Oregon Beer News, 02/01/2016

Oregon BeerWelcome to February, and happy 37th anniversary of homebrew legislation! On this day in 1979, HR 1337 that President Jimmy Carter signed into law took effect, and “homebrewing was officially recognized as federally legal.” Make sure to drink a homebrew today! In the meantime, here’s the news in Oregon beer as well; 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.

This coming weekend, from Thursday the 4th through Saturday the 6th, the second annual Salem Winter Brewfest is taking place at the Capitol Mall across from the Oregon State Capitol. “The Salem Winter Brewfest is an event for ages 21 & over that was started in 2015 by the Bite & Brew of Salem. We have created a winter event that brings together what makes the Willamette Valley and Salem a great place to live.” Over the three-day festival they have over 110 beers and ciders pouring, which will cost $20 for one day ($15 in advance) or $30 for all three days ($25 in advance); you can pre-purchase tickets around Salem at Gilgamesh Brewing, Santiam Brewing, Salem Ale Works, Vagabond Brewing, b2 Taphouse, Westside Taphouse, and Venti’s.

The annual CiderCON industry cider conference is taking place in Portland this week (starting tomorrow, the 2nd, through the 6th), so naturally there are a number of cider events taking place—and tonight, Saraveza is hosting Reverend Nat’s for an unofficial CiderCON kickoff party: “In honor of the big apple event, Monday night is our “unofficial” Cider Con kick-off party with our good buddies over at Rev. Nat’s! Nat himself will be here, along with the rest of the Rev. Nat’s crew, and they’re bringing some special goodies with them! Join us this night as over half of our rotating tap list will be dedicated to fermented apples and all that that implies!” The party is taking place from 6 to 9pm.

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The future of “craft”

No deep answers here, but there were some of interesting thoughts and articles I came across this week made me think a bit about the future of craft beer—and “craft” beer (the label).

On Twitter, Ray Daniels (author, founder of the Cicerone Certification Program) had a 13-part write-up on the future of the industry as the number of breweries continues to grow. I’ve pulled those tweets into a readable “narrative” here:

Wrote this sequence last week and just saw talk by Jim Koch that affirms parts of it, so here goes:

@BrewersAssociation continues to encourage brewery openings, cites larger winery pop in US (6,000+). But with huge brewer population, I believe fundamentals of brewery business change for most. Of course increase in brewers = increasingly hard to get distribution, tap handles, shelf space. Also: more brands = more difficult to be known, remembered by consumers esp beyond local area. Wine world is similar. Few brands break through avg consumer consciousness. Most bought on varietal, region.

A crowded beer world where purchases based on style, not brand, would be a disaster for brewers. One wine/beer difference: beer can’t sit around for years. This further limits distribution options. Onsite tasting rooms already essential to small brewery start ups. Parallels in wine world. Consider: ~1/2 of all winery revenue from tasting rooms. As margins higher, must be >> 1/2 of profits!

Future of beer may look a lot like wine market: onsite and direct sales essential for success in 95+% of brewers. Imports now being pushed out of US retailers. Far-away US beers soon to get same treatment? Soon, I figure most stores will only stock 1) popular local beers 2) acclaimed classics and 3) household names.

Logical, interesting train of thought here. But it mostly ignores the brewpubs, which, selling primarily on premise, don’t have to worry about tap handles, or shelf space, in the same vein as production breweries. Of brewpubs, I see the overall number proliferating. Particularly in Oregon; here in Central Oregon at least 33% of our brewing operations are (primarily) brewpubs.

And in today’s (Sunday’s) local newspaper, the Bulletin, there is an article on the growth of the nanobreweries here in Bend as part of the “boom,” which does tie a bit back into Daniels’ comments but also brings the focus back to hyper-local.

Which San Diegans are thinking of as well; they’ve had what you might call a rough year in Southern California for beer purists: “losing” Golden Road Brewing, Ballast Point Brewing, and Saint Archer Brewing to the corporate megabreweries. And with news out that Anheuser-Busch-owned, Bend, Oregon-based 10 Barrel Brewing is wanting to open up a brewpub there, it’s got the locals thinking about what it means to be a “craft” — in this case, the label — brewery.

On the Hoptology blog, in The Battle for the Soul of San Diego Indie Beer, author Tom says (the bold emphasis is mine):

By placing a brewpub in San Diego, InBev has shown that it will continue to rely on deception and outright lies to attempt to create a ruse to confuse and trick customers. It is shameful. This is an effort to severely damage the indie beer culture of San Diego and we cannot sit back and take it.

One of the many rewarding aspects of loving the local, independent beer scene of San Diego is the knowledge that your money is staying in San Diego and supporting small business. Your money is helping your neighbors, and not lineing the pockets of rich people who do not give a damn about the community of San Diego. They see our city as dollars signs. They know their product does not stand a chance when lined up against the world class beers brewed by many of our local, indie Brewers. Deception is the new strategy.

Recently on a trip to Portland, Oregon I spent a Saturday night hopping from brewpub to brewpub in the downtown area. After a few hours I stumbled upon the 10 Barrel location; it was packed. I was shocked. Portlanders are known for their being savvy when it comes to supporting local business over corporate greed. It opened my eyes to a few truths that I still wrestle with but two of those truths are that not only are InBev’s deceptions working, they are working very well even in a indie beer town like Portland.

“Indie” beer and brewers, meaning anti-corporate, independently owned, hearkening back to the “indie” rock movement in the music industry. The San Diego Reader brought this to everyone’s attention this week, in Craft is dead. Now we drink Indie Beer:

The term Craft Beer may be in need of a makeover. The Union-Tribune reported this week that Bend, Oregon’s 10 Barrel Brewing Co. has proposed a 10,000-square-foot brewpub in East Village. In response, local beer industry podcasters have doubled down on a push to describe independently owned breweries as Indie Beer companies, rather than craft.

The Indie Beer designation (and social media hashtag) arose during a November 17 podcast on ThreeBZine.com, a blog devoted to local beer, music, and food. During a discussion about Ballast Point’s billion-dollar sale to Constellation Brands, podcasters Cody Thompson, Dustin Lothspeich, and Tom Pritchard decried the efforts of “Big Beer” to enter the craft beer marketplace, including other recent purchases of longstanding craft brands Lagunitas, Elysian, and Golden Road.

“Is craft beer even a thing any more, or is it just marketing?” asked Pritchard. “It’s been appropriated by corporations.” Taking a cue from the concept of Indie Rock in the music industry, the trio settled on Indie Beer as a way to distinguish small, privately owned businesses.

It’s not inappropriate, as “craft” as it applies to beer is really much more of a marketing term these days, especially fueled by the Brewers Association’s own definition of “craft brewer.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly think 6 million barrels of annual production is “small” — I don’t even think barrelage in the hundreds of thousands is small. Deschutes Brewery is not “small,” Stone Brewing is not “small,” Sierra Nevada Brewing certainly isn’t “small” but we would probably agree that all are “craft brewers.” (Or as Alan McLeod has taken to calling breweries of this size, “big craft.”)

And then of course “craft” has been appropriated by the biggest players to varying degrees. And one year ago this month, All About Beer magazine declared they would (mostly) eliminate “craft” from the magazine’s vocabulary.

Is “indie” or “independent” better? I don’t know, I don’t think it’s bad, but not everyone’s a fan. For instance, Boulevard Brewing’s Jeremy Danner on Twitter got into a bit of a dust-up with some of the San Diego “indie beer” folks, and declared (among other things), “I’m not going to embrace or use the term “Indie Beer” as a replacement for “craft.” I’ll switch to drinking vodka tonics if I have to.”

It’s worth noting that Boulevard is owned by Duvel Moortgat, so they wouldn’t be considered “indie” by the “small, privately owned” standards. Then again, other breweries that wouldn’t qualify as “indie” would include Full Sail Brewing (private equity group), Lagunitas (Heineken), Firestone Walker (also Duvel Moortgat), Alpine Beer Company (Green Flash), and many, many others.

Beyond that, I don’t know… does “craft” need to be replaced? Is “indie” what should replace it? Is a qualifier/adjective even necessary?

Oregon Beer News, 01/29/2016

Oregon BeerIt’s the last Friday (and weekend) of January! Here’s the news in Oregon beer for this 29th (and 30th and 31st). 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.

Three Creeks Brewing (Sisters): Today (Friday) is the annual release of their McKay’s Scottish Ale starting at 6:30pm: “Join us as we pay tribute to our lovable local Don McKay with the celebration of our Mckay’s Scottish Ale. Sisters own master piper, Mark McIntire, will kick-off the event with traditional Scottish sounds of bagpipes. Don’t forget to wear your kilt to earn yourself some free TCBC swag. Don’t have a kilt? GET ONE!”

There is also a Three Creeks tasting taking place tonight (Friday) at Redmond Craft Brewing Supply (ind downtown Redmond) from 5 to 7pm.

Eugene’s Ninkasi Brewing is being featured at Portland’s Imperial Bottle Shop Friday evening for the release of their new Easy Way IPA: “We’ll be pouring $4, 20 oz pours of both Easy Way and Helles Belles lager, and we’ll also have their R&D series Mango IPA on tap as well! Easy Way IPA… dynamic medley of hops and a crisp, satisfying finish define this enexpectedly sessionable IPA. Aromatic and drinkable, the big, fruity hops nose and toasted malt flavor are anything but ordinary. Break the routine; go the Easy Way. Enjoyed Since: 2016 | OG: 1045 | IBUs: 44 | ABV: 4.7%”

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Base Camp Brewing’s 2nd annual Collabofest

Base Camp Brewing Collabofest 2016

This Saturday, January 30, Portland’s Base Camp Brewing is hosting their second annual Collabofest, which features 16 breweries and two cideries teaming up to produce 17 unique collaboration brews. Base Camp has pulled together a Who’s Who of the Portland brewing scene to participate, and proceeds from the event will benefit two non-profits: the Oregon Natural Desert Association and Oregon Wild.

Here are details from the Facebook event page:

Collabofest showcases the authenticity and creativity of the Portland beer scene. This year will feature 16 breweries plus two amazing cideries as they collaborate to create new innovative brews and ciders.

The event will kick off on January 30th at 1 pm for our VIP guests and a special brewers meet and greet. Doors open to the public at 2 pm and the party continues until 8 pm. This is more than just a beer festival, there will also be live music, human fussball, food trucks and the event is open to all ages!

We look forward to celebrating with you all!

This years pairings include:

  • Ex Novo Brewing and Ecliptic Brewing
  • Burnside Brewing Co and The Commons Brewery
  • Gigantic Brewing Company and Stormbreaker Brewing
  • Breakside Brewery and BTU Brasserie
  • Base Camp Brewing Company and Culmination Brewing Company
  • Occidental Brewing Company and Hopworks Urban Brewery
  • Laurelwood Public House & Brewery and Baerlic Brewing Co.
  • Widmer Brothers Brewery and Pub and Fat Head’s Portland
  • Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider and Cider Riot

General admission costs $25, and the VIP is $40; you can purchase either online here.

Travel Portland, under their #PDXNOW hashtag campaign/tagline (“Portland is Happening Now”), is the presenting sponsor, and they have an article up that details each collaboration beer from each brewery team-up. How it works is, the breweries brewed two beers, one at each other’s respective facility—so for instance, Ex Novo and Ecliptic brewed Midnight Black Gose at Ex Novo’s brewery, and then brewed Nightfall Black Pilsner over at Ecliptic.

And in the vein of Portland “Happening Now” and especially “Keep Portland Weird,” Travel Portland sent out one of more unusual promo packages I’ve received:

#PDXNOW Zines and Socks

Yep, socks and zines. I haven’t seen legit zines since… a long time, anyway. And fittingly, each is related to beer in some way (my favorite of these three is the “Tiny Bars” guide). It’s a clever idea—I can’t really think of anything quite as “Portland” as zines and Pine State Biscuit socks for something like this. And it’s an interesting change from the usual beer-related promos I get—namely, actual beer.

Oregon Beer News, 01/28/2016

Oregon BeerHere’s the Oregon beer news for Thursday, January 28. 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.

McMenamins Highland Pub (Gresham) has their “The Proper Taste” beer tasting tonight from 5 to 8pm, featuring Tiger’s Blood Ruby: “For this Limited Release, our standard Ruby gets an exotic flair with blood orange puree. Each glass appears a little deeper in color and maintains a slight sweetness. This tasty fruit beer goes out to the adventurous Ruby drinkers with an affinity for a faraway flavor.”

The Platypus Pub (Bend) is hosting their annual Deschutes Brewery Tap Invasion tonight from 5 to 7pm: “On Draft: Class of ’88 Barleywine, Hop Henge, 2014 Abyss, 2015 Abyss, Black Butte XXVI, Black Butte XXVII. Samples of the Cognac and Rye Abyss will also be available for purchase.” Sure to be a busy night with these phenomenal beers, don’t miss out!

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