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Monday, October 7, 2013

Skamania Beer Fest is Hidden Gem

I traveled out to Skamania Lodge for Saturday's Celebration of Beer. My expectations were not high. I figured the views would be terrific and the beers something less than that. What I discovered was a low key festival that qualifies as a hidden gem.

The mugshot
Look, maybe the best part of this event is that a lot of people aren't going to go to the trouble of driving out there. I get it. You really don't want to drive all the way out there, drink a bunch of beer and drive home. Sure rooms are available; but not everyone can afford that kind of excursion.

Because I did have to drive back to Portland after imbibing, I kept my stay to about an hour and a half and limited myself to tastes. By the way, tastes out here aren't what you find in Portland. The tasting line on the glass is a little iffy. A one-ticket taste was six ounces. A two-ticket full mug was 12-14 ounces. Tickets cost $1.

Fire pit and music
The setup is pretty informal. There was a rectangle of tables with the beers, food and, yes, one with wine. In the center there were tables where you could sit or stand. Once you had a beer in your hand, you were free to roam the grounds outside the serving area. Try that in Portland.

Off to one side of  the serving area is a fire pit, part of which served as a sort of music stage. This is a gas fire, not the smokey real thing. Good thinking. A couple of acts rolled through while I was there and the music added to the ambiance without overwhelming it.

One of several grub choices
The list of beers was more impressive than I expected. There were several Washington breweries whose beers aren't well-known in Oregon. Backwoods Brewing (Carson), Mill City Brewing (Camas), Mt. Tabor Brewing (Vancouver) were pouring some nice beers. Usual suspects like Lompoc, Double Mountain, Full Sail, Amnesia, Deschutes and others were pouring mostly seasonals. Good stuff.

Another great aspect of the Celebration of Beer is brewers or brewery-connected folks were pouring beer or hanging out around the taps chatting with patrons. I spent a few minutes talking to several brewers. I'll be making a trip out to Mill City Brewing the check the place out as a result of one conversation. The point is, most of our Portland festivals have gotten so large that these kinds of conversations rarely happen.

The layout
They were lucky with the weather this year. It was perfect. In less than perfect weather years, the festival area is covered by a tent. As it was on Saturday, the sun was out and the views were stellar. If you squinted a bit while looking at the Columbia River, you could spy windsurfers flying back and forth.

When you look at an event like, it's all about perceived value. I always ask myself, "Would I attend again?" Even with the travel involved and the fact that the $25 entry fee (tasting mug and five tokens) is steep, this is still a great little event worth a try for any self-respecting beer fan. I'll look for it next year.

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