For six years, Willamette Week's Beer & Cider Pro/Am has paired homebrewers with pro brewers and encouraged them to go wild, then brought in the public to drink and judge.
We now know who made this year's favorites.
At the event, which took place Sunday, Oct. 15, at Leftbank Annex, the People's Choice Award for Beer went to Gordon Penner and Level Beer's Jack Hall. They won with a collaboration called Drinkin' the Kool-aid, which combined two of the biggest trends in the brewing industry: a hazy and a brut IPA.
The runner up in the popularity contest was also a hazy. Dan Schlegel and the team at Green Dragon Brewing got second-place honors for Escape, a pina colada milkshake IPA. To achieve that signature creamy mouthfeel, the brewers added lactose and palm sugar to the boil. The batch was then fermented with pineapple puree and conditioned on grilled pineapple, coconut and vanilla in order to squeeze every bit of tropical vacation essence out of the ingredients.
Homebrewing power-couple Jenn McPoland and Jeremie Landers partnered with Schilling Cider to produce what became drinkers' preferred cider at the Pro/Am. While the husband-and-wife team has long collaborated with professional companies to make knockout beers, this win shows they know their way around an apple, too. Our entry name power rankings didn't hold much hope for the snooze-inducing Woodrose Angelshare—is this the name of a cider or a retirement home?—but attendees weren't deterred. A combination of French and English bittersharps, along with a blend of Northwest-grown apples, were used in the cider that was then fortified with a four-year barrel-aged pommeau.
But because you can't leave the entire thing up to a bunch of tipsy novices, the competition's official judges also had their say. Upright Brewing, along with Jon and Parker Hall, won the critics over with Self-Portrait in Three Colors. Their ingredient sourcing alone is worth a medal. Parker Hall—a WW contributor, it should be noted—purchased peppercorns during a trek through the mountains of Nepal, which imparted notes of lime pith and grapefruit zest, while Upright owner Alex Ganum grew an unusual variety of sage for the witbier in his backyard.
Unique ingredients won over the judges again in the Cider category. Miranda Karson and Swift Cider used Mugolio, a syrup created by an Italian forager who's one of a handful of people given permission to gather the tender buds from a type of dwarf pine tree each year. This was billed as the only Mugo bud cider in the world, so consider yourself lucky if you got to taste it.
Here's a complete list of the 2018 winners:
WINNER: "Drinkin the Kool-aid," Gordon Penner and Jack Hall with Level Beer
RUNNER UP: "Escape," Dan Schlegel with Green Dragon Brewing
WINNER: "Woodrose Angelshare," Jenn McPoland and Jeremie Landers with Schilling Cider
RUNNER UP: "Spicy Grandma," Corrie Heath with AVID Cider
WINNER: "Self-Portrait in Three Colors," Jon and Parker Hall with Upright Brewing
HONORABLE MENTIONS: "Rastas Don't Drink," Felicia Reninger with Dirty Pretty Brewing; "Summer's Eulogy," Jarett Creason and John Moore with Coalition Brewing
OTHER FINALISTS: "Cassiopeia," Dean Ehnes with Ecliptic Brewing; "Mirage," Stephen Smith with Great Notion Brewing; "Hazy Is Lazy," Craig Vanaken with Zoiglhaus Brewing.
WINNER: "Mugolio Pine Bud Cider," Miranda Karson with Swift Cider
HONORABLE MENTION: "Woodrose Angelshare," Jenn McPoland & Jeremie Landers with Schilling Cider