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Friday, June 20, 2014

Summer Festival Blitz Ramps Up with NAOBF

We have entered the festival twilight zone, otherwise known as summer in Oregon. Between now and late September, there will be some kind of outdoor event happening virtually every weekend. In other words, it's a great time of year.

Next week's North American Organic Brewers Festival has established itself as one of the premier outdoor events of the summer. That's a difficult hill to climb for any June event because the weather often refuses to cooperate. Yet the NAOBF has been successful. So successful that they expanded to four days last year.  Dates are June 26-29. The venue is  Overlook Park, a great spot.

The NAOBF puts a lot of effort into advancing sustainable values, and  not just with the beer.  The festival glass/cup is made from compostable cornstarch . Electricity comes from biodiesel generators. Overlook Park works nicely because it is conveniently located on public transit lines (MAX and buses), as well as bike routes. A bike corral, sponsored by Hopworks, will be in action.

Almost everything gets recycled here. Food vendors use compostable plates and utensils. The event generated 171 lbs of trash last year, down from 175 lbs the year before, when it ran only three days. Not bad. Just as important, NAOBF values have rubbed off on many other festivals, which have implemented recycling programs and other earth-friendly measures.

Organic beer has been gaining in popularity over the last 10 or so years. For 2013, sales increased by $79 million, according to the NAOBF press release. That suggests brewers and beer consumers are increasingly comfortable and committed to organic beer. That's good news for the planet, as the production of  organic ingredients is less damaging to the environment.

The NAOBF goes back to 2003, when it was founded by Craig Nicholls, the founding father of organic brewing in Portland. Nicholls worked at Alameda Brewing on Fremont and later at Halling Brewing in Gresham before opening the now defunct Roots Organic Brewing in 2005. The NAOBF took a couple of years off while Nicholls worked on Roots, then returned in 2006. It moved to its current location in 2007.

There are 40 breweries/cideries pouring liquid sunshine at this year's NAOBF. You can view the full list on the event website here. Not all of the brews are 100 percent organic, but all are made primarily from organic ingredients. Like always, I'll be hunting for beers that aren't commonly available around town...and they won't be hard to find. My partial hit list:

Ambacht Brewing Hillsboro, OR - G++ Ale | Belgian Strong Golden 8.5% ABV, 18 IBU
Aged in whiskey barrels previously used by Hair of the Dog to age Cherry Adam. The beer is heavily influenced by cherries the Dog left in the barrels. This was my favorite last year and I'll be more than happy to consume it again. It's one of the double token beers that's worth it.

Pints Brewing Portland, OR - Bio-Liner Weisse 2.8% ABV, 0 IBU
A traditional Berliner-Weisse brewed with organic German malts and with yeast and bacteria brought to Portland by Pints brewmaster Alan Taylor, who got his brewing training in Berlin. This is a tart bomb, as opposed to a hops bomb. Can't wait.

Reverend Nats Portland, OR - Overlook Organic Heirloom (cider) 8.6% ABV, 0 IBU
Reverend Nats makes some of the best cider around. This one leans on a blend of organic apples and is lightly sweetened with local honey. This cider was created specifically for the NAOBF. It's reportedly an "off-dry" cider free of cloying sweetness. Sounds pretty good.

Hopworks Portland, OR - Totally Radler 3.5% ABV, 21 IBU
One of the more popular entries last year, this beer is 70 percent Hopworks Organic Lager and 30 percent organic lemonade. The result is a crisp, refreshing and highly drinkable beer. If it gets hot, you won't even have to search for this one...just look for the longest line.

That's just a partial list. I expect to attend Thursday afternoon and file an updated report Friday morning. That report will include a short list of new discoveries. 

If you're wondering, festival hours are noon to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. As with virtually all of these events, I suggest arriving early for the best selection and shortest lines. I suspect Friday and Saturday will see crowds, but you never know. There's a lot more information on the event website here.

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