.  The time to look back and reminisce and also look ahead to the year ahead, which like an unwrapped present offers so much promise.

Brewing:

Like last year, I only brewed 8 batches this year, but I began to fall into a bit of a predictable rhythm. Two weeks ago I brewed my last batch of the year, another batch of my Black Flag CDA.  I never expected to have a “flagship” beer, but that’s what this one has turned into.  I made 4 batches of it this year, and the most recent was my 13th batch in the last three years.  I have this recipe dialed in to the point where I just remake it, I don’t make any changes or adjustments.  The other four batches were two batches of a British Strong Bitter, a style I had never made before but rather enjoyed, my annual batch of Belgian Dark Strong, and a re-brew of my Imperial Milk Stout “Waiting for Santa” that I made a couple years ago.

Competitions:

Also continuing the trend from last year, I traded quantity for quality.  This year was really remarkable from a competition standpoint.  I started the year with an early surprise. I was invited to pour my Rum Barrel Stout at the people’s choice for Stout Bout and then was awarded 1st place in Wood Aged Stout, which I did not expect.  This was followed by a gold medal at COHO Spring Fling for my British Bitter and then a gold medal at Heart of Cascadia for my CDA.  Three category wins with three different beers was pretty shocking.  The COHO medal earned me points for the Oregon State Homebrewer of the Year program, which was one of my 2018 goals.  My Belgian Dark Strong took a third place at the Oregon State Fair, and then took 1st place at Salem Harvest Classic and received an Honorable Mention for Best in Show, essentially 4th place BOS, although there’s no ribbon for that.  I rounded out the year with a 3rd place in Specialty IPA at Fall Classic with my CDA.  6 total awards, 4 of which were 1st Place.

Judging:

I was able to judge 5 competitions this year, starting again with Best of Craft Beer.  I also served as Judge Director for the OBC Fall Classic at the end of the year.  Based on travel plans and work schedule, I won’t be returning to Best of Craft Beer in 2019, but hope to someday judge that competition again.  It’s a lot of fun and of course we get to bring home a ton of beer.  At the time of my last Beer in Review, I had taken the tasting exam but hadn’t received my score back.  I increased my score from a 76 to an 80, which is good enough for National.  I plan to take the written exam at some point in this year, but I don’t expect to do well enough on the first try.  Several people have recommended to me to just take it so I have an idea what it’s like.  My goal for increasing my rank is to have opportunities to judge at larger competitions like the NHC Finals, GABF and the Oregon Beer Awards.

Travel:

Well 2018 was a pretty amazing year for travel.  We started the year in January with a trip to Mexico.  We visited one brewery (Todos Santos Brewing) and tried several local and national Mexican brews.  Fresh Modelo Negra on draft is an amazing beer.  The bottles you can get here are nice, but don’t quite do it justice.  In April I traveled to Montréal, Quebec, Canada to attend a Siebel Brewing Microbiology Course.  This trip was paid for by my work and was an interesting, albeit difficult, learning and travel experience.  They crammed a lot into two weeks, and I did manage to visit 8 breweries while I was there and tried several other local offerings in cans and bottles. The tour and tasting at Unibroue was definitely the highlight of the trip. In June we traveled to Houston and Austin, Texas. The Houston part of the trip was a church conference, so certainly not beer related, but the Austin portion was visiting with family while we were in the area, so a lot more relaxed.  We did visit three breweries in Houston on the last day when our main responsibilities were over, and two more in Austin as well as trying some local stuff on draft and bottles around town.  Sadly, some of the big name breweries, like Jester King(Austin) and St. Arnold(Houston), were closed the days were were in town, but with family in the area we know we will return soon. Oskar Blues in Austin was very cool.  We finished the year with a trip to visit my family and friends on the East Coast for Thanksgiving.  We visited one brewery in Garner, near my friends house and also spent two days exploring Asheville, which has blown up into a beer mecca since I left the state.  The highlight of that trip was the tour at New Belgium, which is always a good time.  We’ve now visited the Colorado and North Carolina locations for New Belgium.  If you haven’t done a tour there I highly recommend it.  It’s free, although you do need to sign up in advance, and they are very generous with the samples.  They also do a good job explaining their processes and lay everything out, they don’t really have any “secrets”.

Job:

The end of this year marks 2 and half years now in my position at Portland Brewing.  My role has grown, including the aforementioned training trip to Montréal, and moving into 2019 I am beginning to take over our sensory tasting program.  My goals are to expand and refine the program, which will include in 2019 another Siebel course for sensory panel management.  We are setting up a dedicated space for the sensory program to match that growth and expansion and I’m very excited to be involved in it.  With my background in Food Science and BJCP Beer Judging the managers felt that sensory was well within my wheelhouse and they are hoping I can take our program to the next level. The goal as always will be to provide a consistent and high quality product to our consumers.

Looking Forward:

2019 is already looking like a busy year.  My wife and I are planning to dial back on our travel this year, after literally globehopping this past year, but we do have a short trip in January coming up to visit friends in San Francisco.  I will also be attending the Siebel Sensory Panel Management course, either in February or November.  This course is not as intense as the Montréal course, since it’s only 4 days long and is in San Diego. We will be very involved in the homebrew club this year as my wife is returning to the Board as President and I will be re-joining the Board as Competition chair. This will likely mean less judging opportunities, but I will still be heavily involved in the local competition scene.  For competitions, my 2018 goal (unfulfilled) for advancing a beer to the NHC Finals still stands (and honestly, this will be a goal every year) as well as my hopes to participate in some sort of Pro-Am brewing opportunity, whether that be through winning Best in Show at a competition, being chosen as a Widmer Collaborator through the OBC or being selected to brew for something like the Willamette Week Pro-Am, hopefully I can brew one of my recipes on a larger scale.  I think that would be extremely fun and an amazing learning opportunity.

So cheers to 2018 and here’s to an amazing 2019!