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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Better Weather, Flying Machines Greet OBF

Opening day at this year's Oregon Brewers Festival was a whole lot less dramatic than 2014, when beer fans were treated to cold, wet weather. In July. This year was cloudy, but dry. And there were drones zipping around overhead recording the festivities. You can't make this shit up.

Wednesday has been my preferred day to attend since they added it several years ago. Lots of pretend media types show up and the crowd is probably a bit more beer-centric than will be the case on the weekend.

I was surprised to see drones flying around during Art Larrance's opening talk. But I get it. These things were carrying cameras and getting much better views of the stage than the peasants trying to see over hammerheads and cats in (large) hats. Good thinking...until one of these things loses power and slams into the crowd. 

Stalking the grounds, I noticed a significant change under the tents. In past years dating as far back as I can remember, there were long tables and chairs in that area. No more. High tables occupy that space this year. The result is more open space, which ought to help with congestion later in the week and on the weekend. Smart move. 

Something else you may notice is they've gone away from advertising glass and token packages. In fact, you've always been able to walk up and buy a glass and/or however many tokens you wanted. But organizers, by virtual of signage, encouraged patrons to buy packages. That's not the case this year, although token sellers do have pre-filled baggies in various denominations. 

The other thing I noticed is how dry and dusty it is this year. Looking north from the south end at one point, I could see a dust plume. There appears to be less grass than usual this year, likely the result of a dry winter and event overload in the park. Keep that in mind if you're sensitive to dust.

I had relatively short list of beers to track down. And tracking down beers is easier than ever, I think. First, there's a large board near the main gates that lists every beer and where it's pouring. Second, the event website lists beers and where they're located. The event program is printed in advance and doesn't have that info. Still, it's easy enough to find. 

Kudos to OBF organizers on pricing. In contrast to the bulk of local festivals that have no problem charging two or three tokens for good and bad beers, I saw only single token beers yesterday. You might think that means the beers aren't that special. In fact, I think most of these beers are as special as the beers you will find at any area event. 

I was lucky enough to meet up with friends and share tastes, which means I tasted many more beers than I would have on my own. Still, I sampled less than a third of the 105 beers they have on tap in the park. It was a mixed bag, for sure. Nothing new.

The Good
Among the beers that I will drink again on Friday or Saturday or whenever:
  • Breakside: Rainbows and Unicorns. Light and nicely tropical. A mildly fruity session IPA.
  • Boneyard: Bone Light. Nicely dry-hopped, full of flavor and only 4%.
  • Cascade: Frite Gaulois. Blended Weizen, Saison and Blond aged in oak barrels. Lovely.
  • Anderson Valley: The Kimmie, The Yink and the Holy Gose. Mildy tart and salty.
  • Gigamesh: Radler. Bavarian-style lager blended with pink grapefruit juice. Tart, refreshing.
  • Central City: Red Betty Imperial IPA. Hoppy, malty, huge. Watch it. 
The Rest
As always, there were beers that didn't meet my expectations or hopes or whatever. A shining example was Prodigal Son's Huckleberry Wheat. The beer had a great aroma, but collapsed into a pungent mess on tasting. I suspect some will be pleased with this beer. And good for them. I was disappointed.

Some of the beers here are simply irrelevant and out of place. Why would they offer Kona Big Wave here? What about Full Sail Session IPA and Bridgeport Conviction? These are mainstream beers widely available in packaged form. You aren't going to find them in any beer bars. So why here? That's a rhetorical question. I have no answer.

International Tent
I stopped by the International Tent several times, There are some interesting beers in there. Brewers from The Netherlands and New Zealand were hanging out jabbering with anyone who cared to talk. Outside, Jeff Alworth and Patrick Emerson interviewed a Dutch brewer for an upcoming podcast. Later on, they were talking to Ninkasi's Jamie Floyd. And others.

Final Thoughts
Go to the festival site here if you need more information or have questions about what you can and can't pack into the park. It's going to be another fun few days of tasting well-made beers in a great setting.

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