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Friday, July 29, 2011

OBF Day 1

Day 1 of the Oregon Brewers Festival was near perfect. The weather cooperated perfectly and the crowds materialized. The sheer number of people involved in the breakfast and parade forced organizers to have two ceremonial kegs (actually barrels) this year, which says a lot about where this festival is headed. Art Larrance will apparently expand the festival to Tuesday next year. More details to come.

Over in the media tent, they took us through 15 "seminal" beers chosen mostly on a subjective basis. Some of these beers were really good. Others not so much. People coming to the festival over the weekend are looking for a cheat sheet of good beers. So I'll offer a few thoughts.

If you're looking for a great starter, one that's clean and refreshing, but not too high in alcohol, try Ninkasi's Helles Belles. This beer is a lager, which is off-brand for Ninkasi, mostly known for heavily hopped ales. Helles Belles is a light beer with depth and soul. It's highly drinkable in the warmer weather that is expected to last through the festival.

Art Larrance (right) gives Fred Eckhardt his due.

Next in line is Collaborator Hopfinium, a hoppy lager. You heard that right...lager. This is basically an IPA with a cleaner, dryer finish courtesy the German lager yeast. For the unknowing, Collaborator is a collaboration between Widmer and the Oregon Brew Crew. Some Collaborator beers show up on guest taps around town. This apparently won't be the case with Hopfinium, as they only brewed enough for the OBF. Come and get it!

Boundary Bay, from Bellingham, has always been a favorite of mine. This year's OBF submission is Double Dry Hopped Glacier Pale Ale. The name comes from the Glacier hops added four different times. This beer occupies an interested space. It's likely not hoppy enough for hopheads (45 IBU), but too hoppy for novice drinkers.

Fort George's Sunrise Oatmeal Pale Ale is a pleasing and well-balanced beer with a heavy citrus component, thanks to lots of Amarillo and Centennial hops added at the end of the boil. As the OBF program suggests, you could have some of this for breakfast in place of grapefruit and cereal.

For hopheads, a must try is Firestone Walker's Double Jack. What a fantastic beer! A fairly malty character does a great job of reducing the sonic blast of 100 IBUs and 9.5 percent alcohol. Lots of fruity aromas here. This beer is so tasty you'll be tempted to come back for seconds and thirds. Best enjoyed in moderation is my advice.

Another excellent choice is Amnesia's Dopacetic IPA. Locals will recognize Dopacetic as the imperial version of the Copacetic IPA they pour at the brewery. Dopacetic has a great balance of flavor, bitterness and aroma. Amarillo hops used in dry hopping add significant character.

If you like smokey porters, don't miss Donner Party Porter from FiftyFifty Brewing of Truckee, Calif. This is a complex and silky smooth beer that uses 11 different grains, toasted oats and a shot of Molasses. Hop character is in the background here, just enough to back things up.

Possibly the most loved beer in OBF history, 21st Amendment's Hell or High Watermelon Wheat, returns. It isn't that hard to find...just look for a long line. While Watermelon Wheat isn't my favorite beer or beer style, I understand why this beer is so popular. It's light, the fruit flavors and tartness are subtle and low hop levels make it highly drinkable. Don't feel guilty for loving this beer!

Cheers to festing!

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