Oregon Beer News, 04/27/2015

Oregon BeerHere’s the news in Oregon beer for Monday kicking off the final week in April. As usual, I’ll be periodically updating this post throughout the day with the latest news as I find it, so check back often. If you have news to share, please let me know and I can get that updated as well.

News broke at the end of last week that Bend’s Deschutes Brewery is possibly eyeing Asheville, NC, for an east coast expansion. “Representatives from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon, the sixth-largest craft brewer in the country, visited Asheville in December and plan a second trip in late May, according to company president Michael LaLonde, who spoke highly of the mountain region. “We’re looking at a number of locations in a number of states,” LaLonde said. “We’re looking in North Carolina, we’ve looked in Virginia, we’ve looked in Tennessee, as well as South Carolina.” The brewery also looked at sites in the Greenville and Charleston, South Carolina, areas, LaLonde said. The company was impressed with Greenville.” It’s no secret Deschutes has been eyeing the East for a while now, as that makes sense. Nice to see some movement on that project, and they want to have an East Coast operation up and running by 2019. I’m quite sure I will have much more to write about on this, stay tuned.

This upcoming Sunday, May 3, is FredFest! This fun, premier event celebrates the birthday of the Dean of American Beer Writers, Fred Eckhardt, taking place at Portland’s Hair of the Dog Brewing from 1 to 5pm Sunday. “When we first started FredFest, Fred asked that no gifts be given and that all the proceeds toward a charitable organization. This year’s charity is the Oregon Zoo Foundation. We are building a fund in remembrance of Michael Olsen, a Hair of the Dog employee who was shot and killed on the streets of Portland last year. One-hundred percent of FredFest ticket sales go to our charity and Hair of the Dog covers all expenses for the event, so attendees are encouraged to pay more than the suggested ticket price.” Tickets are $65 and can only be purchased in advance on Hair of the Dog’s website. So; what would Fred drink?

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2015 Craft Brewers Conference Recap

Craft Brewers Conference schedule

What a conference! What a week! First and foremost, I would like to thank the Brewers Association for providing media credentials for both Jon and I for a peek into the world of today’s craft beer brewers, breweries, and industry for the 32nd Annual Craft Brewers Conference in Portland, Oregon last week. We had no idea of what to expect, except a number of 11,500 attendees and over 600 exhibitors would descend into our state and the City of Portland.

Thanks to Travel Portland and the conference organizers, blocks of rooms were available throughout the city. We were given the option to stay at The Benson Hotel in the heart of downtown Portland. What a lovely hotel and I wish I had taken more pictures, but you can find them online and it’s one of the most exquisite, beautiful hotels we’ve stayed at (we prefer more modern, but I’m glad we chose to stay in the 102 year old hotel). Having stayed in many downtown Portland hotels over the years, the “standard” Queen room in the Benson was spacious (the bathroom was tight). We were not in the room very much, but overall, it was quite nice and quiet. I’d stay there again.

Hop QueenThe Oregon Convention Center was the epicenter of the conference. Registration, German Hop Growers hospitality suite, First Time Attendee Orientation were held here the day we arrived (Tuesday afternoon). We made it in time for the crowning and presentation of the Hop Queen. The doors soon opened for the First Time Attendee orientation. I’m glad I poked my head in and was greeted with cheese/crackers/fruit/chips and salsa along with tubs of bottles of beer. An introduction to the conference greeted us along with some stats and sage advice (drink water and EAT when you see food). I didn’t know how important that would be, because I was eating, yet I was ravenous every time I thought about or saw any food. We walked over to the Welcome Reception, held in the Memorial Coliseum and met up with Pete Dunlop as we waited to be let in.

We went one way and quickly found more sustainable food. I wish I had walked around a little bit more because there were more stations that I could have gotten food more to my liking instead of the first thing I saw. 😀 The Flamebuoyant Productions company entertained us with fire dancers, clowns, break dancing dance-off, and more.

Flamebuoyant

After awhile, we decided to head over to Deschutes Brewery’s  private party for attendees in the Pearl District. This was the first of the lines outside for “overcapacity”. The line moved quickly and we entered the restaurant that had been closed down for the DAY to prep for this party! There were stations with food and beer pairings and a special sour tapping straight from the barrel. Obviously, I had to go there first! Amy poured S’Quad straight from the barrel and it was great! We found some seats (they had removed most of the tables from the restaurant!) and ran into many friends during our time there enjoying some Abyss and a PDX pub “Kiss from a Rose”. The band was rockin and when we decided to head back to the hotel, we were satisfied with a great first day!

CBC brewing by the numbers

Wednesday morning, we headed back to the Memorial Coliseum for the Keynote Address and General Session. Inside the Benson elevator, we ran into Stan Hieronymus and sat with him inside the stadium. One note, if you want breakfast, get there early, there was quite a line for continental style, but the breakfast burrito line was empty. We grabbed some and got in our seats. The General Session and Keynote was exciting as many addressed the stage. Jon stayed around for the Press Conference, I decided to head on back to the convention center. I found some food and a bit later, Jon and I headed into the trade show exhibition area. Over 600 exhibitors! Saw some really great items in all shapes and sizes and talked with some people we knew and just tried to take everything in. I tried some hop popcorn, had a hat made right in front of me (see slideshow below), and saw some really nice equipment on the trade show floor.

One comment about the Oregon Convention Center. The Internet and Cellular connections. If you do attend a conference within that space, please be prepared to come with a cord to charge at a laptop station and advise your family, friends and coworkers that you might not have service while inside and will be incommunicado during that time. It was apparently as I was skirting the floor by the entrance (in line with the escalators, so very close to the door) and could not get online. We weren’t sure if it was a Convention Center issue or a cellular tower issue, but it became my only frustration within the conference itself, although it seems to be a OCC issue. I was very thankful for the Media badge that allowed us to go into the Media room (although it was on the far end of the area) to connect to the media wifi. That’s why most media went dark and while it would have been good for a brewer to shut off for awhile, it frustrated me trying to do my best to cover the CBC as it was going on. We were also busy from the time we woke up until the time we went to bed and only a short post or two went up during this time.

Kurt and Rob WidmerWednesday night, we knew we had to “party hop”. We started out the evening at the Multnomah Whiskey Library for a private party for a “media happy hour” courtesy of Danny P. and Rob and Kurt Widmer. The Widmer brothers threw a wonderful low-key happy hour with cocktails. It was a get together that I thought was a great small celebration with media that went along with their recent expansion news. Thanks Rob and Kurt! We then went for a bit to the Central Oregon Brewers Guild event at the Crystal Ballroom (thanks for the tickets John R.). It was early and we didn’t stay very long because Lardo was calling my name (I’d seen it when we were walking to the Crystal). Sorry, no pics of the Turkey Cubano that was consumed, as I was starving! I hadn’t slept well our first night and was dragging Wednesday and our conversation turned to, If *I* went back to the hotel to get some rest, Jon would go out, as he was AT the CBC and didn’t want to miss out on anything. I said, in that case, we needed to then scrap our plans and go to the Aladdin Theater for the Pain Relievaz and Tone Loc . I’m SOOO glad I rallied and decided to go because that was a great show by Sam and Bryan and Tone Loc. Great beer was served and a great time was had. We connected with Brian Yaeger and set out to find him some food after the show.

We attempted to go to the Drinking Lot, but he stopped short and said “I swear this was here”. It was 11:05pm and a quick search showed they close at 10pm. We chose Sizzle Pie for a quick slice of pizza and I surprised myself by texting Jon to get me a salad when he got up to the front of the line. Again, I’d just eaten a few hours ago and was hungry at 11:30pm. Yes, eat when you see food is a great mantra to pass along.

That’s just the first two days….stay tuned for part 2….

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Some CBC 2015 thoughts, questions, and takeaways

Last week’s Craft Brewers Conference (my first) was a terrific experience and I’m still digesting it in a number of ways. To a certain extent you have to separate out the conference experience itself from the various events and afterparties—there’s not a lot to be learned from a Tone Loc concert sponsored by Dogfish Head, for example, other than Sam and Bryan’s Pain Relievaz are awesome and pair well with a pint (yes, I said “pint”) of Dogfish Olde School Barleywine—but you can’t deny that those extracurricular events are just as important in different ways. But for this post I’m writing about takeaways and musings I have about the conference and sessions.

CBC entrance

First, some numbers. According to the Brewers Association, as of the conference there were 3,418 total breweries in the U.S., and a staggering 2,051 breweries in planning. Of those 3,418 the breakdown looked like this:

  • 1,871 microbreweries
  • 1,412 brewpubs
  • 135 regionals

Last year (2014) saw only 46 brewery closings, and 615 openings (1.7 opened per day). Needless to say, craft beer is one of the largest growth segments in the beer industry, with the other big growth segment being—ironically, in my opinion—Mexican imports. Craft beer volume (“craft” as defined by the BA of course) is up 18 percent, and craft breweries brewed 22.2 million barrels of beer last year.

These are some crazy numbers, and while certainly not all of those 2,051 breweries-in-planning will end up opening, you have to wonder—what’s the breakdown in size range among these planned breweries? (Judging by the Starting a Nano Brewery session I sat in on Thursday morning, I’d say a good number are going to be nano—7 barrels or less.) How much beer will they be injecting into the market? Most importantly, is this sustainable?

“Sustainability” was in fact one of the themes of the conference, and it’s echoed, for instance, in one of the main questions I field all the time these days (since writing a book)—when do we reach a saturation point, or, how many more breweries can we handle? (Particularly as these issues pertain to Bend/Central Oregon.)

CBC: 2014 top brewery openings by state

There’s no easy answer to those questions and we’re already seeing the effects of so many breweries (and upcoming ones) in the growing number of stories on legal conflicts between them, to name but one example—intellectual property conflicts, the basic fact that more and more breweries are (usually inadvertently) running into trademark naming conflicts and the like. And going by the number of attendees at this year’s conference—11,500 or more, depending—we’re not going to see these overall growth issues, good and bad, abate soon.

However, what’s been nagging me about the sustainability question and what the CBC helped crystallize for me are the environmental impacts and implications. Or more accurately, focused my thinking about the environmental issues of breweries and sustainability, and helped me to start framing questions:

  • How will climate change affect the beer industry? What will its impact be on the number of existing and upcoming breweries?
  • “Climate change” by itself can be nebulous, so to narrow down to a more pressing example: how will California’s drought affect that state’s breweries? (We’ve all heard the (in)famous “California only has one year of water left!” proclamation; whether accurate or not, the issues should be addressed now.)
  • Drought isn’t only a problem in California, of course. Here in Oregon the Cascade Mountains’ snowpack levels are near the lowest on record. (The snowpack is an important source of water particularly for regions east of the Cascades.) We saw the direct impact of that driving to Portland on Tuesday observing the low levels of Detroit Lake (as low as I’ve seen). In addition to Oregon’s breweries, what effect will this have on our hop production this year?
  • Are breweries thinking about these issues? Are they planning for them?

Beer begins before even reaching the breweries, of course. We have to think about how climate change will affect the hop farms, the barley growers. Two sessions I attended touched on these issues, the first on managing the 2014 U.S. barley crop: the crop was heavily damaged by early rains—in Idaho for instance, up to 60% of the barley was unsuitable for malting. The result of the rain led to what the maltsters call “pre-harvest sprouting” (PHS) that causes a number of problems such as poor germination, mold, and loss of viability. The session was devoted in large part with how to manage and handle such barley for malting purposes. (In essence maltsters have to treat PHS barley as under-modified and brewers have to adjust their recipes and techniques accordingly.) While the panelists were quick to stress that there’s not a malt crisis, there was significant damage to last year’s crop, and the malt supply is currently tighter than it looks.

CBC: Table of German hopsThe other session was on sustainability on the hop farm, and climate change was on the panelists’ lips among other issues. Sustainable hop farming practices are essential, and something Gayle Goschie said about Salmon Safe hop certification resonates here—sustainable farming doesn’t stop at the edge of the farm, but has to include the contiguous land, and the land beyond that. Of course it does, but it’s not something we think about when we consider sustainable farming. We should be.

Other questions I have that spun out from the hop session and tie in to the questions above:

  • How many gallons of water does it take to produce one pound of hops?
  • For that matter, how many gallons to produce one pound of malt?
  • We’re all familiar with how much water it takes a brewery to produce a gallon of beer—typically 5 to 10 gallons used per gallon of beer brewed, though some breweries have implemented practices to greatly reduce this—but has anyone done a study of water usage that includes how much water to produce the hops, the barley?
  • Continuing this train of thought: how about carbon footprinting? I’ve seen studies on the carbon footprint of various breweries, but has anyone done the study that, yes, includes the hop and barley farming as part of that footprint? A “farm to glass” analysis, if you will.

This is important, and I don’t know if anyone is working on answering these and more. I suspect it’s going to turn into a project for me, perhaps sooner than later.

Nanobreweries are another trend on the rise, though that should surprise no one at this point. I attended the “Successfully Planning, Starting and Operating a Nano Brewery” seminar held by Kevin Sandefur of BearWaters Brewing of North Carolina. He cited a definition of “nano” up to and including 7 barrels (and I wish I’d jotted down the source of this definition but missed it). The room was packed for the session, and when he asked how many there were planning to open a brewery, I’d estimate about 85% of the people raised their hands. So nanos are the next big thing. Or the current big thing, getting bigger. Or something.

Sandefur stressed quality, efficiency, and repeatable processes during the course of his talk, something that shouldn’t only be expected of bigger breweries but it’s good to hear reiterated for the small players. Because we all know or have heard of the nanobreweries that are essentially large homebrew systems with uneven batch quality and mediocre beer. Quality is key.

And in talking about equipment, Sandefur surprised me—BearWaters came up with a fermentation equipment alternative to a traditional stainless steel conical fermenter. Thinking outside the box they came up with an inexpensive yet ingenious route: glass carboys.

Carboys at BearWaters Brewing

BearWaters’ Stiff Paddle IPA fermenting away. From their Facebook page.

They purchased 40 6.5-gallon glass carboys from Brewers Supply Group for something like $22 each, effectively giving them an 8-barrel fermentation capacity for under $1000. It’s a bit of extra work, but he described their processes for keeping the carboys sterilized and airtight (to keep the oxygen out) and it made sense, and they are winning awards for their beer. Nanobrewers, take note. It’s not very scalable—nobody wants to be lugging around and filling/emptying 160 carboys when you go to 30 barrels, and more—but what a great solution. Carboys—not just for homebrewers anymore!

There was definitely an overall air of optimism pervading the conference, though to be fair since it was my first CBC experience it could very well be an optimistic affair even in down years (it is kind of a party, after all). But it seems to me the number of people there representing breweries-in-planning (particularly the small/nano ones), the overall mood of everyone I talked to, and the size and variety of the tradeshow (to name but three examples) all are indicative of this optimism.

I may have some more thoughts and questions to write about. But for now I’ll leave you with this:

CBC: Dogfish Head and Tone Loc

What, did you not believe Dogfish Head put on that Tone Loc concert I mentioned at the start?

Oregon Beer News, 04/24/2015

Oregon BeerHappy Friday! Here’s the Oregon news for the weekend of the 25th of April. As usual, I’ll be periodically updating this post throughout the day with the latest news, so check back often. And if you have news to share, please let me know and I can get that updated as well.

McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse (Hillsboro) have their “Keepers of the Craft” beer dinner tonight, a $75 five-course pairing of food with beers and spirits (buy tickets here): “Join us in the Octagonal Barn for a dinner showcasing the teaming up of our Cornelius Pass Brewers, Distillers and chefs. Hosted by Distillers Bart Hance and Arthur Price & Brewers Brady Romtvedt and Chris Oslin, who will guide you through the brewing and distilling processes and all the similarities-as well as their handcrafted finished products!”

Tomorrow, Saturday the 25th, is Bailey’s Taproom‘s 5th annual GermanFest, featuring a great lineup of Oregon beers inspired by the beers and styles of Germany. From Brewpublic: “Bailey’s will be open normal hours beginning at Noon for the 5th Annual GermanFest on Saturday. There will be no cover and all beers will be pay as you go.” Sure to be a good event.

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Oregon Beer News, 04/23/2015

Oregon BeerHere’s the news in Oregon beer culled from around the web for Thursday, April 23. As usual, I’ll be periodically updating this post throughout the day, so check back often. If you have news to share, please contact me and I can get that posted as well.

The Bier Stein (Eugene) today is hosting the release of Full Sail Brewing‘s Session Summer Cream Ale from 6 to 8pm: “Tres refresche! Come taste a new quencher from Hood River’s Full Sail Brewing. Their Session line of beers is a cute and affordable way to drink, and they recently expanded the line from the Lager and Black Lager to include an Export and IPA. We’ll have the Summer Cream Ale on tap, let’s hope it’s super sunny out!” Session Summer Cream is 5.4% abv and 26 IBUs and will be available all summer long.

I’m a day late on this announcement (I received it yesterday): the North American Organic Brewers Festival has new dates this year. From the press release: “The world’s only organic brewers festival, the North American Organic Brewers Festival will celebrate its 11th years with a new date: the event has moved away from its traditional June weekend to August 13 through 16 at Overlook Park in North Portland. Event hours are Noon to 9pm Thursday through Saturday and Noon to 5pm Sunday. This year’s event will also feature an exceedingly rare opportunity to sample draft beer from Pinkus, the world’s first certified organic brewery. Along with Pinkus Ur-Pils and Münster Alt on draft, the festival is introducing the Merchant du Vin Organic Bottle Garden, featuring 11 bottled beers and cider from Pinkus in Germany and Samuel Smith’s from Yorkshire, England.”

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