When Lisa Allen learned the flagship beer from her brewery in McMinnville had won gold in a worldwide beer competition, she felt validated.
“We, obviously, over the years, have put a lot of time and effort in and to have your flagship beer win is just really cool,” she said.
The World Beer Cup featured more than 10,000 entries from breweries around the world. This year’s winners were announced earlier this month and 13 breweries in Oregon took home awards, including some smaller brewers.
Allen is the head brewer and production manager at Heater Allen Brewing. It specializes in German and Czech-style beers such as pilsner, which accounts for 70% of Heater Allen’s beer production.
World Beer Cup judges awarded Heater Allen’s pilsner a gold at this year’s tournament.
“It’s a beer we’re known for,” she said. “And I think, you know, we are one of the first breweries in Oregon to really kind of start specialize in brewing lagers.”
When Heater Allen first opened, craft brewers were primarily still focused on IPAs, but Allen said that the landscape is changing and that restaurants and bars are more likely to serve a pilsner these days.
Along with Heater Allen, StormBreaker Brewing also took home gold at the international cup. The Portland-based brewery won in the Extra Special Bitter category. Rob Lutz, owner and head brewer at the company, recalled the first time the beer was brewed for a fresh hop festival.
“You’re kinda at the mercy of the farms,” he said. “The farmers were like ‘hey, the hops will be ready on Thursday’…but they canceled the pickup and said, ‘hey, it’s gonna be Friday,’ and then they canceled again.” Lutz eventually received the shipment of hops over the weekend.
While he tries not to brew on Sundays, he had to make a concession for the extra fresh hops. And his wife offered to help out too.
“So she came in and spent the whole brew with me,” he said. “So we originally called the beer Extra Special Bethany in honor of my wife and sent it out to the competition.”
While the brew didn’t garner first place wins in the beginning, over time, it gained recognition.
“We knew we had something special on our hands,” Lutz said. “So we kept entering that beer and finally started to get some awards for it and now we’ve got arguably the biggest one in the world.”
The World Beer Cup typically happens every two years but was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.
This year’s Beer Cup was the largest competition yet, according to organizers. Nearly 2,500 breweries from more than 50 countries competed, with the U.S. winning more than 250 awards.
And for Stephen Hughes, that recognition was exciting. Hughes is the head brewer at ColdFire Brewing in Eugene, which he co-founded with his brother. The brewery brought home a bronze for its Valley Mélange which was created via wild fermentation.
Hughes started his career as a medical laboratory scientist and the concoctions he creates using wild fermentation ignite his passion for brewing.
“We try to guide the process and certainly we have an end goal in mind. But it’s always a bit of a surprise,” he said. “It’s a really fun medium…It’s the thing that I think about the most that I’m most excited to do.”
You can see a complete list of the 2022 World Beer Cup winners here, including more than a dozen Oregon breweries that won awards.
Lutz, Allen and Hughes joined “Think Out Loud” host Dave Miller to discuss their wins and beers.
Listen to the entire conversation: