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!

East Coast Trip #3

My wife and I just returned from spending Thanksgiving with family and friends out on the East coast.  It was my third trip back since moving out to Oregon.  The second trip didn’t warrant a write up here since we only visited one brewery on that trip, although it was a good one, Joymongers Brewing in Greensboro.

Raleigh, NC Area: We flew into RDU airport and spent the first couple of nights at my best friends place in Garner (just south of Raleigh).  The first night we ventured out to a local bottle shop, The Beerded Lady, to grab some beer for dinner.  We got some cans of It’s Fall Ya’ll Coffee Stout from Trophy Brewing (Raleigh) and a growler of Pirate Queen Double IPA by Bombshell Brewing (Holly Springs).  The next day we met my sister and her partner for lunch and then after lunch walked around the corner to Brewery Bhavana.  Combination brewery, dim sum restaurant and bookstore, this place seemed to be pretty pretentious at first glance, but the beer was solid and the staff was down to earth, so looks aren’t everything.  Tried their flagship Till Farmhouse Ale, Dig Chocolate Stout and Patrick’s Birthday Barleywine (whiskey barrel aged).  All were very delicious.
46743022_10216048499459844_2292142815158730752_nWe finished the night at Brice’s Brewing  in Garner, just down the street from my friends house.  They had hosted a stout release party the night before and still had several on tap.  Between the four of us, we tried Oatmeal Stout, Chocolate Stout, Irish Stout and I also tried the Belgian Tripel.  The next morning we hit the road for South Carolina.

Pawley’s Island, SC: We didn’t make it to any breweries in SC, but we found some local beers at restaurants and at the grocery store.  The first night at dinner I had a great IPA, HopArt from Coast Brewing (North Charleston) which paired remarkably well with Southern style fried seafood. At the grocery store we picked up a 6 pack of Mango IPA from Palmetto Brewing (Charleston) and a 6 pack of Westbrook One Claw (Mt Pleasant).  The Mango IPA was quite good, the One Claw sadly was a little past it’s prime. I’ve had it before when it was better.  The second night I had an Espresso Porter also from Palmetto Brewing at a really great BBQ joint.

Asheville, NC: I hadn’t been to Asheville since I was young, and seemingly as soon as I left NC it blew up into a craft beer mecca.  We spent the next two days exploring Asheville, including a nice drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The first night we stopped at Burial Beer Co. after dinner, which was a small place but they had a lot of unique beers.  I tried their blended sour and double IPA, which were both great and very different, and my wife had the coconut brown ale aged on cocoa nibs which was super chocolaty.  The next morning we had a tour scheduled at New Belgium Brewing.  We visited their Fort Collins brewery on our Denver trip two years ago and now got to see the East coast location.  The tour was great, it was cool to see the brewery and our guide was really great.  They gave us samples of Fat Tire, which I forget how good it is when it’s fresh, and Fat Tire White Ale, La Folie sour ale which is phenomenal, and Abbey (Belgian Dubbel) which was actually the first beer they ever made, and then their HPA Hemperor IPA which is made with hemp seeds.  Let’s just say when he started pouring it smelled like someone was lighting it up.
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Several people on the tour recommended we go to Sierra Nevada Brewery if we hadn’t already been.  Another West coast brewery that has started an East coast outpost, Sierra Nevada was located in nearby Mills River.  Originally, I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to make it out there, but it wasn’t as far away as I thought, just a quick 20 minute drive away.  We had dinner at the brewery (highly recommend the Duck Fat fries) and then did the self-guided walking tour.  I haven’t been to the Chico, CA location, but the Mills River brewery is massive but also beautifully laid out.  The long driveway with landscaping and custom street signs made it feel like you were entering a Disney property. While we were there, I had this years Celebration fresh hop IPA, which was really good, and my wife had the Sidecar Orange IPA which was also very refreshing.
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By this point we were actually starting to get kinda beer’d out.  After checking out some local art studios, we finished the Asheville tour with a trip to Urban Orchard Cider Co. It was nice to have something different, and the ciders were very refreshing.  We tried a hopped cider, a ginger cider and a holiday cider with cranberries that were all delicious.
46821421_10216048551061134_384162739905363968_nRaleigh-Durham International Airport: The last two days of the trip involved hanging out with my family and no beer, which is OK.  My parents don’t drink hardly at all and we’ve never had alcohol at any of the big family dinners, which is probably for the best.  However, we managed to snag a couple more local beers in the airport as we were headed home.  I had the Hoppy-Ki-Yay IPA by Lonerider Beer (Raleigh), and my wife had the Spoaty Oaty Pale Ale by Appalachian Mountain Brewing (Boone, NC).  Interestingly, I didn’t know at the time but as I just looked up AMB, they are part of Craft Brew Alliance which is based here in Portland.

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So there we have it, another fun trip to the East coast and five new locations to add to the Breweries Visited list.  All told, added another 31 unique beers to Untappd (plus a couple repeats).  Until next time, Cheers!

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!!