Archive for October, 2012


This is our final post about breweries that won medals at this year’s Great American Beer Fest and are located along the routes Snowbirds frequently drive on the way south. This post lists medal-winning breweries along Interstate 5 from Bellingham, WA, to Carlsbad, CA (just north of San Diego).

BELLINGHAM, WA: This wonderful city has two great brewpubs/microbreweries. (See our post of October 14, 2011.) This year’s medal winner: CHUCKANUT BREWERY: Chuckanut Vienna Lager — silver (Vienna-style lager), Chuckanut Kolsch-style — silver (German-style Kolsch).

EDMONDS, WA: From this town just north of Seattle, you can catch a ferry to the Olympic Penninsula, or you can stay and enjoy some medal-winning beer. AMERICAN BREWING COMPANY: Polski Porter — bronze (Baltic-style porter).

WOODENVILLE, WA: If you decide to take the circle route (I 405) around Seattle, stop in Woodenville, the home of some world class wineries and the home of Red Hook Brewery (which is partly owned by the Budweiser people, who are owned by…). This year’s medal winers: RED HOOK BREWERY  Red Hook Pilsner — silver (American or international-style pilsner),  Winter Hook — bronze (American-style amber/ red ale).

SEATTLE, WA: Lots of great beers here, but only one winner this year: ELYSIAN BREWING: Men’s Room Original Red Ale (what a great name) — silver (Ordinary or special bitter).

PORTLAND: I guess you could say that it’s like Albuquerque without the sunshine (see the post of October 18, 2012). But to beer lovers, it’s “Beervana” and the greatest beer city in North America. Fifty-three — count ’em — 53 breweries and brewpubs within the city limits. Why, if you hit three a day and took one day off each week, it would take two-and-a-half weeks to visit each of them. This year’s medal winners: BREAKSIDE BREWERY: Breakside Session Brown — silver (English-style mild),  BUMSIDE BREWING: Sweet Heat — gold (Herb and spice beer), COLUMBIA RIVER BREWING: Stumbler’s Stout — silver (Oatmeal stout), THE COMMONS BREWERY: Flemish Kiss — silver (American-style Brett ale), HARVESTER BREWING: Harvester Brewing Pale Ale — bronze (Gluten-free beer), HOPWORKS URBAN BREWERY: Organic Hopworks Kellerbier — bronze (Kellerbier/Zwickelbier), LAURELWOOD BREWING: Mother Lode Golden Ale — bronze (English-style sumer ale), Organic Deranger Imperial Red  — gold (Imperial red ale).

It’s a long drive until the next stop. But if you stayed a little too long in Portland, you’ll be able to make up some time until you hit just south of Los Angeles. (There were lots of California winners this year, but they were off the beaten — that is Interstate 5 — track.

ANAHEIM: There’s nothing Mickey Mouse about the double medal winner from this tourist mecca: THE BRUERY: Sans Pagale — bronze (Belgian-style lambic or sour ale), Papier — silver (Old ale or strong ale).

TUSTIN: A nearby south Los Angeles city. TUSTIN BREWING: Smog City Groundwork Coffee — gold (Coffee beer).

CARLSBAD: Along with Bellingham, this is my favorite small city along the American West Coast — wonderful beaches, interesting shops, good beer — and only 45 minutes from San Diego. This year’s winner: PIZZA PORT: 547 Haight — The Toronado — bronze (Imperial red ale).   By the way there are many Pizza Port restaurants south of Los Angeles and each one brews its own beer — all of it very good.

For medal-winning breweries in San Marcos and San Diego, see our post of October 21, 2012.

Enjoy your beer — take some to your destination — and, if you find something you really like, pick up some on the trip north and share it with your friends when you get home.  Or not!

For a complete list of this year’s Great American Beer Festival winners, go to and clik on “GABF Winners:. For descriptions of the various styles, click on “Beer Styles”. For a list of breweries by state, with addresses, phone numbers, and web sites, go to and click on “Find a Brewery.”




NOTE: This is the second of a series on microbreweries that won medals at this year’s Great American Beer Festival and that are along the routes  that many Western Canadian snowbirds take to reach warmer climates. In our last post, we followed Interstate 25 from Billings, Montana to Albuquerque, New Mexico. This post features Interstate 15 from the Canadian border to San Diego, and our next post will follow Interstate 5 from Bellingham to San Diego.

After you cross the border at Coutts-Sweetgrass, you’ll find breweries in Great Falls, Helena, and Butte, Montana; Idaho Falls and Pocatello, Idaho; and Ogden, Utah. But you won’t hit a place with a 2012 GABF medal-winning brewery until you reach Salt Lake City.

SALT LAKE CITY: People outside Utah became aware of that state’s beer scene a decade or so ago when a newcomer from Milwaukee began to brew and market “Polygamy Porter,” which had as its slogan: “When one is not enough.” It didn’t go down well — the slogan that is. Now Salt Lake City has six microbreweries, with a couple more in the planning stages. This year’s medal winners are: EPIC BREWING: Utah Sage Saison — bronze (Herb and spice beer). REDROCK BREWING: Redrock Nut Brown Ale — bronze (American-style brown ale), Redrock Paardelbloem — gold (Experimental beer), Organic Zwickel Bier — silver (Kellerbier/Zwickel bier); UINTA BREWING: Bristlecone — gold (English-style mild ale), Sum’r — silver (English-style summer ale), Baha — silver (German-style schwarzbier).

MIDVALE, UTAH: A southern suburb of Salt Lake City. This year’s winner is: HOPPERS GRILL & BREWING: This is the Pilsner — bronze (Bohemian-style pilsner).

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA: What a contrast — from the home of the Church of the Latter Day Saints to Sin City.  But both places have really good beer. They say that what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas — but if you can, take some award winning beer out of town. There’s a lot of desert to drive through. This year’s winners are: BIG DOG’S BREWING: Red Hydrant Ale — silver (English-style brown ale); CHICAGO BREWING COMPANY: Cocoa for Coconuts — gold (Chocolate beer).

There are breweries in Rancho Cucamonga and Lake Elsinore, but as you get closer to San Diego you start entering one of the best beer territories in the western United States. If you spend your winters in San Diego County, you can have a different beer every day and there will still be a lot left over for next year and the next.

SAN MARCOS, CALIFORNIA:  just off Interstate 15 (and a little further from Interstate 5) is just one of the many smaller cities in the area with multiple and very good microbreweries. This year’s winners are: THE LOST ABBEY: Red Poppy — silver(American-style sour ale), Track # 8 — bronze (Experimental beer), Saint’s Devotion — gold ( Belgian- and French-style ale); PORT BREWING: Hot Rocks Lager — bronze (Indigenous beer).

SAN DIEGO: If you like a great beer city, but you don’t like the rain and fog of Seattle or Portland or the snowstorms of Denver, this is the place for you. It’s sunny, it has wonderful beaches, great cultural attractions and close to 40 microbreweries and brewpubs. And that’s just in San Diego itself. Drive an hour north, northeast, and east and you’ll find even more. This year’s winers are: ALESMITH BREWING: AleSmith Grand Cru — bronze ( Belgian-style strong specialty ale), Decadence 10 Old Ale — bronze (Old ale or strong ale); THE BEER COMPANY: The Manhattan Project – gold (Wood- and barrel-aged strong beer); GREEN FLASH BREWING: La Freak — gold (American Belgo-style ale), Silva Stout — silver (Wood- and barrel-aged strong beer); Green Flash Trippel — gold (Belgian-style abbey ale).

For a complete list of Great American Beer Festival winners go to and click on “GABF Winners”. For guidelines for the various styles, click on “Beer Styles”. For a directory of breweries, with addresses, phone numbers, and websites, go to and click on “Find a Brewery.”


In mid-October, when I find myself morphing into a snowbird, I immediately download the list of the current year’s winners at the Great American Beer Festival. Then I look over the list, making checkmarks next to the beers from award-winning microbreweries that are in cities I’ll be passing through on my way south. When I can, I stop, enjoy a meal, taste one or two of the medal-winning beers, and, if they sell bottles or cans, buy some to take to my destination.

In this post, we’ll note award-winning microbreweries and brewpubs along Interstate 90 and then 25 from Billings, Montana to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Later posts will look at Interstates 15 and 5.

BILLINGS, MONTANA. The largest city between Spokane and Minneapolis, this is one of the fastest growing microbrewing centers in the country. At latest count there were seven breweries in the city. This year’s medal winner: MONTANA BREWING COMPANY, MBC Wheat — gold (American-style wheat beer with yeast).

SHERIDAN, WYOMING: Just an hour’s drive south of where General Custer “met his Waterloo”, the area outside this small city has several stables where polo ponies spend their summers. This year’s medal winner: BLACK TOOTH BREWING COMPANY: Wagon Box Wheat — gold (American-style wheat beer).

FORT COLLINS, COLORADO: Driving south on I-25 toward Fort Collins, you’ll see a giant Budweiser plant to your left. There’s more beer made in it than in all of the microbreweries in the state combined. But if you leave the freeway, you’ll find some of  the finest microbreweries in the western United States. At last count there were 11 of them, with three more being drafted. This year’s medal winners: CB & POTTS RESTAURANT AND BREWERY: 6x Helles — gold (Munich-style helles); EQUINOX BREWING: Knight Ryder Munich Dunkel — gold (European-style dunkel); FORT COLLINS BREWERY: Bambastic  — gold (Smoke Beer); FUNKWERKS BREWING COMPANY: Saison — gold (French- and Belgian-style Saison), Deceit — gold (Belgian-style strong specialty ale); NEW BELGIAN BREWING: NBB Love Felix  — bronze (German-style sour ale).  FUNKWERKS (which specializes in Belgian-style beers) was also named the “Small Brewing Company of the Year” and its brewing team “The Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year.”

DENVER, COLORADO: The Mile High City has more brewpubs and microbreweries than Fort Collins — a lot more. I stopped counting at 20. Here are this year’s medal winners: BULL AND BUSH BREWING: The Tower ESB — silver (Extra Special Bitter); CROOKED STEVE ARTISAN BEER PROJECT: Sentience — silver (Wood- and barrel-aged sour beer); THE SANDLOT: Move Back — gold (Dortmunder or German-Style Oktoberfest), Wild Pitch Hefeweisen — gold (German-style wheat ale); STRANGE BREWING: Dr. StrangeLove — bronze (Barley-wine style beer).

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO: A long hour south of Denver, this city is home to the Air Force Academy. Pike’s Peek is not far out of town. This year’s winner: TRINITY BREWING: TPS Report — bronze (American-style brett).

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO: The largest city between Denver and the Mexican border, it has been called “Portland without Rain,” a reference to its rapidly growing microbrewing scene. There are eight microbreweries and brewpubs, two nearby breweries operate taprooms in town (one is in the airport) and at least three new breweries are listed as in planning. (See my post of  May 8, 2012). This year’s winners: IL VICINO: Milk Chocolate Cherry Stout — bronze (Chocolate beer); MARBLE BREWERY: Double White — bronze (Other strong beer), Imperial Red Ale — silver (Imperial red ale).

I’ve not included awards won by breweries in the many suburbs around Denver, as I wanted to limit the list to places easily accessible from Interstate 25. For a complete list of the 2012 Great American Beer Festival award winners, go to and click on “GABF Winners”. To find out the guidelines used in judging the various styles, click on “Beer Styles” at the same website. To find addresses websites, and telephone numbers of these and other breweries, go to and click on “Find a Brewery.”


There are two words, one bad and one good, that are used to describe beer ingredients that sometimes supplement the usual four of water, malted grain, hops, and yeast. “Adjuncts” is the bad word. It refers to other — usually cheaper — sources of fermentable sugar. The megabreweries frequently cut the amount (and expense) of malt by substituting forms of corn or rice. Their explanation is that it makes the end product clear and crisp; purists say it robs the beverage of the flavours that make it such a great drink.

The good word is “additive” and refers to ingredients that enhance the flavour of the beer base. The list of additives is long and ranges from such unusual flavourings as spruce tips and birch sap to better-known ingredients like honey and blueberries. The key to additives is that they should complement, not conflict with or overwhelm the taste of the beer. The words “hint” and “subtle” are positive when describing these beers. “Overwhelming” usually is not.

Last Friday, to start the holiday long weekend, the gang got together to sample four beers with “additives.” It wasn’t intentional, but in searching for a range of flavours, the brews we chose were all from British Columbia.

We started with Fernie Brewing’s “What the Huck,” a huckleberry wheat beer. Slightly pink in hue, it is a light-bodied, crisp, effervescent and refreshing beer. One of the tasters said she wished it were still summer so that she could sit outside sipping it on a warm afternoon. The huckleberry taste, which comes from an extract (have you ever tried to pick enough huckleberries to make even a tart?) is not too sweet, and it certainly doesn’t overwhelm. It’s just the right complement for the base wheat beer.

“Strawberry Blonde,” from Penticton’s Tin Whistle was a disappointment. It used as its base a blonde ale, a style that could be called timid and is often offered as a cross-over beer to entice drinkers of mainstream lagers and light lagers into trying craft beer. There was a faint aroma of strawberries, but all of the four tasters agreed that the additive (whether berries, an extract, or an imitation flavour) really didn’t taste like strawberries. The words “metal,” “artificial”, and “chemical” were used to describe the taste. And the beer itself was bland. No one asked for seconds.

“Apricot Wheat Ale,” from Cannery Brewing, also from Penticton , received strong reviews. “It tastes like beer with just a touch of apricot flavour,” one remarked. Smoothe and unfiltered, it had hop notes that one drinker particularly liked. Here was a beer in which the additive and the base beer complemented each other very nicely. People asked for seconds.

Our final beer, and in many ways the most interesting, was Phillips’ “Ginger Beer.” The label notes that it has “more ginger than Gilligan can handle” (a reference to characters from the long-ago TV sit-com) and draws attention to its “initial blast of flavour and aroma.” When I experienced the aroma and took my first swallow, it reminded me of the soft drink that used to come in those old “stone” crocks. Phillips, who is noted for the “hop bombs” he creates, has created a “ginger bomb.” It certainly is like what you used to drink as a kid, but you have to be of legal age to buy it. Personally, I would have preferred a more subtle use of the additive. But, if you love your ginger, and two of the tasters did, this is your flavour enhanced brew.

The three people to whom I introduced these beers enjoyed them — with the one exception. “What the Huck” and “Apricot Wheat,” the two wheat beers, were the top choices. But everyone agreed that they enjoyed the “Ginger Beer” and would have enjoyed it more had I followed the label instructions and served it along with some sushi.