The 20th Annual Oregon Brewers Festival
by Suds Sister
I have a friend who very cleverly convinced his girlfriend to make the move from Manhattan to Portland. One thing that worked in his favor was to make sure that her first visit to Portland was during the last full weekend in July, which is when the Oregon Brewers Festival is always held. There’s no mystery as to how sipping craft beer on a sunny day on the waterfront could make a girl give up the bright lights for our beer city.
Now in its 20th year, the Oregon Brewers Festival (OBF) puts Portland on the map when it comes to beer festivals. It’s certainly not the largest in the country, but organizers expect 55,000 visitors for this year’s expanded four day festival. Always on the last weekend in July, always on the waterfront, always something new to try. Always something I clear my calendar to attend.
The first festival held 20 years ago certainly didn’t have 55,000 visitors. They were initially expecting just five thousand people. But 15,000 Portlanders ended up tasting the 16 beers that they poured that first year. Today, breweries from all over the country vie to get into the festival, and the magic number is 72. Due to the space limitations of the waterfront, only 72 beers can be poured each year. The full list of what’s on tap is at the festival is available by clicking the link at the end of the article.
Even with 72 beers, a few will rise to the top with the designation of Buzz Beers. These are beers that everyone is talking about, beers that everyone wants to try, and beers that run out first. I asked Noel Blake, brewer of four Collaborator recipes and the guy who helped create Ommegang Three Philosophers, what he thought this year’s Buzz Beers might be. True to form, this former writer of the OBF program has a spot-on assessment of Buzz:“The art of predicting buzz brews is difficult. You never know if when a seemingly run-of-the-mill amber ale will sparkle with such intensity that it immediately commands an avid following. Also, buzz beers can change from day to day, or are wedded to style. So I think it is a given that a buzz beer is not necessarily the best overall beer, but a very surprising beer.” Following are some of Noel’s predictions as to “which one gets the geeks’ propellers whizzing”:
*Flying Fish Bourbon Barrel Abbey Dubbel – Specially produced for the OBF from a New Jersey Belgian specialist, the malty, bourbon barrel aging could provide the perfect je ne sais quoi to their already exemplary, fruity, malty dubbel.
*Laurelwood PNW Pils – Imperial Pilsner + Laurelwood = winner. Plus, people love the flavor of Saaz hops. If they can’t locate this tap, there’s also Prima Pils at the festival.
*Rogue Imperial Porter – Big, rich, complex and hoppy, plus there are not very many dark beers and no other Rogue beers at the festival.
And here are Noel’s predictions for Hoppy Buzz Beers:
*Diamond Knot Industrial IPA – They put Columbus hops *in the keg* .
*Green Flash West Coast IPA – A very floral hop nose and a dry finish add up to a beer both bitter and refreshing. 95 IBU’s might overpower the slight body.
*Hopworks Urban Brewery Organic IPA – Everybody wants to try Christian Ettinger’s latest, even before his new pub is open. (But it) may be too balanced for the extreme hopheads and too hoppy for the rest.
*Standing Stone Double IPA – 5 types of hops and a hair-raising 95 IBU, yet somehow I feel that it will be both fresh-tasting and balanced.
I have to echo Noel’s excitement over the 21 IPAs that will be poured at the festival. On opening day, you will definitely find me in line to taste the Imperial IPAs: El Torero Organic IPA from Alameda Brewing, with its 90 IBUs, and Butte Creek’s Revolution XI anniversary beer. Diamond Knot’s Industrial IPA looks to be an ‘over-the-hop’ kind of beer, and at 8.2 ABV you had better take the MAX home. Hitting 100 IBUs is Ram Brewing’s Double Exposure IPA, crafted especially for the festival. Silver City brought its Whoop Pass imperial IPA to the festival last year, and it was a big hit. No wonder considering the beer’s 9.1 ABV!
If the mercury climbs, look for long lines of ladies leading up to the following summer refreshers. Perennial favorite Watermelon Wheat from 21st Amendment Brewing, Anderson Valley’s Cerveza Crema, Boulder Brewing’s Sweaty Betty, Kona Brewing’s Wailua Wheat, Lompoc’s SummerAide, and Racoon Lodge’s Razberry Wheat. Old Market Pub and Brewery is serving a Belgian Wit called A Midsummer’s White that looks to be a lacy lovely. Oregon Trail Brewing’s Oregon Trail Wit and Bjs C’est Bon Blonde are other Belgian beauties. Widmer takes the Belgian Wit to the extreme with its 9% ABV Noggin’ Grog.
Beers, buzz beers especially, do run out. It helps to have a strategy for the festival. Take a look at the list, and drink what looks good to you first. At the very least, look for the longest tap line – they are bound to be some good beers. Go earlier rather than later (earlier in the week, earlier in the day) to insure that beers don’t run out and to beat the crowds. Go with a group. The sample pours are very large, and having a few people to share tasters guarantees that you will be able to try all that you want without falling into the river. Drink lots of water, take public transportation and plan to go somewhere for a meal before or afterwards. Entry to the festival is free, and they save a couple of kegs of each beer for every day of the festival.
The Oregon Brewers Festival is more than just four days of beer tasting on the waterfront. Over the years it has morphed into Craft Beer Month, with beer tasting events and celebrations all through July. As was mentioned elsewhere in the blogosphere, if you are not careful, you could end up drinking craft beer every day in July! Here are some of the events coming up:
Tuesday, July 24th
Beer and Cheese Tasting with Fred Eckhardt
Rogue Ales Public House, 1339 NW Flanders, Portland
Doors open at 5 p.m., just $35
Join venerable beer scribe Fred Eckhardt as he pairs ten tasty brews with ten artisinal cheeses.
Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale paired with Rogue Creamery Soba Cheddar
Eugene City Honey Orange Wheat Beer paired with Ancient Heritage Scio Feta
Rogue Brutal Bitter paired with Tumalo Farms Pondhopper (a hopped up goat cheese)
Rogue Chipotle Ale paired with Rogue Creamery Chipotle Cheddar
Rogue Juniper Pal Ale paired with Scray’s (WI) Tierra del Norte Aged Gouda
Rogue Chocolate Stout paired with Rogue Creamy Chocolate Stout Cheddar
Deschutes Inversion IPA paired with Oregon Gourmet Cheese’s Camembert
De Ranke Guldenberg Triple paired Grandpa Z’s (WI) Springside 6-year aged cheddar
Eugene City Imperial Red paired with Maytag Blue
Hair of the Dog Fred paired with Cypress Grove Humbolt Fog
Wednesday, July 25th
Oregon Brewers Guild Dinner
Tom McCall Waterfront Park, SW Parkway & Oak St, Portland
5:30 to 8:30 p.m., $40 ($30 for SNOBs)503-288-2739
Join a group of brewers and beer enthusiasts the night before the opening of the festival for a BBQ. This is one of those only-in-Portland-type events. The price of admission buys you dinner, a souvenir pint glass to fill with eight half pints of beer not being poured at the festival, and the chance to meet and chat with the brewers. Dinner is the choice of pork tenderloin or grilled salmon, roasted veggies, green salad, baked potato, rolls and a Shakespeare Stout chocolate brownie.
Here are the beers:
Amnesia Brewing – ESB or Copacetic IPA
Big Horn Brewing – Willie Valley Wit
BJ’s Pizza, Grill & Brewery – Wit
BridgePort Brewing – Hop Harvest
Clinton Street Brewing – Rye Ale
Deschutes Brewery – Oak aged Cinder Cone Red
Double Mountain Brewery – India Red Ale
Full Sail Brewing – Belgian Pale Ale
Golden Valley Brewery & Pub – Red Hills Pils
Laurelwood Brewing – Rye Ale
Lucky Labrador Brewing – Super Dog
Lompoc Brewing – Archer’s Pale Ale
Macs/Pyramid Breweries – Imperial Hefeweizen
Max’s Fanno Creek Brewpub – Pilsner
Ninkasi Brewing Co. – Total Domination IPA
Old Market Pub and Brewery Organic – Centennial IPA
Pelican Pub & Brewery – Surfers Summer Ale
Raccoon Lodge – Bitter Rabbit Pale Ale
Rock Bottom Brewery – Two Middle Fingers Sour Ale
Rogue Ales – American Amber
Terminal Gravity Brewing Co. – Gruit
Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. – Oud Bruin
Thursday, July 26th
Oregon Brewers Brunch and Parade
Starting at Rogue Ales Public House
1339 NW Flanders, Portland
10 a.m., $15 (includes brunch, beer, t-shirt and a kazoo)
Celebrate the opening of the festival with a brunch that starts at 10 a.m. at Rogue Public House. The publicans promise a hearty brunch with chocolate stout pancakes and a pint. At 11 a.m., join March Fourth Marching Band and Mayor Tom Potter along with 200 brewers and beer lovers as they head over to the festival. According to the OBF, “the parade will wind its way through Portland sidewalks, with scheduled stops, to the opening ceremonies of the 20th annual Oregon Brewers Festival.”
July 26 – July 29
Oregon Brewers Festival
Tom McCall Waterfront Park
Noon to 9 p.m. Thurs.-Sat. ; Noon to 7 p.m. Sun.
Suds Sister is a budding beer scholar and beer tourist.