August 20, 2011

Beer Bloggers Conference, day 2

Things kicked off on Saturday morning with a panel featuring 'industry' bloggers Michael Busman of New Belgium, Matt Van Wyk of Oakshire Brewing (Portland), and Ryan Ross of Karl Strauss. The three guys explained how their blogs came to be and how they utilize them now. New Belgium uses their blog not just as a sound-off for news, but to talk about events and company culture. Oakshire uses WordPress to host their blog, which also serves as their website. This is a great solution for smaller breweries who maybe don't have the budget for a webmaster position or to hire an outside company. This also makes it easy for multiple employees to log in and post, providing a more intimate view of the company. Ryan took things further and talked not just about blogging, but other ways social media can benefit a brewery, how they can work with local bloggers, and even delved into what they can and can't do from a legal standpoint when it comes to what they post.

Some of the points from the first session played very well into the second, Working with your Local Brewery. This session featured Bill Manley, Communications Director at Sierra NevadaM, Ashley Routson aka The Beer Wench, Ben Edmunds of Breadkside Brewery, and Ben Love of Hopworks Urban Brewery (and also President of the Oregon Brewer's Guild). I took away the most from The Wench, as she explained how her hobby as a blogger led to a paying job in the industry doing social media for Bison Brewing. Even putting aside the desire to work in the industry, you can really help promote your local craft beer community by getting involved; get a part time job serving or bartending at a local beer bar, volunteer to pour at beer festivals, volunteer your time to help with any events your local breweries might be having. Simply put, the more you get involved, the more you get back. And, in most cases, the people you work with will notice the skills you have and it could very well turn into a job opportunity. Don't forget, your time at the very least will usually get you some free beer!

We were on our own for lunch from 11:30-1:30. I'd had breakfast and wasn't all that hungry yet, so I worked on my post on BBC11 Day 1 for about an hour before walking a few blocks over to Spirit of 77 for a PDX Beer Week brunch.

Spirit of 77 beer brunch menu featuring Double Mountain Brewery and Hopworks Urban Brewery, presented by PDX Beer Week:

I started with the Batch 1000 and the Red Rye. The cured salmon was delicious, and the malt and dryness of the Batch 1000 complimented it extremely well. The chicken wings arrived as soon as I finished the salmon. Let me just say, I wish all wings were like this. The sauce was not heavy; it was as it said, glazed, rather than slathered. I really liked the Red Rye, and although it was great for washing down the last bites of meat, I didn't think it actually added anything as a pairing.

I sat licking my fingers for a minute or two after I finished the wings, and when the lovely bartendress came over and asked if I wanted something else, I had to go for the Survival Stout with braised bacon. Best decision I ever made. The bacon wasn't just bacon. It was slab a few inches square, and at least an inch and a half thick. The egg was perfectly cooked and had been trimmed into a nice little circle and placed on top of the bacon. When I cut through the fat layer of the bacon, the rest began to fall apart. I took a bite. Wow! I can't describe how delicious it was. The apple cider and maple syrup added a nice sweetness to everything, including the egg, without being too over the top. I got 2/3 of the way through before I realized I had a beer to go with it.

I took a sip of the Survival Stout and realized at this point that I was having the best breakfast ever. This '7-grain' stout is brewed with Portland's Stumptown Coffee. It does not have the vanilla or espresso flavors nor the creaminess of many other "breakfast" style stouts. Instead, Survival Stout is crisp and dry, with just the right amount of bitterness. You could say it's more of a black coffee drinker's breakfast beer, something to pep you up rather than weigh you down. There is nothing better than bacon, eggs, and coffee in the morning, especially when your coffee comes as part of a beer.

I didn't finish lunch until right around the time the 1:30 panel, Lessons from Portland as a Beer (and Beer Blogging) City was starting, so I took my time walking back to the hotel. Unfortunately, my afternoon came to a halt as I started having blurred, tunnel vision, which signals a migraine. [I get a few migraines a year and it tends to be before, during or after large or frequent pressure changes, like the ones that lead up to a huge thunderstorm or that you might experience while flying or visiting an unfamiliar climate.] When I got back to my room I took my medicine (thankfully I had it with me) and passed out. I slept right through the next two panels, Blogging About (and Changing) Beer Laws and The Beer Steward program from the Master Brewers Association of the Americas. I woke up in time for Live Beer Blogging but was so out of it I could hardly function, and had to skip it as well. I didn't mind missing the other panels too much, but missing the Live Beer Blogging was a huge bummer. Just to explain, the Live Beer Blogging session is where everyone tastes 8 beers from 8 breweries in a round-robin, speed-dating format, and tweets or immediately posts their thoughts to their blog.

At 6:30 we headed to the west side of the river, the central downtown area of Portland for dinner and tours at BridgePort Brewing Company. We were provided a private room, open bar, and a surprisingly delicious buffet of food. Brew Master Jeff Edgerton stopped in to talk about the brewery and thank us all for being such a strong force in the craft beer community. During dinner I had the Hop Czar, which is an Imperial IPA based on BridgePort's original IPA recipe. For dessert there was a delicious raspberry purée and apple crisp with fresh made whipped cream. A tour was just about to start when I finished dessert, so I ran to the bar, grabbed a Cafe Negro coffee porter from the nitro tap and joined up with the group.

I certainly appreciate the opportunity to tour a brewery any chance I get, but I tend not to pay attention on quick tours like the one we had, because I hear a lot of stuff I already know about the actual brewing process. I think everyone was pretty much in the same boat. We were really given a guided "viewing" of the brewery. Just a couple little tidbits I did take away... BridgePort does over 100,000 barrels a year; they have a dedicated lab for testing yeast and shelf life; they have an average of 1000 people go through the brewpub in a single day and can kill over 40 kegs in a week; they have one small dumpster for trash that only gets emptied twice a week, everything else get's recycled including the water and grains. Pretty cool.

After leaving BridgePort, we took buses to McMenamins Bagdad Theater for the premier of The Love of Beer, a documentary about women in the beer industry by Alison Grayson, starring Bend Brewing's Tonya Cornett and Sarah Pederson of Saraveza and featuring Teri Fahrendorf of Great Western Malting, Lisa Morrison of Beer Goddess, Gayle Goschie of Goschie Farms, and Amy Welch of Lucky Labrador. The movie not only offered a look into their roles in the Oregon craft beer community but also their personal lives and background. I thought it was very well done and would love to see it screened elsewhere or see sequels based on other beer communities. After the movie, Rogue sponsored buses to take us back to the hotel, and we each got a grab bag with stickers, literature, a Rogue yo-yo, a bottle opener, and a bottle of Chatoe Rogue Single Malt.

Still have to write-up day 3...

August 19, 2011

Beer Bloggers Conference, day 1

Before the first panel was an introduction by Julia Hertz of the Brewer's Association. She spoke about the current state of the craft beer industry, offering up a ton of facts and statistics (almost too much to absorb within her given time slot). One statistic that I found interesting is that beer sales generate just about as much money (about $101 billion) as wine ($40 billion) and spirits ($65 billion) combined. I was not all that surprised to learn that 70% of craft beer drinkers are 25-44 years old. After commenting on how beer bloggers are influencing the industry, she asked the audience what else we would like to see as craft beer continues to move forward. Answers ranged from more educated retailers, better beer on airlines and at sporting events, better beer servers, correct glassware at bars and events, more small pours or 1/2 pints.

Mid-morning snack: Sierra Nevada Ovila Saison and a pretzel necklace

Next, John Foyston of The Beer Here, an Oregon beer news website, led an open conversation with Fred Eckhardt. Fred is 82 years old and wrote his first book on brewing in 1969, before homebrewing was even re-legalized. He is the author of The Essentials of Beer Style (1989). The conversation basically consisted of Fred telling various stories from throughout his beer drinking and brewing experiences. Fred is a soft-spoken and obviously incredibly warm hearted fellow. He immediately became everyone's hero. At one point, having realized he had finished his beer, he stopped in the middle of a story and said, as if thinking out loud, "Empty glass... I have an empty glass." Towards the end of the session he said, "My favorite beer is the one in my hand. My next favorite beer is the one that's free."

John Foyston (left) & Fred Eckhardt

During the next session, Stephen Valand & Erica Shea of Brooklyn Brew Shop talked about brewing 1 gallon batches of beer. To me, this is a great idea, and one that I have already been gearing up for thanks to another couple, William Bostwick & Jessi Rymill, authors of Beer Craft, a homebrewing book based around the 1 gallon batch.

After the last panel of the day, everyone loaded on to two buses and headed into the countryside to visit Goschie Farms and tour their hop processing facility. During the trip, we sampled an altbier from Widmer, Full Sail's Session Black, IPA, and LTD 03, Chatoe Rogue Single Malt Ale, and everything from Ninkasi's new bomber 4-pack, Radiant Ale, Maiden The Shade, Nuptiale, and Total Domination IPA.

Pete from Beervana Buzz

fresh hops

a mountain of Tettnanger hops

100 lb bales of compressed hops

Following the tour, we were provided a delicious farm to table dinner consisting of fresh yellow corn, red skin potato salad, bratwurst and sauerkraut on rye bread, and a blueberry, peach and pineapple fruit salad. Beer was also provided, of course!

Standing Stone Noble Stout and Double Mountain Vaporizer


For dessert, there were hop brownies topped with icing and sprinkled with hop flakes. It was without a doubt the best brownie I've ever had.

We returned to the hotel late in the evening for the Night of Many Bottles. This is a special tasting event where conference participants provide all the beer, picking their favorites and letting the other attendees try them. There were easily over 100 different beers, of which I tried about 12 before deciding I needed to catch up on sleep.

New Belgium La Folie 2011

North Coast Le Merle Saison & Brother Thelonious

Beer Bloggers Conference

Hi everybody, and greetings from Portland, Oregon! I'm currently relaxing in my hotel room, getting ready to kick off the 2011 Beer Bloggers Conference. There are a bunch of things happening today, including a joint keynote speech by Fred Eckhardt and John Foyston of The Beer Here, a panel on stovetop brewing, and then a tour of local hop fields and dinner courtesy of the Oregon Brewers Guild. After dinner we return to the hotel for the Night of Many Bottles, where participants bring a 6 pack of their favorite beer to share with fellow beer bloggers.

Last night there was a pub crawl and 'gentelman's club' crawl, but unfortunately I didn't make it to either one because my flights were delayed and I didn't arrive in Portland until after the bars were closed. But I kicked things off this morning with Jeff from Huck Fin's Beer Buz with breakfast at The Original.

I had a cup of Stumptown Coffee (black) to wake me up, then started the day right with a glass of Upright Brewing 'Six', a tasty rye beer...

August 9, 2011

Mikkeller Warrior Single Hop

Even though Mikkel Borg Bjergsø wasn't the first person to brew an IPA with only one style of hops, he is possibly the one most responsible for, or at least famous for (among his many other beers) the "single hop" IPA. Warrior is one of ten varieties in his first Single Hop series that also included Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, East Kent Golding, Nelson Sauvin, Nugget, Simcoe, and Tomahawk. The series also included, or was followed by, Mikkeller 10, which was brewed with all 10 hops from the series.

The Warrior Single Hop starts with a thick, fluffy head with aromas of yeast, citrus, raisin bread, cinnamon, and a little earth. Flavors of sweet caramel, grapefruit and muscat are complimented nicely by earth and grass notes as well as a slight tartness. It's incredibly smooth and the carbonation is lively but not biting. Pretty bitter finish.

Mikkeller Warrior Single Hop

I've had the Nelson Sauvin Single Hop a few times before as well and what I like is that each of the beers are different, and that's exactly the point! Besides just being tasty, the Single Hop series is a great way to get familiar with the aromas and tastes associated with specific types of hops. Look for 5 more Single Hop IPA's from Mikkeller soon; Citra, Sorachi Ace, Summit, Apollo, and Bravo.

August 8, 2011

Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout

I don't know why, but despite being a hot summer, I've still been craving darker, heavier beers, especially coffee and espresso porters and stouts. The Espresso Stout from Hitachino Nest is a great beer. It pours pitch black, but you can catch a hint of dark brown at the bottom of the glass. Head is pretty thick, and I even backed down on my pour when I realized how much there was going to be. Smells of coffee and chocolate, with a little herbal, grassy note to it. This could be due to the fact that the base recipe is for a Russian Imperial Stout, and they tend to be generously hopped. Tastes like you would expect, and that's not a bad thing. A combination of sweet and dark roasted malts, black coffee and espresso, milk chocolate, plus hints of vanilla and a little cream. Not incredibly heavy, soft carbonation, and a little oily. Finishes bitter and slightly sweet just like espresso, with the tiniest bit of tobacco in the aftertaste as well. It's not perfectly balanced, but I'd say pretty close. Overall, an incredibly enjoyable beer that I will definitely have again.

Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout