2019 Best of Craft Beer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

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.

20180127_123822

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.

20180127_070813

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.

20180129_091505

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!

Best of Craft Beer Awards 2017

Last weekend I had the honor of judging the 2017 Best of Craft Beer Awards in Bend, Oregon.  I had been invited last year, but wasn’t able to make it due to a prior commitment (judging another competition actually).  This is the fourth year of the competition, which has steadily grown.  Wanting to recognize craft brewing but use actual blind judging rather than a people’s choice or “best of” list, similar to GABF and World Beer cup, is the goal of the event.  Based on shipping and judging location the contest was heavy with Pacific Northwest and California beers, but there was a good number from the Midwest and East Coast, including a couple from North Carolina.

The judging was held at the Mt Bachelor Resort in Bend.  The weather was cold, but the hospitality was quite warm.  They fed us breakfast and lunch both days during the judging and took care of pretty much anything else we would need.

20170128_075842

This was my first experience in judging commercial beer and it was both similar and different to judging homebrew.  The first way that it was different was instead of one sample at a time, they brought us flights of ten to twelve all at once.  They also had very short, checklist style scoresheets.  No long winding feedback here, just a few words and on to the next sample.  It was rapid fire judging.  The beers with obvious flaws were weeded out right away and then we would debate amongst the good ones which deserved to move on to the next round.

20170128_104209

The second major way it was different was the sheer number of styles.  The BJCP recently updated their style guidelines up to 32 styles, but this competition uses the Brewers Association styles (same ones GABF uses).  The BA has over 160 styles, which if you’re curious you can find HERE. These guidelines are much more narrow than BJCP, and since this is commerical beer a lot of it is based on alcohol percentage and IBU (bitterness), something that is usually not known for homebrew.  For example, two of the styles I judged were American Style IPA and American Style Strong Pale Ale.  What’s a Strong Pale Ale you ask? Well, that’s a beer with slightly more alcohol and bitterness than a Pale Ale, but not as much as an IPA.  Plus some overlap.  Confused? Without being told, these two styles would be indistinguishable, but Strong Pale Ale ranges from 5.6%-7.0% Alcohol and 40-50 IBU, while American IPA ranges from 6.3%-7.5% alcohol and 50-70 IBU.  Stuff like Pliney the Elder at 8.0% and 100IBU? That’s a different category.

Beyond that it was pretty much just like judging homebrew.  Taste the beer, give it a score, write some feedback, move on.  One of the things several people remarked to me as a similarity to homebrew was that there would be just as much bad beer as good.  Shockingly they were right. It startled me how many of the beers were bad, and I don’t just mean low quality or something I didn’t like.  These beers had serious production flaws that indicated they had been rushed, not given enough time, bottled too soon or crashed (chilled) too soon.  Off flavors like diacetyl and acetaldehyde that the yeast will eventually get rid of but it needs time.  On the first day I judged 49 samples, most of them before lunch.  Thankfully the second day I only judged 16.

After the judging, they brought out the half empty bottles (which would get dumped anyway) so that we could taste some of the samples from categories we hadn’t judged and also see the labels and find out what we had just judged blind.  Some people would match up entry numbers and walk around with a bottle letting people try it and saying “This took first place in stout, you gotta try it!” I took a few sips of things, but realized quickly at the end of the first day that I was “beered-out”.  No matter what bottle I picked they all started tasting the same.  Starting the day on IPAs and finishing with sours, my palate was wrecked.

20170129_140342

Just as a demonstration of the widespread nature of the competition, I went back and looked at my Untappd check-ins over the course of the two days and I logged 25 unique beers from 12 different states.  Representing Wisconsin, Alaska, Mass., Colorado, California, Oregon (of course), Minnesota, Texas, Missouri, Washington, Nevada and North Carolina.  Counting the bottles I took home, you can add Ohio and Alabama to that list as well.

There were at least 12 members of my homebrew club, the Oregon Brew Crew in attendance as judges and stewards so there were plenty of people I knew there.  Other none OBC judges I recognized from other competitions as well.  You start to get to know people when you see them 6-7 times a year.  That’s the fun part of being a judge!

At the end of the event was what had enticed a lot of people to make the trip, the bottle grab!  Commercial breweries often send twice the amount of beer needed for a competition, for fear of breakage, spillage, etc, so there was a lot of unopened bottles left at the end.  Since the beer was donated for samples it can’t be resold and is expensive to ship back, so rather than dump it down the drain, they lay out the boxes and let the judges have at it!

20170129_150712

A lot of people took home three and four boxes worth, but I decided that I didn’t need that much at home, and to try to move it, carry it all wasn’t worth it, so I limited myself to one box and tried to be very particular about what I picked.  I’ve tried about half of them and they’ve all been good. So far all winners.

20170130_153748

My small, but impressive, personal haul.  Beers from all over, including California, North Carolina, Alabama, Colorado, Washington and more. The two cork and caged bottles are Sugar Creek from Charlotte.  I visited there on our massive east coast trip a year ago, so I had to grab those when I saw them.  Can’t get those out here normally for sure.  The wax topped bottle is a Bourbon barrel aged Stout, so I managed to snag at least one “fancy” beer as well.

Overall, this was a great event and I had a lot of fun.  The first day felt like “work” based on the sheer number of samples, but otherwise it was OK.  Looking forward to doing it again next year! The 2017 awards results are posted HERE.

20170127_202354