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Monday, July 23, 2012

On Tap Thursday-Sunday: OBF XXV

Finally, the little event many beer fans have been waiting for is nearly here. If you pass Waterfront Park in the next couple of days, you'll see a beehive of activity as organizers hoist tents and essentially assemble the infrastructure required to support an event that will attract 80,000. The Oregon Brewers Festival is upon us.

They're expecting great weather for this year's OBF...sunny with temps in the low to mid 80s is what I'm seeing and hearing. It doesn't get a whole lot better. One of the great things about having a big outdoor event in Portland this time of year is the weather almost always cooperates. Anyone feel like a beer?

Prep to Fest
Festival posters are up at breweries, pubs and other beer-centric locations around town. They advertise 125+ craft beers. Please realize, the 125 includes beers that will be featured in the Buzz Tent and Sour Tent (new this year). Something like 82 beers will be poured from taps in front of the big tents everyone is familiar with.

Just to be clear, no one knows what the Buzz and Sour Tents will be pouring. Actually, at least one person does know...that person being Preston Weesner, the OBF's maestro of beer. He's not saying anything about the beers because he knows he doesn't have to. There's no pre-festival program for the Buzz or Sour Tents and it's arguably better that way because these beers usually don't last very long. A lot of us will report what we find on Thursday, but that's no guarantee the same beers will be around for Friday or the weekend. In the end, you'll get what you get in these tents.

Putting together a tentative tasting list is tough...too many great choices. I have to admit the Buzz and Sour Tent beers play into my thinking. Why? Because I know will be trying quite a few of those high octane gems. So the list of standard beers I plan to taste leans in the direction of lower ABV beers. If you recall, the average ABV this year is 6.2%, which is lower than usual. I'm pretty sure that number doesn't include the Buzz or Sour Tent beers. In any case, there are plenty of beers to choose from in the 4-5.5% ABV category.

Get ready for sunshine and great beer!

Tasting Sheet
Below is a short list of beers I hope to run into at the festival. I haven't tasted any of the these before, to my knowledge, and that's part of why I chose them. I'm listing them in no particular order because I know that's how I'll find them. Most of the descriptions are taken from the media program, with slight editing.

Huckleberry Hound IPA 6.5% ABV, 55 IBU
Alameda Brewing, Portland
Columbus, Cascade, Amarillo and Simcoe hops in the boil, whirlpool and fermenter complement the unique grain bill of German Pilsner malt, German Munich malt and Crystal rye. Huckleberry juice pumps up the gravity and adds a sweet fruity touch to the dry but full-bodied brew.

Tropical Blonde 5.1% ABV, 15 IBU
Vertigo Brewing, Hillsboro
Key Lime juice is said to give this beer a unique, sweet citrus taste. The medium-strength beer was brewed from Gambrinus 2-Row pale, Rahr wheat, Crystal 10 and Cara Foam malts with flaked barley in the grist. Noble Czech Saaz hops bitter the wort, with Mt. Hoods added at 15 and 30 minutes before knockout for flavor and aroma. Sounds interesting.

Raspberry Crush 5.2% ABV, 4 IBU
10 Barrel Brewing, Bend
Acidulated white wheat, raspberries and an inoculation of lactobacillus in the fermenter. Low hop levels let the special sour flavors dominate, and rice syrup helps yield a light finish and body.

Oregon Strawberry Honey Ale 5.3% ABV, 15 IBU
Mt. Emily Ale House, La Grande
Organic strawberries and organic honey add special sweetness, but also an exceptionally dry finish to this all-organic brew. A simple grain bill of organic 2-Row malt provides the wort, bittered and flavored by an early and a late addition of organic Cascade hops.

This scene from 2005 will soon be repeated
Kellerbier 4.9% ABV, 25 IBU
Occidental Brewing, Portland
Occidental produces a terrific line of German-style beers. Kellerbier, also known as Zwickelbier, is unfiltered and unpasteurized. Pilsen and Carapils malt form the simple grist bill, while the wort is moderately bittered with Tettnanger hops for a slightly spicy flavor and aroma. Budvar yeast strain yields a malty nose with subtle fruit tones. The yeast held in suspension makes it naturally cloudy. It's full of vitamins, they say.

Pineapple Express 5.7% ABV, 7 IBU
Collaborator, Portland
Collaborator is one of the oldest collaborations in the nation between a craft brewer (Widmer Brothers) and homebrewers (the Oregon Brew Crew). Pineapple Express is the latest in the Collaborator series. Pineapple added to the secondary fermenter adds a fruity sweetness as well as the flavor and aroma of the fruit, while leaving the acidity and bitterness behind. 2-Row, Munich and wheat malts are supplemented by corn sugar for a light-bodied sweet beer that's not cloying.

Cherried Alive 7.8% ABV, 19 IBU
Old Market Pub & Brewery, Portland
They added 700 pounds of Oregon organic sweet and tart cherries to the secondary fermenter, on top of a five-grain malt bill. It wasn't enough to satisfy Old Market brewers. So they aged much of the brew in Pinot Noir oak barrels with an additional 900 pounds of cherries. Wow!

Peach Trippel 8.2% ABV, 20 IBU
Redhook, Woodinville, WA
They added a half-ton of real fruit peach puree to make 35 barrels of this beer, which makes its debut at the Festival. A four-step mash process on 2-Row, wheat, Munich and Cara-20 malts produced a sweet wort, supplemented with dextrose and Candi sugar in the boil. A gentle dose of Northern Brewer and Saaz hops creates a light but slightly sweet beer with low bitterness to accentuate the aroma and flavor of the fruit.

OBF Fusion Secret ABV, Secret IBU
Lagunitas, Petaluma, CA
Lagunutas may have the best sense of humor in the brewing industry. This is a special beer for the OBF. Conceived by Oregon beer lovers, then brewed in Petaluma by Oregonians with a recipe so secret, even the brewers don't know it. The program claims they overcome the risk of brewing blindfolded by hiring seeing-eye dogs to do all of the heavy lifting. Alrighty, dudes.

Berry White 5% ABV, 13 IBU
Ram Restaurant & Brewery, Happy Valley
The program says once you taste this beer, you may find yourself singing in a low baritone about how you can't get enough of it. Start with pale malt, malted and unmalted wheat, acidulated malt and flaked oats. A light hand with Vanguard hops provides just enough bitterness to take off the sweet edge. Raspberries added to secondary fermentation and the brite tank finish the beer with a tart, tangy berry flavor.

IPA is the most popular craft style nationwide at the moment, and I'm positive there will be some hopheads at the OBF. These are a few hoppy highlights.

Sculpin IPA 6.6% ABV 70 IBU
Ballast Point, San Diego
Seven different hops added several times to the boil, as well as to the knock-out and in the fermenter. Northern Brewer, German Tradition, Columbus, Chinook, Centennial, Amarillo and Simcoe give it not only a bracing bitterness, but a rich, hop flavor.

Tan Line Summer IPA 5.2% ABV 82 IBU
Fire Mountain Brewing, Carlton, OR
This has the look of a hop bomb. Centennial and Saaz hops go into the kettle on a secret schedule, but rumor has it they don't stop once they start. Pilsner and light caramel malts provide the grain base to carry all that hop bitterness. Dry English Ale yeast supposedly leaves some malt flavor behind to balance the hops.

IPA Chronicle: FL-Oregon Trail 7.5% ABV No IBU listed
Dunedin Brewery, Dunedin, FL
Dunedin makes its OBF debut with this high-gravity IPA of record-setting bitterness (off-the-chart 125 IBUs). They say IBUs of more than 100 can't be tasted. We'll see, I guess. Don't ignore this beer due to any preconceived notions about Florida beer. They are making progress with an increasing number of breweries and beers. 

Double Hopped Double IPA 7.8% ABV, 85 IBU 
Terminal Gravity Brewing, Enterprise
This is a collaboration with Double Mountain Brewery. Wallowa Mountain water extracts its malty sweetness (and yeast food) from Belgian Biscuit, Maris Otter and high-color U.S. pale 2-Row malts. Chinook, Styrian Goldings and experimental HBC342 hops are added into the boil, with the Goldings and HBC342s also added in the fermenter for an extra snappy hop flavor.

Dynomite! 8.9% ABV, 90 IBU
Gigantic Brewing, Portland
An Imperial IPA with "Gigantic amounts of hops, malt, alcohol and flavor," says the program. A little bit of Crystal malt is added to lots of base 2-Row pale and as many hops as they could find - especially in the hopback, to make sure you can taste hops in the finish. Another hop bomb!

Report Card
I'll be festing Thursday through Saturday. Thursday will be mostly focused on keeping track of what I taste and what I like. I'll post some findings on Friday. I hope to see you there. Cheers! 


  1. I have to say that the version of Huckleberry Hound I had at the Fruit Beer Fest was...well, it wasn't good. Hopefully the batch at OBF will be better.
    I just had Dynomite for the first time last night from the source and it is amazing. This will probably be the OBF beer I'll go back to again and again if I have tokens to use up.
    However, like you I'll probably use plenty of them in the Sour and Buzz tents.

  2. I haven't tasted Huckleberry Hound. It sounds interesting. I hope it's not terrible. You're right about the Buzz and Sour tents...I'll be hitting them hard.


Keep it civil, please.