It's been a whirlwind of beer, travel and people these past three weeks and I still don't have a proper baring on all things, but know that life is good. Where have I been? Well, there was a family gig in Oregon a few weeks back, a memorial service for a cousin that was actually a great farewell. Then a trip to Phoenix where work was done and memories were made - turns out there's some really great people in Phoenix. Next was a trip to the Oregon Brewers Festival in Portland, and I just know I don't have the words or time to express just how great that was. In a couple of days I'll be seated on a plane flying to New York, where I'll have a brush with as much celebrity as I'd ever hope for - a TV appearance where I get to talk about beer, one of life's greatest passions for me. I clearly don't have the space here to provide adequate information on all things beer in the places I've been, but do hope to provide Cliff Notes for the weeks past.
While the circumstances for my visit weren't good or beery, I learned that my big brother has a knack for beer - good beer - and I was happy to learn from him for a bit. Several months ago he told me about Medford's newest beer shop (bottles) called Bear Creek Beers. It's right next to the creek and across the street from Chip Wright's (iconic karate gym in the city where I actually took lessons once upon a time). The store isn't huge, but what is there is worth finding. In fact, this newish shop may just be the best beer bottle shop in Southern Oregon these days, right up there with Ashland's "Market of Choice". I picked up some Aprihop from Dogfish Head, a six-pack of Victory brews and a collection of beers from Oregon (Ninkasi, Caldera, Deschutes). If you're in the region, you'll be happy to check the place out and drop a few bucks on beers you won't find anywhere else.
In an attempt to show the little brother up, my big bro brought bottles of Deschutes' BBXX beer to a family gathering. As beers go it wasn't all that much to write about, but sitting there with family and friends in the rural parts of the state - it may have been the most perfect beer imaginable. Funny how that works, isn't it? Jason also brought with him bottles of Twilight and together the family made a night of Deschutes brews while sharing stories and catching up. For this I feel obliged to put a word of thanks out in the interwebs to the folks in Bend - seems your product and my family are somewhat inseparable when it matters most.
The trip was hot, but the people and beer made it all tolerable. I know I've written about the place before, but if you find yourself in Phoenix you'll certainly want to check out Papago Brewing (in Scottsdale). I made my obligatory trips to the bar while visiting and walked away even more impressed than ever. To begin, sitting at a bar alone isn't always a fun experience, but the staff on hand at Papago seem skilled at making the best of it all. Their jobs are made a bit easier, I suppose, by the selection of beers available for patrons, with a load of taps and hundreds of bottled products to choose from you'll be sure to find something to meet your beer needs. While there I was sure to enjoy some sour ales, a few "American" IPAs brewed in Europe and a selection of IPAs from Arizona - not a stinker in the bunch! I was also happy to make new friends at the bar, folks who loved a good beer as much as they enjoyed making new friends. Seriously, for a friendly and beer-happy experience, Papago is a good choice.
Really, what more can be said about the Rose City? The weather was perfect on the last full weekend of July. The people of the city were more than friendly, genuinely happy that their town hosted the Oregon Brewers Festival. Hell, even the cabbies were into the beer scene! On our way to Hair of the Dog for Alan's open house the cabby says (about Hair of the Dog beers), "I love that you can have one beer and take a nap", summing up perfectly the way a full bottle of one of the big beers makes you feel.
I think I've learned that OBF, for as great as it really is, is really a great excuse to see one of the best beer drinking cities in the world. Outside the event there were side parties put on by brewers, beer geeks and even strangers newly acquainted at the Fest. Popular hangouts were close to the event, Kells and McCormick & Schmick's were packed. If you didn't mind walking a few more blocks good times were also found at Higgins for great food and great beer, Dan and Louis' for fresh oysters and Black Butte Porter and pretty much anywhere where food and beer were available.
In all the past few weeks have reinforced the notion that beer people are good people, I am genuinely honored to call so many people in this industry my friend.