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Monday, July 2, 2012

NAOBF Reviewed and Recycled

I hesitate to write event reviews. They're too personal. My experience at a given event may be completely at odds with the experience of others. But never mind. Let me tell you about the just-completed North American Organic Brewers Festival.

Wither Weather
This festival was victimized by marginal weather for the second straight year. If my recollection is correct, it wasn't as wet last year...and Sunday was nicer. I was down there Friday afternoon and it was cloudy and warm. By the time it started raining Friday evening, I had vamoosed out of there. Saturday must have been a quagmire with all the rain and Sunday was cool until late afternoon. Not the best.

The recyclable cup looked good in liquid gold
June is always a sketchy month for outdoor events in Oregon. Festival organizer Craig Nicholls knows that. All of us who have lived here for any length of time know it. I have no idea what attendance was...don't even need to know. What I do know is attendance would have been better if the weather had been warmer and drier.

I suppose Craig has a several options: First, he could try to shoehorn the NAOBF into July or August. That could prove difficult due to the packed summer calendar. Second, as insurance against unkind weather, he could cover more of the festival area with large tents. I suppose he'd have to weigh the cost of doing that against the benefit of better attendance. The other option is to move the event indoors...and let's face it, that isn't going to happen.

Ladies and gents, get ready to start your engines...
Unforced Errors
People on the outside generally have no idea how much coordination it takes to run a festival like this one smoothly. A lot of things have to come together for things to come off the way they're supposed to. By the way, I didn't coin the phrase unforced errors...Jeff Alworth over at Beervana did. Credit due.

I have no idea what kinds of issues occurred during the weekend. I wasn't there. They likely ran out of some of the more popular beers before closing time. That's par for the festival course.  If they avoided this scenario at the NAOBF, terrific. If you want the best beer selection, arrive early.

Possible ride home...for the overindulgent
What did happen was truly stupid, though it affected mostly those of us who showed up for the media tour Friday morning. The tour, a first at the NAOBF, was to be led by Lisa Morrison, who most of us know as the Beer Goddess and host of Beer O'clock Radio. Lisa was ready to lead the tour on cue at 11:00 a.m. It was fortuitous that some members of the media did not arrive on time.

When we did get over to the taps, we discovered the beer was warm. This was unfortunate. Here you have a bunch of people who have come to sample the beers so they can write or talk about them. And the beer is warm. As well, some of the beers hadn't arrived or hadn't been tapped. This threw a monkey wrench into Lisa's plan, which was well-organized. The good news is that paying customers weren't affected. Still, not the best. 

Faithful tasters...Alex Ganum (Upright) and Angelo De Ieso
By the way, this problem was well on its way to being solved by the time the gates opened at noon. By 1:00 p.m., they had iced down the jockey boxes and all the beer was flowing cold. I can assure you that members of the media did their best to find a warm beer...and failed.

The Layout
They changed the layout this year, to mixed reactions. The beer taps were located to the right of the courtyard as you entered, as opposed to straight back, which was the case last year. I saw the possible reason when I took a gander at the area where the beer was located last year: it's quite uneven. The area where they had the beer this time appeared to be flatter.

This may have been a nice logistical change, but it created a couple of issues: First, the beer taps were a long ways from the restrooms, located on the opposite side of the festival green. I heard a few people bitching about that. Oh well. Take a walk. Second, the beer was a long ways from the stage, where they had live music playing pretty much continuously. I can't say how big of an issue this was. To me, the music seemed remote and muted this year...I paid little attention to it. Last year was different.

The Friday afternoon crowd
The Beers
It's a little late to talk about the beers, since the festival is over. But you will be able to find some of these beers around town on draft or in a bottle. I used my original tasting list as a guide (find it here) and was pleased with most of what I found. A few notes:

Alameda Brewing - Thai Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA - ABV 8.2% IBU 100
This variation on standard Yellow Wolf is made with 100 percent organic malts. The addition of dried mangoes, flaked coconut, Thai basil and ginger softened up the normal bite. I thought it was terrific. 

The Commons - Havier Bier/Oat Saison - ABV 5.6% IBU 15
Typically on-style and refreshing. Any beer by The Commons is worth a try. 

Fort George Brewing Spruce Budd Ale - ABV 5.2% IBU 0
They use spruce tips in place of hops for aroma and some flavor in this beer. I didn't care for it. The other Fort George offering, a barrel-aged fruit beer called South, was good.

Laht Neppur Brewing Co.- Peach Hefeweizen Fruit Beer - ABV 5.2% IBU 15
This is Laht Neppur's Hefeweizen with peaches and puree added. I found it crisp and tasty.

Laurelwood Brewing - Organic Green Elephant IPA - ABV 6.9% IBU 80
Both of the Laurelwood beers were quite nice, but I knew already knew that. Organic Green Elephant and Organic Deranger IRA are on tap at the Sandy pub and should continue to be for a while. Update: I stopped in last night (7/3) and discovered they are not pouring Deranger. Bartender said they won't put it on until the Green Elephant is gone. I swear they had Deranger on last week. Oh well.

Logsdon Farmhouse Ales - Kili Wit Beer = ABV 5.5% IBU 20
I may have ingested more than my fair share of this stuff during a visit to the brewers tent. Brilliant.

Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing - Love Potion Fruit Beer ABV 4.5% IBU 36
This one was not pouring at the outset. It's a pale ale brewed with cherries, oranges, rose hips and hibiscus. I thought it offered a nice mix of lightness and complexity.

So there you have it...my version of the 2012 NAOBF. It was a decent event all in all. Of course, the weather could have cooperated. Maybe next year.

Update: Check out the Brewpublic blog for Angelo's version of the NAOBF. Nice write-up.


  1. For what it's worth, I appreciate your write up and perspective on it. Very interesting about the media preview. I had to work and couldn't make it but it sounds like I didn't miss anything. This was my first year attending (on Saturday) and while the weather wasn't ideal, the park is nice and the beer was good.

  2. Well, I probably shouldn't have commented on the media preview. What happened was simply unfortunate, especially for Lisa because she had put some effort into putting together a tasting order. I suspect this snafu won't happen again. This is a good event...just needs better weather.


Keep it civil, please.