The Session #130: Create Your Own Beerfest

3664495894_75dbf1b0bf_mWell this is fun. Writing my own entry for The Session that I’m hosting/foisting on my fellow beer bloggers. The self-imposed assignment is to write about how (I) would design (my) dream beer festival. Conceptually, I tried to take all the major facets into account: theme, beer style(s), location, attendance, ticket pricing, and my overarching-ampersand that affects the way I think about enjoying beer, writing about beer, and celebrating beer, “and,” as in “beer and.” In other words, this is a festival for beer and what-else?

The level of self-interest in this ain’t veiled. I actually throw a few beer festivals back in Portland where I got to live from 2010 to the summer of 2017. And I may take a stab at one here in SoCal (since beerfests and sun go snifter-in-hand). My first baby is Baker’s Dozen in which I invite a baker’s dozen worth of breweries to make a coffee beer using 13 roasters’ beans and attendees also get samples from 13 doughnuteries (the 4th annual fest will be March 11, 2018). There’s Kriekfest, a celebration of Belgian Kriek-inspired beers or imports from Belgium that takes place in the Columbia River Gorge surrounded by Oregon cherry orchards (mark your calendars for July 21, 2018). For a couple years I had a hoot doing The Rural Brewer, inspired both by visiting all the tiny Oregon breweries in tiny towns far from the greater beer map as well as the running gag in 30 Rock about an off-broadway musical, The Rural Juror. And, what started as and really should’ve remained just a fun what-if exercise in beerfest tomfoolery, City of Goses. (Because beer puns.)

What these tell me is that I clearly love niche beer festivals. And that, both by design in the fact that sales are capped and never would’ve sold far beyond that cap (500), I prefer settings that are cozier. It’s what the Dutch call gezellig. That was my pitch to Portland’s moribund Bazi Bierbrasserie in launching Gluhbier Night—an intimate affair of warm, mulled beers that are a way of life at European Christmas markets (along with the infinitely more popular gluhwein). Beer fests, to me, are like the perfect concerts. It’s not that I’ve never attended stadium concerts (Rolling Stones. Eric Clapton. Even Michael Jackson at Dodger Stadium supporting Thriller!). And it’s not that I don’t love OBF and GABF with their thousands and thousands of revelers. But when you’re at a smaller venue, you feel a sense of camaraderie and anyone there might become your new beer drinking buddy. I’m still friends with someone I met a decade ago at a blues and brews fest, highlighting the power of both beer and music. So for me, when the number of attendees stretches out into the triple digits but not the fours, I think you’re really mashing with steam.

Style-wise, there’s absolutely something to be said for a fest where you get to enjoy as wide a range of styles as brewers can conceive. My palate doesn’t mind bouncing around from bitter IPA to boozy BBA behemoth to puckering lambic-style and then mellow out with an approachable Continental lager. But my dream beer fest doesn’t peddle in that kind of cerveza schizophrenia. I do relish IPAs, stouts, and barrel-aged beers, but there’s no shortage of IPA fests (and IIPA and IIIPA) or dark beer fests or wood-aged ones. I’m not interested in recreating an event that’s been done before. Clearly, I really love coffee beers. And my favorite fruited beers really are cherry ones (sorry Framboise-o-philes, I rarely share your raspberry romance). One beer fest I loved conceptually was Mighty Mites, conceived and curated by session beer statesman Jeff Alworth. Nothing over 4% ABV! Imagine a fest where you can truly sample every beer and walk out on your own accord. It occurred once and then Bazi continued a watered down (I see what I did there) version of it as part of the Hawthorn Street Fair. I also was enamored with Portland Mercury’s Malt Ball, wherein Portland brewers and bands truly sat down and created a beer designed to pair with the band’s sound. They never pulled it off perfectly, but the concept was divine. So for this imaginary fest I’m scheming up, one thing I’m currently crushing on is herbal beers. (Sage beers, anyone?!) Saisons infused with Basil or thyme supplement my love of hops. This is very much in the domain of Beers Made By Walking.

herbgardenAs for my “beer and” thoughts above, since every festival is essentially a giant beer garden, naturally this one would have a giant herb garden. Picture a farmer’s market meets cooking demonstration where you get to learn about ways to use these various herbs: homemade tinctures, remedies, growing tips, and more. Keep in mind I can hardly grow a bed of mint so this is something I could really use.

As for the twin elements of festival location and region the participating breweries hail from, which I cushioned as “locavore vs. globetrotter,” I’m torn on this. Much like the best beer is, theoretically, the one in my hands, the best beer fest is the one closest to me. But in reality, neither is always or frequently true. I’ve seen some beer events championing smoked beers, and I have no clue if this is a thing, but if someone held a Rauchbierfest in Bamberg, I’d be part of that zeitgeist. Still, I’d like to see the best of smoke from breweries in and beyond Franconia. I’m still kicking myself for not getting to Night of Great Thirst, Belgium’s lambicfest, when we lived in neighboring Holland. And even that now includes great representations from breweries as far afield as the USA. So my mythical Herbal Beer Fest for anywhere from 500-999 beer fans is to be held in a gnome’s garden or a færie’s forest. And I want creatures from all around to fly or burrow their way in.

Incidentally, one of the items I put forward to participants for this exercise is to come up with the price of admission. This is something I completely struggle with IRL. As the events organizer, I confess I’d like to make money off of them. As someone who attends way more beer fests than I put on, I like to not spend a ton. I’m convinced that my events are a great value, based on how little I’ve ever made off of them. Maybe I should bring in sponsors. Maybe I should charge more. One thing I’ll never do is offer a VIP session. Unlike, say, flying somewhere where the passengers have nothing in common except a destination, concert goers and festival attendees are in it together. They should be communal and therefore egalitarian. (By way of confession, when I accept media passes to a beerfest, they sometimes include the perks of VIP admission. Perhaps that’s hypocritical, but I’d never pay extra to feel entitled to MORE of the beerfest than my anyone else. Also, I never use all my media tokens and end up sharing them with strangers.) So I don’t like to give anyone special privileges just because they could pay more than the hoi polloi. Maybe that’s just me and maybe I’m leaving money on the table as a result.

Now, am I really going to put on this beerfest? No. Well, never say never. Like I said, I do want to create something here in SoCal that we don’t already have. And despite the bi-annual release of the Stone Brewing collab saison featuring parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, I don’t believe there’s any event just for herbal beers. If anyone reading this wants to partner, you know where to find me. But first, gut check: would you buy a ticket?

Announcing The Session #130 – Create Your Own Beerfest

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The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is our–the global beer blogging community’s–monthly get-together to write from our own respective perspectives on a single topic (of the monthly host’s choosing, which for December, 2017 means me). Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. The series was created and is organized by the duo of Stan Hieronymus and Jay R. Brooks, and more information can be found on the latter’s site.

I’m honored to be hosting for the second time, first back in 2009, and not unexpectedly have landed on a topic near’n’dear to my heart: beerfests. Your mission, should you choose to accept it (and please, as someone who’s come back to The Session fold, I’m pushing to get 20+ fellow beer bloggers to participate in December, and onward) is to write about how you would design your dream beer festival. Posts are due Friday, December 1.

There are actually so many regional, local, and niche beer fests these days, we’re hearing a bit about “beerfest fatigue.” And I get that. Can you really hit 52 of ’em a year if you live somewhere near Portland, San Diego, Denver, Chicago, Philly, NYC, etc? As someone who attends more than my fair share, sadly not all are created equal, but one I may not care for is probably someone else’s annual favorite. Things to ponder:

  • Size matters: When building your own fest, are you striving for a crowd of Oktoberfest proportions in the millions, an epic party of many thousands, or more intimate few hundred?
  • Styles matter: From GABF where over 7,900 beers across every imaginable style (and mash-up) were available for sampling to themed events such as barrel-aged beers or holiday ales, to the plethora of IPA fests and some other single-style fests, would the event of your design be a grab-bag or exhibit razor-sharp focus?
  • Locavore vs Globe Trotter: After deciding what kind of beers to feature, or even before, think about if you’re inviting your local breweries or ones from your Brewery Fantasy League. Are attendees going to be more tempted to support local or to get a taste of beers from breweries they don’t already have access to? Let’s put aside for a second how hard it can be to bring in a brewery that’s not already licensed to distribute in your home town if that’s where this event is.
  • Location, location, and timing: The most important element of a successful event is its location. Followed by location. Followed by timing. When and where is this fantasy beerfest of yours? Is it in a city rife with events (meaning they’ve proven to be popular) or one starved for such a fest (but who’s to say if the locals will support)? And does it take place in the summer at the height of beer drinking season or a less-crowded date where it can shine on its own?
  • Etcetera. There’s a lot more that goes into organizing a beer fest. (I know from experience in producing some that have turned into annual events and some I’ve let slip away as a one- or two-off.) So if you want to opine about your favorite kind of glassware (or hated glasses you always see), ticket prices, food vendors, or anything else that you hate witnessing or wonder why we don’t see something like we should, add that, too. Finally, end with a note about why you can see trying to make this fantasy fest a reality or why you’ll never advance this idea of yours beyond the Session post!

Thanks for participating. Again, please post your blog in the comments below by or on Friday, Dec. 1. Or you can tag me @yaeger when you post on Twitter.

The Session #129: Missing Beer Styles

sessionBefore I even jump into the 129th entry in the decade-long running Beer Blogging Session, I’m happy to announce that Yours Truly will be hosting the 130th rendition of The Session! I won’t hijack my own post and spill the beans what the topic will be (stay tuned for my announcement next week), so now I can resume tackling this month’s subject as conjured up by Eoghan Walsh and hosted at his Brussels Beer City is: Missing Local Beer Styles.

In 2017 it might seem odd to think that there are beer styles missing from our local markets. We seem to be living in an era of almost ubiquitous choice – where almost every style of beer is available to us either in bars or online, and where new styles quickly break out from their local markets to be brewed by craft or independent breweries around the world. Often though, this choice feels like one between an IPA, a session IPA, a double IPA, a NEIPA, a black IPA (although, really?), West Coast IPA, fruited IPA, etc.

You get the picture.

Outside of large metropolitan areas, areas with a large craft beer culture, or regions without recourse to online shopping the spread of different or new styles can remain limited. …(As such) what beer style would you like to see being brewed in your local market that is not yet being brewed?

Posed this question one month ago, I’d have had a hard time delivering an answer. The only beer style that it seems my local or most of America’s craft breweries completely ignore of late is the English IPA (*rimshot*). But there, on the floor of this year’s GABF, Austin’s Live Oak Brewing was sampling attendees with a smoky motif: a 4.4% Heller Rauchbier, a whopper, jr. of a 3% Grodzinskie, and—voila—what I recall was my first taste of a Lichtenhainer. If you caught yourself reaction with “a what-en-heinie?!” you’re excused for never having heard of it before. In a few words, it’s a smoked German sour ale. In more than a few words, here’s Live Oak’s description from their webpage outlining their brilliant line of six rauchbiers:

Lichtenhaier is a German beer style that vanished in the 1980s. Similar in strength and tartness to Berliner Weisse, this beer adds the intriguing aroma of smoked malt. Fermentation with yeast and Lactobacillus creates an acidic profile. The low bitterness and high level of carbonation allows for full enjoyment of the subtle lemony acid and smoke flavors. Please enjoy this historical re-recreation. OG 9ºP, ABV 3.2%, IBU: 6

Now, I love me some thick, bone-toasting Aecht Schlenkerla Doppelbock at 8% or their 6.4% Hellerbock, each robust with bacony goodness that leaves me reeking as if I’ve stumbled into a bonfire, this Lichtenhainer was still big on smoke, medium on tartness, making it huge on flavor yet a featherweight in both body and alcohol. In other words: a perfect beer! And yet, the only time I’d ever come across the style name was general passages lumping German sour ales together such as goses and gratzers. As was to be expected, I found an entry about them on Shut Up About Barclay Perkins (and much of the good stuff is Ron Pattinson (mis-credited as Martyn Cornell initially because of a spirited sandwich feud taking place on Jay Brooks’s Facebook wall that gave me Martyn-on-the-brain) quoting vintage publications, beginning with this quote from Dr. Max Delbrück’s Brauerei-Lexicon of 1910:

“Lichtenhainer is made from smoked barley malt alone, it acquires its sourish taste not during primary fermentation, as does Berliner Weisse, but only through a later developing infection with lactic acid bacteria. . . .”

As for its appellation, Pattinson notes where Lichtenhainer hails or hailed from:

“Real” Lichtenahainer came from the villages of Wöllnitz, Ziegenhain, Ammerbach, Winzerla and, of course, Lichtenhain.

One thing I personally find interesting is that Lichtenhein, a village in Saxony, is exactly 330 kilometers southeast of Goslar where un-smoked goses emanated and 330 km northeast of Bamberg where non-soured rauchbiers have never gone extinct.

*Update* It only took Ron a few hours to not only see my post but make a few amendments. Not quite corrections as I don’t believe I got anything wrong, per se, about Lichtenhainer’s disapperance, but I’m sure Pattinson would like everyone to be aware that “Berliner Weisse was also smoked until the 1840’s. Grätzer/Grodziskie was never a sour style” and furthermore that “Lichtenhainer only disappeared for a few years.” I will say that, if it only disappeared for a few years, even people who were declared dead and then get their pulse back seconds or minutes later get to claim they were legally dead.

So there we have it. I don’t have much more to extrapolate after that, but I’m glad that I had an answer for this month’s Session and I’m glad the Session gave me an outlet to praise effusively Live Oak’s rendition of a Lichtenhainer as well as add another global destination on my bucketlist to hunt down an authentic iteration. Then again, if more breweries (that I have access to far from Texas) start giving a lick, I would only have to make the journey to my local watering hole.

The Session #127: Bottle Shops

sessionSo the 127th topic for The Session is, if you’ll pardon the crude analogies, akin to asking Cheech & Chong about what makes a great head shop or the late Hugh Hefner which campuses to scour for Playmates. Let’s let Jack Perdue over at Deep Beer set it up:

The theme chosen is Bottle Shops: Good, Bad & The Ugly. I find bottle shops interesting and would like to learn other perspectives on these places many of us purchase our favorite quaffs. We love our beer and have a variety of options in acquiring it. Some home brew, others like to visit their local pubs, beer tourism and beer destinations have become a trend, but the ever popular bottle shop is often the best and most reliable means for finding our next beer.

Of course, not all bottle shops are the same.

As a greenhorn, I first dipped my toes into the malted waters in the megachain BevMo. In those days, though, the modern bottle shop scarcely existed since craft beer was on the uptick and wax-dipped, corked’n’caged, coolship-fermented, foeder-aged beers had yet to dominate the glassy knolls of today’s beer geek Meccas.

From witnessing firsthand the birth of San Francisco’s revered City Beer Store where Craig & Beth curated exceptional coolers and shelves full of whalez bait and across town where Eric Cripe once converted The Jug Shop into the bomber bastion of the Bay to my most recent local retailer, the world-famous Belmont Station now helmed by Lisa Morrison, bottle shops have long served as my social hub, ear to the tracks, and source of retail therapy. I dare confess they’ve alleviated any chance my bank account has had of ever appearing bloated.

Furthermore, some of my best memories on the Open Beer Road have included the time I spent hours at Goebel Liquor talking to Rob Miller, III about his “World of Beer” where he sold self-cellared carriers of Celebration verticals and was grooming his son, Rob, IV, to manage the store where they’ve stopped counting after the 1,700th SKU. That was in Wichita, KS and I had an even more memorable–or forgetful–night in Bowling Green, KY where Blake Layne tapped for me the keg of Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout he’d been hording at Chuck’s. It was also the first time I’d enjoyed Brooklyn Black Ops RIS. And several more which I can’t detail since the night ended with me checking into a room at the hotel across the road.

Bottle shops are great because–besides the obvious, which is that it’s where you go to buy good beer and get recommendations from the employees who ought to be the most credible, local experts–they’re the closest beer lovers have to treasure chests. In lieu of gold dobloons and strings of pearls, you are rewarded with shelf after shelf of bourbon-aged stouts and fruit-forward sour ales; Bohemian pilsners, German pilsners, dry-hopped pilsners, and silly imperial or black or yuzu pilsners abound. But what about the buried treasure? One of the most fun things you can do at a huge bottle shop, especially one that’s in a less populated town or even in the less trendy neighborhoods, is getting down on your hands and knees and moving bottles around to rifle through dusty, forgotten and forlorn bottles in the back that less eagle-eyed whale hunters have missed. Once, when The Bruery’s Four Calling Birds came out, I happened upon a Partridge in a Pear Tree. And long after Deschutes’s Brandy-aged The Abyss had been snatched up by the devil’s share, I received the angel’s.

I shop less at these places today than I used to (this blogger tells himself as he’s en route to Denver where he knows he’ll stop into Mr. B’s near his Airbnb pad and scour the coolers and aisles searching for American krieks, maybe a beloved CONE-IPA [that’s not an IPA made with hop cones but Colo-brewed New England-style], and even though he only buys beers from the state he’s in, he’ll make an exception if he finds anything from Missouri’s Scratch Brewing like he did last year). Partly because with a kid, I have less time for shopping as well as hosting bottle parties. But also hugely because I did so much that my cellar overfloweth and I’m on hiatus until I can drink it down to clear some room. And that’s after our recent move which necessitated depleting the stash by a solid 20%. But like I said up front, no matter how crudely, somewhere between being an addict and a connoisseur lies the layer many of today’s beer consumers and the place we get our fix or strike gold is down at the bottle shop.

 

Inn Beervana Powering Down: The transplants are transplanting again

IMG_0626“Inn Beervana is a fantastic option for a stay in Portland; the location is excellent, the place is comfortable and cozy, and hosts Brian and Kimberley are really engaging and lovely (and if you are coming to explore the craft beer scene in the Pacific NW, you’ll find so many of your questions answered by all the great literature and conversations from Brian — which honestly saves a ton of time given the vastness of the options in town and the surrounding areas!)”

That’s one of the 89 5-star reviews we’ve received for the vacation rental Wifey and I have run via Airbnb and VRBO since 2011, having moved from San Francisco to PDX in late 2010. (We’ve received 90 reviews but one only gave 4 stars.) And while I’m proud of the quality we delivered and maintained over the years, just being a part of traveler’s visits to Portland has been one of my favorite things about living here. It’s a city that I always loved visiting on road trips and other beer trips and, looking back, had always felt like it’d make a great home town. Which of course it is. It’s the best town I’ve gotten to call home so this is remarkably bittersweet that the Yaegers—who moved here as newlyweds with our new dog—will soon be leaving here as a family of four. Izzy will forever be an Oregonian! Only now he’ll have PNW rainwater in his veins but California sunshine making his mop top glow. More importantly, it’s the sun Wifey needs. What Portland offers in quality of life, it lacks in Vitamin D.

“Quality of Life.” That has been the oft-spoken mantra in the Yaeger household since we realized we’d been priced out of affording a home in the San Francisco Bay Area that was only part of the parcel that propelled us to the PNW. Wifey’s lucrative job offer that included a relocation package was a major element, but even that followed a trip to Montana to attend a family wedding and realizing how much my family around the Northwest enjoyed what the region offers was the true catalyst.

There’s a line in my first beer book taken from an interview I conducted with Kurt and Rob Widmer in their joint office in 2005. Kurt said, “The reason craft brewing started here on the West Coast is not so much a link to the Old World as it is quality of life. And, of course, here we have beer drinkers who are receptive to new things.”

IMG_5824It’s kinda funny that Oregonians get their feathers ruffled by Californians who move here when I find that the majority of transplants are from other states (predominantly the Midwest). Nobody has control over where they have to be from. But as adults, we get to choose where we want to be. As an L.A. native, the migratory nature of the population was easy to understand: who wouldn’t want to leave the grey or flat or provincial places they’re from and live somewhere warm and where you can find your people. Of course, I grew to hate how long it takes to drive to where your people are. I still love my family and all my people there, I just can’t stand to exist surrounded by it. I think it’s a safe statement to make that I’m pretty chill. But only Wifey know the extent of my road rage. That’s one of the factors that excluded a move back to the Bay. Plus: tech bro douchebags amiright?

So yes, I’ve felt at home here from day one and have almost-entirely been made to feel welcome in my Portlander skin. I don’t think that’s because I own some flannel shirts or even necessarily because I’m into the whole craft beer thing. Portland isn’t about craft beer; craft beer is about Portland. It’s about being a part of the local culture, reflecting a breadth of styles and flavors limited only by one’s creativity. It’s a freckle in the tattooed constellation in the shape of Oregon.

Here’s how I know that. Over these last few years I’ve had the honor and privilege of developing a few beer festivals. Via Inn Beervana, I get to host beercationers on their pilgrimages to our Beer Mecca. Via an assortment of national publications and, locally, at first with Willamette Week and now with Portland Mercury, plus Portland Monthly, 1859, Oregon Beer Growler, Beer Northwest, SIP Northwest, and this one for a rag called Portland Bride & Groom! I get to write about the beer industry and community. Via my beerfests, I get to further support breweries. Just since 2016, between Baker’s Dozen, Kriekfest, City of Goses as well as The Rural Brewer, Beer For Breakfast and Gluhbiers, I bought kegs from 60 Oregon (and Southern Washington) breweries. As a result I raised $72,000…$61,000 of which went back to those brewers as well as doughnut bakers, glass makers, poster designers, fee collectors, crowd securers, Honey Bucket lenders, etc. Additionally, these ventures have raised money that have been donated to some excellent Oregon nonprofits: Friends of the Children, Caldera Arts, All Hands Raised, Habitat-Portland, Oregon Environmental Council, New Avenues for Youth, and, to forward brewing education, the Glen Hay Falconer Foundation. Ultimately, my events are barely profitable but hey, at least I’m not losing money and damn are they fun (for me and hopefully for attendees). I mean, I threw myself into City of Goses all because someone (else) thought of a great pun and it enabled me to work with a handful more breweries I hadn’t been able to feature before. As for the 2nd annual Kriekfest? I’m pretty proud that it’ll be my swan song as an Oregon resident and you bet your sweet, sweet ass I’ll be returning to Oregon for the 3rd annual. And 4th. And 4th annual Baker’s Dozen in March and…

I’m serious. Portland will forever be a part of me and I am adamant that I’ll forever find ways to remain directly, physically connected. Whether you like it or not.

 

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The family that visits breweries together, wait, what rhymes with breweries?

As it stands today, according to some spreadsheet that a few anal beer lovers and I have maintained, I’ve visited 218 of Oregon’s 250 breweries currently operating. (Another 26 I’ve hit have since closed.) I’m kicking myself for the couple of Portland area ones I wasn’t able to hit this last week (all under the radar types) but at least I got IPYae into Natian’s tasting room being built out as Ian and I drank some blonde ale from his brewing facility a block away, giving IPYae an Oregon count of 113 (I actually don’t count our beer brunch at Block 15 in Corvallis because I didn’t snap a pic for the Irresponsible Photos Of My Baby at Breweries album (and as we all know, pic or it doesn’t count). BUT… come Friday night we might be 1 or 2 higher as we cross into California.

 

 

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Phew! They have some breweries in Santa Barbara.

Yes, we’re going back to Cali, to Cali, to Cali. We’re going to load up the Oregon-issued Subaru Outback—expect Wifey to trade it in for a convertible Mini Cooper or something down in sunny Santa Barbara. She needs the sunshine; I need to not be in a megalopolis like LA or SF. And we’ll both be closer to our families. They’re all pretty ecstatic to have us back—at least to have their grandson/nephew/cousin Izzy close by for the first time. My parents are over the moon. As is my second wife. (I’m referring to this story from the New York Times about three marriages, just all to the same person. We are entering a second phase of our marriage.) The marriage to my first wife brought us to Oregon, saw us raise our phenomenal son who is funny and smart and adventurous and compassionate and a Portland-born Oregonian to his core. He loves listening to the rain! He hates the sound of cars honking. He points out hops growing wild.

 

I am embracing the adventure and can’t wait to see how my forthcoming second marriage unfolds. And our third, for that matter. Wherever that one takes us.

Much love to you all. Log off the internet more. Be good to each other.

Brian

ANNOUNCING BAKER’S DOZEN FREE—FEATURING 13 VICELESS COFFEE BEERS & DONUTS

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Brian Yaeger Presents
brian@beerodyssey.com

ANNOUNCING THE 1st ANNUAL BAKER’S DOZEN FREE—FEATURING 13 VICELESS COFFEE BEERS & DONUTS

Beervana, OR, April. 1, 2017 – Following on the heels of the Third Annual Baker’s Dozen Fest last month comes the festival Portlanders have been clamoring for, which will feature 13 gluten free non-alcoholic beers made with decaffeinated coffee and vegan donuts.

“Every time we do the whole coffee beer and doughnut thing, people chime in on Facebook or Snapchat, “Are any of the donuts going to be vegan?” said beer festival organizer Brian Yaeger. “We get people showing up and asking where the gluten-free beers are, or stating that the event would be more inclusive if the brewers considerately used decaf coffee. And you wouldn’t believe how many people ask if kids are allowed to attend and if so, will there be non-alcoholic drinks for them. So Bakers Dozen FREE is our way of saying, “We hear you. You’re on a gluten free, caffeine free, alcohol free, animal free diet. And you deserve a beer fest of your own.” Up from Baker’s Dozen’s three sessions, this event is expected to sell out and hence will occur over three sessions on Saturday, April 1. To commemorate Baker’s Dozen Free, tickets will be free, with the usual online ticketing fee of $14.99, available at TicketMaster.com/BakersDozenFree.

Admission includes samples of every non-caffeine-infused, coffee-infused, enzymatically-deglutenized, unfermented-beverage and cruelty-free donut bite. Examples of treats, er, “treats” featured at the event include a collaboration between Lunarmollusk Brewing Company and Slumptown Coffee Roasters. Queue up early for the beer everyone will be raving about on Intreppd: a Cracker Barrel-aged, hazy IPA made from flax seeds with zero IBUs and zero ABVs dry-hopped with Folgers flavor crystals. Pair these with whatever’s available from the spinning display case of Voodoo’s vegan offerings.

Bring your partner. Bring your Tinder date. Bring your kids. Bring your Mormon, Celiac, PETA-supporting neighbors. Bring everyone because this is the beer festival everyone’s been clamoring for that doesn’t exclude anybody’s restrictions.* (*Event organizers are working on Bakers Dozen Tree-nut-free for April 1, 2018.)

Pertinent links: Ticketing TicketMaster.com/BakersDozenFree ($Free online, $Priceless at the door.)Facebook: Facebook.com/BakersDozenFree

Facebook: Facebook.com/BakersDozenFree

Twitter: @BakersDozenFreePDX

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How Firestone Walker Learned to Stop Over-serving and Ban the Bomber

bravo_12ozbottle_boxKudos to Firestone Walker Brewing! I just received a release (pasted at bottom) announcing, yes, the return of Bravo Imperial Brown Ale, but more importantly, the announcement about their decision to abandon the bomber and embrace smaller packaging. Publicist Sean Christopher Weir calls this, “The upside of downsizing.”

Brewmaster Matt Brynildson said, “It’s something that a lot of people have been clamoring for, and we decided to finally pull the trigger.” The primary benefit of such a move, the release added, is “the ability to enjoy a high-gravity, barrel-aged beer without committing to consuming a full 22-ounce bottle.” In conclusion and in Brynildson’s words, “The per-bottle price point becomes more palatable, and we can spread the same amount of beer farther so that more people can try it. It also makes it easier to drink one now and age another for later.”

This is EXACTLY what I first preached in the print pages and the webpages of All About Beer (beginning here. here,, and here in June, 2011 and with In Support of Small, AAB Vol. 32, Iss. 2 from May, 2012). Nips (or pony bottles) are a subject also covered by Punch Magazine’s Megan Krigbaum last August and veteran beer scribe Lew Bryson online at The Full Pint just a couple weeks ago. They’re even one of my silly Twitter handles: @WeLoveNips.

Now, Firestone’s move sees the company abandoning 22-ounce bottles for regular 12-ounce bottles, akin to downsizing from 750s to “splits” (375-ml). As the release notes, “A 12-ounce bottle is perfect for two reasonable servings.” While I’d personally love to see this movement lead to the full mini-monty—meaning traditional third-liter nips or between 166 and 250 ml—even the move into 355-ml like a twelve is a victory. It will result not only in more people actually being able to afford beers like Bravo and their stellar anniversary beers, but more people actually drinking them since we no longer will have to wait for just the right moment when just the right people are over to crack and enjoy it. After all, you are the right person and this move makes it feasible to enjoy with the best person you know: yourself.

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Paso Robles, CA: For the first time since its brewing inception more than a dozen years ago, Firestone Walker’s “Bravo” imperial brown ale is finally finding its way into the bottle, with a limited release set for early February across all Firestone Walker markets.

Along the way, Bravo ($9.99) launches the transition of all Firestone Walker Vintage Reserve barrel-aged beers from 22-ounce bombers to individually boxed 12-ounce bottles in 2017, to include longtime stalwarts such as Parabola and the annual Anniversary Ale.

Bravo: Back to The Future

Bravo was the first beer matured in retired spirits barrels by Brewmaster Matt Brynildson in late 2004, during the experimental stages of what would become Firestone Walker’s inaugural Anniversary Ale.

From day one, Bravo has epitomized Firestone Walker’s approach to barrel-aged beers. “At the time, most barrel-aged beers veered toward the sweeter side,” Brynildson said. “We wanted to make something more dry and lean that would really allow the true bourbon barrel character to pop.”

Bravo has remained one of the driest beers in Firestone Walker’s Vintage Reserve series of barrel-aged beers, and since day one has been considered a vital component in the annual blending of the Anniversary Ale, balancing out some of the stickier components.

“Coming out of stainless steel, Bravo is pretty bracing,” Brynildson said. “But when it goes into the barrel, it really mellows out, and the barrel character comes to the forefront.”

Another signature of Bravo is a lively malt quality that is maintained through Firestone Walker’s cold-storage of its barrel-aged beers. “It has this malt character that is surprisingly fresh,” he said. “There’s a ton of barrel character, and a lot of toffee and caramel. It has the flavor of things sweet, but without being cloying or oxidative.”

The Upside of Downsizing

Henceforth, all beers from Firestone Walker’s Vintage Reserve line of barrel aged beers will be bottled in the 12-ounce format, although total production of each beer remains the same.

“We’ve been thinking about doing this for a while now,” Brynildson said. “It’s something that a lot of people have been clamoring for, and we decided to finally pull the trigger.”

Brynildson noted that the primary benefit is the ability to enjoy a high-gravity, barrel-aged beer without committing to consuming a full 22-ounce bottle.

“With beers like this, a 12-ounce bottle is perfect for two reasonable servings,” he said.

He added, “The per-bottle price point becomes more palatable, and we can spread the same amount of beer farther so that more people can try it. It also makes it easier to drink one now and age another for later. It’s just a lot more flexible.”

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