Posts Tagged ‘beer’

Interview with “Teachings From the Tap” Author Merideth Canham-Nelson

I chatted with northern California writer Merideth, about her new book Teachings From the Tap: Life Lessons From Our Year in Beer (Beer Trekker Press, 2012), as well as her thoughts on West Coast craft beer.

Beer West: What first got you interested in beer and writing about beer?

Merideth: My husband Chris, and I were lucky enough to live in Oakland in the early 1990s. This was a time when “micro-brewed” beer was gaining momentum. Turning 21 in the right place at the right time was the perfect combination for becoming a craft beer lover. Writing about our beer travels came about five years ago. We already offered blogs and videos on our website and writing a book was an outlet for telling more personal, in-depth stories about our beer travel experiences.

BW: What have you learned about both yourself and beer while writing this book?

M: Over the years we have met some truly amazing beer people—beer experts, judges, and industry historians, as well as brewers and home brewers. As a beer traveler I didn’t fit into any of these established niches and it left me questioning what I had to offer the beer community. While writing the book, I came to understand and embrace my unique contribution. Through telling tales of our beer travels, I could hopefully inspire others to discover their own beer adventures.

BW: What was the most influential moment during your beer travels?

M: In 1998, Chris and I traveled to Ireland, our first overseas adventure. We left just after Christmas, the weather was cold, rainy, and windy, but it couldn’t have been more perfect. Enjoying a Guinness in a cozy Irish pub with a turf burning stove showed us the importance of drinking a beer within its own context. We instantly fell in love with international travel and have been over seas more than two dozen times since then.

BW: What inspired you to begin this journey?

M: In the early 1990s, I worked at Barclay’s Restaurant & Pub in Oakland, one of the first multi-taps in the Bay Area. I wanted to be knowledgeable about the 28 rotating beers I served, so my husband suggested visiting the breweries. Our travels started out as day trips and weekend getaways, and then expanded across the country and eventually to international destinations. Over 700 breweries later, it’s safe to say that our beer travel is a full-blown obsession.

BW: Out of the 700 breweries that you have visited around the world, which is your favorite?

M: Andechs, located south of Munich, is my all-time favorite. I am extremely partial to Bavarian culture, food, and beer, and Andechs embodies all those things. We have visited during the winter when snow covers the ground, the air is crisp, and the small crowd gathered inside sports an average age of 70. We have also been there in the summer when the sun-filled patio is jam-packed with young, jubilant tourists. Always a fun time!

BW: What is your favorite West Coast brewery and beer?

M: Magnolia in San Francisco is the whole package—fantastic beer, remarkable food, and an amazing location. They’ve created a neo-hippie atmosphere without smelling like patchouli. My favorite beer tends to rotate with the seasons, but a perennial favorite is Magnolia’s Kalifornia Kölsch. It’s a clean brew with a refreshing flavor and nothing to hide.

Check out Merideth’s book Teachings From the Tap: Life Lessons From Our Year in Beer (Beer Trekker Press, 2012) available on Amazon now. Stay updated with Merideth, her husband Chris, and all things beer at

West Coast Breweries Clean up at World Beer Cup

OK, so maybe this is old news to some of you, but for those of you who didn’t have the pleasure of attending the 2o12 World Beer Cup in sunny San Diego last weekend, here’s a recap of the West Coast winners. And extra super special shout out to super young breweries Sound Brewing (WA), Columbia River Brewing (OR), The Commons Brewery (OR), Breakside Brewing (OR), and Logsdon Farmhouse Ales (OR) for their first WBC medals.

According to The Weekly Pint: “This year there were 211 judges from 27 countries tasting blind; 2/3 of the judges were non-U.S. to balance results in the age of American craft brew—and macro brew—dominance, with gold, silver, and bronze medals awarded in 95 distinct beer styles. The average number of entries per style: 41. And how about this for a tap list: there were 3,921 beers judged from 799 breweries in 54 countries (and 45 U.S. states). In addition, honors for best brewery and brewmaster combo were awarded as usual, a highly coveted honor reserved for the end of festivities.”

What to do with this (in no particular order list)? Seek and find the beers! Have fun!

Brewery Winners:

Brewers Association World Beer Cup 2012 Champion Brewery and Brewmaster

Mid-size Brewing Company
Firestone Walker Brewing Company
Paso Robles, CA
Matthew Brynildson

Brewers Association World Beer Cup 2012 Champion Brewery and Brewmaster

Large Brewpub
Pelican Pub & Brewery, Pacific City, OR
Darron R S Welch

Washington winners

Fish Brewing/Leavenworth, Dunkelweizen

Elysian, Great Pumpkin

BJ’s-Tacoma, Got Beer

Fremont Brewing, Bourbon Abominable Winter Ale

Black Raven Brewing, Great Grandfather Raven

Silver City, Winter Bock

Redhook Ale Brewery, Nut Brown Ale

Sound Brewery, Poundage Porter

Silver City Brewing, Old Scrooge

Pike Brewing, Pike XXXXX Extra Stout

Silver City Brewery, Imperial Stout

Oregon winners

Hop Valley, DD Blonde

Columbia River Brewing, Drunken Elf Stout

Upright Brewing, Oyster Stout

Bend Brewing, Ching Ching

Columbia River Brewing, Stumblers Stout

Pelican Pub & Brewery, Stormwatcher’s Winterfest

Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, Peche ‘n Brett

The Commons Brewery, Urban Farmhouse Ale

Laurelwood Brewing, Mother Lode Golden Ale

Pelican Pub & Brewery, MacPelican’s Scottish Style Ale

Caldera Brewing, Caldera Ashland Amber

Breakside Brewing, Breakside Dry Stout

California winners

Rock Bottom-La Jolla, Longboard Brown Ale

Bayhawk Ales, Chocolate Porter

21st Amendment, Hqt

AleSmith Brewing, AleSmith Decadence 2010 Old Ale

AleSmith Brewing, AleSmith Old Numbskull

Alpine, Odin’s Raven

Third Street Aleworks, Blarney Sisters Dry Irish Stout

Left Coast Brewing Co., Voo Doo

Island Brewing, Starry Night Stout

Mad River Brewing, Steelhead Extra Pale

Beachwood BBQ & Brewing, Foam Top

Firestone Walker, Mission Street Pale

Firestone Walker, Pale 31

Green Flash, Palate Wrecker

Pizza Port Carlsbad, Poor Man’s IPA

Half Moon Bay Brewing, Mavericks Amber Ale

Sierra Nevada, Bigfoot

Pizza Port Carlsbad, Great American Brown

Pizza Port Ocean Beach, Tarantulas 2.0

Bear Republic, Black Racer

Pizza Port Ocean Beach, Achievement Beyond Life’s Experiences American Stout Brit Antrim Benefit Beer

Pizza Port San Clemente, Nerf Herder

Pizza Port San Clemente, Way Heavy

Oggi’s Pizza & Brewery, Alyssa’s Attitude

The Bruery, Melange #1

Mammoth Brewing, Double Nut Brown

Pizza Port San Clemente, Pier Rat Porter

Feather Falls Casino Brewing Co., Blackjack Stout

The Lost Abbey, Carnevale

The Lost Abbey, Gift of the Magi

The Bruery, Oude Tart

Sierra Nevada, Ovila Dubbel

Karl Strauss, Two Tortugas Belgian Quad

Karl Strauss, Red Trolley Ale

Telegraph Brewing, Rhinoceros

Rock Bottom-Long Beach, Rocktoberfest

Lucky Hand Beer, Cali Common

Third Street Aleworks, Annadel Pale Ale

Firestone Walker, 805 IPA

Mammoth Brewing Co, Real McCoy Amber

The Bruery, Hottenroth Berliner Weisse

Pizza Port Ocean Beach, Bacon and Eggs Breakfast Coffee Imperial Porter

FiftyFifty Brewing, Donner Party Porter

Hangar 24 Craft Brewery, Hangar 24 Winter Warmer

Sierra Nevada, Kellerweis

Marin Brewing, Star Brew

Manzanita Brewing, Where There’s Smoke…

Telegraph Brewing, Petit Obscura

Green Flash, Green Flash Brewing Co.

Russian River, Supplication

Whew, that’s quite a list, and a lot of beers to sample. For the complete list of 2012 World Beer Cup winners, click here.

Brewers Association releases Top 50 Breweries in 2011

Because we have a crush on craft beer, we’re just going to focus on that list. For a full list of overall top breweries in 2011, check here.

PS-This list is based on 2011 beer sales volume.

The Brewers Association’s Top 50 U.S. Craft Brewing Companies

Rank Brewing Company City State
1 Boston Beer Co. Boston MA
2 Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Chico CA
3 New Belgium Brewing Co. Fort Collins CO
4 The Gambrinus Company San Antonio TX
5 Deschutes Brewery Bend OR
6 Matt Brewing Co. Utica NY
7 Bell’s Brewery, Inc. Galesburg MI
8 Harpoon Brewery Boston MA
9 Lagunitas Brewing Co. Petaluma CA
10 Boulevard Brewing Co. Kansas City MO
11 Stone Brewing Company Escondido CA
12 Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Milton DE
13 Brooklyn Brewery Brooklyn NY
14 Alaskan Brewing & Bottling Co. Juneau AK
15 Long Trail Brewing Co. Burlington VT
16 Shipyard Brewing Co. Portland ME
17 Abita Brewing Co. Abita Springs LA
18 Great Lakes Brewing Co. Cleveland OH
19 New Glarus Brewing Co. New Glarus WI
20 Full Sail Brewing Co. Hood River OR
21 Summit Brewing Co. St. Paul MN
22 Anchor Brewing Co. San Francisco CA
23 Firestone Walker Brewing Co. Paso Robles CA
24 Sweetwater Brewing Co. Atlanta GA
25 Rogue Ales Brewery Newport OR
26 Flying Dog Brewery Frederick MD
27 Victory Brewing Co. Downingtown PA
28 CraftWorks Breweries & Restaurants Chattanooga/Louisville TN/CO
29 Oskar Blues Brewery Longmont CO
30 Odell Brewing Co. Fort Collins CO
31 Stevens Point Brewery Co. Stevens Point WI
32 Ninkasi Brewing Co. Eugene OR
33 BJ’s Chicago Pizza & Brewery, Inc. Huntington Beach CA
34 Blue Point Brewing Co. Patchogue NY
35 Bear Republic Brewing Co. Cloverdale CA
36 Lost Coast Brewery Cafe Eureka CA
37 Big Sky Brewing Co. Missoula MT
38 North Coast Brewing Co. Inc. Fort Bragg CA
39 Saint Louis Brewery, Inc./Schlafly Bottleworks St. Louis MO
40 Gordon Biersch Brewing Co. San Jose CA
41 Breckenridge Brewery Denver CO
42 Founders Brewing Co. Grand Rapids MI
43 Saint Arnold Brewing Co. Houston TX
44 Karl Strauss Brewing Co. San Diego CA
45 Real Ale Brewing Co. Blanco TX
46 Mac and Jack’s Brewery Inc. Redmond WA
47 Smuttynose Brewing Co. Portsmouth NH
48 Utah Brewers Cooperative Salt Lake City UT
49 Left Hand Brewing Co. Longmont CO
t.50 Anderson Valley Brewing Co. Boonville CA
t.50 Four Peaks Brewing Co. Tempe AZ

And here is some worthwhile info on the classification of breweries from the BA:

¹The definition of a craft brewer as stated by the Brewers Association: An American craft brewer is small, independent, and traditional. Small: Annual production of beer less than 6 million barrels. Beer production is attributed to a brewer according to the rules of alternating proprietorships. Flavored malt beverages are not considered beer for purposes of this definition. Independent: Less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer. Traditional: A brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewer’s brands) or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.

²Flavored malt beverages are not considered beer for the Top 50 rankings.

Widmer Brothers’ Omission Gluten-Free Beer

By Rebecca K. Clark

As the gluten-free movement heats up in the Northwest, Widmer Brothers cools things down with the introduction of its new line of gluten-free beers, aptly named Omission to demonstrate the uniqueness of the brewing process, which involves the removal of gluten from grain. Omission is a strong contender in the beer market, introducing a crisp, nutty lager, and a refreshing pale ale.

Producing great tasting, safe, gluten-free beer is a personal endeavor at Widmer Brothers. CEO and craft beer enthusiast, Terry Michaelson, was diagnosed with celiac twelve years ago; and brewmaster Joe Casey’s wife has been a celiac since 2006. It’s only natural that these two men came together to produce a delicious, gluten-free alternative that pleases all palates, including those of average beer drinkers and craft connoisseurs. But is it really safe?

The guys from Widmer Brothers say the brewing process is a secret, but they did explain that they are careful to test every batch to ensure safety. The gluten parts per million (ppm) for the lager and the pale ale is currently 5.0—well below the international standard for safety, which is 20 ppm of gluten protein.

According to Michaelson, he and several celiac and gluten intolerant people have enjoyed Omission beers on more than one occasion, and they have given them the all clear. I am gluten intolerant. I threw a couple back. I have no complaints.

Omission beers are not produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility. That made me feel squeamish at first, but brewmaster Casey reminded me that both beers are made from barley to start. To avoid cross-contamination, they brew Omission beers in the morning after everything has been sanitized. To ensure safety, each batch is tested to meet the international standards. That is why they can label their beers gluten-free, even though they’re not made in a dedicated facility and they’re made from barley. Speaking of safety, Widmer Brothers has chosen to sell Omission beers in bottles. This eliminates server error and cross-contamination from taps.

Michaelson and Casey are not only doing their best to ensure safety, because of their relationships to celiac disease; their passions and palates drive them to produce consistently great tasting gluten-free beer. Each batch must pass the standards of a tasting panel for quality control before being bottled and sold to consumers.

Brewing gluten-free has never been easy on the consumer’s pocketbook. Gluten-free grains are typically expensive, which hikes up the price of their resulting beers. I asked Casey if gluten-removal from the barley grain was expensive, and if it would affect the retail cost of Omission beers. He said it did raise the cost, and that each six-pack would be sold at the average price of a typical craft beer. ($9.99 was the rumored price.) If you think that’s expensive, peruse the single bottle, 16 oz. gluten-free beers at your local grocer, and you’ll think Omission is a pretty good deal.

While Widmer Brothers is looking to sell Omission beers beyond the Oregon border, they are staying local for now. Expanding distribution will be a matter of defining what is gluten-free from state to state.

Considering Portland and the local food scene, the Widmer Brothers Gasthaus Pub is now offering a gluten-friendly menu by request. The kitchen staff is prepared to do everything they can to keep sensitive eaters safe. Michaelson will probably do his best to make sure the kitchen keeps its safety standards high.

If you’re interested in trying Widmer Brothers’ satisfyingly refreshing Omission beers, you can find them at these locations.

Have you tried the Omission yet? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Fantastically Fruity

by Colin McElroy

Fruit beers have never been my thing. I don’t have an innate aversion to fruit and most certainly not to beer, but I have had some past experiences with fruit beers which I might compare to cough syrup. Widmer Brothers Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout does not draw this comparison.

To call this solely a fruit beer would be to overlook so many of it’s other qualities. This beer is a stout at heart, having its roots in Widmer Brothers KGB Russian Imperial Stout. With slight raspberry fruit tartness balanced by a toasty chocolate aroma you get the sense that the brewer really didn’t want this to be categorized as a fruit beer. The addition of Midnight Wheat to the boil adds smoothness and an extra layer of complexity.

The Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout is the second offering from Widmer Brothers recently launched Alchemy Project. Though the beers in the Alchemy series can be consumed immediately, they are designed to develop with age.

While this beer has helped partially mend my fear of fruit beers, I continue to be understandably weary. The toughest thing about trying this beer last night and taking a few bottles home is knowing that I have to (er, should) wait to drink them.

Learn more about this beer from Widmer Brothers brewer, Ben Dobler:  Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout. You can find 22-ounce bottles of Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout at your local beer retailers.

San Francisco Beer Week Preview

February 10-19, 2012

This year’s unofficial San Francisco Beer Week theme seems to be growth. The SF Brewers Guild has decided to move this year’s Opening Celebration to the Concourse Exhibition Center on 8th Street in the heart of the city. This will allow more people than ever to join in the revelry.

To help you pin down a few must-sees amid the hundreds of events happening in and around San Francisco, here’s a list of Beer West’s SFBW picks.

SF Beer Week Opening Celebration

February 10, 6-10pm
$65 admission

The Opening Celebration will boast local food and music, and according to Brian Stechschulte of the San Francisco Brewers Guild, an upwards of 65 breweries pouring beers, favorites and rarities alike, and they’ll pour right into your own Beer Week commemorative glass. An official list of all the breweries attending is available at

3rd Annual SF Beer Week Run
February 12, 11am

Take a scenic jog through Golden Gate Park from starting at Social Kitchen & Brewery. There’s an optional beer break point at Magnolia Pub, and runners get a dollar off beers when they make it back to home base. The Social Kitchen will also be having a charity raffle after the run. Proceeds go to the Autism Speaks and the Contra Costa County Food Bank, donated in the memory of Oakland beer writer, Bill Brand.

Valentine’s is for Beer Lovers:

Check out Local Beer, Local Chocolate at Rosamunde Sausage Grill or the Oyster Extravaganza at the Magnolia Pub & Grill on the 14th. Used to sipping wine on sweetheart’s day? Head to Wine Affairs for the Valentine’s Beer vs. Wine Pairing.

East Bay Brew Fest

Thursday, February 16

Tickets to this first-ever East Bay festival on will benefit the Berkeley Food & Housing Project. Click here for more details.

Ladies’ Nights Out

There is a flurry of happenings for women only at this year’s SF Beer Week. Devil’s Canyon Brewery in Belmont will host women-only tastings on the 15th and 16th, and February 18th is Strong Women Brew Day at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing.

Black and White Beer Ball

Saturday, February 17, 6-10pm

Ales for Autism is pouring unlimited black and white beers at this cocktail attire gala at the Mary Agatha Furth Center in Windsor. Dance to live music, and find a buddy for the professional photo booth. Limited pre-sale tickets benefiting the organization are still available.

Organic Orgy
Friday, February 18, 4-7pm

Join Beer West Magazine at Thirsty Bear Brewing Company for the Organic Orgy, a celebration of green beers featuring beer from all of California’s certified organic brewers: Bison, Butte Creek, Eel River, MataVeza, Napa Smith, Santa Cruz Mountain, Sierra Nevada (Estate Ale), ThirstyBear, Ukiah, and Uncommon.

Recurring Events

Haight Street’s funky tavern Alembic will feature a daily beer cocktail.

The Strong Beers & Strong Salads menu at Social Kitchen & Brewery will pair five strong beers with 5 fresh salads.

The Elixir will sport a Shot and a Beer menu all week.

Design and organize your own SFBW itinerary with the free SFBW app, and keep up with @sfbeerweek on Twitter. Another smart phone app, Untapped, allows you to check in at various beer week events and earn a variety of special badges. Claim the SF Beer Week badge by attending at least three official events. For a complete list of SFBW events, visit

See you there.

– Words by Neal Fischer

February is Stout Month at Fort George!

Celebrate your favorite high gravity beers during several events that Astoria’s Fort George Brewery has planned over the next month. And don’t make it to March without trying the brewery’s Stout Month Stouts: Spank Stout (Hot Pepper Stout), Bourbon Barrel Cavatica Stout, Polish’s Roasted Walnut Stout and Mexican Chocolate Stout.

February 9: Fort George Night at the Highland Still House in Oregon City AND Pint Night at Brother John’s Public House in Bend.

February 15: Stouts and Oysters Dinner at the brewery

Local “oystermen” will share stories with guests and describe each course, all of which feature oysters, including dessert. Fort George co-owners Chris Nemlowill and Jack Harris will share their thoughts on each paired beer.

February 18: The Festival of Dark Arts

This day-long stout carnival will feature more than 15 stouts to taste, as well as belly dancing, fire dancing, fire eating, a live blacksmith forge, tattoo artists, dark cuisine, music, tarot card reading, and an art showcase of local compositions.

February 25-26: Brewvana Tour of Astoria

Brewvana is celebrating all of the great stouts coming out of Northern Oregon with an overnight tour of the city. Start at Rogue, then head to Astoria Brewing for appetizers, followed by dinner at Fort George. You’ll make one more stop at Bill’s Tavern and Brewhouse on your way out the next day.

February 23: Sunrise Oatmeal Pale Ale Can Release Party at Portland’s Liberty Glass Bar & Grill

Holiday Giveaway Day 9

Get on the Brewvana beer tour and experience Portland’s brew scene.

Portland is overflowing with amazing, handcrafted beers and BREWVANA embraces its “beer Mecca” culture by promoting local breweries and creating a one-of-a-kind tour experience that leaves you elated and buzzing with a sense of Brewvana. The all-inclusive  tours provide transportation to and from Portland’s award-winning breweries as well as smaller, upcoming breweries, a sit-down lunch paired with beer, a tour of the brewing facility, beer 101, tasting 101, trivia, fun and more!

Today’s winner receives a gift certificate for a Brewvana beer tour (to be used by July 2012) as well as an official Brewvana t-shirt.

And the winner is… Justin Craft!

Thanks for liking us on Facebook, Justin.

To win the remaining prizes in our holiday giveaway, be sure to “like” us on our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our e-newsletter (to your right).

Holiday Giveaway Day 4

We wont overwhelm you with the countless nut puns we’ve thought of, we’ll just give you a couple bags of these local hand- roasted peanuts and pistachios from CBs Nuts in Washington.

And the winner is… Jill Francis! Thanks for liking us on Facebook, Jill! Email by December 31st, 2011 to claim your prize.

To win the other prizes in our holiday giveaway, be sure to “like” us on our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our e-newsletter.

Holiday Giveaway Day 2

We hope you jumped on the bandwagon to win beer gear this season! Curl up this winter with today’s prize: a signed copy of Stephen Mansfield’s book The Search for God and Guinness, and of course, a craft beer that you can place on one of these Julia Skerry craft coasters while you read.

To win this prize, and all of the others in our holiday giveaway, be sure to “like” us on our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our e-newsletter.  We’ll post the winner here on our BeerLog.

And the winner is… Blake Skullerud!

Thanks for subscribing to our e-newsletter, Blake. Email before December 31st to claim your prize. Enjoy your new book and coasters!