Tag Archives: competition


23865088133_252df50ffd_zI was a pouring steward for the Oregon Beer Awards competition last Saturday. What this meant was that I stood on concrete for ten hours and poured beer to give to serving stewards, who wouldn’t know what the beer was, to provide to judges, who also wouldn’t know what the beer was. A double-blind, they called it.

How good were the judges? A beer was sent back because the judges could identify the brewer based on the description. That only happened once but it still impresses the hell out of me.

There were 525 entries and I’m fairly certain every active brewery in the state of Oregon sent beer. Every beer they make.  From the every day to the weird rare stuff, I saw a lot of beers pass through that room. After it had been judged, I even got to taste some! This is one of the perks of being a steward, and we deserve it, don’t let anyone tell you different. Highlights included stuff from Long (whom I had not heard of before this event), Base Camp (the anniversary Belgian dark is good) and Deschutes (2013 Dissident ale is outstanding, as one might expect).

The winners won’t be announced until Feb 23 so you know as much as I do at this point. But, they let us take some of the unopened beers home after the competition was over and that’s always nice. If you’ve been following me on the  Untappd app then you’ve probably seen me drinking and rating the spoils of my work. I didn’t feel like there was anything thematic enough for a full blog post but I can at least do short bursts there.

4+ Million Years Old

Water samples on display

It really doesn’t matter what you drink: every ounce of water you’ve ever put in you is reclaimed. Someone, throughout history, has pissed, shat, cleaned, died, or somehow fouled it.  Yet, odds are if you’re reading this, it’s because you’ve been drinking clean water.

That’s just a fact.

Canned entries for the competition

We have technology (and have had, for awhile) the ability to clean our water and make what was unusable, fit for consumption.  And if we want to continue to do so, the plans for keeping our water drinkable in the future have to start now.

This was my biggest takeaway from the Sustainable Water Challenge. I talked to beer judges, water people, organizers and all of them were extremely excited about the event but none of them failed to emphasize how important using our water in a smarter way is.

“The registration signup filled in 12 minutes,” Jason, who managed this specific event, told me.

“We had 25 entries, nearly double what we had last year,” Jaime, the OBC Competition Coordinator, said. They capped the entries because of logistical issues that kept them from bringing more water for brewers to brew with. Clearly, it wasn’t just the water people who were enthusiastic about this.

Best of show judging

This year also included a push to have the entries canned, because that is a more environmentally friendly way to ship beer,  and the yeast for all entries was provided by Imperial Organic yeast, again because their model ties into the themes of the Sustainable Water competition.

The beer styles were chosen deliberately; no IPAs or Stouts. Lagers, cream ales, Belgian pales: beer styles that while tasty, represent challenges to make because any flaws in those styles cannot be covered up by hops or malt additions with excessively strong flavors.

I got to have a few sips of beers that didn’t make it to the best of show round and I can honestly say: The flaws in those beers came from brewing flaws-like a lager that had a buttery flavor-and not from a problem with the water.

Which is a good thing, because we’re going to need water to make beer. Let’s get as much of it back as we can.


Collaborator Judging

I was asked to be a judge for the Widmer Collaborator competition, which was really cool and I’m glad I got to be a part of that!

For readers who don’t know: the Collaborator competition is  one that Widmer puts on in conjunction with the Oregon Brew Crew. The winner has their beer brewed by Widmer and sold around town. This is a definite feather in the cap of the brewer and Widmer gets to brew an interesting beer which they might make and market later so there’s a cool symbiosis going on there!

Collaborator judging is different from regular beer judging; we are looking for something that we feel will appeal to the market, not for something that is stylistically correct. It requires a bit of a shift in thinking but since I’m just a professional beer drinker, and not a professional judge, it wasn’t too big of a leap.

The picture is of the six beers I got to judge and while I’m sorry to say none of them went forward, I had a good time judging them. I didn’t worry about style, I concentrated on one question: Do I want another?

It’s unfortunate that I didn’t feel that way about any of them, because there were styles I was hoping to see, including an American Brown and Czech Dark Lager. I love it when really drinkable but underused styles are out there! Alas, they just had too many issues.

There was an IPA infused with pink peppercorn that almost made the cut but it wasn’t carbonated enough. As a result, the beer just didn’t pop like it needed to: it inspired some good conversation but in the end could not be recommended.

I found out later that three beers were chosen: a vanilla pale ale, a stout and an IPA age on Spanish cedar and I look forward to trying those!


Fall Classic Results

Last Saturday, I spent the day as head steward for the OBC’s Fall Classic. I handed off a whole lot of beer for people to drink and didn’t really get to try any myself….until the Best of Show round. I quietly sipped from every bottle I cleared away as the judges made their eliminations.

Some of the beers were pretty good. I remember the taste of solid amber and IPA entries. There were at least three, maybe five, that shouldn’t have been there at all; too fizzy, bad aftertaste, things like that. I spit them out–which feels weird at first but why drink something that tastes bad?

In the end, I stood by while the judges mulled over five beverages, debating which they should choose and I quietly sampled the entries as they debated. In the end, two were cut: one American Pale Ale (which was excellent) and a blonde ale (which was also excellent and took the Honorable Mention.)

The results are pretty astounding. A cider taking 3rd? It was like drinking a really good apple though. Not too crisp, not too sweet: just a really solid drink that could be had with almost anything.

Second place surprised me the most, though. I do not like cucumbers and I detest hot spices in my beer. But although the nose had a strong vegetal scent, the flavors worked together perfectly. I can’t explain it. That beer should have been something I hated and I didn’t. It’s the kind of thing I’d want to share because of the alchemy that makes a beer work, sometimes, even when it shouldn’t.

The title of first place porter doesn’t tell you enough: it was a raspberry porter that tasted like razor shavings of chocolate had been meshed with tart syrup and blended into awesome. It really deserved the victory and is a beer I would have stolen from the judges if I could have. It would’ve been like Prometheus taking fire to share with humanity, only with beer and I would’ve just shared it with my girlfriend.

But, you know. Close enough.