The beer festival of Portland, Oregon might be a good introduction for a first-time visitor of this vibrant medium-size city. Known as the Oregon Brewers Festival, it also highlights the vanguard work of Oregon artisanal breweries in the national microbrewery movement, with a stunning 26-year history of craft beermaking for this Northwestern State of Oregon. The beer festival in Munich is certainly something that I dream to attend one day but I can say now that Portland's beer Fest is something unique and unforgettable through which you will widen your beer experience and meet Portlanders and Oregonians in high mood. The event draws hundreds of happy beer drinkers every last full weekend of july, people who come with friends to sample the dozens of small breweries of Oregon and a few others from neighboring States, all the while listening to live music.
The craft-beer movement actually started in Northern California in the 1960s' and 1970s', in line with the rebelness innovative spirit of this region, and it moved then to the rest of the United States beginning with Oregon. Read more on Ken Weaver's The Northern California Craft Beer Guide (if you're in France you can leaf through the book by clicking on its cover on the left).
In a recent issue, the Portland Mercury, a wonderful free magazine here, had a story about Oregon's riding the wild wave of artisanal breweries and it helped me visualize the extent of beermaking in this State. the article says that "the fest has earned a national reputation as one of the best, longest, loudest, happiest craft-beer festivals in the country" adding that Oregon's beer market is one of the most mature of the country. Besides Oregon's prowess in the trade, this beer phenomenon underlines the ability of this country to reinvent itself and innovate all the time. And like the article puts it, the amazing thing about Oregon's beers is that you can find them samely in good restaurants, local bars and even in the retail [beginning with Safeway and Trader Joe's]..
The proceedings were quite simple for the visitor : the entry on the festival grounds was free, but if he wanted to drink/sample the beers, he had to purchase (7 dollars) the festival glass (that he'd keep afterwards) as well as printed wooden tokens (one dollar each) that he'd use to pay for the beer, a sample (a quite generous one) costing one token and a full glass costing 4 tokens.
Basically, you'd just select the beer you want to drink and line up in front of the stand until it's your turn, then you'd just drink the beer while strolling or sit under the open tents to enjoy it in the shade.
The history of the festival is also in some way the history of beer breweries in Oregon and the North West, it has its roots in the early 1980s' when beer passionates open small beer operations in the State, and now Portland, Oregon has become the unofficial brewpub capital of the United States. Coincidently, Oregon's first microbrewery was opened by winemakers-turned-brewers Charles and Shirley Coury, who founded the Cartwright Brewing Company in 1980 in downtown Portland. This first try didn't last long but others followed soon. Another winemakers couple, Dick and Nancy Ponzi opened another brewery in 1984. The same year, the Widmer Brothers brewery opened shop in Portland, a cooperative spirit was on its way. These people, helped by the pragmatic and adaptative American way, helped change the laws and the Oregon legislature, understanding early that micro-brewing was home grown and distinctively Oregonian, changed the law in 1985 in order to pave the way for a further development of the trade. The Portland beer festival was to reflect from the start this spirit of small-size, rebel breweries making beers that you'd not find on the market, and it managed to stay that way.
The festival is family friendly and it was not uncommon to see young families with babies (pic on right), the parents tasting the beers and strolling, giving by the way the virus to their kids, like having them listen to Mozart to shape and fortify their young souls...
Like the blues festival, the brewers festival is about enjoyment, fun and having good time, not taking notes or other similar serious stuff. I went there to drink good beer and have fun, and all the beers I selected were just great and awesomely savory, but I must say that I carefully avoided IPAs (India Pale Ale) which are apparently the hot thing now, and which is not my favorite type of beer. I didn't take notes and here are the beers I sampled, with the accompanying text from the festival booklet (I feel humbled by the acute detailed beermaking knowledge of the authors). Again, and I'm not writing this to ease the angles, ALL the following beers were just terrific drinks.
The beers held by people on the following pictures are not always related with the one profiled.
Here is the whole list of beers that were available on draft at the festival.
There was no apparent problem of overdrinking even if I spotted a couple of people (women) here and there with dizzy walking. There was no behaviour problem, either people stand beer pretty well or the type of people who take part are mature and well-behaved.
Regarding the lines in front of the tables, some were very long and some not, some having very few people waiting. I happened to choose randomly among the lines with few people, favoring if possible the Oregon breweries and avoiding IPAs which I find often too big and too overwhelming (I'll tell more about it later), and I think that I was lucky because the long lines were for IPA beers.
Erbal Tenacious, Organic Herb - Spice Blond Ale
OG : 1.053 - FG : 1.010 - ABV : 5,6 % - IBU : 36
"In the fierce competition for most unique beer ingredients, Natian may win frond-down. Elderflower, grains of paradise, lemon myrtle and lemon balm help organic Palisades and Centennial hops spice and balance this organic beer that is brewed from two-row and caramel malts. If you aren't curious to try this yet, mere words cannot help you.
Originally a nano-brewery whose motto was "Brewing (nearly) one pint at a time", Natian is now a 10-bbl facility brewing NW favorites like Undun Blonde Ale & Lumberjane Stout. Founder Ian Mcguinness continues to brew like mad to get his beers into the pubs, and the brewery still prides itself on doing things a little differently, including canning by hand with a dual filler and single can seamer. Natian likens itself to the Millennium Falcon : We may not be much to look at, but we got it where it counts, kid."
Traverse Cherry Wheat - Belgian Wit with Fruit
OG : 1.060 - FH : 1.010 - ABV : 6 % - IBU : 20
"Oregon cherries give this Belgian Witbier its red color, as well as sweet-tart fruitiness accentuated by the Wyeast Belgian wit yeast used to ferment the wort for this beer. Great Western and pilsner malts in the mash are balanced with low dose of bittering hops and no finishing hop^s si you can enjoy the cherry flavor and aroma.
One of Portland's newest breweries, 13 Virtues Brewing Co. opened just this summer on Milwaukie Avenue in Westmoreland behind Philadelphia's Steaks and Hoagies. The brand new building features brewing equipment from Mark's Design & Metalworks of Vancouver, a tasting room and a private space. Stop by and welcome them in the neighborhood !"
Bone Crusher Imperial Ale
OG : 1.076 - FG : 1.010 - ABV : 8,6 % - IBU : 100
"This big red ale gets its sweet backbone, caramel flavors and blood red color from generous portions of American crystal and midnight wheat malts. Bold and assertive high alpha hops (Simcoe, Summit, Columbus and Chinook) provide a resinous bitterness and an agressive citrusy-piney-floral finish. Bone Crusher is an intensely flavored strong ale with a medium body that results in a beer that's robust, balanced and hoppy.
Located in the Central Oregon craft beer Mecca of Bend, Silver Moon Brewing is a craft brewery and pub offering live entertainment. Head brewer Brett Thomas has been making beer since he could turn the kettle burner on. The brewery serves up eight different handcrafted brews and a tasty pub menu in its casual and fun taproom. Silver Moon has won a dozen national and international medals in the past 6 years."
Hop Syndrome Lager - Dry-hopped American Premium Lage
OG : 1.048 - FG : 1.013 - ABV : 4,6 % - IBU : 35
"Epic makes a splash worthy of its name with this highly quaffable, moderately-hopped beer whose 4,6% alcohol content is low only by craft beer standards. One of the few lagers here today, it may be the only beer in the festival using French hops (Aramis) which, added to the hopback, provide a delicate, herbal German Noble-hop type aroma with a hint of lemon. Calypso and Crystal hops do the bittering on wort drawn from Weyermann pils and Munich malts and Briess two-row carapils.
In 2008, Utah law changed, allowing entrepreneurs David Cole and Peter Erickson to pursue their longtime dream of opening a strong beer microbrewery in Utah. With brewmaster Kevin Crompton, the Epic team has a strong belief in doinf everything "all out". Tey use no animal or other fining products, so all their beers are vegan friendly as well."
DJ Jazzy Hef
OG : 1.052 - FG : 2.008 - ABV : 5 % - IBU : 8
"This American-style hefeweizen was brewed with organic ingredients and a generous amount of jasmine tea. It's a light-bodied brew with a hazy shade of sunshine and pleasant jasmine aroma. This beer was presented with the "Best Summer Brew" award by none other than Erik Estrada at the NW Cuisine Scenr Foodiefest.
A local Salem-area family bisiness run by three homebrewing brothers and their dad, Gilgamesh takes pride in providing tasty brews, sometimes using different techniques and recipes. As the brewers believe strongly in helping the community, , they also use as many local ingredients as possible. Try the Hopscotch Ale, Ridgeway IPA or Pumphouse Copper Ale."
Kölshckneipen Ale - German style Ale
OG : 1.046 - FG : 1.008 - ABV : 4,5 % - IBU : 21
"This beer's grain base of pilsner malt is mashed in soft water for a true German malt flavor.First-wort hopped with German Tettnanger, more German Tettnanger and some Czech Saaz join, creating a true Prussian beer. Sip this with your eyes shut and it'll feel like you're in a beer garden in Köln.
Cascades Lakes Brewing Co. was founded in 1994 by three enthisiastic brothers looking for an exciting business in beautiful, sunny Central Oregon. They spent many long nights building brewing equipment by hand and coming up with tasty recipes. More than 17 years later, the long nights and quest for great beers has continued, but on a much larger scale; Cascade Lakes' beer is now available throughout Washington, Oregon and Idaho."
Big Chill Belgian Blonde - Belgian-style Blonde Ale
OG : 1.067 - FG : 1.012 - ABV : 7,2 % - IBU : 30
"A complex grain bill of pale malt, malted white wheat, honey malt, flaked rye, flaked barley and flaked oats give the Trappist high gravity ale yeast plenty to ferment in this big Belgian-style blonde ale. Czexh Saaz and other imported hops (we ain't telling') do the bittering and add hop flavor and spicy aromas. The high-gravity wort is fermented dry to leave a big, unsuspecting alcohol kick.
The Ram Restaurant & Brewery is a family-owned, family-friendly group of brewpubs with an award-winning lineup of ales & lagers, complemented by quality food and renowned gracious hospitality. The brewers commitment to quality has been rewarded with loyal guests and a multitude of industry awards."
Skip and Go Naked - Strawberry & Ginger Hefeweizen
OG : 1.048 - FG : 1.005 - ABV : 4,8 % - IUB : 13
This beer is dry-hopped...without hops ! Instead it contains 20 pounds of sundried California strawberries and eight pounds of fresh ginger. To make sure you can taste those unique ingredients, a modest amount of the delicate Liberty hops are used to balance the grain bill of Gambrinus ESB, organic wheat and extra special malt. This brew will make you want to Skip N Go Naked. Buy one for the most attractive person you see at the festival.
Mt. Shashta Brewery Co. derives its name from the majestic mountain rising above it. The brewery was retrofitted from the historic Medo-Bel Creamery to provide a unique destination for microbrew enthusiasts. Mt. Shasta creates six distinctive beers, along with seasonal brews, that are guaranteed to pleasure your palate. Try legal weed today !"
Map of Oregon's craft breweries
According to this just-published page, a record 85 000 persons attended this 26th beer festival in Portland.
List of beers available for tasting at this brewers fest.