Review of Oregon Brewer’s Festival Part I

July 30, 2011

The last full weekend in July is the annual Oregon Brewer’s Festival. This event is 100% beer and some local food. I went for the first time last Thursday at 1pm, which was a good thing because it was starting to get crowded when we left at 3:30.

This festival takes place down on the Tom McCall Waterfront, where downtown Portland meets the Willamette River. It took up probably 12 blocks worth, with four blocks for giant tents with tables to keep you cool, four blocks for food, and four more blocks for more beer under the tents. The weather, when we were there, was perfect in the upper 70s. There was a bit of spontaneous screaming going on, which my husband then quoted blogger Beervana‘s note that the screaming does make it “the giant kegger by the river.”

I’m impressed with that set up considering that this is a cheaper festival. Admission was free, mugs were $6, and tastings were $1 tokens each, except for the specialty beers in the buzz tent at two tokens a tasting. A full glass was 4 tokens.

Also, they give you a pretty darn snazzy taster’s guide that is a 5.5” x 8.5” magazine print out. So many others just give you cheap newsprint. The beers, 85 of them, were listed in order of brewer with a description, and then they had them all graphed out by IBU by color.

I don’t think I’ve drunk so much beer in my life! Here is what I drank, with also what my husband, Burtle Beer, sampled and what I thought of his samples.

  • Gilgamesh Brewing’s Mint Kolsh: 5.3% ABV with 0 IBU. It is definitely made with peppermint, and came across as beer, mint, beer finish, but this mint coming from the back of the throat to the nose. If you remember, Gilgamesh makes a no hop, black tea, and tangerine beer called the Mamba that I wasn’t all that impressed with. I like this better than that, but I still wasn’t thrilled.
    • Burtle had Deschutes  White IPA, which I said it seemed mild for an IPA. It had a citrus front.
  • Boneyard Beer was gutsy calling my next beer Girl Beer. This is a session with 5% ABV and 15 IBU. This beer was a winner in my book, as it is very balanced with excellent body. This is a drinker!
    • Burtle then had a Gratzer from Burnside Brewing. I wrote one word down to describe it: bacon!
  • I followed that with Ram Restaurant and Brewery’s Berry White, which I found hard to drink after the Girl Beer. This raspberry wit is 4.8% with 16 IBU, but I described it as too much hop. It just felt off balance to me, though not exactly tart.
  • Bison Honey Basil Ale from Bison Brewing Co: This summer ale is 6% ABV with 20 IBU. It has a strong bitter front of hops and herbs, but fades to nothing. I didn’t really pick up on the basil. Burtle said this would be a good beer to pair with heavily spiced food, but not spicy food.
    • Burtle’s next choice was Big Sky Brewing’s Dark Mexican Lager. It actually had a very similar base as the honey basil ale I was drinking, but with a higher IBU. It made the honey basil ale taste smoother.
  • My other noted favorite of the festival was a peach hefeweizen from Laht Neppur Brewing Co. At 5.6% AVB and 20 IBU, it starts out hef and you start to wonder where the peaches are, but then they appear on the end. The peaches are soft and subtitle, not in your face, and they fade. It was about this time that I pulled out my peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich to eat, and discovered this beer paired excellent with it! Burtle agreed.
  • Berried Alive! from Old Market Pub and Brewery was not what I was expecting as it was a slightly sour beer. My husband is the one that does sours.  This red Belgian boysenberry ale is at 5.5% and 12 IBU.
  • I found Widmer’s Foggy Bog Cranberry Ale to be a bit hoppy at 20 IBU. I think some of that was the bitterness that the cranberry gives off. It did start with cranberry, and then faded to wheat, as it is classified a tart wheat ale at 6% ABV.
    • Burtle loves the sours, and found one in the Zombie Flanders from Rock Bottom Brewery. I made faces drinking it, making my cranberry ale taste slightly better.
    • Burtle also grabbed a Jackalope Imperial Pumpkin Porter from Beer Valley Brewing before we moved to the other tent again. It was smoky to me, and neither one of us picked up on either pumpkin or pumpkin spices.
  • Admittedly, my taste buds were starting to go when I got to Bridgeport’s Summer Squeeze. This bright ale is at 4.5% ABV and 19 IBU. I noted it was balanced, though a bit plain and the hop ends up dominating the taste. This got my noted, “eh” classification.
    • Burtle finally got Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s Black and Red. This was a raspberry mint Imperial Stout at 10.3% AVB and 20 IBU. I found it to be a very heavy, complex beer that was sweet and went between flavors of caramel, coffee, and mint. The mint was calmer than the Mint Kolsh, and didn’t come up the back of the throat, probably because it was “dry-minted.” Burtle was surprised I couldn’t taste the raspberries.
  • If I had seen the Willamette Weekly’s 5 beers to avoid at Oregon Brewers Festival before going, I would have avoided the Razz Wheat from Vertigo Brewing  like I had so many other commonly found grocery store beers. I described it as tart and bitter, and I definitely got the raspberry this time, and I don’t care for raspberries. It was somehow balanced, but I didn’t care for it. In fact…
  • I had two tokens left in my pocket, so I spent them both on one sample of Natian Brewery’s Hint O’Mint. This one wasn’t in the book for me to know ABV and IBU. I found it to be hoppy, but Burtle thought it was the best mint beer there. He said that hops actually brought the mint into balance.

Well, there you have it. I think I’ll go back again, but only if I can manage it around 1pm on a week day.

Further reading:

4 Responses to “Review of Oregon Brewer’s Festival Part I”

  1. […] Park, Portland, OR Admission: free Cup: $6 Extra Tokens: $1 Tastings: 1-2 Kid friendly: yes Reviews Additional comments: Probably the cheapest to attend due to no admission fees, but it does get […]

  2. […] fermented and tapped out of a giant pumpkin. He said that some beers are just too much pumpkin, some don’t have enough, and others can find the right balance. Maybe it is easier with beer than cider, though I have had […]

  3. […] was almost too much for safety, which is something I had sort of come to the conclusion of at the Oregon Brewer’s Fest. Though, since there was five of us, we probably tasted more individual beers than I have been able […]

  4. […] Burtle heard the news, he said he wondered if this would happen to the Oregon Brewer’s Festival.  He really likes going there, but it is really crowded and organizers admit they need to expand […]

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