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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Taste of Wednesday at the Oregon Brewers Festival

The Oregon Brewers Festival's first-ever Wednesday opening day is in the books and it went well. It may take casual beer fans a year or two to jump on the Wednesday bandwagon, but there was a pleasant crowd on hand.

John Foyston and Art Larrance
Parade Grand Marshal John Foyston led a large contingent of fans who had brunch at the host brewery, Bridgeport, Wednesday morning. Foyston, who has been writing about beer for the Oregonian for nearly 20 years, opened the festival with a charming story about Chet Atkins' inability to sing. If you're younger than 50, you likely didn't get it...but never mind.

There are some changes this year, some of which I've already mentioned.

Big space between tents and trailers on South side
One of the things you'll notice right away is they've made more room on the South side of the park. The token sales area has been moved back, meaning people lining up for tokens won't block your access to the South trailers. Good call. Tents on that side of the park are smaller than in past years, meaning there is a large open area between the tents and the beer taps. Another good call, and one that may help reduce cluttered lines there during peak times.

Of course, if you're paying attention, you know about the 3 oz pour and the new glass. First, the glass. It's great. You can actually see, smell and taste the beer. The conical shape also minimizes the effect of the 3 oz pour. Because the glass is narrow at the bottom, the smaller pour size appears to be similar to recent years. I thought I would see a lot of people opting for full beers, but that wasn't the case. We'll see what happens when things get nuts on Friday.

Drinking again...from a real glass
I had a list of about 20 beers I hoped to taste on Wednesday. It seems like a lot, but it really isn't when you consider pour size. I have to say my batting average was pretty shitty early on. I typically like fruit beer variations of many beers, but I was disappointed with most of the beers I tasted in that style. Oh well. I moved on to more standard approaches and found some winners.

Collaborator Smoked Helles is terrific. It's mildly smokey and nicely balanced. As you may know, the Collaborator program is sponsored by Widmer Brothers Brewing and the Oregon Brew Crew. This beer won a competition and was then brewed by Widmer. I understand why.

Fewer of these than I expected
The are a grand total of nine IPAs on this year's bill. It was not my goal to seek these beers out. Many, like Ballast Point Brewing's excellent Sculpin IPA, I've already had. But I advise hopheads to make a beeline to Heathen Brewing's tap on the North side. Transgression IPA is a fantastic blend of several hops over the top of a near-perfect backbone. Really fantastic and highly recommended. I was fortunate to spend some time talking to the Heathen brewers.

Almost any beer from Boneyard Beer in Bend is a good bet. That's exactly the case with Bone-A-Fide Pale Ale. If you're interested in a light version of the wildly popular RPM IPA, this is your beer. Boneyard brewers have hit a home run with this very drinkable beer that exudes hop aroma and flavor.

It's that time of year...
Without going into any detail, I also liked Bayern's Kaiser Pils, Occidental's Dortmunder, Upright's Offen Kolsch and Silver Moon's Bone Crusher Imperial Red. Obviously, Rome wasn't built in a day and you can't taste all the beers you want to taste in a day, either. I'll be back Friday for some more tasting and festing. Or is it feasting? Hmmm.

Enjoy the festival...and the great weather.

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