Under perfect summer skies on the banks of the sparkling Willamette with Mt. Hood towering in the distance, 72 wildly wonderful beers will pour for the denizens of Beertopia and the folks who are lucky enough to visit here. It’s the most perfect weekend of the summer, and following is a preview of how you’re likely to spend it.
Now 21 years old, our Oregon Brewer’s Festival (OBF) has become the stuff of legend. Some say it’s the largest outdoor beer festival in the country. I say it’s just another one of the many things that make our city great. When the fest started, there was only one brewery within walking distance of the festival. Now Portland boasts almost 30 breweries, with most of them crafting something special for OBF.
The festival looks to be great this year. Like last year, the OBF will run for four days, from Thursday, the 24th through Sunday. The festival saw fit to expand its distribution as well, adding two extra beer trucks pouring 220 additional kegs. More staff will also be on hand to speed entry into the fest. Look for Beer Ambassadors roaming around, including yours truly, who will provide visitors with all of the information needed to enjoy the festival, and indeed all of Beervana. 1800 volunteers are needed to staff the event, and, yes, they too are in it for the beer, just like you.
Entry to the festival is free, but you will need to buy a souvenir cup for $5. Tastes of beer, really the best bargain of OBF, are still just a buck for four ounces. Pick up a program and read about the beer. And keep in mind three things. Please don’t drive, drink lots of water and eat, and go with a group to taste more.
And just what will you be drinking? Bridgetown beer sage, and proud owner of four Collaborator jackets, Noel Blake is back with some of his picks for buzz beers:
Cascade Brewing Razberry Wheat: tart and fruity for when the sun is shining
Roots Calypso Ale: contains locally-grown apricot and scotch bonnet peppers
On the lighter side:
Hopworks HUB lager: this great pilsener has it all, plus it’s organic
Fifty-Fifty Foggy Goggle White: lots of stuff (sour mash, spices, blend of 3 Belgian yeasts) might add up to overkill or sublimity – I’d bet on the upside.
Green Flash Hop Head Red: lots of Amarillo hops in a red ale sounds like a winning recipe
Alameda East Village Amber: because when you want an amber it should taste this good
The Dark Side:
Bell‘s Porter: legendary brewery, very well-balanced versatile beer with enough malty complexity to reset your hop-o-meter
Surly Coffee Bender: a brown ale with a toddy of fresh-roasted Guatemalan coffee added for extra zip to keep you balanced on the balls of your feet
The Belgian Way:
Golden Valley Côte d’Or: G.V. specializes in wine-barrel aged beers, and this Belgian golden ale is aged in Oregon chardonnay barrels
Rock Bottom Congo Queen: They threw everything but the kitchen sink at this one – you’ve got to try it, then decide whether you love it or hate it
Rogue Glen: Cha-ching!
Collaborator Resurrection Rye: Balanced towards the hoppy side – try this early in case it runs out.
Century Club – take your pick of the following five beers over 100 IBU:
Russian River Pliny the Elder: this and Rogue I-squared are the gold standard of Imperial IPA’s, soon to be seen all over town.
Lagunitas Hop Stoopid: because RR is not the only Sonoma County brewery that likes hops – this one is very aromatic, too.
Widmer Full Nelson: using only New Zealand hops, I’ve been hearing good reports on this one
Bridgeport Hop Czar: you must obey the hop czar!
McMenamin’s Hillsdale Madman Jacks Insane Pale Ale: this one has hops over the top and everywhere in between
All of those look fantastic. No wonder there’s a hop shortage with all of those IPAs in the Century Club! As for me, with 11 Belgian varieties pouring this year, I‘m looking forward to tasting the following Belgian Beauties:
Flying Fish Love Fish Abbey Dubbel: Be still my heart, I think this beer might make me fall in love. Cherries and almonds and malt, oh my!
Golden Valley Cote d’Or: Worth its weight in gold.
Goose Island Matilda: Another Belgian golden, and this one is from a fantastic brewery.
Fifty Fifty Foggy Goggle White: Orange peel, coriander, chamomile…sounds like a lovely afternoon in a glass to me.
Boulevard Brewing Lunar Ale: Lazy, hazy brown beer with fruity aromatics, yeah, I’m in.
For more information check out the following sites:
The Oregon Brewer’s Festival: http://www.oregonbrewfest.com/
The Oregon Brewer’s Guild: http://oregonbeer.org/
Oregon Brew Map: http://placemapper.com/maps/brewmap.htm
Suds Sister, a.k.a. Niki Ganong, is a budding beer scholar and beer tourist. We are always glad when she gets a chance to write for us.
Thanks for the great overview of the festival! I wish I could attend this year, as you’ve captured my interest for another pint of the ‘Pliny and trying the GV Cote d’OR a taste or three. Hopefully I can find them around town sometime soon.
Report back on your favorites from the list, crowd and kegs running dry be damned!
Suds Sister says
Okay, so with a little help from my friends I managed to really taste most of the festival yesterday. And I actually remember some if it.
My favorites to wit. Or should I say just wit:
50 50 Foggy Goggle — A sour mash beer with traditional belgian wit spices. Very quaffable. Loved it, could drink it all day long.
Rogue Glen — Essentially a strong ale with a whole lotta hops. Malty and hoppy but balanced. A friend says, “Oh this one puts a smile on my face.”
Golden Valley Cote d’Or — Aged in chardonnay barrels, this is definitely a chick beer…but an Oregon chick’s beer! Nice and light with great spice.
Rock Bottom Belgian Style Colonial Golden Spiced Sorghum Ale a.k.a. Congo Queen — When I asked Van Havig, esteemed brewer at Rock Bottom, what he was bringing to the festival he told me that he wanted to make a beer that tasted like a gin & tonic. With it’s piney nose and all of this gin-like spices, this one is a winner in my book. Though some people in my group hated it, like g & t’s, I could drink this all summer long. It’s worth noting that this beauty is on tap right now at the tavern, which also happens to be the closest brewery within walking distance fo the festival.
Sprecher Mai Bock — Malty and very true to style but with a dry hop finish. Loved it.
Surly Brewing’s Coffee Bender — This coffee falvored American brown is not normally a style of beer I reach for, but, hello and good morning! This is one hell of a breakfast beer!
New Holland Brewing Company’s Dragon’s Milk — Super sweet nose with a definite alcohol finish. And in spite of all of that very palatable.
Goose Island Matilda — This is my idea of a perfect beer. I just love Belgians and this one is good enough to stand along side of monks makings. Spicy fruity and earthy with a bit o barnyard…I’ll waltz with this Matilda a lot over the weekend to be sure.
Russian River Pliny the Elder — Seemingly the most popular IPA of the fest, the winner and still champion Pliny packs a whollop of a hop punch.
Widmer Full Nelson — By far my favorite IPA of the festival. One of my friends noted that it had a bit of an armpit nose, but in a good way. But I thought it was exciting and balanced. Just a lot going on there.
What I dumped:
Roots Calypso, a red wheat with an overwhelming hot pepper finish. Awful.
Flying Fish Love Fish, not bad, just such a disappointment. Tasted watered down.
Caldera Ginger Pale, tastes like it should be good for you. I disliked the contrast of malt/hops and ginger
Johann Sebastian Bock says
Congo Queen and Cote d’Or were my favorites. I didn’t think that Caldera’s Ginger was bad, just not as good as the Congo which had the perfect amount of ginger. I also sadly dumped Calypso. I don’t think it was awful just not to my taste. I like chiles WITH my beer not in it.
I sadly missed Foggy Goggle. Will have to go back.
Wasn’t Congo Queen a surprise? I’m always on the lookout for celiac friendly beers, but this one is far and away the best I’ve ever had. It was delicious. I wasn’t really happy with any of the other Belgian-styled ales this year though; they all seemed over the top with one flavor or another.