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 Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Another brewery in Bend? Sounds foolhardy. A risky business decision at best. But don’t jump to conclusions. What it you offered something no one else did? That’s the case for Immersion Brewing — the ONLY place in town where you can brew your own beer.
Sean Lampe, co-owner with his partner Amanda Plattner and her sister Rachael Plattner, said, “We felt like Bend was perfect. We’re focused on the highest-quality beer and experience. If you don’t have people around challenging you, you won’t make great beer,” he said.
According to the Bend Visitor Center, the city has plenty of challengers. It has more breweries per capita than any other city in Oregon; as of last June, the Oregon Brewers Guild listed 26 in Bend.
Immersion opened last summer after many construction delays. “We signed the lease in December of 2014 and have been working on it for a couple years,” said Lampe.
The idea for the BIY (brew-it-yourself) business originated 18 years ago in Lampe’s college dorm room at the University of Colorado where he was homebrewing. New Belgium was a small local brewery then and Lampe quickly latched onto craft beer’s flavor, which was so distinct from domestics. While still a student, he worked as an assistant brewer at Walnut Brewery in Boulder, Colo. for two years. After graduation, he continued homebrewing in Tokyo where he worked as an IT recruiter for large financial companies. “There wasn’t much of a beer culture in Tokyo,” he said.
When the market crashed in 2008, so did his job and he returned to the states for work. Once again, he started homebrewing. “It was difficult in such a small space and hard to get the ingredients. I was always disappointed with the results,” he said.
Frustrated and dissatisfied with his beers, he realized there was a business opportunity in the failures. He wrote a plan for a brew-it-yourself shop where customers would have professional equipment, plenty of space to work and the best ingredients. Fellow UC alum Amanda Plattner suggested launching the idea in Bend, where she had family.
“We wanted to be more than a homebrew store,” Lampe said. “We wanted a place where you could come and have a great beer and food experience, where you could relax and enjoy yourself, and make some beer, if you were interested.”
Immersion is conveniently located between the Old Mill District and Downtown in one of Bend’s best known landmarks, the 100-year-old Box Factory — a long, red building that’s home to about 30 businesses. When you walk in, the first things you see are the shiny brite tanks, positioned in a semi-circle behind the bar. The five vessels are part of a 10-barrel JVNW system. Lampe wanted exposed tanks and said Immersion is one of the first to get the manufacturer’s rose-gold stainless steel version.
Josh Cosci was hired as the head brewer. Previously with Three Creeks Brewing Company and Worthy Brewing, he was originally in the wine industry in the Willamette Valley. While the lineup of regular beers is still evolving, Cosci likes to barrel age those that become mainstays in order to accentuate different characteristics.
For beer lovers who want to make their own concoction, there is a separate system made up of eight 5-gallon tanks. Ingredients are labeled on open shelving and there are recipe booklets with more than 30 options. IPAs are the most popular, with about half of all customers choosing to brew that style. “But, we get a good mix,” said Lampe. “They are all recipes that I have brewed and like.”
Reservations can be made online for sessions that are generally available Thursday through Saturday. Group size is limited to four people per kettle and an assistant brewer helps customers with the process, which typically lasts about two-and-a-half hours. Of course, it’s not all work and no play. Amateur brewers can order food and drinks to enjoy while they make their beer. Three weeks later, customers return for bottling and labeling, taking home approximately five gallons of beer or a case of 22-ounce bottles. The entire experience costs $180 to $220, depending on the recipe.
The beer lover in your life might enjoy a BIY session as a holiday gift. Or you could schedule your own brew day and give a carefully crafted beer with customized label to your friends and family this year. Whatever the reason or season, gift cards are available.
550 SW Industrial Way #185, Bend
With Ninkasi’s growth, the brewery sought assistance from Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership, an organization that helps increase efficiency and improve safety by bringing changes to a manufacturer's technology, management and labor relations. Pictured here are Ninkasi’s founders. Photo courtesy of Ninkasi Brewing Company
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
When a brewery is scaling production and operations, there’s often a focus on just getting through the day and dealing with problems as they happen. But as a company grows, they realize greater success can only come through better systems. By bringing on changes to manufacturing processes, management, technology and labor relations, breweries not only can improve safety records and increase efficiency; they can decrease costs and increase profits.
In 2013, Eugene-based Ninkasi Brewing Company had come to such a crossroads. They turned to Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership (OMEP), a not-for-profit organization that helps Oregon manufacturers grow through innovation and respond to the challenges of a global economy. (OMEP has previously provided consulting services for Fort George Brewery, Three Creeks Brewing Company and Deschutes Brewery.)
“Ninkasi didn’t want to be in firefighting or crisis mode all day long,” explains Chris Scherer, president of OMEP. “In a high-growth situation that can be normal, but companies that move forward realize they don’t want to stay that way.”
OMEP put together an operational excellence program, including recommendations on processes, safety, technology and even management and labor structure. By adopting the program, Ninkasi realized more than $300,000 in efficiencies, $200,000 in cost savings and 35 percent improved inventory accuracy.
At the 2016 Oregon Manufacturers’ Summit, held during March in Salem, OMEP presented Ninkasi with the Patrick R. Murphy Leadership Award, which recognizes outstanding leadership among Oregon’s top manufacturing companies.
“The award goes typically to a company that really understands and absorbs the lessons that we try to put across in our work. There’s a way to conform to our advice on the surface — fix a machine, rearrange an order in which you do things — that’s the technical side,” says Scherer. “There’s a level of appreciation on the cultural side that our award winners get in a deep way. Ninkasi almost started from that point of view. Ninkasi had considered thinking into the way they wanted to be, and they were upfront with us about wanting to make sure that what we did would fit with their cultural values.”
Scherer points out that OMEP is a good fit for breweries and manufacturers seeking long-term transitions and improvements. “Quick fixes aren’t in anyone’s interest,” he adds. “A lot of the companies we work with have had bad experiences with management’s fad of the month.”
OMEP looks to update companies with modern management systems and thinking, seeking to create partnerships between management and workers, as opposed to an adversarial us-vs.-them mentality. OMEP looks at the end customer and then works backward, examining, for example, quality control.
“You need a quality system that ensures that for one of those enormous tanks of beer, it comes out the same way each time,” explains Scherer. “What are the variables, and how do you account for changes in those variables? We had to think about every input, including the human input. It’s a long, complicated process of modernizing.”
It’s not just a matter of OMEP coming in and waving a presentation pointer, however. The company has be willing to put those recommendations to work. “Sometimes these ideas don’t take the first time through. You have to work on changing people’s thinking and behavior,” says Scherer. “The leadership at Ninkasi was very tenacious, committed and sticking to it and trying different ways until they found some solutions.” Even when recommendations go against current practices, Scherer encourages people to be open to new ideas.
Cheryl Collins, chief people officer at Ninkasi, agrees. “Since the beginning of our partnership, OMEP worked with us on a variety of projects — from strategic planning to preventative maintenance programs. OMEP has provided us with the coaching, feedback, tools and support necessary to help our team continue to improve.”
For breweries wanting help from an organization such as OMEP, they’ll need to be ready to talk frankly about their current operations, including selling, production, quality and other factors. OMEP then works with everyone from top management to other workers to amass ideas, understand pain points and figure out the best way forward.
“We think about it as satisfaction with status quo,” says Scherer. “If we’re talking to a company we just met, and they’re happy with where things are going, that’s not a good time to talk with us. If you don’t want us to rock your status quo, then you don’t want to work with us and should enjoy your stability. But when that changes … ”
Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership
[a] 7650 SW Beveland St., Suite 170, Portland
Other offices in Bend, Salem, Roseburg and Medford
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The space formerly occupied by Rat Hole Brew Pub is now home to North Rim Brewing. The new location for Rat Hole is in Sunriver. The backstory is somewhat complicated with beer being the common denominator — along with family.
We’ll begin with North Rim because it’s the newcomer. The brewery, started in northeast Bend in 2014, had just lost both its beer maker and reputation when Chris Hudson took over as head brewer last October. He immediately started turning things around. When he first met with the owner and looked over the 10-barrel brewhouse, he was stunned at the lack of standard operating procedures and equipment. Hudson said, “After I cleaned everything up, I revamped it. All the recipes are my own.”
Hudson brings more than eight years of experience and skill to North Rim, where he is not only the head brewer, but also the only full-time employee.
“I started brewing on a fluke,” he said. Back home in Joseph, he was 23 years old and broke after his third season of commercial crab fishing. Looking for something different, he went to Terminal Gravity Brewing in nearby Enterprise where owner Steve Carper hired him as a keg washer. Two days after he started, two of their four brewers quit. That allowed Hudson to bypass keg washing and immediately begin learning to brew with Carper. “I got into it and really liked it,” he said.
Five years later, he had moved up to assistant brewer when Widmer hired him. He followed that with a short brewing stint at Three Creeks Brewing Company in Sisters. “I prefer the artistry of brewing, changing things up and trying new recipes,” he said. “I was looking for that perfect place.”
On a whim, he went to a festival and met the North Rim rep, who told him their brewer was quitting. He liked the challenge and saw the opportunity to do things his way.
“My most prized beer is the South Slope Saison. It’s in production right now. Personally, I don’t drink IPAs and IRAs. My dream and goal with brewing is to create beers in the 4-6 percent ABV range that are drinkable, the kind where you can enjoy three or four in one sitting.”
Around the same time Hudson took over at North Rim, the Rat Hole Brew Pub in Bend was finding itself in a bind for beer. Les Keele, retired teacher and principal, owns the pub with marketing director Ken Deuser, his brother-in-law. They’re not the only people with important roles at the brewery. Al Toepfer makes all of Rat Hole’s beer. And last October when he and his wife Susan Toepfer, Keele’s sister, opened a second Rat Hole site in Sunriver. There wasn’t enough beer to sustain both places.
“Even when we were the only outlet, we frequently ran out of some beers,” said Keele. “We could go through four kegs in a week.”
The Rat Hole team met with Hudson, tasted his beer and felt it would be a great fit at the brewery’s Bend location. Deuser said, “His style of beer matched up with our original beer intent.”
Keele is planning on holding Meet the Brewer events on Sunday afternoons this summer. “Chris is very personable and knowledgeable. People will enjoy talking with him and getting to know him.” He also plans on hosting outside block parties featuring North Rim beers. North Rim may have a tasting room in the distant future, but the former Rat Hole pub with its Old Mill District location, comfortable deck and established menu with a Southwestern flair is a great fit.
Rat Hole’s Inception and Evolution
Al Toepfer got into brewing one Christmas years ago when Susan gave him a Mr. Beer kit and his first batch turned out great. He took to brewing right away and expanded his home operation from their kitchen table to the bathtub to their backyard and started winning awards for his creations. “He’s very creative and comes up with unique ideas that everyone likes,” said Susan Toepfer.
While his beers were getting better and better, his full time job as an auto technician in Seattle was becoming more and more challenging because of back issues. That’s when Susan Toepfer’s brother invited the Toepfers to come to Central Oregon, a place they loved, and set up a brewery in the aging 700-square-foot outbuilding on his ranch in southeast Bend.
Cleaning up the “rat hole” of a shed was a full-time project that took the help of family and friends. While processing the paperwork was a years-long process, the 2-5 barrel nano-brewery finally became operational in 2010.
“Everybody loved the beer,” said Deuser. “We were hand-bottling 22s as fast as we could.”
Keele said, “Eventually we realized we needed a tasting room. Because of the agricultural zoning, we couldn’t have one at the barn, so we began to look for a place.”
Fortunately, a space opened in the Old Mill District when a brewery moved to a larger spot. Rat Hole Brew Pub took over the lease and opened in 2013. Like many new businesses, there were ups and downs. Still, the beer was popular and the quality was always high, with Al Toepfer taking home awards, including a silver and bronze at the Denver International Beer Competition in 2013.
The Toepfers moved to the Sunriver area and started thinking about opening a larger brewery, preferably a 7-barrel one. They also wanted a new location, knowing their “rat hole” brewery was short-lived since Keele was selling the ranch. They found an interesting combination of warehouse and restaurant space on the same lot, more than 6,000 square feet in all, and opened up Rat Hole Brewing in Sunriver last October. The Toepfers did most of the remodeling and refurbishing of the bar and restaurant. They recruited David Cohen, a creative chef who had just sold his half of Rockin’ Dave’s Bagel Bistro in Bend. “The menu is not typical pub fare,” said Susan Toepfer. Some favorite dishes include Dungeness crab cakes, a chile buttermilk-marinated roasted chicken and a Monte Cristo sandwich — all made with fresh ingredients. They also now serve breakfast.
The 2.5-barrel brewing system is installed in the warehouse attached to the restaurant. Susan Toepfer said, “We’re in the process of getting approval from the county to open the brewery. Once we do, we’ll be able to brew seven days a week because we’re so close.” When it’s up and running, she plans to seek funding for a 7-barrel system. In the meantime, they have 21 guest taps and a small amount of Rat Hole beer flowing.
By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Two boys from North Carolina eased their truck up alongside John’s Market in Multnomah Village on a rainy day last October for one of three Portland stops on what has to be the greatest beer run in history. And they’re doing it for you.
While a ponytailed Stephen Pond was rattling and scanning bottles on the store shelves and downloading the information onto a laptop, George Taylor explained they were creating an app that will “evaluate beer based on scientific data rather than subjective adjectives.”
Beer Census 2014 was the collection phase of the latest project from Next Glass, which came about when Taylor’s father and brother got some bad advice from a sommelier. They figured there had to be a better way to pick wine than knowing if it was oaky, earthy or citrusy.
Taylor said they decided to run first wine, now beer, through a scientific investigation evaluation. Similar to what happens on the television show, “CSI,” a small sample of “evidence” is put into a mass spectrometer. The machine “spins the sample so fast it separates everything — proteins, sugars, carbs, alcohol content, calories, everything,” Taylor said.
That was the easy part. What was harder was getting the bottles for testing. Unlike most wines, many craft beers are not distributed nationally, and having them shipped cross country can be expensive or legally prohibited.
So the boys hit the road, lead-footing it from the Northeast, through Middle America to the West Coast.
In Oregon and Washington they bought nearly 2,000 bottles, pushing closer to their goal of 40,000 beers. And they purchased “one of everything ever made — seasonals, those crazy one-offs.” Taylor explained, “What’s cool, if they don’t ever make it again, I can put you onto something almost identical that is being made.”
Last October’s rains were dried up by a long, hot summer and now September is again easing toward the kind of weather an Oregonian can live with. Meanwhile, those boys from Carolina have been computer crunching the info gathered on their epic beer run. So, what do you get for all those miles, all that beer and all that digitalizing?
To find out, I downloaded the Next Glass app to my iPad, entered account information and worked my way through the tabs.
The Taste Profile tab rates beers on a 100 point scale, but also tells you the alcohol and calorie content of your favorite beer. The Breakside Country Blonde, for instance, comes at 7.5 percent ABV and 225 calories. Next Glass said it is 90 points on a “My Favorites” scale.
The Recommendations tab works like a Cicerone, suggesting beers you might like. Clicking on the Filter tab narrows your search to just beer. You can also refine your hunt to a particular beer style; though the app does not define styles.
The Search feature can help adventurous beer lovers find many, but not all beers. I easily found the offerings from Portland-based breweries, as I did larger craft brewers. But smaller breweries didn’t make the app. For instance, in Central Oregon, Deschutes made the app but Three Creeks and RiverBend didn’t. In Southern Oregon, I checked for six breweries, including Standing Stone and Caldera, and didn’t find them. In the Gorge, Logsdon made the list as did Full Sail, but pFriem didn’t.
The Snap feature is the most fun. To test it I hauled my iPad to a nearby New Seasons and input images of labels and bar codes. The app rates those beers based on my taste profile and should recommend alternatives. The results were mixed. Next Glass recognized the Rogue Dead Guy I liked and gave me a rating. But when I snapped a Pelican label it merely brought up a listing of other Pelican beers without ratings. In neither case did the app offer alternatives to those beers. And that is a problem. The most interesting challenge and potential for Next Glass is to allow a user to go to a place like Portland’s Belmont Station, take a picture of a strange beer label and then find out if the app compares it to something you like and tells you where to buy it.
To find out if Next Glass has plans to upgrade, I emailed Emma Johnson, Next Glass user happiness specialist, and asked about adding a match feature along with the GPS locator Pond and Taylor described to me last year. Johnson replied: “Next Glass does have a Glass Match feature available, but we've removed it for the time being for some revamping! It'll be back and better than ever soon. We're also working on another new feature — filtering by geographic proximity. As we perfect these features you'll be able to see bottles that you like that are available in your area!”
Apps are like beer, there’s probably going to be more than one you’ll like. Next Glass has potential but has some catching up to do. Untappd and Pintley are better at social networking for beer drinkers. BeerCloud offers a beer and food pairing service. Find Craft Beer has a mapping service that directs you to a shop carrying the beer you are hunting for.
Like beer, you probably have a favorite app. Just make sure you don’t ignore the newcomers. Each has the potential to enrich your experience.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.