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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Gracefully Aging OBF Returns for 28th Year

Once upon a time, young Americans grew up dreaming they might be president someday. Later, those same kiddos dreamed of being rock stars. More recently, they dream of becoming a craft brewer. Or of organizing a beer festival. That's where we are, for better or worse.

As we prepare for the 28th rendition of the Oregon Brewers Festival next week, I can assure you that none of the event's founders had any deep, long-held fantasies about organizing such an event. The reality is, they needed a vehicle to promote their beers in 1988. The OBF provided it.

It's hard to fathom in our present circumstance, but Portland hasn't always been a craft beer-crazed town. There haven't always been daily beer events to distract us from the traditional duties of citizenship. Craft beer would come to rule the hearts of minds of Portlanders. But that didn't happen overnight.

For many years, the OBF was the only significant promotional event on the craft beer calendar. When it finished its annual run, I can remember commiserating with others over the wait to the following year. Today, we just pull out our phones and check social media for the next worthwhile thing.

The truth is, the OBF has aged gracefully. Organizers have faced a barrage of challenges over the years. Ever-increasing attendance is surely the biggest issue. They've addressed it by adding days and spreading things out in the park. Entry has been streamlined and finding the beers you want to try is easier due to improved signage and a better event program, which is free to everyone.

Thank the city for a major improvement this year, which involves closing the northbound lane of traffic on SW Naito Parkway next to Waterfront Park. The vacated lane will provide added space for the public to walk and bike safely for the duration of the event. The gate on that side is typically the busiest and providing additional space there is a positive thing.

There's also the festival's effort to develop a cultural exchange between Oregon and international brewers. This year, the OBF welcomes brewers from New Zealand and the return of some who came last year from The Netherlands. These folks will be hanging out in the International Tent talking beer and other things. They are guests of Art Larrance and the OBF, which paid to get them here so they can see what we have and share what they're up to. Good vibes.

Of course, there's the beer...lots of it. Volunteers will be pouring 90 beers in the main tents and another 15 in the International Tent. The press release says there are 47 styles represented. I'll have to take their word for it because I haven't yet gone over the beer list in detail. Here's a link to the list if you want to take a look.

Prices at the OBF have remained stable in recent years. Oh sure, they went to a 3 oz taste two years ago. Others quickly followed suit. You won't pay a cent to enter Waterfront Park. If you want to drink beer, a festival glass will run you $7 and tokens are $1. Most beers in the main tents will cost a token for a taste, four tokens for a full glass.

It may not be worth reporting here, but the glass glass used the past two years is history. There were some problems with people doing dumb things with the glasses in the downtown area after exiting the park. Portland Police asked organizers to switch to something less breakable. The new glass looks similar to the ones used the last two years, but it's made of polycarbonate plastic.

Expect excellent weather. Last year was the first year the OBF experienced dreadful weather. It was cold and wet the first day before gradually warming for the weekend. I had never seen anything like that in 25 years of attendance. It probably won't happen again for a long time, certainly not in the hot and dry conditions of this year.

Like a lot of people, I'll be posting some thoughts on beers after attending on opening day. Stop back by if you're looking for that information. Otherwise, there's a ton of info on the festival site here. Event dates are July 22-26.

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