I knew going in that 2007 would be a relatively slow year for me in terms of beer hunting. Iíve been going pretty hardcore since 1997 and needed to branch out a bit in life. Plus I had to major travel plans. In fact, to my recollection I didnít leave Cascadia even for a minute. Wow.
Anyway, I had a blast this past year and the local beer scene grew quite a bit stronger. 2008 will bring beer # 7000 (probably in the first week of the year) and with the significant increase in travel Iíve got planned it could also bring beer #8000. Thatís a lot of tasting, but I like tasting beer, especially when it involves travel. Thatís how I learn. I mean, Iíve read a lot, too, but beer isnít a book knowledge kind of subject. To know beer, you must drink beer. To know brewing, you must brew beer. Thatís just how it works.
But enough rambling, I now present the 2007 Oakes Awards!
Beer New Brewery: Vancouverís Ratebeer scene was strong in 2007, with the late í06 arrival of CapFlu and tiggmtl, and the í07 arrival of newcomers like uhlan and Beershine. But there was a time, back in the dark days of the summer of 2006, when there was hardly a Ratebeerian around to share a beer with. The loss of Joe McPhee was a big one. But Joe made up for moving by sending a few bottles back, and that NYC source paid major dividends in the arrival of a several Captain Lawrence beers. Now this is one kick-ass brewery. Two of their beers, Xtra Gold and Cuvťe de Castleton, were my highest-rated beers for the year. Pretty hard to argue that anybody else would be my new brewery for the year.
Best Brewpub: This was the year when Dix Barbeque & Brewery finally came into its own, and they did it with two different brewmasters. The seasonals just got better and better, and the IPA became not only a regular beer but one of the best sellers as well. The recipe changes with each batch, but I canít think of any that werenít awesome. So as the year closed, I was going to Dix a lot. It is now a serious brewpub and I love it.
Best Festival: I thought the GCBF was top notch again this year. We had a big crowd of Ratebeerians on hand as well. But I just love the way you get a mix of BC, WA and OR brewers at the same fest. I love that every year I get a giant stack of new beers, even though I know all the breweries. What that tells me is that the brewers themselves get up for this fest, which is why itís so great.
Best Crawl: After learning to windsurf I wandered around Hood River, Oregon for a while. Thereís now three breweries in this small town and that made for a hell of a crawl. It didnít hurt that two of them Ė Full Sail and Big Horse Ė had a stack of new beers despite me having visited the town the previous summer. It didnít hurt that 11026 came by to help me drink at Big Horse and make sure I made it safely to dreamland. Local hospitality and great beer from three pubs Ė now thatís a way to end a long, tiring, sunburned day on the water.
Anglo-American Beer of the Year: There was a small festival in Bellingham, WA, which I attended after an early morningís hike on Mt. Baker. The fest was across the street from the Boundary Bay brewpub so I figured Iíd take a break from the fest and enjoy a few. Well, I guess the pub was not about to be overshadowed by a beer festival across the way. They had two special releases that day, barrel-aged brews and the BA Old Bounder Barley Wine was absolutely stellar. Barrel-aging usually doesnít do much for me, but every now and again you find a beer that justifies the concept with its astounding execution. BA Old Bounder from Boundary Bay Brewing Co is one such beer.
Lager of the Year: When I first had Sam Adams Lager (í94 I think) it made one hell of an impression on me. That signature Hallertau Mittelfruh hop just blew me away. What a great hop! So it stands to reason that a beer that drips of Mittelfruh would kick my arse and sure enough, Samuel Adams Imperial Pilsner is my lager of the year.
Belgian or Specialty Ale of the Year: Cuvťe de Castleton! Yeah, Xtra Gold might be a more accomplished product but Iím a sucker for sour. Either way, Captain Lawrence really was where it was at for this type of beer.
Stout/Porter of the Year: A strong year, with some very good brews in this category. But the best I had was on a miserable day in May, at a big corporatey brewpub whose beers donít normally do anything for me at all. But what can I say Ė Sasquatch Stout from Silver City Brewing in Silverdale, WA is that good.
Wheat of the Year: In Portland, there is a little area that I seem to always end up drinking in, where one can find the likes of Lucky Labrador and Roots Organic. I love LLís Super Dog, and Roots makes amazing beers across the board. I count rye beers in this category (where else?) and Roots makes a great one Ė very aromatic and insanely easy to drink. A beautiful session beer, to say the least. Roots Organic Rye!
Pub/Bar of the Year: Gotta be Stumbling Monk in Seattle. Great beer, great pricesÖI keep going back despite the multitude of options. Heck, Iíll be there next Friday!
Session of the Year: The more Ratebeerians you gather in one place the more likely you are to have an awesome session. I tend towards more casual drinking affairs than all-out ticker fests, so I have two strong candidates here. The first started at Big Time with CapFlu and myself. We then moved to the Elysian Pumpkin Festival, which was a hoot. Then we met 5000 and headed over to Stumbling Monk for several hours. In December, I first hit the Dix Xmas Xtreme festival, which had a great selection of beers and a stack of Ratebeerians on hand. Then we went back to my place and broke out a stack of bottles, some serious cheeses and meats, and spent the night shooting the shit on the kitchen floor. Actually itís funny Ė of my top five or six candidates this year I think CapFlu was at all of them. You really should drink with Todd sometime, itís obviously a guarantee of a solid occasion.
Pint of the Year: Pilsner is a funny style. When you hit it just right, it is mindblowing. That same pils might not be quite as good the week before or the week after, but thatís just something us pilsner fans have come to accept. Iíd liken it to a perfect pear Ė so rare, but so worth the search. I took the opportunity one sunny Saturday last winter to head into the hills and check out a new brewery Ė Birdsview Ė in the foothills of the Cascades. Well, their Pilsner 152 was in prime form that afternoon and so I enjoy a pint (or two) with fresh rural air, snowcapped hills and warming sun. Thatís tough to beat.
Brewpub Meal of the Year: I ate at a lot of brewpubs this year, much more than usual. But the best meal actually came from a brewpub that doesnít serve food. Go figure. That same pissing rainy day I had the Sasquatch Stout at Silver City saw me visit nearby Heads Up for a vintage beer tasting. That brewery is also a u-brew and on this afternoon many of the local beer lovers had come by to check out the scene. One guy brought a giant bucket of fresh-harvested oysters. We grilled them up and broke out the chutneys and hot sauces. I must have eaten half of them, I swear. Bloody hell that was an amazing meal.