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!

2018 Competition Recap

As I had previously mentioned in my Goals Update post, I had two major goals for this year, one that happened and one that didn’t. I had a good feeling coming into this year that it was going to be “my year”, and it didn’t completely work out that way but it was still a pretty amazing year.

The year started with a bang at the Stout Bout competition in February.  My “barrel” aged Rum Stout scored 36 points and took first place in Wood and Barrel Aged.  My first ever 1st place category win, although being a limited style competiton (Stouts Only) it didn’t qualify for Oregon State Homebrewer of the Year.  The same beer scored a 27 at KLCC, which shows some variability from comp to comp, as well as deeper competition since I wasn’t going against just stouts.

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Next up was the COHO Spring Fling, I entered my Belgian Dark Strong, my CDA and a British Bitter, a style I had never brewed before.  The BDS and CDA didn’t score well (both around 25 points) but the Bitter scored a 40.5 and took 1st Place in British Beers.

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COHO was a qualifier for OSHBOTY and so I accomplished my first goal of the year which was to get on the scoreboard.  I only got 5 points, but it was enough to get my name on there.2018 OSHBOTY1

That’s also what I finished the year with.  One of the goals for next year will be to score points in more than one competition.

Next came the results of the National Homebrew Competition First Round, which was my second goal of the year, medal in a category and advance to finals.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, but I’m happy with my scores.  The CDA scored 34.5, the BDS scored 32.5 and the Bitter scored 29. Maybe next year.

In May was my homebrew club’s IPA specific competition Heart of Cascadia.  My CDA scored 40 points and took 1st place in the Black IPA/Cascadian Dark Ale category.  While also not a OSHBOTY qualifier, this was now my third award of the year, all three of which were first place and in three different categories.  Shocked doesn’t describe what I was feeling by this point.

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Rounding out the summer competitions was the Oregon State Fair.  I entered my CDA, Belgian Dark Strong and Bitter again, and the BDS took Third place in the Trappist Category.

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In September and October there were three competitions fairly close together to round out the year.  At Rocktoberfest in Bend my CDA scored 30.3 and my BDS scored 36.5 but didn’t take home any medals.  The at Salem Harvest Classic, my only entry was my BDS.  The BDS scored 40.5 points and took first place Trappist and earned an Honorable Mention in the Best in Show judging.  Essentially, it ended up 4th place in BOS but needed some serious deliberation to split between 3rd and 4th.

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The last competition of the year was my homebrew club’s big annual competition, the Fall Classic.  I entered my CDA, BDS and a rebrew of the Bitter (which didn’t go well).  The bitter scored a 26, which wasn’t shocking, the BDS scored a 31 and my CDA scored a 32 and took 3rd place in Specialty IPA, which is always a very competitive category.

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Overall, 6 awards is a drop from last years 8, however the spread of 4 golds and 2 bronze, slightly edges out last years 5 bronze and 3 silver.  Quality over quantity?

In the OBC Homebrewers Cup (Homebrewer of the Year) I earned 77 points, an increase from last year’s 51.  Gold medals are worth more.  In 2016 I earned 32 points, so a steady increase each year.  Still, not remotely close to winning Brewer of the Year (first place has 504 points) but I’m happy with the increase.

The goals for next year will remain similar to last year.  I achieved the goal of scoring points in OSHBOTY, so perhaps the goal now will be to beat my previous years total of 5 points.  I still don’t expect to win the thing or even finish top ten, but beating 5 points will mean winning more than one category or winning a large one, such as IPA.

The goal of medaling in NHC regionals and advancing to Finals will continue until it happens.  Honestly, this will be a goal every year.

I’m also hoping next year to have a chance to brew a commercial batch of beer, which would require either being selected for Collaborator, Willamette Week Pro-Am, or winning Best in Show for a competition that offers that as a prize.  A lofty goal, but one I hope I can achieve.

2019 Season starts in late January, so short turn around!

2017 Competition Recap

I sometimes joke about not being a competitive person, at which point my wife looks at me sideways like “Really?” I think I associate competitive in my head with that guy or girl from high school who played seven sports and went to a private college on a tennis scholarship. I didn’t play sports growing up, but was in the marching band and competed both in marching and concert bands. In college, I played video games, did Ham radio competitions, started playing fantasy football and hockey and then eventually got into distance running.  So naturally, I started entering competitions almost immediately after starting homebrewing.  My first entry was my second ever batch and my first medal (a new brewer award) came on my 5th batch.

The 2017 Competition season has come to an end and it was very interesting and successful, although it didn’t start out that way.  I didn’t have any success in the early competitions, including a crushingly low score for my Cascadian Dark Ale in the NHC Regionals. Decent scores at KLCC, Spring Fling and Heart of Cascadia, but no medals.

I’ve won a few medals here and there, but I entered 2017 with a plan.  That plan didn’t totally work out, but what happened in it’s place was still pretty great.  In December of 2016 I brewed a Belgian Dark Strong. The original plan was to bottle condition for nearly an entire year and not break it out until the Fall Classic in November. My curiousity got the best of me and I tasted it after 6 months and it tasted awesome, so I decided to enter it into the State Fair.  It didn’t medal, but I got some good feedback on it.  Around this same time, a couple of my homebrewing friends tasted it and gave me some feedback and at this point I knew I wanted to re-brew it and make some changes, so I was no longer trying to hold on to this until summer of 2018.  I started entering the BDS into competitions to start getting more feedback.

The first competition I entered it into was the Lane County fair, along with my Belgian Wit that I had made because I had most of the ingredients already on hand.  They started out in different categories but due to being a small comp they combined all the Belgians together and I ended up competing against myself. The Dark Strong took third place in the combined Belgian category.

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I found it humorous that they mailed my my $4.00 premium as well.

For the next couple of competitions the BDS and the Wit were all I had ready. It was too hot for me to brew during the main part of the summer (June, July, August).  The next event was the Rocktoberfest Competition in Redmond.  I sent in the BDS and the Wit and this time, they stayed in separate categories and I happened to take 3rd place in both.

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I was getting pretty excited at this point.  To have the same beer medal multiple times was pretty amazing.  Little did I know at the time that that trend was going to continue.  The next competition was the Sasquatch Homebrew Competition in Eugene.  This event had a limited number of categories, but one happened to be Trappist, so I sent in the Belgian Dark Strong.  This time it took Second place.  Even while it was winning medals it still seemed to be improving with time, another testament to the bottle conditioning process.

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Huge ribbon from Sasquatch.

The next event was a new event called the Salem Harvest Classic, run by Capitol Brewers in Salem.  I once again submitted the BDS and the Wit and managed to double dip again.  This time, 2nd place for the BDS and 3rd place for the Wit.  I felt like I was picking up steam coming into our club competition, the Fall Classic.  I was out of bottles of the Wit, and now that it was cool enough again, I brewed up a American Pale Ale and another version of my Cascadian Dark Ale.  The CDA scored well but didn’t medal, and my Pale Ale had a carbonation issue so it didn’t do well either, but lo and behold the Belgian Dark Strong took second place.  After 4 years of entering the competition, and being heavily involved in running it the last 3 years (including two years of labeling the medals) I had finally taken home a Fall Classic medal.  I’d say this one certainly meant the most.  Everyone there was so excited for me to win, and that kind of support is what makes the hobby run.  Also, late that night when we finally made it home, my Salem Harvest Classic medals had come in the mail and were waiting for me.

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I was now out of Belgian Dark Strong bottles to enter, so it’s run was over, but when it was all said and done, two bronze medals and three silver medals.  I’ve already brewed the 2018 batch and it’s currently doing it’s thing in the bottles. The first entry for that batch will be the NHC Regionals in April so we’ll see how it does then.

The last competition of the season was the Joint Novembeerfest and Puget Sound Pro-Am.  I entered the pale ale and the CDA into this competition and the Pale Ale got a decent score and good feedback but no medal. The CDA, on the other hand, took third place in Specialty IPA, which is always a very competitive category.  I was extremely happy with this result.  The two other medals I’ve won with my CDA were in custom categories for CDA only.  Specialty IPA includes all the new styles like Red IPA, Belgian IPA and New England Style IPA.

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Before 2017 I had four medals (1 bronze, 3 silver).  Now I have 12.  That’s very impressive.  I didn’t take first place in a category or win best in show or anything like that, but I tripled the number of ribbons and medals hanging on my wall and I’m pretty stoked about that.

I have two goals for 2018.  Understandably, there’s a good chance this won’t happen, but isn’t that the point of setting goals?

First, I want to get on the scoreboard of the Oregon State Homebrewer of the Year.  Not win the whole thing, or even finish top 10, but just get my name on there.  To score points in OSHBOTY you have to get first place in a category, so by default that means one of my goals is also to score my first gold medal in a category.

Second, I want to advance a beer to the finals of the National Homebrew Competition.  To do that, you have to medal in your category and score 30 plus points.  Again, I’m not looking to win anything in the finals, but just to have the chance. Taking first place in the NHC regionals would accomplish both my goals at once, so fingers crossed!

So there we have it, a look back on the past year and a look ahead to next year.