Great American Beer Festival Oregon Winners 2017
The Great American Beer Festival awards are some of the most coveted in the industry and Oregon continued to perform well in 2017. There are 96 style categories and the possibility of winning gold, silver or bronze in each. The following is a list of local recipients from this year’s competition, which were announced Oct. 7 in Denver:
BRONZE American-Style India Pale Ale: Breaskide Brewery & Taproom, Breakside IPA
SILVER American- or International-Style Pilsener: Full Sail Brewing Company, Sesion Cerveza
BRONZE American- or International-Style Pilsener: Elk Horn Brewery, Lemon Pils
GOLD American-Style Sour Ale: Flat Tail Brewing, DAM Wild Hops and Lemon Verbena
BRONZE American-Style Strong Pale Ale: Breakside Brewery + Beer Hall, Breakside Stay West
GOLD American-Style Wheat Beer: GoodLife Brewing Company, Sweet As Pacific Ale
GOLD American-Style Wheat Beer with Yeast: Sunriver Brewing Company, Fuzztail
SILVER Belgian-Style Fruit Beer: Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, ZuurPruim
BRONZE Brett Beer: Alesong Brewing & Blending, Touch of Brett Mosaic
SILVER Double Red Ale: ColdFire Brewing Company, St. James
BRONZE Fruited American-Style Sour Ale: Breakside Brewery & Taproom, Breakside Passionfruit Sour Ale
GOLD German-Style Pilsener: Zoiglhaus Brewing Company, Zoigl-Pils
GOLD Gluten-Free Beer: Ground Breaker Brewing, Dark Ale
GOLD Imperial Red Ale: Sunriver Brewing Company, Cinder Beast
BRONZE Rye Beer: Breakside Brewery, Breakside Rye Curious?
BRONZE Session Beer: Three Creeks Brewing Company, Stonefly Session Ale
GOLD Specialty Saison: Base Camp Brewing Company, Rye Saison
SMALL BREWING COMPANY AND SMALL BREWING COMPANY BREWER OF THE YEAR: Sunriver Brewing Company, Sunriver Brewing Team
North American Guild of Beer Writers Oregon Winners 2017
Brewers weren’t the only ones honored during the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. The North American Guild of Beer Writers recognized the best beer and brewing industry coverage in 11 categories, ranging from newspaper and magazine stories to podcasts. The following list is composed of Oregon award recipients:
FIRST PLACE Best Beer Book: Jeff Alworth, Secrets of Master Brewers
SECOND PLACE Best Beer Blog: Jeff Alworth, Beervana
THIRD PLACE Best Beer and Travel Writing: Brian Yaeger, Beer at the End of the World
SECOND PLACE Best Local Reporting: Andi Prewitt, Brewers Make Foray into New Areas of Fungi Kingdom
THIRD PLACE Best History Writing: Jeff Alworth, Bourbon County Brand Stout: The Original Bourbon-Barrel-Aged Beer
HONORABLE MENTION Best History Writing: Ezra Johnson-Greenough, An Oral History of the Horse Brass
SECOND PLACE Best Technical Writing: Brian Yaeger, Savoring Acidity: The Quest to Explain Sourness in Beer
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The harvest this year at Mecca Grade Estate Malt was more about the future than the present.
After harvesting a full 300 acres of Full Pint barley and overproducing in 2016 to fill up its storage, the farm and malthouse outside of Madras grew by just 40 acres this year.
But in that same field were 30 different selections for The Next Pint Project, a partnership with Oregon State University for breeding a new variety of barley that will eventually be used by Mecca Grade. (The Full Pint variety was also bred by OSU.)
It was the second of a three-year program. Last year, there were 130 crosses planted at the farm, whittled down to 30 this season based on a variety of factors, eliminating strains that didn’t work out.
After this year’s harvest, the field is down to eight, with the goal of selecting one variety that the farm will produce moving forward, according to co-founder Seth Klann.
“The selection criteria will be based on finished beer for that variety,” said Klann. “We’re looking for something bred exclusively for our conditions in Central Oregon, our irrigation, and hopefully we find some sort of unique flavor, because that’s what it’s all about.”
Barley is often an afterthought for breweries, but Mecca Grade — which raises its own barley and also malts it on the premises — is trying to change that. Most malt for brewing in North America comes from a few large producers. But by farming its own unique barley and malting it, the business is creating a niche for itself in the craft brew industry.
“Because we’re an estate malt house, people ask us ‘Well does all your stuff come from your own farm?’ And I answer ‘Yes,’” said Klann, who runs the farm with his father. “And I think it surprises a lot of people, because even other craft malt houses are having to source from all over the place.
“So everything comes off of our own family farm. And I know that it limits production, but on the other hand the only people that are invested in it are me and my dad,” Klann continued. “We’re not set up to have explosive growth and become this huge thing, and I know the brewers we work with don’t want that either. So as long as we can keep things slow and steady and putting out really rare reserved malt, that’s what we are going to do.”
The list of brewers and beers using Mecca Grade’s malts is constantly growing. (You can see a full lineup on the website.) The Ale Apothecary in Bend now makes all its beer with Mecca Grade malt. Yachats Brewing on the coast uses it for about 95 percent of its beer, according to Klann.
This fall, you’ll see beers using this year’s harvest at Hood River’s pFriem Family Brewers and Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, Klann said. Deschutes Brewery, which has produced several beers using Mecca Grade’s product, has another beer in the making that will feature the farm’s crop.
“We’re going through the process of getting all of our barley certified Salmon-Safe, and that’s been big for Deschutes, and it’s been big for Crux [Fermentation Project],” Klann said.
But Oregon craft breweries are not the only destination for Mecca Grade’s malt. About half of it goes to California; its pilsner-style malts are being used in hazy IPAs.
“Our malt is definitely not cheap, and I think in Oregon the price is going up, but it kind of prohibits people from experimenting with better and more local ingredients,” Klann said. “But down there the price has already gone up, so people are just kind of chasing after the next secret ingredient for making better beer.”
Beer makers as far away as Allagash Brewing Company in Maine have also used Mecca Grade.
If you’re looking for Mecca Grade malt for your homebrew, you can find it at retailers in Portland (F.H. Steinbart Co.), Bend (The Brew Shop) and Corvallis (Corvallis Brewing Supply).
By Holly Amlin and Pete Dunlop
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The little beasts have been unleashed. In this case, little beasts are the tiny critters that do the arduous work of fermenting Charles Porter’s Old World, barrel-aged specialty beers.
Porter, co-founder of Logsdon Farmhouse Ales and creative force behind many medal-winning beers before departing two years ago, recently launched Little Beast Brewing in Beaverton. The beers, like those at Logsdon, will feature mixed-culture fermentations as well as Oregon produce and plants.
“I suppose I always knew I would do my own thing,” said Porter, who started his brewing career in Indiana before moving to Oregon to work at Deschutes, Full Sail and, eventually, Logsdon in 2009. “Little Beast was on the drawing board before I left Logsdon. I knew that was my future.”
The initial Little Beast beers have hit select beer bars and shelves in premium grocery stores around the Portland area. Bes and Fera are examples of the types of beers Porter will be creating as Little Beast evolves.
“Bes and Fera are both entry level beers,” he said. “Bes is a sour beer with training wheels. Fera is super dry. Neither is particularly tart. Fera is so dry, that the hops come through a little. Some IPA fans will like it. But we don’t intend to cater to the IPA crowd. That’s a numbers game we really don’t care to tap.”
Planning Little Beast took some twists and turns. Leery of making the substantial investment required to build his own brewery, Porter initially planned to buy wort from various sources and do fermentation and packaging in a then-to-be determined location.
“The reality is, we struggled to find a space,” he said. “We didn’t want to pay retail price for square footage that would be used mostly for production. Finding a space probably would have been easier had it not been for recreational marijuana, which was competing for spaces we were interested in.”
Things took a fortunate turn when Porter stumbled on an available turnkey brewery next to The Westgate Bourbon Bar & Taphouse in Beaverton. The equipment had previously been part of Brannon’s Pub & Brewery, which closed its doors in 2015.
“It was a fortuitous find,” Porter said. “Coming across a turnkey arrangement in our situation was a brewer’s wet dream. It solved a lot of challenges and allowed us to get started without making a huge upfront investment.”
The Westgate location isn’t forever. Porter hopes to find a permanent location in Portland, a place where he can have a taproom and do some production. Even now, the tiny brewing space behind the Westgate is crowded with barrels and brewing equipment.
“We’ll stay here upwards of two years,” he said. “We’re looking for storage space now because this place is jammed. But we’re also looking for a taproom and production space. We may end up with separate production and retail spaces — not necessarily a bad thing.”
The arrangement with Westgate was a meeting of shared values. When Brannon’s folded, Dave Heinsch, who also operates The Fireside Grill in Beaverton, signed a lease for all of what had been Brannon’s. He wasn’t sure what to do with the attached brewery, but he wanted the location.
“To be honest, I wasn’t that interested in the brewery,” Heinsch said. “I was after the space. I figured we’d stash the brewery, let people forget about it while I shopped around for the right brewer. I thought that might take some time.”
Heinsch, whose vision for the Westgate was a destination for high-quality food and drinks, was pleased to discover Porter was looking for a brewery.
“I knew of Charles from his work at Logsdon,” Heinsch said. “I’m thrilled to be a part of this venture, even if it’s just a stepping stone to something bigger. The guy makes great beer. Plus, having him here takes the brewery off my hands for a year or two while I focus on Westgate. It’s definitely a mutually beneficial relationship.”
Porter is subleasing the brewery space at The Westgate, operating as a separate business. So he’s not partnering with Heinsch. But Porter does have a partner in the Little Beast venture. That would be his wife, Brenda Crow.
Crow has a lengthy background in sales, marketing and branding connected to food. She was national sales manager at Olympia Provisions and currently manages sales of several artisan cheeses in the Northwest.
“Brenda is a spreadsheet queen and a great communicator,” said Porter. “Her strong food background and extensive contact list is helping us get our beers into restaurants, which is great for us. She also played a key role in our brand development process.”
When it came to branding, Crow and Porter hired Andy Morris of Chandelarrow Design Co., a Portland-based studio, after vetting several local artists. Morris has a background in food-and-drink packaging, having done work for Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Widmer Brothers Brewing and The Woodsman Tavern, among others.
Morris’ style appealed to them, though it did take several rounds of logo concepts to get what they wanted. The end result is a modern look that gives nod to the sophistication of Old World-style beers, mixing subtle blackletter with strong visual elements.
“We were initially worried that the logo might come across as too cartoonish,” Crow said. “Andy’s response was that it would work well embossed on a label. He was right. The logo looks amazing when embossed on the label.”
The result is an image that’s bold enough to be recognized from across a room, while at the same time containing enough intricate detail to provide a fairly complete story of what the brand is all about — the sort of thing consumers have come to expect from premium beers.
Goodies far beyond the description of the beer occupy the back side of the bottle. Look for the bottled-on-date coding, batch information, when to drink and suggested glassware (if that isn’t obvious from the goblet in the lion’s mouth in the logo). It’s elements like these that demonstrate Porter’s dedication.
“I felt strongly about including bottled-on dates,” Porter said. “Not enough breweries are doing that, in my opinion. The drink-by dates will vary by beer. Through the labeling, I can go back and know exactly what I was doing with each of these beers. I’m tracking everything.”
As a final, personal touch, Porter added his signature to the label. In a market where there is increasing competition among premium brands for the hearts, minds and dollars of consumers, Little Beast offers a quality product in a finely tuned package. This will likely turn out well.
By Aaron Brussat
For the Oregon Beer Growler
If you think of Portland’s beer scene as the sun, Portland’s beer festivals would be its solar flares, sunspots and cosmic wind. It’s always burning — exothermic blasts of molten malt, hops, yeast and beards swirling and bubbling with every new beer release party. A tower of foamy fire appears on the horizon; we shield our eyes and say, “Oh look, a beer festival!”
Every beer festival fills a niche, and many open beer drinkers’ eyes to what lies just beyond their experience, that errant bottle in the back of the fridge. Portland Farmhouse Weekend provides a city-wide opportunity for beer lovers to go deep into a largely misunderstood sect of beers. The “Weekend,” set for Friday March, 31 through Sunday, April 2, is an extension of the Portland Farmhouse & Wild Ale Festival, now in its fifth year, held at Saraveza Bottle Shop.
To say that founder Ezra Johnson-Greenough has a few beer festivals under his belt is an understatement. He’s been conceiving and organizing events in Portland for years. Johnson-Greenough started the Portland Fruit Beer Fest, and his fingerprints are all over Portland Beer Week and many other tap-related happenings. Some are annual; others spring up and are gone, not unlike styles of beer on a taplist suited for today’s fickle consumer.
Johnson-Greenough’s goal for the Farmhouse & Wild Ale Festival is to “make it the best fest of its kind. We’re increasing the size of tents, hours and beer. The last couple years have been more stagnant. There was no marketing budget for the fest.”
This says a lot about the popularity of the event; Saturday’s general session last year was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with people vying for tastes of rare beers from big names like The Ale Apothecary and Jester King Brewery.
In expanding the festival, Johnson-Greenough has also expanded the concept. On top of Upright Brewing’s eighth anniversary party, beer releases and educational seminars around town, Wander Brewing, from Bellingham, Wash., will bring its 25-barrel coolship to town for a collaboration brew with Breakside Brewery. The project will generate beer for the event in coming years.
The festival includes a beer release specifically for attendees. Last year, The Commons Brewery produced The Croze, a pale beer fermented in open-topped barrels (croze is a cooperage term referring to the groove at either end of the barrel that holds the head in place). This year’s very limited release is a lambic-style beer from Logsdon Farmhouse Ales. Brewer Shilpi Halemane, who’s been at the Hood River brewery a year-and-a-half, started a program of beers brewed in the “Methode van Lembeek” with veteran wild ale brewer Curtis Bain. For the festival, “We thought it might be nice to showcase and sneak preview a single barrel that tasted really good.”
The beer, Saraveza Sour, is brewed with Pilsner malt, raw wheat and aged hops. The brewing process uses a multi-step mash (raising the temperature several times to activate different enzymes) and a two-hour boil. The beer is transferred from the kettle to a coolship — a wide, shallow metal vat open to the country air. There it picks up a bevy of microscopic hitchhikers that will eat their way through the complex sugars in the wort. The inoculated wort is transferred to conical fermentors for two weeks before it is racked into used American oak barrels.
The final product is “in the 5.5% alcohol range. It is tart and Brett-forward with a funky aroma, very clear and bright. It has a classic lambic profile; that’s kind of the goal.”
More and more breweries in the country are experimenting with spontaneous fermentation. They pay homage to the classic Belgian appellation while showcasing the “terroir” of local yeast and bacteria. The wort can be produced in the same way anywhere, but it is the surrounding air that ultimately gives the beer its personality.
What Is Farmhouse Beer?
In our modern era of opaque, flesh-colored IPAs that taste like the Tropicana test kitchen, it’s easy to lose sight of the creative work being done with Oregon’s state microbe Saccharomyces cerevisiae (ale yeast) and its cousins Brettanomyces (a “wild” yeast), Lactobacillus (a common fermenting bacteria), and others — the fermenting family tree is more like a forest.
Most brewers will credit Saison Dupont as the godfather of farmhouse-style beers. It was first imported to the United States in the 1980s, and helped to usher in the idea of beer as a flavorful beverage. It defies accurate reproduction by way of its yeast, which some speculate to be a blend of strains. With a simple malt and hop regimen, the beer gets its particular spicy-fruity profile from unusually high fermentation temperatures.
The new, Americanized genre of “farmhouse” beers encompass a range of styles, flavors and colors, as their origins are multifarious and knotted in untold agrarian histories.
“I like how broad a term it is for the range of things you can use,” says Halemane. “I dislike it for the same reason. If I read a description and it says ‘farmhouse ale with cherries,’ that could mean anything.” At Logsdon, “By virtue of brewing it in a barn, we could make anything and call it a farmhouse ale.” Very tricky. Overall, the farmhouse flavor relies on the characteristics of fermentation and is augmented with the brewer’s choice of malt, hops, wood, fruit and/or spices.
The Farmhouse & Wild Ale Festival has one rule: only U.S. farmhouse-style beers.
“There’s no reason to discriminate if it was made on a farm or not,” says Johnson-Greenough. “It matters how good it is. I’m looking for yeast-forward, Belgian-inspired beers from breweries known for their farmhouse beer — mostly. It’s a very exciting year because there’s more and more options.” Some of the breweries making their debut this year include Alesong Brewing & Blending, Astoria’s new Reach Break Brewing, Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery and Yachats Brewing.
Learn more about Portland Farmhouse Weekend at portlandfarmhousefest.com.
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Stay on the nice list of the beer lover in your life by giving the gift of a special bottle that is worth a spot in the cellar. The picks here were curated by Mike Coplin, owner of 16 Tons in Eugene, and Ryan Fosbinder, purchasing manager at Belmont Station in Portland. One tip: “gift” an extra bottle to yourself.
The Ale Apothecary, Bend
House lactobacillus gives sour balance to malt and wheat structure. Added complexity from up to a year of aging in oak barrels, followed by a month-long dry-hopping — also in oak barrels. The result surprises with tropical and citrus aroma, with tart, earthy and herbal notes on the palate. 9% ABV
Captain of the Coast
Pelican Brewing Company, Pacific City
MacPelican’s Wee Heavy aged in Washington Wheat Whiskey barrels from Dry Fly Distilling in Spokane, Wash. Silky texture and complex flavor evokes creme brulee, dried apricots and sherry. 9.5% ABV
The Commons Brewery, Portland
Pucker up! Last released in 2012, this floral, earthy ale brings mild tartness and cherry notes from ale yeast, brett and 10 months of aging in a 60-barrel foudre. 6.3% ABV
Ninth Anniversary Peach Farmhouse Ale
Oakshire Brewing, Eugene
Released in 2015. A brett ale and wild ale each mingled with peach puree for two years before they were blended and spent another month on more peach. Fruit flavors hold strong. 6.2% ABV
Belmont Station 19th Anniversary Barrel-Aged Barley Wine
Ecliptic Brewing, Portland
Brewed for Portland’s oldest beer shop. Aged nine months in 12-year-old bourbon casks, this barley wine picks up rich barrel character: oak, caramel and heat. 12% ABV
Oakshire Brewing, Eugene
Oakshire snagged a recommendation each from Ryan and Mike. Oakshire’s sixth anniversary continued their Hellshire series with an imperial stout aged 12 months in Heaven Hill Rittenhouse Rye and Elijah Craig bourbon barrels. 12% ABV
Breakside Brewery, Portland
Gin meets hops meets brett in a blend of barrel-aged sour beers 16 months to 26 months old. Delicious now, but expect cellaring to further improve and refine its character. 7.7% ABV
16 Tons Sech 'n Brett
Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, Hood River
Session-style Szechuan Brett Seizoen brewed to commemorate the five-year anniversary of Eugene’s 16 Tons. Various yeasts influence spice and fruit notes, plus a crisp, dry finish. Pepper character enhances food pairings. Expect this bottle-conditioned beer to keep evolving. 6.5% ABV
Caldera Brewing Company, Ashland
Chocolate and bourbon step right up to the palate. Imperial porter conditioned on Maker's Mark-soaked oak spirals, then aged in Kentucky Heaven Hill bourbon barrels. 8.5% ABV
Conflux Series No. 2: Collage
Deschutes, Bend and Hair of the Dog, Portland
Both Mike and Ryan recommended this “artistic collage of cask-aging alchemy.” A blend of Deschutes The Abyss and The Stoic (each aged in pinot barrels) and Hair of the Dog Fred (aged in American oak and rye whiskey barrels) and Doggie Claws (aged in cognac barrels). Roasted accents and complex malt character underpin molasses, caramel and vanilla. Don’t be surprised if this beer improves after a couple more years. 14.3% ABV
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.