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.

Exploring Southern Oregon

For Memorial Day weekend and my birthday, my wife and I took a trip down to Southern Oregon.  Our goal for this trip was to visit Crater Lake (Oregon’s only National Park) and then venture down into Northern California to see the mighty Coastal Redwoods.

Our home base for this trip was Grants Pass, OR.  A small-ish city of about 34,000 people, right along I-5 in the heart of the Rogue River Valley.  In true Oregon fashion, even tiny Grant’s Pass has 4 breweries.  We managed to make it to 3 of them.

The first one we made it to was Wild Ride Pizza and Brewing. Grant’s Pass is the original location and they also have a second location in Cave Junction.  We had already eaten lunch so we just popped in for a beer, but we did get an appetizer called a Torta, which was layers of cream cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and pesto, with crackers and bread.  It tasted like the best lasagna filling I’d ever had.  I’d wager a bet their pizza is damn good.

Between tasters and pints we tried 5 beers. Two of their flagship IPAs, one was a standard IPA and one had citrus peel in it, the citrus one was very good.  We also tried a brut IPA which was good but had a lot of yeast phenolics that I don’t think it was supposed to have and we tried their version of a CDA (called Black Hops IPA) which was OK, but more roasty and chocolatey and less hoppy than I would prefer.  I finished with the Double Eagle Imperial Stout and to me that was the winner. Rich and dark and creamy. I don’t know when (if) we’ll be back in Grant’s Pass, but Wild Ride Pizza would certainly be on the return list.

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The next place we went to was Climate City Brewing, which we went to for dinner.  Located in an older, historic part of town and housed in the former home of Rogue River Brewing Company which opened in the 1880’s and closed during Prohibition. We also tried 5 beers here with dinner in a combination of pints and tasters.  Again, very IPA heavy, which is the new normal. We tried the Savage IPA and Nookie IPA, pretty much the same beer with different hop profiles, we also tried the Citradora Stong Ale which was a Citra dry-hoped pale ale that also had Lemon Verbena tea added to it. Very strong lemon flavor. Very interesting.  The Fireside Dark Ale was a very malty, English style beer that was pretty good. I got a small taste of the Bourbon Bigfoot Porter which was very whiskey heavy. Nice, but suited for small pours.  The winner for me was the Brutylicilous Brut IPA.  A great example of that style, very dry and clean which a HUGE fruity aroma.  In fact, I misheard the server and thought they said “Fruitylicious” which would have fit just as well.  The food was passable for pub food. Nothing special but not terrible. Some of the beers were better than others, but it has a neat atmosphere and if your in town it would be worth stopping by.

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The third place we went to for dinner the final night in town was a restaurant called The Haul. Owned and operated by the folks from Connor Fields Brewing it serves as their official taproom (the brewery is on the outskirts of town and not open to the public). This was the place to be. It was hopping when we were there and it had a very modern, hip vibe (I hate to use the word hipster, but it was a lot of steampunk and long beards). Their beers mostly range through farmhouse styles and Belgians but they had a couple clean beers like an American Pale Ale and a Blonde Ale. The beers were all solid, but the food was AMAZING. I got the Thai Pie which was basically Pad Thai on a pizza, chicken, peanut sauce, carrots, green onions and cilantro. Wood fired pizza and the crust was amazing. Honestly the crust was the best part.  My wife got the Bo Ssam sandwhich which had Korean pork and kimchi on it. Also, very interesting and tasty.  The Haul also has a “secret” speakeasy upstairs that serves mostly cocktails.  After we ate we went upstairs and had a drink before we headed home. I forgot to take any pictures here but if you’re in Grant’s Pass I would highly recommend it.

Bonus non-beer stop:

On the way out to Crater Lake we drove through the Rogue River valley and saw signs for several wineries.  We looked a few up online to see what the had to offer and decided to stop at Kriselle Cellars for a tasting flight.  They offered mostly red wines, but had a handful of whites.  The address is White City, OR but it’s pretty much way out in the middle of nowhere north of Medford.  If we hadn’t driven by it, we would have never known it was there.  I wasn’t a fan of their white wines, but I also don’t drink a lot of white wine anymore.  They had some solid reds.  My favorite was the Cabernet Franc, which is a varietal I’ve heard of but not sure I’ve tasted.  It surprisingly beat out the Tempranillo, which is a favorite of both my wife and I.  They also had a really good blend called Di’Tani which contained all five of their reds blended together.

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I don’t know when we’ll be back in this area again, but we already know we want to return to Crater Lake when there’s not so much snow still up there, and we want to go back to the Redwoods as well, although we’ll likely stay in Northern California to be closer to the Redwoods when we go back.