Upcoming 2018 Breweries

New School Beer recently published an article called The Most Anticipated New Oregon Breweries of 2018.  I got a chance to read the article before we left for Mexico but I hadn’t had time to react to it.  I would suggest reading the whole thing, but here’s what jumped out at me.

First, several of these breweries were also listed on the Most Anticipated of 2017 list.  It’s becoming more and more apparent that city planning and permitting and licensing in the City of Portland goes at it’s own pace, and that’s very slow.  I don’t understand why that is, considering these businesses, especially breweries, bring a lot of money into the city coffers.  They should be excited to get them up and going.  But, such is the way of bureaucratic red-tape.  In at least one case, it’s been nearly fatal.  Ross Island Brewing is struggling to stay open, despite only being in business around a year, due to over a year in delays before opening.  They went deep into debt while they waited, and anyone with student loans can attest how hard that can be to get out from under.  Hopefully, Ross Island makes it (Go there and drink beer! They do good stuff!) and these other ones can survive as well.

Next, Southeast Portland is getting some love! Assembly Brewing which is opening at 61st and Foster is just a stones throw from IPA-bar N.W.I.P.A and is walking distance from my house.  That will be the third brewery in the area (including Zoiglhaus and Double Mountain’s Portland Pub) that’s within walking distance.  Ruse Brewing will hopefully finally open at their location on 17th Avenue in inner SE.  This is one of the  holdovers from 2017, although, they were targeting a December open so it didn’t take a huge delay to push them over.   Looking at Spring 2018 opening now, this one is certainly on my Most Anticipated list.  I haven’t had much of their beers (currently co-op-brewed at Culmination Brewing) but what I’ve had has been amazing.  Threshold Brewing sounds interesting and Montavilla is a hopping place these days.  Although, one thing does give me pause.  It says they plan to make barrel-aged beers, mixed fermentations and hazy IPAs.  All things that are super trendy right now but how long will that last? I hope they have a back up plan or can be flexible.  Some people are arguing against “flagship” beers since the Untappd and RateBeer style encourages as many new styles as possible, but a good solid Pale Ale or IPA can go a long way to cement you while still giving you room to experiment.  Case in point, Gigantic Brewing.

Lastly, while only tangentially mentioned in the article, one thing that hangs over the whole list is the 10 breweries that closed/transitioned/sold in 2017. I read, in an article that I, of course, cannot find now, that this smoothing of the peak (10 closings vs 14 openings) is not necessarily a bad thing.  It’s a sign of a market that’s maturing and stabilizing.  It’s bad, of course, for the 10 places that closed, but it could mean good things for those that live on.   I’m not an expert in any sort of business stuff but it seemed to make sense to me.  If I ever find that article again, I’ll link it here.

Three places on this list fit into that category.  First, the 10-ton gorilla in the room.  San Diego, CA based Modern Times, who has desired to be in Portland for a long time, is finally opening their Portland Brewery dubbed the Belmont Fermentorium.  The hitch is, they are opening their new place in the space formally occupied by The Commons.  A brewery that, by all outside indicators, seemed to be doing great and very suddenly shut down.  I will give Modern Times a ton of credit.  They have been very delicate about the “take over”, saying they were fond of The Commons and they aren’t “replacing” The Commons and hopefully The Commons can exist again in some other form.  The Commons still owns the building and some of the equipment that MT is leasing from them, so a steady source of income, and there are rumors that The Commons may not be as dead as previously thought.  I hope it’s true.  They had a small niche market, with sours, saisons and Belgian style beers but they were world class.  Next, we have Bazi Bierbrasserie, a Belgian focused beer bar that is being bought by Thirsty Monk.  While sounding vaguely familiar, I was surprised to learn Thirsty Monk is based out of Asheville, NC and has a location as well in Denver, CO.  Bazi was only a beer bar, but Thirsty Monk plans to install a small brewery at the location to make house brews.  They will likely also serve other commercial Belgian style beers.  The unfortunate story behind this sale is the owner needed to move back to Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey to help her family and be closer to them.  Hopefully, Thirsty Monk can live up to the history the place has, and it sounds like that’s the plan.  Last is Von Ebert Brewing.  This is a weird one for sure, but I feel like it will work out for the best.  The team behind Van Ebert will be the same team behind the award winning beers out of Fat Head’s Portland location.  Turns out, the Ohio based brewery is expanding operations in the mid-West including a new production brewery in Ohio and they couldn’t continue to support the franchise in Portland.  Both sides mutually agreed to end the agreement and go their separate ways.  Von Ebert is keeping the brewing team intact and restaurant employees will be given the opportunity to keep their jobs as well, so this should be a pretty quick transition, but as far the official stats go “Fat Heads” will close and “Von Ebert” will open, even though it’s essentially the same brewery.

Lots to look forward to in 2018, it’s going to be a busy year!

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Salem Mini Tour

On Sunday, my wife and I went to visit friends in Salem, Oregon who just happened to be the same friends we visited in Denver.  They’ve now moved back to Oregon after completing a PhD internship and we were celebrating their return. So what else would be on the docket but a brewery tour, right?

Salem is much smaller than Denver, but has a growing beer scene.  Currently, there are 5 breweries in the city, with at least one more opening soon. We made it to three of the five on our mini tour.  Three that happen to be very close together on the same side of town.  Gilgamesh, Santiam and Salem Ale Works.  Vagabond and McMenamin’s Thompson Brewery and Pub are the other two in town.

We started at Gilgamesh because our friends told us they had good food, and did they ever! It does lean heavy on pub favorites like burgers, but they were good.  We tried the stoney fries (bacon, cheese, chipotle sour cream), the mac attack (mac and cheese with bacon and pulled pork) and the happy hour sliders.  Those were all great, and had some pretty good beers to wash them down.  Hoot Attack ISA (funny story behind the name and logo), Vader Coffee CDA, and Hoppy Farmer, a barrel aged sour saison.

Next stop was Santiam Brewing, and this time instead of a pint we decided to split their large taster tray (10 samples).  My wife remarked that she was having Denver flashbacks at this point.  The beers at Santiam were solid, but not remarkable.  They didn’t really blow us away.  While they were good, they were just missing that oomph.  You could tell the beers they spent a lot of time and effort on, the raspberry pale that tasted like a bite of fresh berries, the Bourbon barrel aged version of their English Amber, and of course, the classic Pirate Stout, Rum barrel aged with coconut.  The rest didn’t seem to have had as much attention paid to them, which was a bit disappointing.  Again, not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but just middle of the road.  “Serviceable”.

The last stop was Salem Ale Works.  I had heard of this brewery through a pro-am brew that a friend did, but I haven’t had much else of their stuff.  These beers really blew us away.  We had a NE style IPA, which I’m not a huge fan of but this one was really good.  A pale ale with an interesting blend of hops in their rotating Sgnarly series, a light refreshing summer ale with the hilarious name of Frisky Marmot, and the Cast Iron CDA which was dark and slightly chocolaty with a huge hop presence.  The waitress (who turned out to be a sales rep) did an amazing job describing the beers to us, and what was in the glass matched exactly what she said, so she did a great job selling us on the beers!  We didn’t eat anything at SAW, but the food coming out of the kitchen looked great so we’ll have to try that next time we’re in town.

So a super quick trip, but hit up a couple of the Salem hotspots.  I would recommend all three, but especially Gilgamesh for great food and Salem Ale Works for great beer.

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!!

Bigfoot Growlers – Damascus Oregon

On Friday evening, my wife took me on a surprise date night.  She had driven past the place and with our running Yeti jokes knew it was a place she needed to take me.  So, imagine you’re leaving town and getting out into a more rural area and you come across a country store with a growler fill station.  You’d expect the place to have 4 or 5 taps of a few major local brands right?

Try 42!

Welcome to Bigfoot Growlers. The L shaped bar takes up an entire corner of Nature’s Country Store in Damascus Oregon.  Along with 33 beers, the taplist also includes 1 wine, 7 ciders and Crater Lake Root Beer.  The staff behind the bar is great at recommendations and pouring samples.  We were there when one of the kegs blew, and we got a sample of the new beer that replaced it just because we were sitting there. Turns out it was Half-Hitch IPA from Crux, which was incredible.  They also aren’t afraid to experiment with things.  My wife couldn’t decide between the Chocolate Shake Nitro stout or the Black Cherry Imperial Stout, and so they mixed it 50/50 which turned out to be pretty incredible.

Although it will likely change very often, the current taplist (link) includes:

14 taps from Oregon
8 taps from Washington
8 taps from California
1 tap from Utah (Uinta Brewing)
1 tap from Idaho (Woodland Empire)
1 tap from Missouri (Shock Top)
1 tap from Illinois (PBR)
1 tap from Texas (Shiner)
1 tap from Germany (Ayinger)
1 tap from Wisconsin (Leinenkugels)
1 tap from New York (Original Sin Cider)

They can take care of all your beer needs ranging from sampler trays, glasses, pints, howlers (32oz) and growlers (64oz).  You should check them out!

We met the owner, and I regret that I can’t remember his name, but he’s a really nice guy and he interacts with his customers the same whether they are regulars or first timers like us.