A Fine Saturday Afternoon

This post was originally published on Wednesday, June 29. Due to a change in the host server, it was deleted.

June 2016 Oregon Beer Growler

June 2016 Oregon Beer Growler

Like obedient school children, we stand in line, anxious to get to the head. When our turn comes, we eagerly hold out our plastic cups. “Team 2, number 7,” says the man ahead of me. “Dang, gotta bump up the pace,” I tell myself.

On the other side of the folding table, Gail Oberst of Oregon Beer Growler, takes the guy’s cup while simultaneously executing a seconds-long search of the bottles in the cooler turned on its side so that only she sees the contents. She serves maybe 2 ounces of amber gold liquid and returns the cup to its owner. Now at the head of the line, I extend my cup. “Team 1, sample 5.” While Gail pours, I grab a couple of Goldfish crackers from 1 of 2 plastic cups on the table, chewing and rolling my tongue around to help cleanse the cumulative effect of 5 previous IPA samples. I have 8 to go after this one.

Gail Oberst returns a glass to a volunteer taster

Gail Oberst returns a glass to a volunteer taster

Beer evaluation, even when it’s voluntary, doesn’t mean just throwing back those free samples one after another. Gail handed each of us a half-sheet ballot while she went through the expectations. Our duties—marking an X in the proper box of samples we like and jotting any notes we feel inclined to make on the back of our ballots—are actually pretty minimal in exchange for 14 (13, if you’re on Team 2) samples of Oregon-brewed IPAs.

Beyond that, we get to chat with our fellow judges. Comparing our scoring is perfectly acceptable, so I ask a team member how he thinks it’s going. “I liked 2 and 3, but not 4, and definitely not 1. It was the worst. How about you?”

I notice he’s on number 6. I share my sheet and admit, “So far, 1 is my favorite.”

If we were at an official BJCP judging, we’d be in trouble. Thankfully, though, for judges to qualify at an Oregon Beer Growler blind tasting, they only have to be 21 years of age or older and intend to taste each sample with some thoughtfulness before deciding whether or not it deserves the coveted X.

 June tasters hanging out and doing their job (Notice all the half sheets in hands)

June tasters networking and doing their job (Notice all the half sheets in hands)

There are no medals for brewers to take home, no monetary awards to bank, not even any major bragging rights. It’s more a fun, relatively inexpensive way for craft breweries to get their beers into the glasses of potential customers. (For more information on how commercial breweries can donate beer, perfect pints.) For a hophead from little Monterey, California it’s a fine way to spend a Saturday afternoon in one of the great American beer cities. I sampled beers unavailable where I live and learned names of breweries and Oregon towns I hadn’t heard of.

Each month Oregon Beer Growler holds a tasting with a different beer style and announces the winning brews in the following monthly edition of its magazine. The June tasting, like many, is taking place in the parking lot of F.H. Steinbart. The venerable homebrew store bills itself as the oldest in the nation, which sounds believable enough since it was founded in 1918. (I’m not sure how they kept busy from 1920-1933.)

Moi in front of Steinbart’s, November 2014

Moi in front of Steinbart’s, November 2014

I had fun chatting with local homebrewers, including a member of the famous (at least among homebrewers) Oregon Brew Crew. He talked about the monthly meetings with presentations, educational tastings, homebrew competitions, group brewery tours, volunteer opportunities at beer events and networking with other homebrewers. I have to admit I was jealous of such an active club.

Oregon Beer Growler’s consumer tasting takes place July 9 at 2:00 p.m., again in Steinbart’s parking lot. If you live in the Portland area and would like to receive monthly invites, just let the magazine know and they’ll put you on their email list.

Oh, and for the record, I got a sneak preview of the winning IPAs and Team 1, #1 was the first on the list of Oregon Beer Growler’s “13 Best Oregon IPAs.” You can find Gail’s article with the complete list on the magazine’s website in a few days on the blog. If you live in Oregon, it’ll be a fun list to read through. If you’re out of state, see how many of the breweries you know.

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