Coffee, beer, and spirits were new and a personal challenge for me. While no stranger to wine and mixology, beer and coffee were something I avoided (in no small part because I'm naturally caffeinated). But after what we've sipped in Portland, we're all converts. And we can't wait to return to Portland next week to celebrate the 2011 Portland Rising Stars gala. The artisan spirit of Portland inspired us to add four exciting new awards—Baker, Brewer, Distiller, and Coffee Roaster—to our existing group of culinary and restaurateur awards. The last three highlight the outsize national influence, DIY spirit, and serious ambition of the Portland craft beverage community.
No one took the brewers seriously as they laid the groundwork for Portland distilleries and coffee roasters to succeed. Little did craft brewers know 20 years ago, as they began stirring hops into something sip-worthy, that they’d be setting up the infrastructure for other small businesses in the coffee and distillery arenas to accelerate as well. Upon meeting my first brewer, Ron Gansberg at Cascade, I fell in love with my first sip of sour beer. And from a room full of apricots and my first Cascade Apricot Ale to meeting industrious Brewer Alex Ganum at Upright and his chemistry counterpart Brewer Bryan Keilty at Lompoc, I've been inspired. That's the way the Portland craft world spreads. It inspires. It converts!
Thanks to Bull Run Watershed's pure waters, along with niche market-savvy micro distillers and independent thinking coffee roasters, Portland has become a breeding ground for creative beverage making at its best. And after cupping coffee 10 days straight (there's a lot more that comes between you and your morning coffee than an espresso machine) and exploring the various recipes of local distillers, Portland taught us that all things quality begin with craft.
Without further ado, here are the Rising Stars Artisan Award Finalists:
Lee Medoff of Bull Run Distillery
Christian Krogstad of House Spirits
Tom Burkleaux of New Deal Distillery
Sebastian Degens of Stone Barn Brandyworks
Stephen McCarthy of Clear Creek Distillery
We’ll announce our Rising Star Brewer, Distiller, and Coffee Roaster at the Rising Stars Gala on December 5th at the Nines Hotel. Please make sure to save the date for the awards!
I'm headed to Portland, Hawaii, and LA in December. The team will be in Austin, San Antonio, Atlanta, and New Orleans in the next few months, so reach out and give us your give us your nominations for chefs, pastry chefs, sommeliers, and mixologists we should check out in those cities. And as always, stay tuned to Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates, and we hope to see you all Monday, December 5, 2011!