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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Outdoor Festival Season Revs Up with NAOBF

Even though there have already been several festivals, the upcoming North American Organic Brewers Festival is nominally the first of the summer. That's a sketchy argument if you go strictly by the weather, which has been, shall we say, uneven. But I can easily make the argument using the calendar, since we just officially entered summer.

Early Friday afternoon features line-free tasting
One of the biggest challenges routinely faced by the NAOBF is the weather. As most Oregonians know, summer often doesn't arrive here until July 5th. June can be dicey. Last year's NAOBF did not enjoy perfect weather. When I was there drinking on Friday, it was fairly cool. I think it warmed up during the weekend, but you never know what you'll get this time of year.

The Beers
The beer list for NAOBF 2012 is fairly impressive. They expect to have around 50 organic beers in a wide range of styles from around the country. Lots of good beer means choices can be tough. Well, unless you can come to the festival for multiple drinking sessions. Then you're set...but your liver may be in trouble.

My own recommendations are based on single visit drinking...most likely Friday afternoon. How do I decide what to taste? I look for beers that I can't find in local stores or pubs, or maybe a variation of something I can find there. I also take ABV into account because I can only taste so many beers. Lower values are going to attract my interest more than higher ones. I know, I know...that runs contrary to the thinking of some festival goers. Oh well. My list:

The bike corral packed in last year
Alameda Brewing - Thai Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA - ABV 8.2% IBU 100
Standard Yellow Wolf is a good IIPA, available in many stores and on draft around town. This is a variation, made with 100 percent organic malts. They also add dried mangoes, flaked coconut, Thai basil and ginger. This could be pretty interesting. Or not. But worth a try. At 100 IBU, it's a pallet buster for sure, so save this for late in your tasting excursion.

The Commons - Havier Bier/Oat Saison - ABV 5.6% IBU 15
Any beer by The Commons is worth a try. Saison is a refreshing style and perfect for a warm weather. Even if the weather fails to cooperate, I suspect this beer will.

Fort George Brewing - Spruce Budd Ale - ABV 5.2% IBU 0
This is one of two beers Fort George is bringing to the festival and the other one (South, a barrel-aged fruit beer) is worth a taste, as well. But Spruce Budd Ale looks interesting. The "O" IBU isn't a typo, so hopheads may wish to move on. Fort George brewers use spruce tips in place of hops for aroma and some flavor in this beer. I suspect it will be great or terrible. Either way, I like the creativity.

Late afternoon lines will be long
Laht Neppur Brewing Co.- Peach Hefeweizen Fruit Beer - ABV 5.2% IBU 15
Laht Neppur is located in Waitsburg, Washington...the heart of wine country. They make wine and beer...the brewing part of the operation was established in 2006. Seriously, Laht Neppur is on my road-trip hit list the next time I go to the homeland (Spokane or Pullman). This beer is their standard Hefeweizen with peaches and puree added. Sounds like a perfect summer pick-me-upper.

Laurelwood Brewing - Organic Green Elephant IPA - ABV 6.9% IBU 80
Laurelwood is bringing two excellent and highly sought-after beers to this festival. I'm listing Organic Green Elephant because it has a lower ABV than Organic Deranger Imperial Red Ale. Both of these are limited edition beers and worth trying. Hopheads will be lined up for both...and rightfully so.

Logsdon Farmhouse Ales - Kili Wit Beer = ABV 5.5% IBU 20
Logsdon is located up the road in Hood River and makes its beers from locally grown ingredients. They have built a strong reputation on their Farmhouse Ales. Kili Wit is brewed with organic barley, wheat and oats. Whole cone Fuggle hops (as opposed to pellets) and Egyptian coriander evidently contribute to a light, refreshing beer.

Recycling is a big part of the program here
McMenamin's Crystal Brewery - Organic Liquid Friend Session Ale - ABV 4.7% IBU 26
I'm not normally going to seek out McMenamin's beers at any event. However, this one looks interesting. They use 2-row barley and wheat malt for the backbone and Centennial and Tettnanger hops for a citrus, floral finish. Beware of the low IBU rating here. Hops may come to the forefront due to the relative lightness of the beer.

Natian Brewery - Alphabetically Above Average Organic Amber Ale ABV 5.3% IBU Not listed
The other Natian beer at the festival (La Luz Summer Ale) has a higher ABV than this one. It's a little odd for an amber ale to be lighter than a summer ale...though not unheard of. They evidently use a bit of organic cocoa in this beer for color and flavor.

Pike Brewing - Naughty Nellie/Golden Artisan Ale ABV 4.7% IBU 24
Sometimes a name is all you need. Naughty Nellie sounds pretty good to me. Seriously, Seattle's Pike Brewing has been producing great beers for a long time. Nellie is positioned as a balanced, crisp golden ale. We shall see.

The beer will flow, rain or shine
Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing - Love Potion Fruit Beer ABV 4.5% IBU 36
Love Potion is a seasonal offering at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing. This is a place I hope to visit someday. Anyway, Love Potion is a pale ale brewed with cherries, oranges, rose hips and hibiscus. How can this beer not be interesting?

So there you have it...my tasting list for the NAOBF. Opinions will certainly differ. There are a lot of high octane beers at this festival and I'm quite sure some of my partners in crime will have tasting lists that are significantly different than mine. And that's cool. It's all about personal preference.

The Festival 
I suppose the most important thing to remember about this event is that it runs THREE DAYS. That's right. This isn't the OBF, which runs four days (and could possibly run a week). The NAOBF is basically a weekend event. If you're keeping in theme, walk, ride your bike or take public transit to the event. Parking is extremely limited. There's a whole lot more info here.

Cheers to summer!

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