Thursday 23 April 2015

The Craft Brewers Conference 2015

Last week I went to the Craft Brewers Conference in Portland in the USA. It's a  much bigger event than the SIBA do, though apparently smaller than some European events. I was there mainly to plug some online training we're planning at work, though I was able to fit in a bit of research whilst I was out there.

This started with a trip to Spirit of 77, which was handy for where we were staying. They had about a dozen draught beers on.

I went for Double Mountain The Vaporizer, which went down very well, though now I've looked the beer up I'm slightly embarrassed to see its made using the English hop variety Challenger. Oh well, at least they were grown locally.

The next morning I looked to see what our hotel had in the way of lardy goodness on the breakfast buffet. Not that I had a pressing need for it but it pays to be prepared. Sadly there were thin pickings of pork products.

No bacon, so I had to make do with small sausages and weird squares of omelet. I'm used to better. I suppose that as Britain leads the world in beer and pubs, it's unsurprising (and indeed quite possibly related) that we also lead the world in fried breakfasts.

We are however way behind America in terms of gun nuts, so seeing the woman that felt the need to arm herself before coming to breakfast was something new.

Here she is, forlornly looking for bacon

and there's her gun in case she needs to kill anyone
The next day I managed to get to a specialist beer bar, Henry's Tavern, sited in part of an old brewery. They had 100 beers on tap here, which was something that caused me some concern. Whilst keg beer may have a longer shelf life than cask beer, there'll still be bugs growing in the beer lines so I didn't want anything that had been sitting around for ages.

The beers I had were fine though, and I was particularly pleased to see Deschutes Freshly Squeezed IPA as it was one I could remember being recommended by the Beervana bloke. 

As with everywhere I went the waitress was very helpful and cheery, a definitely cultural difference there. I can't help but think it's because they're all on crap pay and desperate for tips though.

As to the conference I was there mainly to plug some online training we have planned, though I did have time to wander around too. Amongst the many things on display a brand new open copper cooler must rank as the most surprising find. It's fascinating to see how interest in sour beers is growing to such and extent that long obsolete equipment is being built again, but I'm still sticking with a paraflow.

I also heard from chatting with the guy stall opposite that they sell 750,000 shives in the states each year, compared to around 6 million in the UK. A jolly good show from our cousins across the pond, though I wonder how far that puts them behind Britain? Apparently the UK is ten years behind the states in craft beer, but I suspect America is rather further behind in cask beer. And I would guess they're both equal in industrial lager.

Cider is also on the up in the states, and through no fault of my own I ended up at a cider maker's - I blame an academic from an inferior midlands based institution. Still, it was alright and we went for beer later.

A hopped cider festival is coming up soon

The beers were from Lagunitas. The session IPA tasted like thin hop juice, the IPA tasted like hop juice and the wheat beer also tasted like hop juice. There's a bit of a theme going on here. I was keen to get overdosed on hops whilst in Portland though and much as I like balanced beers I wasn't looking for them here.

For my last night there were lots of interesting places to get to but the most important one for me was meeting up with an old mate. He'd started the evening earlier than me but I managed to catch up with him hanging out with other Canadian brewers at the Hair Of The Dog brewpub.

Much to my surprise they had a 3.2% ABV dark mild on. I was half tempted to try it but remembered I was here for the hops so went with the pale ale.

Sadly it was opaque with yeast so rated not right. I'm not a fan of drinking yeast and it really doesn't help hoppy beers. There was a treat in store though as one of the guys there was cake-o bake-o and generous with it too so we got to share a pricey barrel aged beer. It was good stuff.

The plan was to move on to another brewery but after some world class faffing by one of the people I was with, followed by another desperately trying to pull, and lets face it the fact we didn't really know where we were going, by the time we got there the place had stopped serving. It seems inbreeding is popular in Portland too. But never mind there was another brewery nearby so we went on to that.

This was Cascade Brewing Barrel House, a place that specialises in sour beers. So much for my hunt for hops. The beers were good though, I wouldn't say there were up with the best of the Belgians but I certainly enjoyed them.

I also got asked for photo ID on the way in. Slightly bizarre I though, even more so as they let me in despite the only photo ID I had not having my date of birth on it. Having seen my hairline I guess they knew there were just going through the motions.

On the walk back we passed a strip club, and talked about how sleazy it was. Little did we know it had been a venue for a do put on by craft brewers that week. Oh dear, oh dear.

That was pretty much it for me and Portland, though I did have a nice pint at the airport. I enjoyed my time there, and the beer culture which is good, but different. A bit like the language really.


  1. Cask Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA was one of the best beers I drank last year. I had to force myslef to leave after 4 pints lest I fall over.

    1. It was the sort of beer I was looking for whilst in the states.

  2. Oregon is an anomalous open carry state. Not expressly permitted but not made illegal.

    1. I'm glad she was the only person that made the most of the anomaly, it was a bit unnerving.

  3. When I went to Henry's I posed the question about being able to turn over enough beer before the beer went bad and the manager came out and chatted to us about it. He said that 99% of the kegs sell through in about 14 days and any beer that hits 30 days is taken off and shared among the staff, pretty standard practice out there in a lot of specialist beer bars I gather. He also remarked that where possible he bought half kegs instead of full sized ones which many of the local breweries offer. They also cleaned the lines after the keg is replaced even if the same beer is going on.

    I'd say Portland is probably the best and most exciting beer city I have ever been to and I long to go back but then, I love a bit of thin hop juice me ;)

    1. So he cleans his lines about once a fortnight? That doesn't strike me as anywhere near enough, although clearly he knows what he's doing.

  4. Still sounds a long time to me, though I suppose it could be worse.

    I did like Portland and would happily spend more time there but there's lots of places in Britain I prefer. Much as I like hop juice I guess I generally prefer balanced brown bitter.