Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Night Out at the Oregon Beer Awards

To think I almost didn't attend this event... I would have missed out on one of the best beer industry-related nights I've had in a long time.

I arrived at Revolution Hall right at the official start of the event at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 23, 2016. The first people I bumped into were John Harris (Ecliptic) and Abram Goldman-Armstrong (Cider Riot). A good omen for sure. As I was getting in line to enter the building I was joined by Hilda Stevens (Bazi Bierbrasserie), her boyfriend Darrell Heard, and graphic designer Jennifer Ulrich. At the admissions table, my dear friend Steven Shomler stamped my hand. I barely made it to the first floor before spotting Jenn McPoland and Jeremie Landers.

The entire evening was like this. Everyone who is everyone in Oregon beer was there. I rarely made it more than a few feet in any direction without being greeted by someone I know, and many of them are people I don't get to see very often. The atmosphere was jovial, expectant, celebratory. It was a rare excuse to dress up for a beer event and plenty of us took advantage of the opportunity.

I had already made plans to meet up with Oregon Beer Growler editor Andi Prewitt and her boyfriend Jeff Myers, who would not arrive for another hour. As the hall space outside the auditorium was rapidly filling, I got in line for my complimentary beer. I opted for the Logsdon Peche 'n Brett, rightly suspecting that it would be one of the first beers to run out. My friends Lisa Marcus, Eric Sterling, and new-hire Heather Kelez from Digital Pour, a sponsor of the event, were keeping an eye on their huge flat-screen dashboard stationed next to the jockey boxes.

After catching up on business, I wrangled Lisa into an exploratory walk around the venue. We'd only get so far before I saw someone I know, but it was fun making introductions. I noticed the HappyMatic photo booth didn't have a line, so we grabbed some silly props and posed for our free photos. We also finally discovered the food area, which was packed, but couldn't manage to snag our free sandwiches. This is my only gripe about the event; the food distribution could have been handled much better with a line and ticket set-up just like the beer.
As Black Lodge filled the auditorium with live music, I chatted with my Culmination Brewing friends Tony and Julky Lenoci. Soon, everyone was filing in for the start of the awards ceremony. As planned, I sat with Andi and Jeff, and also was joined by Charles Porter and Brenda Crow. We were directly in front of the Culmination gang, which was perfect.

Jeff Alworth has posted a thorough breakdown of the award winners here: While I have had many of the winning beers, I definitely haven't tried them all and thus will be seeking them out in the near future, as I encourage you to do as well.

I was already having a blast, but the icing on the cake was still to come. First, a little background: I met Tomas Sluiter at a Beverage Industry Networking Group (B.I.N.G.) meeting in June 2014. He was in the throes of trying to establish his own brewery here in Portland and had encountered many unforeseen challenges. As a relatively new writer for the Oregon Beer Growler, I was always eager to get the scoop on budding projects. I promised to stay in touch with Tomas and keep tabs on the forthcoming brewery.

Over the next few months Culmination Brewing finally came to fruition. The soft opening at the new taproom at 2117 NE Oregon St was on January 17, 2015 followed by the grand opening on June 19, 2015. While I wasn't able to be part of many of those first days due to my other work responsibilities, I did start doing some freelance writing work for Tomas at Brewery Consultant Group last June. I also made an effort to volunteer at all of Culmination's big events and have even covered a bartending shift in the taproom from time to time. Thus, over the past year, the core group of people that work at Culmination have become an integral part of life.

So my reaction when Ezra Johnson-Greenough announced that Culmination Brewing had won the award for Best New Brewery was tears of joy for my hard-working, super-talented friends. I managed to capture the whole thing on video with my iPhone. Please forgive the shaky start; I promise it gets better when they get to the stage.
Soon after, the awards ceremony wrapped up, and all that was left to do was celebrate. We couldn't think of anything better than to go back to where it all began, at the brewery, where we raised our glasses time and again to Tomas, April, and all of the Culmination crew.
Thanks to all of the people and businesses who made the Oregon Beer Awards possible. And a special thank you to all of the Oregon breweries who make fantastic beer!

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