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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Changes Mostly for the Best at OBF

Since my first Oregon Brewers Festival in 1991, I've missed only one...I was out of town visiting my mom in 1992. I worked the event as a volunteer for many of those years, but stopped when I started writing this blog. I've seen a lot of things at OBF, including the recent decline in attendance.

The changes they've implemented this year are by far the most significant I've seen in the 28 years I've been going. My impression is that many of the changes are going over well with festival patrons. Others maybe not so much.

Wednesday > Sunday
Bringing back Wednesday, after dropping it last year, has to be considered a big success. There were a lot of folks in the park today and not just people who work in the industry or the bozos who cover it. It looked to me like there were a lot of mainstream beer fans hanging out, drinking, chatting and staring at their phones. Sunday would have been dead by comparison. Organizers did a good job getting word out.

The Venue
The big change to the venue is, of course, switching the south beer trailers to the river side of the park, opening up the large shaded area for seating. That seemed to work well. Organizers set up a huge number of sitting and standing tables in the shaded area. And patrons were taking full advantage of it.

I have to say it was a little odd seeing the large walking path on the south side in space where there were tents in prior years. They have some small tents protecting the beer taps from direct sun, but they're quite small. They could have put larger tents there, given the tendency of people to cluster close to the taps. I suppose not putting larger tents there provided some incentive for folks to vacate the area and find shade. Hmmm. Good work.

The Music
For the first time ever, apparently, there is no live music at the festival. Instead, DJs and satellite speakers are spread around. The stated reason is that patrons could only enjoy the music if they were in the stage area. True enough. But I never heard people complain about it. You were either into the music of you didn't particularly care.

This switch to DJs makes no sense to me. The music was a mix of styles and the sound was often muddled in the common areas. The former stage area is completely wasted, with a small DJ hut and no shade or seating. WTF? I found the sound particularly annoying under the tent at the north end where it interfered with conversations. I hope they bring back live music next year. My advice for now: Bring headphones (and your own playlist) or bring earplugs.

Fun Times
Making the event more fun and user-friendly was a big part of this year's plan. They added a gaming area at the south end, a Meet the Brewer tent and a Brewer Dunk Tank. I didn't notice at the time because I wasn't really paying attention, but the Dunk Tank and the Meet the Brewer tent are positioned in strategic proximity to one another. "Great to meet you, mister soaked brewer."

The most important addition, to me, is the gaming area. They have more than a few cornhold lanes set up and there were a bunch of people playing. Hey, if Millennials want games, they shall have games. This is the kind of thing that adds a lot to the casual fun of an event. They'll certainly want to bring this back in future years, maybe even expand it.

Odds and Enz
I mentioned the return of the printed program and the end of the mobile app that some of us used last year. There were printed programs all over the place and I saw people looking at them intently. That was fine. I have no idea how many folks used the Untappd app organizers touted as an alternative to the mobile app. There were countless people staring at their phones, but you don't want to pry about what they've looking at. Might be too much info. Not cool.

That tasting glass is the same form factor as last year, The taste line is at 3 oz and pourers were painfully careful not the exceed it. Maybe a sharper outfit would have helped. On returning home, I checked the actual capacity of the glass, billed at 12 ounces by organizers. The glass overflowed at less than 12 ounces of water, which obviously doesn't include any head/foam. A full glass of beer is probably 10-11 ounces, given the foam. That means a full pour for 4 tokens is a slightly worse deal than a taste for 1 token...unless the beer lines get long and you want to save time.

The Beer
As noted in my previous post, I think the shift to Oregon-only beers is a good change...and long overdue. There was a time when they needed out-of-state beers to fill the lineup. That's not been the case for many years and there are now plenty of Oregon breweries that want to be part of this event. And festival patrons want them here.

A possible downside to the change is that some of the breweries at this year's event are new and small, and maybe lack the expertise of established places. One of my geek friends offered up that the beer quality is a little off due to the altered reality. I don't know. I tasted around 30 beers and found more winners than losers. Of course, it was my list.

You might check the New School site for a list of the best beers. Ezra and Michael were determined to sample every beer before the end of the day and their intel should be posted tonight or early tomorrow. I did my own tasting and didn't taste close to all the beers. Plus, I trust these guys...sorta.

Some of my favorites were Upright (Flora Fantasia), Migration (Big Hazy Kane), Ecliptic (Key Lime Gose), Ordnance (Lite-Hearted Lager with Lime) and pFriem (Landbier). The worst beer I tasted, by far, was Full Sail's Malted Milkshake IPA.  Something went wrong there.

To Go
I suppose you can always find something to bitch about with an event like this. Maybe it's the glass or the venue or the program or the beer. Fine. But I think the changes they've made this year are mostly for the better. Give it a shot.

1 comment:

  1. Good post, this and the previous one-- I can't make it this year (it's sporadic at best) so you've summed up this year's experience pretty well for me.


Keep it civil, please.