Monday, February 23, 2009

Battle for the Belt 2009

Saturday was the 16th annual McMenamins Hillsdale Brewfest, aka the Battle for the Belt. Twenty breweries from around the McMenamins empire each entered a beer in the battle to see who will represent the company at the Oregon Brewer's Festival this year. Attendees sample the beers and vote for their three favorites.

The Hillsdale pub holds a significant home field advantage, so a bunch of us headed over there to throw some support behind Pub Night regular Corey Blodgett, who brews at the Cornelius Pass Roadhouse. That's Corey on the right -- I think he's saying "No more pictures" -- next to Lindsey, Charles, and Scott's hand. Hopworks brewer Ben Love is just out of the picture to the right of Corey -- he'd be in the picture if I was any good at photography or brown-nosing.

CPR's entry this year was Cashed Out Imperial Porter -- a very smooth, hearty porter with just a little hint of bourbon from its barrel-aging. It's not a 10% bruiser like the other imperial porter that comes to mind -- Full Sail's Top Sail; Cashed Out is a more festival-friendly 7.3% ABV. It got the admittedly biased votes at our table. The name is an homage to Johnny Cash -- I don't know if Corey was aware of the Johnny Cash tribute band Cash'd Out, but coincidentally they're playing a Portland gig towards the end of April.

I seem to remember being more impressed with the field of beers at the 2008 brewfest than I was this year, but maybe I just went in with lower expectations last year. Nevertheless, there was some good stuff. These were my favorites:
  • Cornelius Pass Roadhouse Cashed Out (Imperial Porter, Corey Blodgett and Chris Oslin): smooth with light bourbon touch
  • John Barleycorns Brewery Old Shovelhead (Barleywine, Graham Brogan): nice, reminds me of Old Foghorn
  • Concordia Brewery Hot For Teacher (IPA, Tim Proctor and Ben Nehrling): nice, mega-hoppy
  • Old St. Francis Brewery Reducyble Organic (IPA, Mike White): easy-drinking with long hops
  • Hillsdale Brewery Sledgehammer (Strong Ale, Matt Carter): very hoppy; nice cola flavor
Sledgehammer -- a sort of double Hammerhead -- rubbed me the wrong way with the first sip, but it grew on me and in the end it made my top 5. A couple of other beers get an honorable mention: Big Lou's Smoked American Amber from the Queen Anne Brewery (Worth Laflin), and Boysen' the Hood from Roseburg (Tom Johnson). The extra smoked malt and boysenberry flavors were nicely done; but they were beers I'd only have occasionally, and some people would pour them out immediately.

It usually takes a few days before McMenamins reveals the winner of the contest. I'll update this post as soon as I find out -- Corey, help me out with that, would ya? [Update 2009/02/26: Corey reports that Hot for Teacher was 1st, Sledgehammer 2nd, Old Shovelhead 3rd. Congratulations, guys, those were well done.]

The weather was so nice Saturday that I bicycled to the Hillsdale Pub in my shirtsleeves. I had forgotten how steep Capitol Highway is, but at least I worked up a good thirst and got to go downhill on the way home.


  1. Cool, glad to see you hooked up with Charles.

  2. Lee: Charles and Theresa are pillars of the pub night crowd now. They show up more often than I do. Now if we can just get them to move across the Columbia...

  3. I'm glad you caught me smiling! You wouldn't want to see pissed...

    We'll be moving down to Portland soon enough!

  4. I meant so say:
    You wouldn't want to see me pissed ;-)

  5. Any idea who won? (I know it took a long time for the results to come out from last year . . . but if you hear about the winner - please post it!)


  6. corey will know the results tomorrow, wednesday the 25th, also tomorrow join him at the cornelius pass roadhouse for cask ale night, three casks from three mcbreweries

  7. Oh man, I would love to go to that cask ale night tonight. If someone would be kind enough to move CPR 15 miles closer to my house, I'll be there.

  8. Winners now listed in the post: 1. Concordia, 2. Hillsdale, 3. John Barleycorns.