Opening Day at Oregon Brewers Festival '12

The 25th Annual Oregon Brewers Festival kicked off two days ago.  While the crowds were fairly light when we arrived at 12:30, it seemed busier than during previous years. I guess the "secret" about attending on opening day isn't such a secret anymore.

The weather was spectacular, people were having fun, lines were short, and cold beer was flowing! That sums it up! It was a great afternoon. By the time we left at 5pm, it was getting crowded and the lines were growing longer. But that's why we attended early.

If you feel like a deer in headlights when trying to select from the massive beer list, I've got a few ideas listed below. I've tasted each of these (not all during this visit) and provide a reason that you might want to try them. Other than this list, I only have two suggestions. First, drink water between each beer! More water = more beer. It's true. Second, get out of your box and sample styles you've never tasted before. Each taste is only 1 token, so you can't go wrong!

If you haven't attended OBF yet, get yourself down to Tom McCall Waterfront Park today or tomorrow and do some beer tasting! For more information about OBF, check out my interview with festival organizers Chris Crabb and Preston Weesner.

One last thing, the Buzz Tent will shut down sometime Saturday afternoon and will not reopen on Sunday.  Don't fret when that happens, you still have 80+ beers to sample...

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Beer Name
Why you should taste it…
Raspberry Crush
10 Barrel Brewing Co.
American-Style Sour Ale
Raspberries + LACTOBACILLUS = YUM!  This beer was oozing raspberries--in a good way!  It's very tart and mildly sweet. This was the only beer I tasted twice!
Cherried Alive
Old Market Pub and Brewery
Fruit Beer
Tart cherries are added to secondary fermentation, and then a portion is aged in oak Pinot Noir barrels. The flavor from the Pinot and the oak really comes through. Very nice beer!
Tropical Blonde
Vertigo Brewing
Fruit Beer
I really liked the lime flavor, which provided a nice accent without being overpowering. Overall hop bitterness is mild.
Smooth Cream-N-Ale
Widmer Brothers Brewing Co.
Specialty Beer
Brewed with lemon zest, ginger, and milk sugar. Ginger is at the forefront and I love the soft, creamy mouth feel that the milk sugar provides.
Peach Trippel
Redhook Brewery
Tripel with fruit added
A solid Trippel with mild peach flavor.
Oakshire Brewing
Imperial Oregon Ale
This beer has a lot going on! While I couldn't taste the individual components, I liked how they all came together.
Row 2 / Hill 56 - The Story of Simcoe
Russian River Brewing Co.
American-Style Strong Pale Ale
Every beer geek has to try the Russian River offering. This features, wait for it--Simcoe hops.  They call it a Pale, but it tastes like an IPA to me.
Climax Extra Pale
Eel River Brewing Co.
American-Style Pale Ale
I tasted this beer because I wanted to see what  the Zythos hop (the only variety in this beer) tastes like. I liked it, but it reminded me of Centennial hops, for what that's worth.
Positive Contact
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Experimental Beer (Lager or Ale)
I heard a lot about this beer so I had to taste it. It wasn't very memorable for me, but I'm adding it to my list because beer geeks like DFH.  It's a limited release so give it a try for a buck.
Quick Wit
Fort George Brewery
Herb and Spice Beer
Another wheat beer, this one has no hop bitterness! The flavor comes from coriander, elderflowers, and lemon grass.
Oregon Trail Lavender Ale
Oregon Trail Brewery
Herb and Spice Beer
Another with herbs, this lavender in this is present in aroma and flavor. Stick with the sample and tell me if lavender should be relegated to soap.
Wookey Jack
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
This Black IPA (or CDA, if you're so inclined) is made with Rye.  I've yet to taste it, but have heard nothing but greatness.
St. Lupulin Extra Pale Ale
Odell Brewing Co.
American-Style Pale Ale
Time to amp up the lupulin, with St. Lupulin.  Odell makes great beer, and they don't distribute in Oregon. So try this while it's here.
Sculpin IPA
Ballast Point Brewing Co.
American-Style India Pale Ale
This IPA also gets tons praise, and they also don't distribute in Oregon.  It's solid!  Try it while you can.
Black Racer
Bear Republic Brewing Co.
American-Style Black Ale
I didn't notice as many CDA's / Black IPAs at OBF this year. Personally, I'm starting to tire of the style.  But if you want to taste one, this is good!
Summer Solstice Cervesa Crema
Anderson Valley Brewing Co.
Summer Cream Ale
I'm not fan of cream ales, but this is great! This color is stunning in a glass.
Honey Basil Ale
Bison Brewing
Herb and Spice Beer
The basil provides a nice aroma and flavor. The honey gets fermented out, so don't expect to taste its sweetness.
Boulevard Brewing Co.
Belgian Style Witbier
Witbiers (or Wit) are the style perfect for summer. This is brewed with Coriander and orange peel. Very light and refreshing.
Omission Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
Gluten free beers don't taste good.  That is, until this beer came along. Taste it and see if you can tell the difference.
Alaskan Oatmeal Stout
Alaskan Brewing Co.
Oatmeal Stout
The oatmeal gives this beer creamy mouth feel. Besides, you need to try a dark beer and this is a good one.
Bitter American
21st Amendment Brewery
Session Beer
Start your OBF tasting session with this low alcohol brew that packs plenty of flavor.  Now available year-round.
Outburst Imperial IPA
Pyramid Breweries
Imperial or Double India Pale Ale
This Imperial was a seasonal release, but is now available year-round.

2012 OBF: Interview with Chris Crabb and Preston Weesner

The 25th installment of the Oregon Brewers Festival kicks off at Portland's Waterfront Park tomorrow!  Chris Crabb and Preston Weesner, two of OBF's key organizers (and busiest people in the State of Oregon), were kind enough to spend some time answering my questions about the festival...

For those already familiar with the festival, are there any notable changes to the 25th installment of OBF?

Chris Crabb: We've added a Sour Tent, based on the popularity of the Buzz Tent and the trending of sour beers. That should be a huge hit with the attendees. We also have an amazing music lineup this year, including the Cherry Poppin Daddies on Friday night! But otherwise, no changes. Prices are the same as the past couple years: $6 for a tasting mug and $1 for tokens. Four tokens to fill the mug, one token for a taste. This is a festival that draws 80,000 people from all over the world. If it isn't broke, why fix it?

The Buzz Tent was a huge hit last year—so much so that beer was gone and the tent was closed before the weekend started.  Will anything be different this year?  How can fest attendees find out what's pouring at any given time?

CC:  Last year, we were promised beers that we promoted (and counted on) that weren't delivered. At the end of the day, we didn't have enough beer. This year, we purposefully have not shared what will be in the tent, because we want it in our hands before we promote it. Preston did release a bit of info on an interview with Lisa Morrison on Beer O'Clock that can be listened to here

Preston Weesner: We will post a starting list each day of the event, and we have a dedicated Twitter feed (@OBFBuzzTent) to get the tappings and changes to the masses at they happen,.

How did the decision to open the Sour Tent come about?  While sour beers are popular among beer geeks, do you think craft beer drinking masses area ready for them?

PW:  This came about for two reasons. 1: The Buzz tent ran low last year and we filled with Cascade Sours, which were extremely popular. 2: The director of the OBF, Art Larrance, also owns Cascade Brewing, which has developed a national reputation for its Northwest Style Sour Ales, and he believes it's time to let the secret of Sour out. We also have a dedicated Twitter feed for that (@OBFBSourTent).

For those that missed the OBF movie, will it be shown again?  Where can we see it?

CC:  There will be a second showing on the big screen on Wednesday, July 25, at 7 pm at the Living Room Theaters. Tickets cost $5 for the movie, or $10 with an official poster. The film will star at 7:30pm with the short film "Weathering Spring" playing beforehand. After that, we will upload to You Tube and possibly Netflix. It's important to note that this is not a documentary of the festival, it's more of a promotional piece for those who have never been before to get a feel for what the festival is all about.

How many breweries submitted applications to join the festival?  Can you provide any behind-the-scenes insights into how the breweries are selected?

CC: More than 100 submitted applications this year. Applications are sent out the first week of January, and due back, with payment, by the third Friday in February. The "with payment" clause is important, because if more than 82 breweries apply, we have to start making cuts, and the first ones cut are those that didn't play by the rules. After those are culled, we go to a lottery. However, if a brewery is on the wait list this year, they will be given priority the following year.

How has the craft beer culture grown and changed in the last 25 years? 

CC: Craft beer culture has changed in so many ways. In 1985, there were 21 craft breweries in America. In 1988, there were only 8 craft breweries in Oregon - today we have 148! The festival was started to bring attention to these craft beers (back then they were referred to as microbrews, a term not really used anymore). The founders wanted to get some press about their beers. And speaking of press, that has been one of the biggest changes. In the beginning there was one reporter covering beer in Oregon: Fred Eckhardt. Eventually a few more signed on, including Jeff Alworth and John Foyston and Alan Moen. But it was all print journalists, there was not such thing as a blog. I used to do a media preview on Friday of the festival that involved a group of maybe 12 media walking from tap to tap for tastes. This year, my media list is at about 80.

The festival has gone from a 2-day to a 3-day to a 4-day event, and there are rumors it may expand even more in the future. Only time will tell!

A huge thanks to Chris and Preston for taking the time to chat!  I can't wait...  

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New Fall Releases from BridgePort and Rogue

It's the middle of summer in Portland. The Oregon Brewers Festival kicks off in just three days and the last thing most of us are thinking of is fall. On the plus side, the cooler weather will bring us brand new seasonal releases from BridgePort and Rogue.

BridgePort's new Witch Hunt is a 5.8% ABV "Spiced Harvest Ale" brewed with cinnamon and nutmeg. It's interesting that BridgePort has not included pumpkin in this beer. I love Witch Hunt's label artwork. Here's the description. "Something wicked this way comes. From slightly sweet caramel malts, Witch Hunt offers an intense dry hop character finished with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg spices." 

If you want some gourd in your beer, Rogue Ales will release Pumpkin Patch Ale. As part of their GYO (Grow Your Own) Chatoe Rogue line, Rogue grows all the barley, hopsand now pumpkin used in these beers. Here's the description. "Created with pumpkins grown on Rogue's Micro hop and pumpkin yard in Independence, Oregon. Fresh pumpkins are picked, loaded into our truck, driven immediately 77 miles to our brewery in Newport, Oregon, quickly roasted, and pitched into the brew kettle."

While I'm not ready to let go of summer, new beers like these make the change in seasons a bit more palatable. As far as I'm aware, these beers have not been formally announced, so I don't know when they will be released.

What's your favorite fall beer? Last year I profiled eight pumpkin beers are part of my Great Pumpkin Beer Roundup.

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2012 National Homebrewers Conference: Grand Banquet

Last month, I attended the 34th Annual National Homebrewers Conference in Seattle.  While the events of the weekend are now a fond but distant memory, I wanted to share a few details and pictures from the Conference Grand Banquet. Beer pairs beautifully with food. Just a few months ago, I experienced my first beer pairing dinner at The Oregon Garden Brewfest

The theme for the conference banquet was “Taste of the Northwest” and it was created by Sean Paxton, otherwise known as The Homebrew Chef. The dinner was sponsored by Rogue Brewing, who provided the beer that paired with each course, as the beer used in the preparation of each dish. Here are the delicious details, course by course.  My comments are in bold italics.

First Course
Wild Mushroom Ale Bisque
Local mushroom stewed in Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout, roasted Walla Walla onion stock and a touch of cream, topped with amber malt candied bacon, Rogue Smokey Blue Cheese and mixed herbs.  
Paired with Rogue Ales Mocha Porter

I loved this soup! It was rich, creamy, and the mushroom melded with the salty bacon and blue cheese. The bique itself paired seamlessly with the Mocha Porter—they were made for each other. This was a great start to the dinner and my favorite pairing overall.

Second Course
Pacific Northwest Salmon
Brined in Cap’n Sig’s Northwestern Ale, brown sugar and thyme, grilled and served with a roasted root vegetable (celeriac, parsnips, carrots, and potatoes) mash infused with Hazelnut Brown Nectar, garnished with an orange hazelnut parsley gremolata and a side of seasonal vegetables sautéed with a Centennial hop butter.  Paired with Chateau Rogue OREgasmic Ale

The salmon itself was cooked well and wasn’t dry. Normally when salmon is served in banquets in such large quantities, it's usually overcooked—not in this case. I’m not a fan of mashed potatoes, but I loved the root vegetable mash, which had loads of flavor. The orange zest in the gremolata added a sharp, but bright citrus bitterness. Another great course. I also liked the Chatoe Rogue OREgasmic Ale, but in my opinion, it didn’t pair well with the salmon.

Third Course
Coffee & Doughnuts Trifle
Seattle Coffee 80L crystal infused mousse, layered with a XS Russian Imperial Stout cake doughnut, smoked salt, American Amber Ale caramel and chocolate malt whipping cream, garnished with Theo Chocolate cocoa nibs.
Paired with Rogue Ales XS Russian Imperial Stout

This little package packed a lot of flavor! Each layer was unique and stood out on its own as I took each bite. All of the elements listed in the description were present in each spoonful of sweetness. The 2011 XS Russian Imperial Stout was sweet, but had a sharp bitterness which cut through the sweetness of the trifle, and made for a nice pairing.

Kudos to Sean Paxton, Rogue Ales, and the kitchen staff at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue for creating an excellent dinner worthy of a great conference! This banquet was a perfect example of how beer and food can be used to elevate each other. I can’t help but wonder what will be served at the Banquet for the 35th Annual Homebrewers Conference in Boston. 

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