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Friday, July 27, 2012

Craft Beer Month's Main Event is Underway

There's something terrific about a warm summer day, large tents teeming with beer fans and, yeah, a bit of beer drinking. Day 1 of the 25th Oregon Brewers Festival is in the books and I think it's safe to say a good time was had by all...or most.

I spent a casual afternoon floating from trailer to trailer, sampling more than a few beers. There were stops along the way to hang out with local beer celebs and friends. The Brewvana Tours family was front and center making friends. Fred Eckhardt was drinking water from his mug when I ran into him. I suggested a Rainier, which drew a smile. There were many more

Getting ready to tap the ceremonial kegs
The day opened with the tapping of the ceremonial first kegs from Cascade Brewing, this year's host brewery. I've been to three or four of these now and I have to say they tend to turn into a bit of a cluster. This time around the TV/video people crowded around the kegs, blocking the view. Last year, the McMenamin's Hammerheads starred in a similar role. Oh well.

A tip of the hat to Art Larrance and the OBF's longtime organizer, Chris Crabb, for introducing representatives of the three founding breweries...Widmer, Bridgeport and Portland Brewing. This being the 25th year, it was more than appropriate to acknowledge Dick and Nancy Ponzi (Bridgeport), Kurt and Rob Widmer (kinda obvious, huh?) and Art himself (Portland Brewing). None of these folks had a clue, in 1988, that the OBF could or would become what it is today. They were simply looking for a way to promote their fledgling breweries. Today, this event is the crown jewel of an industry that has made Portland and the state of Oregon an international destination for craft beer fans. It's pretty amazing to consider what has been built here in 30 years. Wow!

The Brewvana fam-bam: Sal, Ashley and Pam
The Beers
I promised to deliver some thoughts on the beers I tasted. You may recall the tasting list I posted the other day. I was fortunate enough to arrive early enough and stay late enough to taste most of the beers on my list and still make it home safely on the bike. Slow drinking and plenty of water was the key to that. There's more tasting to come.

Lagunitas OBF Fusion was the first beer I ran into. This thing seemed more bitter than 40 IBUs. The reason is the beer has almost no malt backbone. It isn't bad, but I definitely didn't find it all that memorable.

The ceremonial first beer
I moved on to Cherried Alive from Old Market Pub and Brewery. They used a truckload of sweet and sour cherries to make this beer and the name is fitting. The beer is slightly tart and I thought it worked well. A friend didn't care for it. Such is the slippery slope of reviewing beers.

Huckleberry Hound IPA from Alameda Brewing wasn't a failure as an IPA, but I didn't smell or taste much in the way of huckleberry. Whatever juice is present seems to take a backseat to the hops.

Redhook's Peach Trippel was surprisingly light, slightly tart and refreshing. At 8.2% ABV, drinking too much of this stuff isn't advisable...although opinions will differ on that.

Things were buzzing in the Buzz Tent
Because I was trying to save my palette, I didn't taste any big IPAs right away. So there was a gigantic line for Gigantic's Dynomite Double IPA when I finally got there in the mid-afternoon. The reason was instantly apparent. This beer is essentially a bigger version of their standard IPA, which is pretty good in my view. Lots of pineapple, grapefruit and citrus notes. This beer packs 8.9% ABV, but it's not that obvious. If you want to taste this one, get it early. It's on the North side.

Berry White from the Ram Restaurant and Brewery was another nice beer, with a great berry flavor and a mildly tart finish. As advertised in the program, hops are in the background.

The Buzz
They've got a bunch of terrific beers in the Buzz Tent, which is just south of Token Sales. It was pretty busy from the outset and I didn't bother going in there until late afternoon. High Class Blonde from Cascade Brewing was terrific...nicely tart. Freik Cherry Raspberry from Odell's Brewing (Ft. Collins, CO) was also yummy. I don't want to dive any deeper because I have no idea what will be pouring in there the rest of the way.

One point I do want to make about the Buzz Tent: It really bothers me that there is essentially no information on the beers. Some of the servers had snippets of info, but that was it. "Wait a second," I thought. "We ought to be getting a bit of information for double token beers." Indeed we should. Hopefully, they'll find a way to resolve this issue for next year, if not this year.

Cheers to festing!

Update: The crowd arrived earlier than usual and was huge for a Thursday. There were lines for some beers by 2 p.m. Thursday is evidently no longer a secret. I'm guessing this year's attendance will break records, although cooler weekend weather could mess with that theory.


  1. I don't know if you stayed, but that mid-afternoon rush was the busy point. By six it was relatively subdued. Really great for me, may not so much for the fest.

  2. Exactly right. It was packed to the gills at 2:00 and seemingly less busy after 4:00 or so. Getting a beer in the Buzz Tent was a walk-up and fill at 5:00. Same thing for many of the South trailers. It seemed busier up North. Anyway, my thought was that many people bailed out of their downtown jobs in the early afternoon and simply went home at what would be the end of the work day. I suspect that's not happening today and Saturday ought to be nuts...in a good way, of course. Cheers!

  3. I enjoyed Cherried Alive as well but could see that it wouldn't be for everyone. I'd had Huckleberry Hound at the Fruit Beer Fest and was so underwhelmed I didn't bother to give it a second chance here. It was a bummer to show up on Thursday to such crowds but such are the chances you take at any popular event.


Keep it civil, please.