The 4th annual Oregon Beer Awards were handed out at a ceremony held at Revolution Hall in southeast Portland last night. 72 medals were awarded in 24 judged beer categories, an additional seven awards were presented in voted upon categories, not including the Hall of Fame annual inductee – Brewmaster John Harris. The New School was there, and I personally awarded the Best New Brewery award. I am lucky to be the Ceremony Director and co-founder of this statewide beer competition, which is one of the only gala style award ceremonies for a beer competition anywhere.
One of the things that makes the Oregon Beer Awards unique is that the beer style categories are developed in-house by the organizers, led by Competition Director Ben Edmunds. Unlike style guidelines from the Brewers Association that must reflect the entire country (a much longer list of 80+ styles), the OBA categories reflect the way Oregon brewers make beers. For instance, modern day American IPAs tend to be lighter colored and bodied than the BA guidelines, which go to dark amber. Also, you don’t see a lot of certain styles such as English-style bitters being brewed here, so instead of a category that might only have a few beers entered into it, that style is folded into the Classic UK Styles category. The OBAs also make special room for a Fresh Hop category that is held in the middle of the fall fresh hop season when the beers are actually fresh. In keeping up with current trends, the 2018 Oregon Beer Awards added a category for New England/Northeast-style Hazy IPAs under the Hazy Hoppy Beers category. Each beer style category has a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal awarded. If there is a style category you think should be standalone but isn’t, it’s probably because there were not enough entries into it in past years. That’s part of the continually evolving OBA style guidelines that make it a more timely response to what Oregon brewers are making.
Outside of the beer judged categories, there are also awards for Best Bottle Shop/Beer Bar, Best New Brewery, Best Beer Festival, Best Brewpub Experience and the Oregon Beer Hall of Fame inductee, all of which are voted upon by a large number of industry insiders and journalists. In addition to these, there are awards for Brewery of the Year awards for best Large, Medium, and Small Oregon brewery. Those Brewery of the Year awards are based on a point system that factors in the brewery’s medal score in the judged competition, combined with brewery of the year votes by industry pros to determine the winners. There is only one winner in each of these voted upon categories.
Winners Analysis –
Unlike last year, Breakside Brewery did well, but did not have as dominating of a performance. That’s good for the overall playing field and shows that while Breakside’s quality did not diminish, others are really stepping up their game. I think this year’s awards show the rise of some of the next great perennial award winners and the emergence of a nearly unknown in Monkless Belgian Ales, perhaps the breakout star this year. Also showing signs of becoming real contenders are Stormbreaker Brewing, Baerlic Brewing, and Ruse Brewing. Could these be the next dominant breweries in a few years? Time will tell.
Todd Clement of Monkless Belgian Ales wins Gold
Monkless Belgian Ales is a small Bend brewery founded in late 2014 that came home with a Silver and a Gold medal at the 2018 Oregon Beer Awards. In the last year the brewery has begun bottling and self-distributing its beers to Portland and other places and just beginning to get on many folks radars. I visited their tasting room only about a month ago and was impressed with the quality, in particular a Quad called Friar’s Festivus that ended up with a Gold in the Flavored Beers category. Spiced unusually with mace and cardamom, on first whiff the beer might leave you reeling with strange flavors and aromas, but once you take your time on a second sip you will find the spices do magical things in this beer and work exceedingly well together. It’s so far my favorite new Oregon beer this year. The Dubbel style Dubbel or Nothing (which won a Silver in Belgian Beers category) is also good, and the entire lineup will please fans of Belgian-style abbey and classic ales. This is rarer than ever with most breweries that make Belgian-styles concentrating on Farmhouse or wild/sour ales.
Bend Breweries are Money – Crux Fermentation Project did very well this year with three medals, including two Golds. This went along with the theme of Bend breweries cleaning up, with Boneyard, Monkless, 10 Barrel, Sunriver, and Silver Moon all winning medals. Crux did the best with two Golds for Doublecross and Crux Farmhouse, plus a Bronze for Crux Stout. Sunriver Brewing has been a perennial winner, too, and earned a Gold in the Strong Hoppy category for Resin Nation and a Silver in Sessionable Hoppy Beers for Rippin. Boneyard Beer earns Gold for Skunkape IRA in the Dark Hoppy Beers category. Silver Moon won a Bronze for Get Sum Pale Ale in the Classic North American Styles.
Stormbreaker Brewing earns a Gold and a Bronze medal at the 2018 Oregon Beer Awards
Stormbreaker Brewing is starting to gain some critical acclaim. It’s a long time coming, as far as I am concerned, since I named it the best new brewery of 2015. While the brewpub on N. Mississippi in Portland is popular, Stormbreaker has not received the critical praise until more recently. That’s gotta change, now with a Bronze in the Fresh Hop category for Fresh Hop House Martell and a Gold for Opacus in the Stout category.
Ruse Brewing has been a little known but buzzed-about microbrewery doing farmhouse ales and hoppy beers with a growing cult following. The brewery has now won its first awards to back up the growing buzz with acclaim for hoppy ales by winning a Bronze for Interpreter IPA in the Strong Hoppy Beers category and a very very impressive win with a Gold medal in the new Hazy Hoppy Beers category for Papyrus Iris.
Baerlic Brewing has been on the bubble since early 2017 when it was named Small Brewery of the Year at the Oregon Beer Awards; now it moves up a notch to win Medium-sized Brewery of the Year. That’s backed up by a Gold Medal in the Wood and Barrel-Aged Sour and Brett Beers for Harshmellow Mountain, which won a Bronze in the same category last year.
Alex Ganum of Upright Brewing at the podium as they win Gold for Pathways Saison
Upright Brewing is always a cult classic with a loyal following, and is finally starting to win the medals to back that up. Upright got a Silver medal in the Rare and Historical Beers category for Dirty Passport and a Gold in the Brett and Mixed Culture Beers for Pathways Saison.
Oakshire Brewing came back strong this year with three medals. Nectarnal Slumber won a Bronze in the Brett and Mixed Culture Beers category. The brewery’s IPA #3 won a Silver in the Hazy Hoppy Beers category and Perfect Storm, an Imperial IPA, won a Silver in the Strong Hoppy Beers category.
Three Creeks Brewing did not clean up, but did win a Gold Medal for Frontier Justice Coffee Stout. If that wasn’t notable, enough the same beer won Gold in the same category at last year’s OBAs. That’s incredibly hard to do and a rare accomplishment.
Royale Brewing, like Three Creeks, only won one medal, but it’s a repeat Gold. Royale’s Strassen Katze has now won the Gold medal in Classic Sours for two years in a row. Amazing!
Gigantic Brewing had a great year with three medals won–a Silver for the frequent award winner Pipewrench gin barrel-aged IPA in the Barrel-aged Beers category, and a Silver for Ex Ex in the Brett and Mixed Culture Beers. The brewery also followed up with another Silver for the fantastic new year-round Kölschtastic in the Golden, Blonde and Light Ales category.
Great Notion Brewing won first medals at the OBA’s with a Bronze for Ripe IPA in the new Hazy Hoppy Beers category and a Silver for Peanut Brother in the Experimental Beers category.
Old Town Brewing is owning the Bronze medals this year with three of em. Sun Dazed Kolsch wins Bronze for Golden Blonde and Light Ales category and also winning Bronze is Shanghai’d IPA in Classic UK Styles and KY Common in Rare and Historical Beers.
Logsdon Farmhouse Ales had another great year with two silver medal wins, one gold medal win and the Small Brewery of the Year award.
pFriem Family Brewers always does well. It won last year’s Large Brewery of the Year and Best Brewpub Experience and repeated in both categories in 2018. In individual beer categories pFriem earned a Bronze for the terrific framboise Frambozen in the Classic Sours category and a Gold for Mosaic Pale Ale in the Sessionable Hoppy Beers category.
10 Barrel Brewing and Breakside Brewery are neck and neck for the most medals won, though neither beat pFriem for the Large Brewery of the Year. Both 10 Barrel and Breakside won five medals each, however that’s between multiple locations for each, and thus each brewhouse counts separately as an individual brewery. It’s very similar to what happened at the recent Best of Craft Beer Awards, which had the breweries running neck and neck in dominating the competition.
GOLD – Grain Station Brew Works – Pitchfork Pilsner SILVER – Breakside Brewery + Taproom – Breakside Pilsner BRONZE – 10 Barrel Brewing Company, East Side – Smooth Talker
GOLDEN, BLONDE, and LIGHT ALES
GOLD – Public Coast Brewing – 67′ Blonde SILVER – Gigantic Brewing- Kölschtastic BRONZE – Old Town Brewing- Sun Dazed
Stormbreaker Brewing wins Gold at the 2018 Oregon Beer Awards for Opacus Stout
GOLD – Breakside Brewery – Fresh Hop Cascade Wanderlust SILVER – Breakside Brewery- What Fresh Beast BRONZE – Stormbreaker Brewing- Fresh Hop House Martell
BEST BOTTLE SHOP/BEER BAR
Belmont Station – Portland, OR
Wayfinder wins Best New Brewery at the 2018 Oregon Beer Awards
BEST NEW BREWERY
Wayfinder Beer – Portland, OR
BEST BEER FESTIVAL
Festival of the Dark Arts – Astoria, OR
BEST BREWPUB EXPERIENCE
pFriem Family Brewers – Hood River, OR
BREWERY OF THE YEAR – SMALL
Logsdon Farmhouse Ales – Hood River, OR
BREWERY OF THE YEAR – MEDIUM
Baerlic Brewing – Portland, OR
pFriem Family Brewers again wins Large Brewery of the Year at the 2018 Oregon Beer Awards
BREWERY OF THE YEAR – LARGE
pFriem Family Brewers – Hood River, OR
HALL OF FAME – JOHN HARRIS
As usual, I produced and conducted many of the interviews for this year’s annual Oregon Beer Hall of Fame inductee John Harris. A legend in beer both in Oregon and at the national level, he worked as one of the pioneering brewers from the early days of McMenamins, then becoming the OG brewer at Deschutes who created Black Butte Porter, Mirror Pond, and more. John later ran the pilot brewery and Brewmasters Reserve series at Full Sail Brewing before leaving a few years ago to open his own project at Ecliptic Brewing. Please check out the under six minute tribute video below, featuring interviews with many of the greatest friends and colleagues of John Harris over the years.
Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding.
I believe there may be a mistake in your awards list. Ex Ex was a beer from Ex Novo, not Gigantic.
Thu Mar 1, 2018 5:44 PM
So who took so silver in the Brett and Mixed culture category? You’ve got a brewery listed as the winner for a beer they didn’t make, Ex ex is an Ex Novo and Level collaboration.
Thu Mar 1, 2018 7:26 PM
You guys may well be right but this is what was on screen last night so it may have been a mixup at the awards but I am reporting from what was on screen announced. I am looking into it to get to the bottom of it.
Thu Mar 1, 2018 7:57 PM
I added an update to the award listing in this article. Apparently Gigantic Brewing did win the Silver but there was a mixup somewhere with the name and it got listed as “Ex Ex” when it’s a different beer. What beer I dont know, but apparently it was a Gigantic beer.
Thu Mar 1, 2018 8:24 PM
How Gigantic “Massive” was left off is crazy.
I would put Crux “Tough Love” should be best stout in the state. (I would make a case for Hellshire as well.
Drink up everyone.
Thu Mar 1, 2018 11:53 PM
How about a little love for Grain Station Brew Works….2 medals with a Gold in Pilsner (Pitchfork Pilsner) and a Bronze in Coffee Beers (Kanataka Coffee Stout). That place makes great beer!
Fri Mar 2, 2018 7:19 AM
congrats to Grain Station and all the winners, even to anyone who participated.
Sun Mar 4, 2018 12:32 AM
Yes, Bend breweries did do well. But, in the article above several of the medals/winners were not mentioned. 🙁 Worthy’s gold medal winner, Prefunk Pale Ale, in the Classic North American Pale Ale category, Deschutes silver medal winner, BREW1-Early Grey IPA in the Flavored Beers and finally Sunriver’s Moxee won silver in the American IPA.
Sun Mar 4, 2018 8:08 PM
uh actually this is a complete list of all of the winners below. Who did you miss?