Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Is the end near?

The Washington Post : The craft beer industry’s buzz is wearing off

This, and many articles of late, ponder the peak of the craft beer revival. In Portland, alone, there were at least 10 brewery closures. In many ways, it is to be expected. In any industry marked by rapid growth, there comes a time when that growth can no longer be sustained.

The recent explosion in craft beer has meant that almost anyone who could brew in their garage, could also find a following for their craft. Who doesn't like beer? Often, that lead to expansion in the form of a tap house. Again, a following could generally be found but not all brewers made for good business people.

The brewing community, generally speaking, is a supportive and collaborative one. New entrants are welcomed even as they compete for tap handles in local bars and restaurants. It's one of the things I love about the industry. You can taste the love in every glass.

Yet this puts pressure on growth and profits. Breweries are sometimes forced to take on investors in order to survive which, again, doesn't necessarily mean an investment in business acumen. Rather, it can have calamitous outcomes as with the case with Ghost Runners Brewery. Although the brewery ultimately prevailed, it was an expensive lesson in investor relations.

Here, in Clark County, the craft beer industry remains strong. Even as we saw the closure of Amnesia Brewing in Washougal a few months ago, we have seen the opening of Grains of Wrath in Camas. At the recent Vancouver Brewfest, we saw two new breweries represented: Northwest Passage Craft Brewery of Vancouver and Captain's Brewing Company in Ridgefield. Amnesia's space will be taken over by Logsdon Farmhouse Ales of Hood River which, while not new, represents expansion rather than contraction.

Is the end near? Many think so but there's something you can do about it. Head on over to your local brewery and show them your support and enjoy the beer we have right here. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Vote for May

Last weekend was the final ramp up of Tax Season but still I found some time to attend Vancouver Brewfest at Esther Short Park. Tents were set up on the corner of Sixth and Columbia to shelter participants from the rain but the weather did not dampen spirits. There was a good crowd when I attended Saturday night and when the skies opened up overhead, we all squeezed in a little tighter and became good friends.

We ran into Pete O'Toole, President of Great Western Malting, one of the brewfest's sponsors, and Amanda who works in their Malt Innovation Center, both of whom we met days earlier at a lecture presented by the Port of Vancouver at Warehouse '23. It was nice to see them again and have the opportunity to say hello and to thank them for sponsoring the brewfest. It's something we look forward to every year.

There were 40 breweries represented at the brewfest which made it very difficult to choose what to try with my 8 tokens. I ended up buying more tokens but found it impossible to try everything. I should have done some homework beforehand but as it was, there was no time. (Because, taxes.) Since then, I've been to the Brewfest's website and looked at all the breweries that were there. (I was going to list them all here but they're already listed there, with links to brewery websites.)

The breweries were from Washington and Oregon while one, Caldera Brewing Co, also had a significant presence in California. I was surprised to learn there were two breweries in the area that I'd never heard of, one right here in Vancouver. Northwest Passage Craft Brewery is located on East Minnehaha in Vancouver. They brew in small batches and distribute to local bars, restaurants, and taprooms. Their Facebook page promises a taproom of their own sometime soon.

Captain's Brewing Company, in Ridgefield, is also a small batch brewer coming to restaurants, bars, and taprooms soon. If you had done your homework, you could have had a sneak preview of things to come last weekend at the brewfest.

The other thing that was surprising was that no one broke their glass tasting pint on the brick walkway. Have you ever been boating? Have you ever noticed that when a boater falls overboard, he somehow never spills his drink? He falls in with his arm extended high into the air so when he goes under, his drink is saved. It was a little like that. While no one fell, we heard more than a couple glasses tumble onto the bricks and while the crowd always cheered, miraculously, the glass never broke.

It was a well-attended event even if it wasn't otherwise populated by a lot of tax professionals. It was nice to get out of the office and take a much needed break during a 7 days work week. I'm already looking forward to doing it again. But, next year, can we do this in May?

Friday, April 13, 2018

In Our Backyard

... is the Port of Vancouver. Established in 1912, the port handles more than 7 million tons of cargo per year and is a global leader in importing wind energy components. A diverse list of products come and go through the Port of Vancouver from all over the world. Not its largest, but perhaps it's oldest, tenant is Great Western Malting.

The Port of Vancouver sponsors a lecture series born of the questions arising out of their public tours. This week's lecture was presented by Great Western Malting.

Great Western Malting has been at the Port since 1934, the oldest malting company in the western United States. Part of GrainCorp, they are currently the fourth largest malter in the world. Most malting companies produce 4-6 malts. Great Western Malting produces 35 and serves not only major breweries but craft beer since 1977. Right here.

Mike O'Toole, President of Great Western Malting, presented an overview of the company's history, current capacity, and its diversity of products. They supply brewers, distillers, and food processors.

Teri Fahrendorf, brewing for nearly 30 years and founder of the Pink Boots Society, currently manages the Malt Innovation Center at Great Western Malting. Malt innovation is a highly technical and creative subject as was Teri. She talked about Great Western Malting's history, their brew lab and tap room, and the week-long process of malting, among other things. She discussed innovations in technique and processes and provided samples of malts at various stages that we could taste. It was clear that she is passionate about everything she does.

Amanda, newly hired by Teri and a recent graduate from Oregon State University in Fermentation Science discussed the science behind malting, the biologic transformation of barley to malt. I don't think that discipline was even invented when I went to school. Not exactly beer school, it is pretty amazing to think of all the very technical science related to beer and Amanda did a great job sharing that with us.

It's also pretty amazing to think that all of this is right here. In our own back yard.

I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the Port of Vancouver and Great Western Malting. It was the second in the Port lecture series that I attended and I enjoyed them both. Taking one of their public tours is definitely on my list.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Beer (Still) Here

Before the week gets completely away from me, I'd like to share what I had a last weekend's MS Fest at Brickhouse Bar & Grill. There was plenty to sample in the outdoor, heated tent but I didn't get there until 9 pm and the beer, which had been pouring since 2 pm, soon ran out. The two I liked best were Ash Cloud Amber from Barrel Mountain Brewing and Leadbetter Red Scottish Ale from North Jetty Brewing.

A band, Playlist, came on at 10 and they were great. Even more entertaining was watching a bunch of relatively old (50+) people, who may or may not have been drinking since 2 pm, dance. They were awesome (or at least they thought they were). I shouldn't make fun, though. I'm over 50 and I think I'm awesome. Now I know what all the youngsters are laughing at.

I'd say more but I've used up all my available words for the day. It's time for me to delve back into the world of numbers. Besides, I hear there's another weekend on its way. With luck, there will also be beer. Something to look forward to.