By the Numbers
The folks who track such things say attendance was 80,000. That number has stayed steady for the last few years and I suspect it is nothing more than an educated guess. Landing on an exact number would be nearly impossible since many of the same people pass through the gates on multiple days.
|Saturday brought out the shades and the crowds|
I heard a lot of bitching about the Saturday crowds. Indeed, the lines were long by mid-afternoon and there was no getting around under the tents. Some people were complaining that there were fewer people pouring beer. Maybe so, I don't know. The main issue, I think, was that there were just too many people in the park. People who might have come on Friday came on Saturday because the weather report was better.
Look, the only way to alleviate the problem with lines is to limit the number of people in the park at any given time. They could do that by pre-selling tickets for specific drinking sessions. That's what they do at the Great American Beer Festival. The OBF could do this, but it would require extensive changes to the way they do things. I suspect it will only happen when people stop coming due to the crowds...which essentially means it isn't happening anytime soon.
I did my best to taste as many beers as possible during my three stints in the park...my notes suggest I tasted in the neighborhood of 50 beers. I had a few favorites, which I'll get to, but the whole experience got me wondering how much beer is consumed during this event.
|Would 1,500+ kegs fill it?|
It's a little late to talk about beer highlights, but these are a few that I liked (in no particular order): Occidental Kellerbier, Gigantic Dynomite, Redhook Peach Trippel, Epic Hop Syndrome Lager, Ram Berry White, HUB Imperial Sunshine, Dunedin Chronicle IPA, Ballast Point Sculpin IPA, McMenamin's Gilbert Grapefruit (Buzz), Cascade High Class Blond (Buzz). I have to admit some of the beers on my original tasting list didn't pan out.
|Drinking the Raspberry Crush|
The biggest miss of this event in my mind was the handling of the beers in the Buzz Tent (which was also the Sour Tent, if you didn't know). There was no advance information on the Buzz Tent beers and there was little if any information in the tent. I don't get it. These were double token beers, typically high alcohol beers, many of them barrel-aged.
I can almost understand why you would want to keep the Buzz beers under wraps before the festival. But why would you not have information in the tent? One guy had gone to the web and gotten some info about the Buzz beer he was pouring...which he scribbled on a small piece of paper for patrons to see. He did it because he was embarrassed to give the patented Sgt. Schultz, "I know nothing, nothing!" response when asked about the beer he was pouring. Seriously? I hope this gets fixed next year.
|Calm seas in the Buzz Tent Saturday afternoon|
The OBF is Portland's original beer festival. When launched in 1988, its primary (arguably its sole) purpose was to promote craft beer. The festival has done its job so well over the years that it has spawned countless smaller festivals in Portland and around the region.
Not all beer events are created equal, of course. Many of the newer festivals were invented mainly to cash in on the popularity of craft beer. Some aren't even a good value...largely because they're more concerned with making money then with promoting good beer. If you aren't sure who these festivals are, no worries...you'll figure it out.
|Connecting the dots of success|
To me, the key to the OBF's ongoing success is that they've found a way to balance profit motive with reasonable value. People come to Waterfront Park to enjoy good beers, live music and the great ambiance for not a lot of money. The value of the package makes it the quintessential event of the year. And it will likely maintain that title until something significant changes.