2012 Best of the Year Awards

Rather than have one blogger pick his or her favorite beers, brewers, IPAs, and etc. of 2012, I have polled a number of writers, critics, industry professionals, and just plain expert beer geeks for their picks on the best of Oregon craft beer, as well as industry awards for Best Non-Oregon Beer and Best and Worst trends. The judges were Jonathan Carmean, manager of Saraveza; Paul Kasten from Wildwood Restaurant; Bill Night from the It's Pub Night blog; Jeff Alworth of Beervana; Holly Emery-Walen, manager of Belmont Station's Bier Cafe; Jon Abernathy, beer blogger at The Brew Site; Brian Yaeger, beer writer for All About Beer mag; Abram Goldman-Armstrong, professional beer writer and judge; Nicole Kasten, beer blogger and founder of Beer Connections; and The New School's ElGordo and "SNOB" Ritch. All votes cast were private, and as such no one critic's votes could single-handedly sway any category.

2012 The Year in Photos

perhaps my fav photo of the year. That's me hiding behind a Charlie Papazian mask with Charlie Papazian himself. Photo by Dave Selden of 33 Beers fame
It's always a difficult task to compile any sort of best of the year list but our annual Year in Photos is the most fun. Started as more of a look back at events and beers it has become more of a look at our tight knit friends and family of the craft beer community. And why not? Drinking beer with friends is the greatest form of art after all.

The New School & Lardo's New Years Day Recovery Brunch

Last minute drinking and chowing news here but The New School is co-producing an event with our friends at Lardo on New Years Day in celebration of our 3 Year Anniversary as well as the new year. Dubbed The New School/Lardo New Years Day Recovery Brunch it will feature a special one of a kind food menu from kings of swine and all things sandwiches Lardo who does not usually do breakfast or brunch.

Stone Enjoy By IPA coming to Oregon

Stone Brewing Co. gets credit for innovation in promoting craft beers in creative ways and their latest success has been the "Enjoy by" IPA's with only a 35 day shelf life have received great reviews and brisk sales. Oregon will get it's first taste of the new Double IPA with the release of "Enjoy by 2/15/13" on 1/15/13.

Night of the Living Ales: The Music Video

Christmas seems like an appropriate time to post this brand new video from Halloween by The New School's "SNOB" Ritch. Filmed at the 2012 Night of the Living Ales fest in Portland, OR it's the definition of a craft beer party. Lots more photos and details from this annual tradition at www.nightofthelivingales.com

Belmont Station: The Continuing Expansion of the Bottleshop and Taphouse

Portland's premier bottleshop Belmont Station is finally undergoing the transformational expansion first reported on The New School in March of 2012. If you have visited the taphouse and over 1200 strong bottleshop recently, you may have seen the work going on on 45th street behind the building. There was formerly a rental house that was built right up against the back wall of the shop and had a revolving door of tenants. Belmont Station's majority owner, Carl Singmaster, has been waiting for the chance to purchase the entire building, which included both the Station and the house. The chance finally came, though that was far from the only hurdle the west coast's best known bottleshop had to endure in the craft beer renaissance.

A Wedding Proposal by Beer

Leave it to Dave Marliave,  Flat Tail Brewing's co-owner and brewer, to propose to his girlfriend with a beer. Oregon's official "the kid" of the brewing industry at just 25 years old has been making waves with his creative beers brewed in the college town of Corvallis. His primary claim to fame is the popular new term that I coined called getting "Marliaved," which means when you have ordered, or expect a keg of a specific beer but that beer never materializes. Dave has made that his particular signature, along with a creepy love of unicorns and beavers. So imagine when I met his lovely girflfriend Emma Ritchie and was stunned that Dave could pull such a nice lady. Now, in an even more stunning move, Dave has proposed with "Yes" and "No" beers that have just been released in bottles.

First Look at "Beer": A New Taphouse From the Owner of Meat Cheese Bread

"Beer" and "Meat Cheese Bread" owner John Stewart behind the bar
Popular sandwich lover haven Meat Cheese Bread in inner SE Portland has opened a beer bar next door to its space to accompany its killer sandwiches. The aptly named "Beer" opened without notice Tuesday after passing inspection. The new bar features 10 taps and 100 bottles in its narrow and wooden confines on SE Stark and 14th and will be open 11am to 11pm. Despite the fact that SEO experts heads' exploded upon hearing the new taproom's un-google-able name, at least patrons wont likely confuse "Beer" with the next door Enso Winery. After chatting with owner John Stewart over a beer at "Beer," I have no doubt this passion project of his will have great success.

Wintertime in Beervana: New Brews & End of the World Celebration

It's a slow beer week in Portland and around Oregon as shoppers finish their Christmas buying, make travel plans, and spend more time at home sipping beers than out at the local bar. While The New School compiles our Best of 2012 lists and plans our New Years Eve Anniversary Party while hiding indoors from the wind and rain, I look around Beervana for other news to bring the readers. Sure enough, I have found news of a highly anticipated brewery's first brew, killer end of the world events, and new rare barrel-aged bottle releases from Upright and Breakside.

3 Year Anniversary NYE Celebration: A Benefit for Morgan Miller

This New Years Eve the New School continues our annual anniversary celebration tradition, but unlike previous years the party will be invite-only this year. Of course, I would like to invite the loyal readers of the blog, so without inviting the whole public you can email me at samuraiartist@newschoolbeer.com for an invitation. Space is limited, so if you don't RSVP, I may close the invitation window before you get a ticket. The party will be taking place at a popular brewery which will be closed for the occasion and will feature 10 different breweries in attendance, each with their own special beer. We will also be raffling off everything from brewery schwag and gift cards to rare vertical flights of bottles and even Hood River hotel room stays.

Like previous years, the NYE celebration is also a benefit and our host brewery and all of our sponsors have been kind enough to donate all beer and raffle prizes to raising money for Ninkasi Brewing brand manager Morgan Miller, who recently had heart surgery. The party costs nothing to get into if you have the invite, but 100% of all sales will go to Morgan to help with hospital bills.

Featured beers/breweries:

10 Barrel: Candy Cane Sinist0r
Deschutes: Saison de perle
Ninkasi: Redunkelulous Dunkelweissen
Upright/Bushwhacker Collaboration: Old Tom Barrel-Aged Lambic blended with Bull Run Temperance Barrel-Aged Pear Cider
Breakside: Imperial Cascadian Dark Ale
Widmer: Imperial O’Ryely Dark
Lompoc: Prime Directive IPA
Hopworks: 2010 Bourbon Barrel-Aged Noggin Floggin
The Commons: Boysen
Gigantic: TBA

The party will run 730pm - 1am with a Brewvana Brewery Tours shuttle home at 12am and 1am for just $10 a person. We will also feature a free midnight toast.

A huge thanks goes out to all the breweries donating their time and beer to this benefit and to all those who have supported The New School over the last 3 years!

Want an invite? email me

Pretentious Beer Geek Glassware

Just when I thought I was done compiling douchey beer geek gift suggestions, the aptly named Pretentious Beer Glass Company pulls me back in. Recently discovered via the miracles of twitter, this Etsy seller makes the coolest handmade beer accessories since Mindy's Beer Gear. These glasses practically implore, nay demand, that you hold your pinky out while drinking from them. If before you were all like, "How am i supposed to drink from this Westvleteren chalice after it's been made available in America?! It does not begin to show off the uber-exclusive rarity of this bottle of Russian River Toronado 25th Anniversary that I traded for!" then the Pretentious Beer Glass company feels your pain and has hand blown glassware collection would make even Greg Cock proud.

In Memoriam: Bridgeport Alehouse

News broke in local foodie circles yesterday that Bridgeport Brewing's Hawthorne location is closing this Saturday after 15 years in business. Sadly, I cannot say that I am surprised. The satellite location first opened in 1997 with a classier, more upscale vibe than the old school NW industrial brewery and pub. In 2005, with the Pearl District becoming an upscale, trendy hotspot, Bridgeport remodeled the main NW location to fit in with the fine dining crowd, much to the dismay of longtime fans. Beervana had a great writeup about the changes.

You knew the Alehouse was in trouble when the location closed with little notice last year and announced it was undergoing a modest renovation. The refresh also included laying off all employees though they could reapply for their jobs. When the brewpub reopened, it was without lunchtime service and the main change was a much smaller bar with far more table seating.

A Trio of New Hopworks Bottle Releases

Hopworks Urban Brewery has a trio of new bottles on sale at its brewpubs, and two of them will be hitting stores shortly. One is a GABF medal winner and limited to only about 6 cases, and the other the 3rd release in the breweries premium wax dipped Abbey-style line of beers.

Crafty vs. Craft: The Brewers Association's Stance

With so many large brewers attempting to get into the ever-growing craft beer market, the Brewers Association, America's association not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American craft brewers, has issued a rare statement on the matter."Craft vs. Crafty: A Statement from the Brewers Association" firmly draws lines between craft brewers and macro brewers trying to be like craft. I also like that the BA clearly defines "Craft Beer," not "microbrew," which is an outdated term we all need to teach ourselves to leave behind. Some experts in the industry argue that the macro brewers marketing faux craft beer like Blue Moon is actually great for the industry because it is bringing in more drinkers who may start with Blue Moon but move on to real craft beer from there. I think that is a valid point. There is also some debate on whether brewers like Samuel Adams are really craft any more, with the definition just recently being stretched to accommodate them while brewers like Widmer are left out due to their ownership structure. Read the Brewers Association's statement below:.

Catch of the Day: Seafood In Your Beer

The oyster has been an ingredient in beer by any account since at least the year 1900. Most people have only ever heard of an Oyster Stout in the last 2 or 3 years, though. It's likely New School readers first heard about Upright Brewing's version or Fort George Brewing's Black Pearl. Before that there have been attempts from Rogue, Flying Dog, Harpoon, and Flying Fish, among many others, and traditionally where the style originated in Europe. Recent versions have come out of Scotland, England, and even New Zealand.

21st Amendment Brewing and Magnolia Brewing, both in San Francisco, have been making the style for years and serving them back to back every February. I am not sure where I first heard of the style, but theirs were the first ones I could find available commercially and I was fascinated with the idea. One of the earliest stories on The New School was tracing the history of Oyster Stouts and how they are brewed. These days, brewing with bivalves or meat is hardly unheard of; next week Burnside Brewing releases its Urchin Ale at Riffle in NW Portland, and currently the aforementioned brewery is working on a collab with Upright Brewing on a beef heart beer. Hell, Budweiser still makes a Clamato beer that includes clam juice and tomato juice.

21st Amendment's latest canned beer release will likely bring seafood beer to the masses for the first time. In what must be the most high profile and widely available version of the style ever produced, 21st Amendment will soon release Marooned on Hog Island: Stout brewed with Hog Island sweetwater oyster shells.

VOTE for the Best Oregon Beer of 2012

As the last few weeks of the year creep up on us now, writers and editors assign their "Best Of" lists, a tradition usually derided by the writers themselves as absurd. I think it is natural for people to make lists, though; we secretly love making them: Top 10 movies of the year, 10 Best Albums of the year, etc. Well, The New School is no different, and thus we're in preparation for our Year End Best Of Awards, which will be voted on by writers, critics, publicans, and other peers in the industry.

 I have added a sidebar just to the left for you the readers and drinkers to vote for your pick of "The Best Oregon Beer of 2012." You may wonder how we came to this list of nominees; it's based on an informal polling of friends, readers, and critics done in person and via social media. To be included on the ballot you had to be specifically nominated multiple times. It's an imperfect list and we apologize if your beer is not included on it. When all is said and done at the end of the year, The New School will present our Best Of lists that will include many categories from best brewer, best brewpub, taphouse, best IPA, and more. In the meantime, please vote!

Class of '88: Deschutes Collaborations with 4 Breweries to Celebrate 25 Years

Deschutes Brewery has created collaboration brews with North Coast Brewing Co., Rogue Ales, Goose Island Beer Co., and Great Lakes Brewing Co. to be released throughout 2013. This news news follows Deschutes' previous collaborations with Boulevard Brewing and Hair of the Dog Brewing, and indicates that the collaboration beer craze shows no signs of slowing down.

An Interview with Lagunitas Founder Tony Magee

Lagunitas Brewing in Petaluma, CA is easily one of the fastest growing breweries in the country. Lagunitas' brand is built on classic west coast-style IPAs and non-conformist--some might say alternative and hippie--attitude. The brewery is known for once being shutdown due to pot smoking and renaming one of its beer from "Kronic" to "Censored" after the TTB's objection to the original moniker. Founder Tony Magee is one of the most down-to-earth personalities in craft beer--he's just as likely to bust out his guitar and sing a country-western tune at a meet-the-brewer event as he is to promote his own brand. The most prominent brewery owner on twitter, though he follows no one, the stream of consciousness-like output has been the cause of recent controversy, from questioning bigger brewers taking government subsidies to directly questioning Sierra Nevada and New Belgium's motivations. Not to be outdone by Sierra Nevada and New Belgium Brewing's announcements about opening east coast brewing expansions, Magee announced Lagunitas' own expansion via twitter in a typically alternative method. Lagunitas Brewing expects to sell more than 240,000 barrels this year, and by the end of 2013 another 240,000 barrels just from the company's new Chicago facility.

The Final 5 - Winter Beer Geek Gift Guide

The final entry in the New School's 2012 Beer Geek Gift Guide series features some of the best useful and unrealistic gifts you could possibly imagine for the hardcore beer geek. The gifts in this 3rd installment range in price from $19.95 all the way up to $4,287. If you have not referenced parts 1 and 2 you should do so. Now without further ado, the last five beer geek gift recommendations....

Enjoi Beer Hunter Jacket

Beer Money: $104.99 Beer Geek Cred: ****
The EnJoi Beer Hunter jacket keeps the family jewels safe, and I don't mean what you're thinking. Insulated pockets are designed for beer cans and bottles to stay cool, and this jacket even has a hidden inside liner pocket capable of storing a 40 of Olde E. You get snap reinforcement at the front, a hideaway hood, side entry welt pockets, and chest pockets that keep you warm and your beer cold. The jacket's zipper even doubles as a bottle opener. So next time you unzip in front of an unsuspecting passerby, instead of recoiling in horror, they will be pleasantly surprised.

Breakside Winter Formal

The Breakside Winter Formal next weekend (December 15th) coincides with the brewery's release of 6 new special barrel-aged beers in bottles. It also is an unusual but refreshing addition to the well-worn but popular holiday ale festivals of the season. Taking the form of a high school dance or ball, this adults only combo beer festival from Breakside Brewery is an unusual example of a couples friendly beer event. It starts with the Melody Ballroom, a beautiful and popular space for weddings and proms, and adds 10+ taps from local favorites The Commons and Burnside Brewing in addition to Breakside's great brews, plus a full liquor bar. That's just to begin.

Breakside Brewery Releases Six New Barrel-Aged Beers in Bottles

Breakside Brewery will celebrates the holidays on December 15th with a Winter Formal party at the Melody Ballroom and the release of six barrel-aged and strong beers at the Breakside Brewpub.

Beginning at 12 p.m next Saturday, the release of these specialty beers is the first bottling since Breakside Brewery’s anniversary last May. It is also the first time many of these beers will be available in a non-draught format. The beer connoisseur will want to act fast, as supplies are limited, with fewer than 120 bottles of each beer available. All beers will be available in a 750 ml format at $14 per bottle. Many of these beers will be available on tap that evening at the Breakside Winter Formal.

Breakside will be releasing the following beers:

· Bourbon Barrel-Aged Aztec Ale- A strong ale made with chocolate and chilies aged in Heaven Hill barrels

· Bourbon Barrel-Aged Maple Oat Stout- A collaboration beer with Scott Dolich and TheBent Brick, aged in a Buffalo Trace barrel

· Bourbon Barrel-Aged Old Woody- A collaboration beer with Wildwood Restaurant aged in a Heaven Hill barrel

· Postmodern Lambic 2012
- An oak aged “wild ale” made Solera-style through blending of old and young beers

· Imperial Stout

· “Ampersand” Chinato-Barrel Aged Strong Saison- A golden farmhouse ale aged in a barrel from Cana's Feast Winery and made in collaboration with The Hop and Vine

An Uncommon Brewery

Sean Burke & Mike Wright - All photos by "SNOB" Ritch Marvin unless otherwise noted
The story behind Portland's The Commons Brewery could easily be spun into a classic--underdog homebrewer goes pro and wins acclaim and the respect of his peers. Well, it is that story, but owner Mike Wright is not your typical hero. You might think after winning medals at the World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Festival after having been open for less than a year, these guys were confident craft beer veterans with ambitions to become the next big thing. It turns out that The Commons team's success may have preceded ambition and confidence for a more old school approach of making the best with what you have, no matter how little that is.

2012 Amnesia Winter Ale Festival

If you have not gotten your fix of winter warmers at the Holiday Ale Festival, or perhaps you just wanted to avoid beer geeks ticking off their tastes or the soul crushing crunch of humans rubbing shoulders, either way the Amnesia Winter Ale Fest is for you.

Returning this Saturday, December 8th, this mini alternative fest is an annual tradition. The fest celebrates the cold, dank days of Portland winter with a killer selection of warming ales from Amnesia Brewing, as well as some of their friends.

Part 2: 2012 Holiday Beer Geek Gift Guide

So with Part 1 of our 2012 Holiday Beer Geek Gift Guide in the bag, here comes part 2 of 3, featuring 10 more must not need gifts for the beer lover in your life.