Bend, Oregon > Bend, Belgium/Brazil

Bud Apricot Crush?

Bud Apricot Crush?

Opinions are like assholes AND beer: Not only does everyone have one but some are industrially large while others are artfully crafted.

The news is still sinking in that adorable, warm, fuzzy 10 Barrel Brewing, the homegrown brewery in the quaint, high-desert town in Central Oregon, has been acquired by beer behemoth Budweiser (ABI). The name 10 Barrel had already become outmoded considering the company ramped up to a 50-barrel system in Bend while keeping its original 10-barreler for R&D, added a 10-barrel pub in Boise, and will soon open the doors to its Portland pub* with a shiny new 20-barrel system thereby brining the total to 90 barrels already. Combine this with AB-InBev’s and it’s something on the level of 10 Million Barrels (give or take a few hundred million in overall volume).

Whether you, dear reader, personally take the “Sellouts!” side or fall into camp “Good for them,” and whether your BuyLocalism will lead to you never buying a drop of beer from this brewery now under the Bud-brella or you think that crowd’s just butthurt and it won’t affect your purchasing decision since good beer is good beer no matter who cuts the paychecks, one thing is clear: Oregon beer will never be the same again. Exactly the way it was never the same again when they bought a 30+% minority stake in Widmer Brothers and the Craft Brew Alliance. In other words, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Just ask the folks who worked at and drank beers from Chicago’s Goose Island, New York’s Blue Point, Hawaii’s Kona, Seattle’s Red Hook, and, undoubtedly, Anywheresville, USA’s next AB takeover.

*Even more than my curiosity how this will impact the forthcoming Portland outpost, I’m more curious how other brewers in the tight-knit community of Bend brewers will handle this in the short and long term. Naturally, in the now, they’re all ShockTopped, er, shocked. But will it really have any implications for them, financially? The original and graddaddy, Deschutes, is already tracking to brew 2 million barrels by 2020. Worthy just opened with a hefty pair of deep pockets. Add in Boneyard and those four already factor into Oregon’s 14 largest brewing companies. The money’s already there. We still call it “quaint,” but beer is already big business in Bend, also home to a few others.**

**Ale Apothecary, Below Grade, Bend Brewing Co., Bridge 99, Crux Fermentation Project, Good Life, North Rim, Oblivious, Old Mill Brew Wërks, Old St. Francis (McMenamins), Platypus,  Rat Hole, RiverBend, Silver Moon, and soon a few more, not counting their neighbors throughout Central Oregon.

In the end, unless the guys from St. Louis, er, Leuven, Belgium, er, São Paulo, Brazil decide to expunge the firepit, revoke the welcome sign to dogs, stop serving kids meals on frisbees, and turn the beer from delicious to disastrously flaccid like some others in their portfolio, this game-changing news will, ultimately, result in a collective yawn like the one yawned every time a beer geek gets his mitts on one of the various bottles of Bourbon County Stout. Or, locally, Widmer Bros. Marionberry Hibiscus Gose.

Y’know what else this means? The Big Boys are really, really paying attention to what Oregon breweries are up to. And they, like us, like what they see.

San Diego is the Greatest Beer City. San Diego is Not the Greatest Beer City.

I might have been inclined to call pitting San Diego against Portland a fool’s errand, since both of them are clearly so awesome. But my editor Ezra Johnson-Greenough gave me explicit instructions: “don’t pull your punches (and) at least take off your gloves and slap someone with them.” Hence the above-linked blog from March 2014 in The New School.

So as a solid to him, rather than bring up, and then put on par, places like Boulder/Denver/Ft. Collins, the Bay Area, Asheville, Grand Rapids, Philly, Austin, Vermont, and others that all make reasonable claims, I will do what Portlanders are too polite (or dismissive) to do during Charlie Papazian’s annual BeerTown USA poll. Bottom line: in terms of volume and global awe and respect, it comes down to Portland, Oregon, and San Diego, California. And as everyone who’s seen The Highlander knows, there can be only one!

It’s a debate I didn’t start. And one I didn’t finish. It’s blazing ever brighter today. A half pint for your thoughts on the matter in the comments.

Death Rides a Pale Horse Brewing

In the span of traversing the state of Oregon researching veteran as well as rookie breweries, it stands to reason some soldiers will fall on the battlefield. But are they squeezed out of the marketplace or does their ticker simply stop…ticking? I found myself in Salem anyway, so I took the time to pop across the street from one that was still under construction to visit the not-young owner of one that was in the midst of selling off parts. Here’s that story for The New School on Pale Horse Brewing and the intriguing discussion about what leads a brewery to fail in the comments section.

95% Asshole Free

I don’t recall the specific conversation that inspired this post for The New school, but that’s probably the point–that it wasn’t one straw that broke this camel’s back.

It used to be said that the craft beer industry was “asshole free.” Then someone made that figure a bit more realistic and many now refer to it as “99% asshole free.” For years, that was entirely true. Now? I begrudgingly consider it 95% asshole free. That’s still amazingly better than you’re apt to find in any other industry, social scene, or grouping of any sort. Look at the people in the last classroom you were in. In the last office job you have/had. In your family, even. The fact is, whether you’re a brewer, a beertender, an avid beer fan, or in some way connected to the craft beer milieu, odds are you’re a pretty great guy or gal. I look forward to our next or first beer together. (Unless you think I fit into the 5% of jerkwads, in which case go eff yourself.)

For a long time, there was a sense that it was one-for-all and all-for-one among the band of brewers, at least all the little guys versus the few big guys. That’s changing. Not on the whole or in giant leaps, but I’ve noticed some disparaging comments here, or there some snide remarks pointed at a new or neighboring brewery. Obviously those utterances don’t make the utterer an asshole in any overall sense—there’s a big difference between being an asshole and just acting like one—but brewers are saying some assholish things about their colleagues.

Flashback: 10 Barrel and Magic Mushroom in the Oregon Beer News

I’m not re-posting every single story I did for Willy Week’s blog in the Oregon Beer News column, but this one, in hindsight, is something of a gem. It talks about a PDX Beer Week event, “Billed as “Meet the new faces of 10 Barrel Brewing,” Apex hosts Bend’s 10 Barrel and all five of its brewers: Jimmy Seifrit, Tonya Cornett, Shawn Kelso, Bobby Jackson and Ben Shirley.” Then goes on to mention that, “Mellow Mushroom, the pizzeria chain headquartered in Savannah, Georgia, “officially” opened in the Pearl last week, although it has actually been operating for eight months. The Portland franchise has 51 taps—mostly brewed in the PacNW.”

The retroactive irony is that 10 Barrel Brewing would go onto make big “OBN” when it sold to AB-InBev (Bud) and that its once-long-awaited-now-meh impending Portland outcrop is going into the now-vacated Mellow Mushroom!

IPA is Dead. Long live IPA.

A month after my debut muckraking post for The New School (April ’13), I had some fun again both by declaring IPA dead and, more egregious to publisher Ezra and the beer community on the whole, announcing that another editor of mine, Willy Week’s Martin Cizmar, was “right.” Again, the comments blew up. I can see how this kind of needling is addictively fun.

Oh, my central tenet? “White chocolate is not chocolate. It’s a derivative of chocolate containing cocoa butter, but chocolate requires actual cocoa! If I sauté broccoli in cocoa butter did I make green chocolate? White chocolate is an abomination used to sell a disgusting confectioner’s creation using a delicious marketing name.”

No-no to Nanos

In a way, this is my first real blog post for The New School. The blog’s creator, Ezra Johnson-Greenough, earned a reputation for landing somewhere between a button-pusher and in-your-face. He’d probably call it “brutally honest” or “constructive criticism.” Whatever the style, it works. The site’s really quite popular among beer geeks. More than my previous or this current blog will ever be. And that’s a fact he liked to brandish my way. But guess what. I can do that, too. I tried to temper my goat-getting with enough blunt comments about my tongue-in-cheek nature of this post but even that went over a few people’s foamy heads. I’m too lazy to look up the number of hits, but I know it immediately became one of the most clicked stories on the site. Funny stuff.

Oh yeah, the story. It was called No-no to Nanos with the premise that, “Basically, oxymoronically, nanobrewers are like professional homebrewers” and that they should do ME a solid and keep it in the garage.

Beer Soup

I don’t know when she kicked it off, but All About Beer editor Julie Johnson launched the magazine’s online equivalent to E’s show Talk Soup (now just “The Soup”), a forum to discuss anything and everything in the brewing industry. In 2011 I was asked to keep the soup stirring. I used it to spitball beery ideas that I’d neglected to post on my own then-blog at BeerOdyssey. Here are some of my lasting favorites beginning with the first entry:

Building Brand Disloyalty (5/13/11). “Entrepreneur Eileen Hassi (Ritual Coffee) discussed the idea of local San Francisco coffee roasters creating a disloyalty card emulating the idea conceived by World Barista Champion Gwilym Davies in London…Buy the competitors’ products and get one on the house from us…the polar opposite idea of standard punch-cards (buy 10, get one free)….Beer folks are usually ahead of the curve when it comes to their brewing brethren, but for all the talk of camaraderie and being united against the corporate behemoths, wouldn’t it be great to see this concept emerge in cities with multiple brewpubs or tasting rooms?

Pairing with exes (5/23/11). We love to to pair beers with cheese, breakfast, music and even philosophy. Basically, we take beer and something else we love and muse about the perfect partnership. But what about pairing it with something we used to love, er, make that someone – wherein the partnership has ended?

Consistency (5/26/11). One of the keys to success in the brewing business – or any manufacturing industry – is offering a consistent product so the consumer knows what he’s getting each time. But in no small part, isn’t that anathema to what we love about our little indie breweries? If we all wanted homogenized beer, we know very well where to find that. Is consistency overrated? Is is ever okay to be differently great rather than consistently good?

Whales vs. Diapers (6/1/11). It’s bad enough to bogart rare beers. Is it worse to sell them?

Fruit Beers (6/7/11) and Vegetable Beers (6/8/11). Are we drinking beer or eating a salad in a glass? Of course, this line of thinking led to wondering what to pair with carrot cake (6/10/11)?

Nips. Already addressed here.

33,000 breweries? (6/30/11). The Brewers Association’s fact sheet tells us a lot, such as that there are presently 1,753 breweries operating in the US (give or take, since they also report that new breweries seem to bloom daily)…We don’t have 1,753carmakers or bluejeans brands or even record companies. Do we NEED that many breweries? This led to the next post (7/1/11) positing on the possibility of a brewpub on every corner.

IPA Day (7/12/11). It’s a thing. A month later, I grappled with “Brewers Droop.” The following week, I dealt with Hybridized IPAs for the first (bot not last) time.

Spiritual enlightenment two or three pints at a time (7/19/11). Brewers long ago, and I’m not talking in the early days of craft like Anchor’s Fritz Maytag and John Carpenter but hundreds of years prior, referred to the fermenting agent as “God is good.” …When we appreciate great beer, we might talk about the toastiness of the malt, the spiciness of the hops, or the earthiness (or cattiness) of the yeast, but don’t forget the holiness of the “God is good.”  Isn’t that what opens our mind holes the way it did for the Sumerians, Visigoths, and Romans did? Maybe it even helps us see the divine in each other.

Non brewery collaborations (8/1/11). Perhaps it started with BridgePort and the Audubon Society with Blue Heron Ale, first brewed in 1987 before the concept of the craft beer collaboration was born.

Keg on your coffin? (9/21/11). Chris Trapper’s first song’s first line went, “Put a keg on my coffin.” Throughout the rest of the song, I pondered that interesting twist on the desert island beers question about what you’d want to have if stranded out at sea. Admittedly, at first I started dreaming about what one keg I’d want with me inside my coffin.

Smoked cider (11/7/11). To say the cider tastes exactly like a big, smokey bratwurst (with just a hint of apple) is an accurate description.

Kumquats (11/18/11). I like beer and kumquats and think they could be divine together.

Music to my beers (2/3/12). There’s not shortage of by, about and for beer. What are some of your favorites?

The Oscar for Best Supporting Hops (3/8/12). The Academy Awards might be over, but there’s one category of film theyoverlooked. They’re not really documentaries, though they do document a vital element of our culture. …Oddly, though all sorts of awards go to special effects, what do we root for more than the way this particular subject matter affects our beer?

Why “nice” and “good” are bad (4/16/12). I literally cringe, my face scrunches up a bit, whenever I hear someone say, “A nice bottle of wine” or some such variant such as “a good Pinot.”

180 degrees (Is beer part of your life?) (7/3/12). My life is completely different than it was several years ago, but in the right ways. Before, I was always looking for the perfect girl and the perfect pint.

Purple States of Beer (8/7/12). Something to revisit as election cycles roll around!

10 reasons craft beer is not macho (9/18/12). Some examples:

1. They record notes about each beer they’ve enjoyed in a notebook.

5. Tulip glasses.

9. They use cellar as a verb.



Variety pack of 18 cl bottles. Photo: Brian Yaeger

Variety pack of 18 cl bottles. Photo: Brian Yaeger

I don’t recall the catalyst, but starting in 2011 I rapidly took up the mantle in support of small (AAB, Vol. 32, Iss. 2) forming something of a Nip Bottle Preservation Society (an army of one). Nips, typically those diminutive packages that offer a scant 250ml (about 7 fl. oz.) aren’t just cute, they’re great for myriad reasons. And I got to explore them even more beyond the feature story for a triptych of 3 posts in All About Beer’s then-blog, Beer Soup, for which I’d started blogging in early 2011.

Everybody Wants Some. Smaller portions of limited volume means more consumers get to try the beer (even if they get less liquid than they may like,)

Does this beer make me look fat? Sorry fellas, but beer’s not exactly dietetic. If we’re all about quality not quantity, maybe smaller portions aren’t such a bad thing.

It’s the economy, genius. Nips and splits are the answer to the “problem” of the rising cost of rare beer. I’d rather spend $16 for a 375ml than $30 for a 750.

But I didn’t stop there. I went on to launch and you can follow our exploits on #Twitter at @welovenips.

Remember, less is more.