Oregon Beer News, Week of 4/7/2014

Oregon BeerHappy National Beer Day! I hope everyone had a nice weekend and are all refreshed and ready to face the week. (Barring that, drinking lots of coffee and beer!) Here’s the news in Oregon beer for the week of April 7. Throughout the week I will be periodically updating this post with news as I find it, organized by day of the week (general news at the top), so if you have news to share please contact me and I can get that updated as well.

10 Barrel Brewing (Bend) today officially announced that they will be opening a brewpub in Portland this summer! The possibility was first reported by Brewpublic on the 6th, with 10 Barrel taking over the Mellow Mushroom pizza restaurant in Portland’s Pearl District. Not much more is known yet, but I’ll have a separate post on it soon.

The Oregon Garden Brewfest is just a couple of weeks away, taking place the 25th through 27th at the Oregon Garden in Silverton. This is a fantastic brewfest in an amazing setting, one you should definitely try to attend. This year there will be 65 breweries pouring 130 beers, ciders and meads over the three days, with a daily price of $15 which gets you a tasting glass and 5 tasting tickets (additional ones are $1). There are also multi-day deals, and you can pre-purchase tickets here. I’ll be writing more about this fest in the next couple of weeks, including what beers to look for.

Ninkasi Brewing (Eugene) is now officially brewing in their new 90-barrel brewhouse facility, expanding their capacity considerably. From the press release: “Currently, Ninkasi’s 55-barrel brewhouse has a capacity to produce 90,000 barrels of beer per year. With a second, 90-barrel brewing system installed across the street in Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood, the brewery will be able to add an initial 70,000 barrels of capacity with room to grow to 250,000.” This new brewery was built with sustainable features to help reach LEED certification. Expect to see a massive increase in Ninkasi’s production over the next few years, along with a larger variety of beers.

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The Session #86: Beer Journalism

The SessionI am continuing in my recent trend of getting my Session posts up on the weekend rather than the actual first Friday of the month; it’s amazing how much time and focus book writing takes up, especially when you have to shift gears to focus on a different topic to write about! This month’s Session is hosted by the Beer Hobo, Heather Vandenengel, and she has suggested a topic which is kind of apropos to my own book project: Beer journalism.

What role do beer writers play in the culture and growth of craft beer? Are we advocates, critics, or storytellers? What stories are not getting told and what ones would you like to never hear about again? What’s your beer media diet? i.e. what publications/blogs/sites do you read to learn about industry? Are all beer journalists subhumans? Is beer journalism a tepid affair and/or a moribund endeavor? And if so, what can be done about it?

In the spirit of tipping the hat when someone gets it right, please also share a piece of beer writing or media you love–it doesn’t have to be recent, and it could be an article, podcast, video, book or ebook–and explain a bit about what makes it great. I’ll include links to those articles as well in my roundup for easy access reading.

I say “apropos” because as I’ve been researching this history book, I’ve been reading a lot of older newspaper articles, many of which cover beer, and it’s interesting to view these storeis through the lens of the “beer journalism” that we’re talking about today.

There seems to be a bit of backlash towards beer journalism, which provoked this topic from Vandenengel, along the lines of, “Why is beer journalism so bad?” and “an industry with an almost total absence of real journalism.” Is that fair? I don’t think so, I think the beer journalists—the ones these sniping comments have in mind—are often as known thrown into a reporting topic by their newspaper or magazine editors and are simply struggling to keep up. I can’t fault them for that, but what does bother me is when their basic fact-checking fails, and egregious-yet-easy-to-verify errors end up getting published.

Case in point: a recent article on the Bend, Oregon brewing scene (a favorite topic of many beer articles of late) identifying the Bend Brewing Company as being established by brewer Ian Larkin! What!! And then identifies Tonya Cornett as having helped establish it as well! Seriously?

(In reality, BBC was established by Jerry Fox and Dave Hill in 1995, managed and now owned by Fox’s daughter Wendi Day, who hired Tonya Cornett in 2002. Cornett did put BBC on the map in a big way, but “establish” isn’t the right word. Ian Larkin, whom I profiled back in 2012, was Cornett’s assistant brewer who took over the head brewer role in 2012 when she left to join 10 Barrel.)

Now, are we distinguishing “beer journalist” from “beer writer” as described in the topic announcement? I think there’s certainly some overlap but I would reserve “journalist” to the paid professional reporter who is writing news for newspapers and periodicals, whereas “beer writer” is what I classify myself along with other bloggers and such. But, whichever hair you want to split, I think overall I believe the roles mentioned above—advocates, critics, storytellers—are all valid, as well as reporters, historians, marketers, and more, and those writers and journalists have ultimately helped advance craft beer by reaching a much wider audience.

Even so, there’s a lot of room for more and I think the potential for what can be accomplished has only scratched the surface. (And this even after blogging about beer for 10 years!)

Finally, our host requests that we share some beer writing that we love. Immediately my mind turns to Stan Hieronymus, who in my opinion is doing some of the best beer writing today. So I’m cheating a little in not sharing a specific example, instead pointing to Stan’s body of work on his blog. Stan simply is a great writer with a great perspective, and consistently prompts you to think beyond the beer. That’s what we should all strive for.

Widmer is celebrating 30 years

Widmer Brothers Brewing is celebrating 30 years of beer this year—today in fact, April 2, was the day in 1984 that Kurt and Rob Widmer incorporated the business—and, like BridgePort for their own 30-year celebration, they are launching the first three beers in a special series of 30(!) that were specially brewed to commemorate each year in business. They’re calling this 30 Beers in 30 Years and it’s ambitious. From the press release:

To celebrate this major milestone, today Widmer Brothers Brewing announced the first three beers in the anticipated 30 Beers for 30 Years Series, the brewery’s most ambitious effort to date and one of the most elaborate series of beer releases from a brewery in the United States. The three releases – Altbier, Weizenbier, and Hefeweizen – were the first three beers that the brothers brewed, and each represents one of the first three years of Widmer Brothers’ existence: 1984, 1985, and 1986, respectively.

The three beers each hold a huge place in Widmer Brothers’ history. Altbier was the first beer brewed and sold by Widmer Brewing Company. While development of the beer began in 1984, Altbier wasn’t actually released to the public until 1985 after the brothers brewed and dumped the first twelve batches. It’s a testament to Kurt and Rob’s commitment to quality; they wanted the beer to be just right, a value that’s evident in every Widmer Brothers beer and one that has helped drive the brewery’s success since the beginning.

You can look at that “30 Beers” site to get a sneak peek of what’s coming up to represent each year, too. I really like the idea behind it, and I’m really looking forward the the Altbier in particular. As to the methods behind the madness in brewing these:

Each re-release in the 30 Beers for 30 Years series is brewed in small batches to original specifications from archived recipes drawn up on notebook paper in the 80s. While Kurt and Rob were meticulous about keeping records, they didn’t necessarily take the most detailed notes.

“For these initial few releases, we were literally working from pieces of notebook paper, cross-referencing notes from various brews to figure out exactly how Kurt and Rob were brewing these beers 30 years ago,” said Ben Dobler, Widmer Brothers innovation brewer, who helped spearhead the series. “It’s a real challenge to replicate the recipes perfectly, especially when we consider the imperfections that likely made these beers great at the time. But we’re working hard to maintain the original character, intent and quality of these beers, which were extraordinary for their time.”

Look for the beers to appear on the shelves soon. Here’s the publicity photo they sent out as well:

Widmer 30 Beers for 30 Years

Register for the Beer Bloggers Conference today, because the price goes up tomorrow

Beer Bloggers Conference 2014This year’s American Beer Bloggers Conference is taking place in San Diego on August 22 through 24. And if you’re interested in attending, be aware that today is the last day you can register for the early bird pricing—it goes up tomorrow.

Early bird pricing for Citizen Bloggers (like me) is $95; Industry Bloggers, $195; and $295 for general registrants (non-bloggers). After today, those prices go up to $120, $220, and $320, respectively.