We’re still recovering from our whirlwind trip to the Beer Bloggers Conference, but here’s a few notes and my takeaway on the fifth annual conference that took place in San Diego this past weekend.
We left early Wednesday morning to drop the kids off in the Bay Area with Jon’s brother’s family and then the two of us took off to sunny San Diego early Thursday morning. The slowdown from an accident on the LA freeway seemed to follow us all the way to San Diego, yet we arrived around 6pm. After a few errands, we set off for the Blind Lady Ale House, which was recommended by Jon’s brother Ben. It took us a few minutes of trying to find parking and then we were at the entrance where the guy at the front door if we’d been there before (we had not), he then directed us on how to order from the bar and then find a spot at a communal table. We did just that and enjoyed a fig and Gorgonzola pizza with prosciutto added along with a salad. It was just the right amount for us and we enjoyed the atmosphere after two solid days of driving. Once we got back to the hotel, we enjoyed a drink by the pool and relaxed with the soothing sounds of the waterfall.
The next morning, we met a friend that we hadn’t seen in awhile for breakfast at the hotel and then met up with Tiffany from 99 Bottles to explore the Best Damn Beer Shop where we found some beers that we can’t find back in Bend. It was a successful trip. We went back to the hotel just in time for registration.
At noon on Friday, the 5th annual Beer Blogger’s Conference got underway at the Marriott Mission Valley. For lunch, a taco bar was served that was sponsored by The Reyes Beverage Group for lunch with ice tea and of course, beer. After that was over, we headed over to the Dome and the Trade Show got underway with, you guessed it, more beer. You could tell it was the beginning of the conference because everyone was getting their bearings and introducing themselves while sampling beers and collecting swag from the sponsors (NBWA, Warsteiner, Goose Island, Sucuri, Craft Beer Hound, WordPress.com, .beer, Sip Snapp, Reyes Beverage Group, Lagunitas Brewing, Stone Brewing, and Rogue Brewing). (I apologize if I left anyone out.)
By 3pm, we were back in the conference room and after a warm welcome by Alan from Zephyr Adventures, Julia Herz of the CraftBeer.com was giving her introduction of the conference. She’s always amazing to listen to and a wealth of knowledge. The next panel was of San Diego Craft Brewers and was an amazing talk involving Tomme Arthur from The Lost Abbey, Chuck Silva from Green Flash Brewing Company and Peter Zien from AleSmith Brewing Company. Amazing discussion and we learned a lot of the San Diego Brewing history. We also gained insight into Social Media practices from Red Door Interactive before we hopped on the buses to Karl Strauss Brewing for dinner.
If you’ve never been to the tasting room for Karl Strauss on Santa Fe Street, make it a point to go. They have created a wonderful beer garden and we got to enjoy authentic street tacos and beer (I can’t remember the name of the lady sadly). There was a cooler of four beers for us to try, but it was also observed that many of us were buying taster trays and other full beers. I’d noticed a comment on Twitter #bbc14 that another blogger commented on how it was great seeing so many of the bloggers inside BUYING beer and taster trays instead of just taking advantage of the free beer provided with our meal. I totally agree and observed not just Jon buying a beer there, but lots of merchandise, etc. being purchased at all the places we went.
After dinner, I know Jon and I thoroughly enjoyed Chris Cramer’s (CEO and Co-Founder, Karl Strauss Brewing Company) talk about his company’s history and we both noted the similarity of Central Oregon’s history with Deschutes Brewing’s forging the way for industry growth in the city and when we introduced ourselves to Chris after his talk, we discussed Central Oregon’s history paralleling San Diego’s. Karl Strauss’s early struggles paved the way for San Diego’s rich brewing history. Bravo!
Day one was nearing a close, but we had to first go to Lagunitas‘s Couch Trippin’ party! We arrived and the lights were dimmed and a band was playing! There was a bunch of Lagunitas’s beer around the room and I tried (blindly, thanks Jon) Mandaraison and Farmhouse Sour. I liked the raison-y character of the Mandaraison, but I liked the Sour slightly better and got a glass of that to go with my cheese and dessert plate. They had a cool couching trippin’ video station in the corner and many bloggers took advantage to film themselves and watch themselves couch trippin’ on the screens that filled the room. We bloggers were the lucky ones hearing the exclusive announcement for their fresh hop beer, Born Yesterday. The fresh hop Pale Ale will soon be in bottles, with it hitting the stores within 24 hours after it’s packaged!! We’re grateful Lagunitas took to the bloggers to announce this special beer!
A little while after the announcement, it was time for bed. It’d been a long few days for us and we’d wanted to rest up (and for Jon to blog) for the next day!!
Stay tuned for the 2nd half of the trip!
With the Little Woody kicking off in two days, it’s time to look over this year’s offerings. When it was first created (back in 2009), it was exclusive to only Central Oregon breweries, but since then it has added other guest breweries from outside of the region. This year is boasting at least 23 breweries (not even getting into the whiskey tasting), with many of them pouring more than one beer. Let’s take a look.
(I’ve also bolded the Central Oregon breweries, since it all started with them.)
10 Barrel Brewing (Bend, OR)
- Dry Fly Wheat Wine 10% abv, 50 IBUs “We brewed a huge wheat wine, put it in some Dry Fly rye whiskey barrels, somehow managed to keep from drinking it for 14 months and finally pulled it out just for Little Woody 2014. Caramel colored and boozy with a big malt backbone… Fish on!”
21st Amendment Brewery (San Francisco, CA)
- Monk’s Blood 8.3% abv, 34 IBUs “21st Amendment founders Nico Freccia and Shaun O’Sullivan traveled to Belgium to develop the recipe for this special beer, visiting small, traditional breweries in the hop fields of west Flanders, not far from the famous Trappist abbey of Westvletren. Monk’s Blood is designed to pair beautifully with rich winter stews, creamy cheeses, unctuous desserts or just by itself, in a Belgian tulip glass, with a good book by the fire.”
Below Grade Brewing (Bend, OR)
- Kiss Me Kate 9% abv, +/- 100 IBUs “Barrel-aged version of Dangerous Kate: This black as night ale gained a new and beautiful life while aging in a cool and dark cellar. Her time away proved to be quite enabling; life in the shadows provided the quiet and solitude needed for her to be introspective and to develop complexity and intrigue. Kiss me Kate acquired her own identity with warmth and character obtained from the charred interior of the experienced white oak whiskey barrels and she has been elevated to an exceptionally smooth brew embracing roasted and caramel malt notes with prominent hop character. Be very careful with this gal: She is charming, mischievous and a bit of a seductress.”
Bend Brewing (Bend, OR)
- ROMANOV, Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout 10.5% abv, 70 IBUs “This huge beer was aged in stainless steel for a full year, then transferred to a Oregon Spirit Distillers, C.W. Irwin Bourbon Barrel for 6 months. Romanov Russian Imperial Stout has a complex malt character, dominated by chocolate and roast flavors, and underscored by hints of dark dried fruits, and vanilla. The hop bitterness is mild and pleasant, and is followed by the slow warming feel of alcohol.”
- PINOT NOIR AGED, CHING CHING, Sour Ale 4.75% abv, 5 IBUs “Ching Ching is a whimsical take on a German Berliner Weisse. Brewed with Pomegranate and Hibiscus, this thirst quenching ale has a SweetTart tanginess, and to add a little tannic complexity we aged it in Pinot Noir Barrels for a month. This beer is a nice change-up from the high alcohol beer typically found at Barrel Aged Beer Festivals.”
Boneyard Beer (Bend, OR)
- Funky Bunch 6% abv, 15 IBUs “A blend of a few of our seasonal beers that have been re fermented with Brettanomyces (wild yeast), cherries and raspberries then aged on French oak for 1 year. This Flanders-style sour ale crosses the palate and finishes dry and a bit tingly. Get Funked!”
- NOTORIOUS 11.5% abv, 80 IBUs “This triple IPA pours a clear amber color with a light white head. Huge grapefruit and pine aroma lead to flavors of citrus, tropical fruits and honey. Hops are abundant and explode from the glass while balancing amazingly well with the malts, so balanced in fact, it’s dangerous!”
Bridge 99 / Platypus Pub Collaboration (Bend, OR)
- Red Eye Rye 9.5% abv “This Imperial Red was a beer designed by Trevor Hawman from Bridge 99 and Tom Gilles from Platypus Pub specifically to be aged in a rye whiskey barrel from Oregon Spirit Distillery. The malts used in the beer are a perfect compliment to the rye whiskey and vanilla notes from the barrel. A subtle hop finish keeps it all in balance. This beer is as pleasing to the nose as to the palate.”
Cascade Lakes Brewing (Redmond, OR)
- Welded Tuff – Barrel Aged Lager 6.4% abv, 30 IBUs “How do you describe a beer you have not made before? You don’t, you simply present it as something new. We started this beer by aging our Smith Rocktoberfest lager in a lightly used bourbon barrel for 10 months. Add in a unique blend of spices and this malty, oaky, smooth lager is transformed into Welded Tuff. Welded tuff is a type of volcanic rock which can be seen most distinctly at Smith Rock State Park.”
Crux Fermentation Project (Bend, OR)
- The Walla Walla Woody 10% abv, 20 IBUs “Dark and Strong… Belgian-Style Ale utilizing French oak barrels that previously held Merlot from the Walla Walla Appellation. Brewed with malts and candi sugar from Belgium and hops for the Czech Republic. Lightly fermented with Belgium yeast with the fermentation finished with Brettanomyces yeast.”
- Stage Beer: Better Off Red: 7% abv, 18 IBUs, “Belgian-Style Flanders Red. Dark copper in color. Cherry-like fruity esters. Aged in Willamette Valley Pinot barrels for 1 year and then fermented with Brettanomyces for two years.“
Deschutes Brewery (Bend, OR)
- Mirror Mirror 11.2% abv, 53 IBUs “The Reserve Series romance all began with our first release of this limited-edition brew. Mirror Mirror, born of a double batch of Mirror Pond Pale Ale, is an inspired barley wine ale layered with intriguing nuances. Explore this latest incarnation and enjoy its delicious complexity in every sip. 50% aged 10 Months in Oregon Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, and Malbec Barrels.”
- Sour Raspberry Wit 5.5% abv, 27 IBUs “We combined a traditional Wit base recipe with 40 lbs. of raspberry puree and the soured with Brux an Lambicus before we aged it in Oregon Pinot barrels for 17 months. This is a refreshingly tart, raspberry infused Pucker Pleaser.”
GoodLife Brewing (Bend, OR)
- Sour As “Our Sweet As (Pacific Pale) aged on French Oak Syrah for over a year, with late additions of cherries and sour yeast making it slightly tart, yet very easy to drink.”
- Skid Mark “Our Brown Ale aged on French Oak Syrah for a Year, is a slight bitter brown that has really taken on the warm woody character of the barrel. Not to mention that this has sour yeast added to it making it a great all around beer for this event.”
- Stage Beer: Wood Town Sour Brown (Firkin): “This special beer is a great combination of our Skid Mark Brown aged on French Oak Syrah barrels, and our Mountain Rescue Pale Ale. The Pale Ale will add a bit of Caramel and bitterness to the brown while also smoothing out the woody flavor from barrel aged Skid Mark!”
Hop Valley Brewing (Springfield, OR)
- Hop Valley Oakeroo 7.5%+ abv, 40-50 IBUs “A limited amount of our winter seasonal was allowed to age in bourbon barrels from Heaven Hill distillery. The barrel aging process transforms our winter ale, Festeroo into the ultimate sipping experience. The beer takes on flavors of bourbon, and vanilla from the barrel, while bringing out slight chocolate notes from the roasted malts. Please enjoy the first of the Barrel aged beers to come from the cellar of Hop Valleys new production brewery in Eugene.”
Hopworks Urban Brewery (Portland, OR)
- Pink Drink 9% abv “This is a barrel-aged Belgian Style Tripel with raspberries.”
- Imperial Stout “This is a Bourbon Barrel Aged Motherland (Russian Imperial Stout)”
Lagunitas Brewing (Petaluma, CA)
- Sonoma Farmhouse Ale 6% abv “A pale-golden summery saison style, fermented with Belgian Westmalle yeast and a smidgen of spice.”
- NightTime Ale 8.2% abv, 65 IBUs “Kinda like DayTime’s big, dark, and scary sidekick, this ale is packed full of highly roasted malts, then counterhopped by smooth operators with the dankest, juiciest hops. Not for the lunch crowd. Or the faint of heart.”
Mazama Brewing (Corvallis, OR)
- La Gaule du Matin – Port Barrel Aged Sour Belgian Blonde “Take our popular Sour Sunrise with its bright peach fruit and age it in a port wine barrel and you get an incredibly complex yet easy drinking beer. This is a great summer sipper with layers of fruit, vanilla spice, and barrel character that will keep you coming back for more.”
McMenamins Old St. Francis School (Bend, OR)
- Grandma’s Oatmeal Porter Rum Barrel Aged 6.05% abv, 29 IBUs “This Porter is made with dark crystal malts to give a hint of chocolate and raisin. A plethora of rolled oats were also added for a chewy mouth feel as well as a smooth, melt in your mouth concession. This beer was set aside for 4 months in one of our emptied McMenamins Three Rocks Rum barrels. This time has given your drink a woody, earthy aroma. Melded in the back end of the quaff is a semi-sweetness garnered from the lingering rum qualities with a touch of alcohol at the very end. Take a long swill of this porter and enjoy what time and care can do to a beer. Somewhat how your grandma would take care of you!!”
- Brandywine Bridge Red Ale 4.9% abv, 32 IBUs “This smooth talking beverage is a sensational summer delight that boasts a great balance of body and hop flavor. A combination of Centennials, Nuggets, and Cascades create a perfect mild hop flavor and a wonderful earthy aroma that is sure to entice you the moment you bring the glass to your lips. To kick things up a notch we also added some brandy aged hickory spirals to add a special hint of delectable sweetness and earthiness that helps this beer finish with some style and flare. Whether you’re kicking it in the Shire or good old Central Oregon this beer will not disappoint your taste buds.”
New Belgium Brewing (Fort Collins, CO)
- NBB Loves Leopold (NBB Love/Oscar aged in Blackberry Whiskey Barrel) 8.5% abv “Perfectly soured Oscar, our dark base beer laid down in a Blackberry Whiskey barrel from Leopold Brothers Distillery. In the glass this Oscar is molasses in color with a hint of haze in its dark depths. Like a vat used to crush berries, it smells like moist ripe oak and blackberry jam, while faint flaky crust aromas remind you of a berry pie. A whiff of chocolate and ginger add complexity. As expected, a brisk, puckering, enduring sourness is in the fore, offset somewhat by the slight berry sweetness in the background. The medium body finishes crisp, readying you for another sip of a complex sour berry journey.”
- NBB Love Felix/Cherry- (NBB Love/Felix aged in Cherry Whiskey Barrel) 8.5% abv “Perfectly soured Felix our light base beer laid down in a Cherry Whiskey barrel from Leopold Brothers Distillery.This peaches n’ cream-colored beer shines with a light glowing haze. The fruity color is reflected in the aroma, decadently rich and syrupy in cherries and almonds with a zippy grapefruit pith added in. Big blast of oak vanillin in from aging in the whiskey barrel, giving the impression of a slice of tart cherry pie a la mode when they combine with the fruits. As expected, a brisk, puckering, enduring sourness is in the fore, offset somewhat by the slight cherry sweetness in the background. The medium body finishes dry and crisp, readying you for the next sip.”
Ninkasi Brewing (Eugene, OR)
- Oak Aged Azacca “Taking our Single Hop Series to the next level, we aged our Single Hop Ale, Azacca for five and a half months in Dry Fly Gin Barrels. Paired with the hop’s distinctive notes of mango, apricot, apples and pears, and the gin juniper, this beer is clean, crisp and flavorful.”
- Oak-Aged Sleigh’r “Offering a delicious take on our seasonal favorite, we took our Sleigh’r Dark Doüble Alt Ale and aged it in Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and Heaven Hills Bourbon Barrels for 15 months each, giving this beer a big, robust profile that finishes dry and delicious.”
No-Li Brewhouse (Spokane, WA)
- Barrel-Aged Comrade Double IPA “We took one of our No Boundaries Small Batch Series Beers, Comrade Double IPA, and aged it in a Dry Fly Distillery Wheat Whiskey barrel for 3.5 months. The barrel was stored cool to maintain the aroma and flavor of the El Dorado and Amarillo hops used in the Comrade. This particular type of whiskey barrel contributes subtle notes of coconut and vanilla, while adding a sweet fullness to this hoppy beer’s body. Look for the berry-like fruitiness of the El Dorado hops to intertwine with the spirit’s unique aroma.”
Silver Moon Brewing (Bend, OR)
- Oregon Spirit Distillers Bourbon Stout 7.7% abv, 55 IBUs “We’ve Aged our beloved Dark Side Stout in Oregon Spirit Distillers Bourbon Barrels to add complex oak flavors to this already world class beer. Dark Side is robust,smooth and delicious with hints of vanilla and chocolate.”
- Wild Turkey Barrel Aged Train Wreck Barley Wine 9.2% abv, 100 IBUs “Train Wreck is a big beer with a dark fruit character and a malty sweetness. Massive quantities of Pale, Munich and Dark Crystal malts are paired with the heavy handed use of Calypso, Chinook and Cascade hops. Aged 9 months in Wild Turkey Barrels and then cellared for up to two years.”
- Stage Beer: Barrel Age Elf Sour (5:00pm on Saturday)
Stone Brewing (Escondido, CA)
- Stone Arbalest (Belgian Ale aged in Bourbon Barrels) 8.5% abv “Appearance of the beer is pale orange with lingering foam. Caramel, bourbon, and spicy yeast aromas on the nose. Taste is of crisply bitter hops and peach and apricot stone fruit from the aroma hops, caramel and sweet oak flavors from the malt and bourbon barrel aging, and spice, floral, and fruity esters from the fermentation. The rich caramel flavors from the crystal malts, and vanilla and sweet flavors of the bourbon barrel give this beer a lot of mouthfeel and richness without being satiating. This is a bourbon barrel aged beer you can drink by the pint.”
- Matt’s Burning Rosids “In many ways, it’s the most important beer we’ve ever put out into the world, because it honors the memory of our beloved, departed friend and colleague, Matt Courtright. As such, many people contributed their ideas, words, memories and tears to the design of the art and text that will grace bottles containing Matt’s Burning Rosids Cherrywood-Smoked Saison.”
Three Creeks Brewing (Sisters, OR)
- Vanilla Night Ski Oatmeal Stout 5% abv “A special version of night ski oatmeal stout aged on whole vanilla beans and oak.”
- Nite Moves “For this Year’s Little Woody we are going all in, blending stouts that have been barrel aged in Pinot Noir Barrels AND Bourbon Barrels. It will be Roasty, with hints of deep fruit from the Pinot Barrels and a touch of Vanilla from the Bourbon bbls with just a kiss of BOOZY from both.”
Wild Ride Brewing (Redmond, OR)
- NITRO Bourbon Barrel Aged Bitch Stout 7.5% abv, 55 IBUs “If our Bitch Stout wasn’t bold enough, we aged the beer in Jack Daniel’s Whiskey Barrels to create our Bourbon Barrel Aged Bitch Stout. The original Bitch Stout has rich flavors of caramel, chocolate, and roast, and the barrel aging process added complexity to this already great beer by adding notes of vanilla, oak, and whiskey. You will experience layers of these flavors, including a warming finish from the whiskey influence. Don’t miss out from trying this special limited release beer from Wild Ride Brewing!”
Worthy Brewing (Bend, OR)
- Barrel Aged Dark Muse 10.1% abv, 60 IBUs “Worthy’s Barrel-Aged Dark Muse – our hearty, creamy and voluptuous Imperial Stout, gently aged in bourbon barrels. This is a beer for the thinker. The ponderer. It’s made to be sipped, cradled and inhaled, slowly, methodically, and deliberately.”
And, a final disclaimer: This is the list I’ve pulled off the Little Woody website, so it should be up to date, but as we all know there may be updates, additions, or even ones listed here not pouring on the days of the actual event. So, figure out the beers you really want to try from this list, then be ready to be flexible—just in case.
One of my favorite beer events for Bend kicks off this Friday—The Little Woody Barrel Aged Brew and Whiskey Fest! This year is the sixth annual iteration (it started in 2009) and it focuses almost exclusively on wood- and barrel-aged specialty brews, so it’s truly one of those niche beer geek events unlike the typical brewfest experience.
It also takes place at a unique venue: the grounds of the Des Chutes Historical Museum, located in the historic Reid School building in downtown Bend, with beer pouring outside in the lot and lawn, and a whiskey tasting taking place indoors. And if you have a chance to check out the Museum itself, I would recommend it.
This year’s Little Woody is sponsored by Bigfoot Beverages, and takes place Friday from 5pm to 10pm, and Saturday from noon to 10pm (August 29th and 30th, respectively). Basic entry cost is $10 the commemorative glass, with tasting tokens cost $1 each (beers will range in “price” from 2 to 6 tokens), and there is a tasting package for $20 which includes the entry, glass, and 10 tokens. Register in advance here. (Disclosure: I’m attending under media pass/credentials.)
It looks like they’ve got 23 breweries pouring beers, the majority of which are local to Central Oregon, and there will be amazing beers being poured. I will have a post up soon detailing all the beers being poured, as well, so stay tuned.
And if you weren’t planning a trip to Bend this weekend already, now you should! It’s also Labor Day weekend so you’ll have plenty of time to hang out, drink great beers, and even visit some of the great local breweries for even more beer!
The fifth annual Beer Bloggers Conference is wrapping up. We had a great time and will be writing up more in depth posts hopefully very shortly. Be on the lookout. In the meantime, read Jon’s daily wrap ups and check out @Brewsite on twitter & instagram for what we’ve posted so far.
The second day of the Beer Bloggers Conference was a full one with a ton of great information—too much to fit into a single blog post, but I wanted to post a few salient notes.
First off, a surprising (tech) fact: WordPress, the software that powers this and many other blogs, now accounts for an astounding 22% of all websites. As a web developer by trade that is pretty astounding to me.
The Beer Blogging Ethics panel was excellent and provided the most interaction and feedback of the day (for sessions—not counting actually drinking beer!). I’m pleased that most or all of our fellow bloggers just seem to get it, even though the ethics of beer blogging is still a gray area. Warrants further thought and longer post.
Ken Grossman’s keynote speech was fantastic, providing fascinating history of the founding of Sierra Nevada Brewing as well as informative Q&A. Ken sat next to me at lunch at the Yard House prior to that and chatted with us. Genuinely nice guy who was interested in learning more about what we do.
And it was during Ken’s keynote that next year’s BBC was announced: Asheville, North Carolina, July 17 through 19. Asheville is one of the most vibrant beer scenes in the country, so that will be great. (Bend, Oregon next?)