Monday, August 22, 2016

Short List for the Organic Beer Fest

Summer is flying by, a bit to my dismay but it also means that the Organic Beer Fest, now in its 12th year is just days away (formerly called the North American Organic Beer Festival). Of the bigger beer festivals in town it is my favorite for both the great location at Overlook Park and the number of interesting beers that show up year after year.
After a perusal of the 55 beers that will be on tap during the four-day event I've come up with a reasonable 16 that I'd like to try for various reasons.

There are those from breweries I have a particular affinity for:
54°40’ Brewing Chaga-lug Chaga-lug (mushroom porter with vanilla and maple syrup)
Yachats Brewing Cetacea (a Saison with Szechuan peppercorns)
Montavilla Brew Works Organic Warp Session Ale

There are those that I've never had beer from:
Dogwood Brewing Organic IPA
Fortside Brewing Co. Ripple Effect

There are those whose style, name or ingredients have caught my eye:
Two Kilts Manbun IPA
Golden Valley Buzzed Barista (coffee infused blonde ale)
Hopworks Urban Brewery IPX Azacca (a newer hop I've found I enjoy)
Vagabond Brewing Into the Wild IPA

Then there are those that I'd like to try but will be come optional if I run out of time or steam:
Samuel Smith's Organic Strawberry Ale
Lahat Neppur Strawberry Cream Ale (might be a fun back-to-back tasting with Samuel Smith's)
Kells Brew Pub Blood Orange Summer Wheat
Wandering Aengus Golden Russet (a 9.3% cider that I suspect will be smooth as heck)
Pinkus-Muller Organic Munster Alt (not many alts being made and this one is from Germany)
McMenamins Edgefield 2016 Hogshead Whiskey Pavol (barrel-aged Baltic Porter)
McMenamins Crystal Rose City 'Til I Rye
Coin Toss Brewing Half Penny (rice lager)

Next up will be to create my notes sheet that I'll use at the festival (on 8.5 x 11 card stock for easier table-less writing) and adding these beers to my Untappd wish list. Then it's game on!

Organic Beer Festival
Thursday, August 25 - Sunday, August 28
12-9pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday
12-5pm Sunday
Overlook Park
Tasting mugs $7, drink tokens $1 each

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Observations from Day 1 of the Oregon Brewers Festival

One of the many beautiful & tasty
beers to be had
Wednesday dawned overcast and dreary but by the time the parade was marching across the Hawthorne bridge to open the 29th Annual Oregon Brewers Festival the skies had cleared and a stunning summer day was upon Portland.

During the couple of hours I was able to attend I sampled 16 beers, starting off with Berliner Weisses and fruit beers before moving to a couple of hoppier beers and settling into the area of the International Beer Garden to try as many of the beers on tap at the time that were on my list, knowing there would be a good chance they wouldn't be available tomorrow.

Of the Berliner Weisses I tried (about half of the ones I hope to), Uber Osten from Terminal Gravity was my favorite. The 4.8% beer is balanced and just right for the style. Along a similar style vein, Nancy Cherrygan from Sasquatch offered up a bit of tartness, plenty of cherry flavor and was a beauty to look at. At 6.9% I might get myself into trouble if I were allowed to drink as much as I want of it (which would be plenty).

While I didn't have much in the way of hoppy beers I was impressed with Organized Love IPA from Riverbend, one of the newer breweries on the Oregon beer scene. In the International Beer Garden both the IPA from North Island Beer and No. 10, a 7.5% imperial IPA from Shiga Kogen Beer, are worth trying (if they're available when you're there).

Finally, two big, dark beers that were on my list were definite winners: New Holland Dragon's Milk: Mexican Spice Cake and Lost Abbey Serpent's Stout. The former is just what it sounds like, a liquid version of a spiced cake, and it is stunning. Serpent's Stout is a blended beer, with a portion being aged in bourbon barrels, which comes across without being overpowering and finishes with a coffee/dark chocolate aftertaste. Both are 11% beers so drink with caution but if I was looking for something to slowly sip while wandering the grounds I'd splurge on a full glass (4 tokens) and enjoy every last drop.

- Bring water (it's allowed), use the rinse stations or buy a bottle from one of the food vendors.
- Drink water. My rule is "drink your swill" and by that I mean that I carry a water bottle so that I can dump some in my tasting mug between each sample. It not only rinses it but drinking that beer-ish flavored water helps keep me hydrated.

- Visit the International Beer Garden early on and continue to check back periodically as the beers will rotate.
- If there is a line for New Holland or Lost Abbey (both in trailer #2) the wait is worth it.

- It's going to be a warm one so take advantage of the shaded areas and/or the "free rain."

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Locked & Loaded for the 29th Annual Oregon Brewers Festival

2015 festival tasting mug
The granddaddy of beer festivals in Oregon, the Oregon Brewers Festival, starts Wednesday and I for one am ready. Last week I made my way through the full list of 100+ beers from breweries across the U.S. and the world, identifying 49 that I'd really like to taste.

In an effort to put some organization in place I first listed them by general style/ABV, starting with fruit and sours beers, ending with a few imperial stouts (the order in which I'd like to drink them in an ideal world). While it'd be foolish to waste time going in that exact order this will help ensure that as much as I want to try those big, bold beers I'm better off waiting. Because I do in fact want to taste the beers on the list, not just drink them.

Next up, because I'm a die-hard user, I created a Wish List on Untappd. For those who haven't done so before, it's a huge time-saver for check-ins during a festival, especially for those foreign beers whose brewery or beer names might be listed slightly differently in this app than on the festival list. Keep in mind that the first beer put on the Wish List gets pushed down as the others "stack" on top of it. Therefore I entered one of the last beers I plan to drink, New Holland's 11% Dragon's Milk: Mexican Spice Cake, first. (FYI - It's far easier to do this on a computer than phone.) As with the overall list it's not foolproof but it is helpful, including to identify beers one may have already tried. I found two on my list that I'd had before.

The final step, when the listing of the trailers the beers would be pouring at was released Monday, was to assign trailer numbers to the beers on my list. In the past I've then reshuffled my list by trailer number. This year I'll be attending the festival for multiple days so left the original order intact. I won't be running from trailer #9, down to trailer #5 and then over to the International Beer Garden to stay in exact order but it will give me some guidance as I wander through the festival.

Speaking of the International Beer Garden, for those new to the festival, this is a feature that was added three years ago to be "part of a cultural exchange of ideas, knowledge and the celebration of craft beer." What's more important logistically is to understand that the 25 beers coming from Japan, The Netherlands, China and Germany will not all be pouring throughout the festival. They will rotate so don't set your heart on trying all of them unless you intend to be there from open until close all five days. Definitely take advantage of this unique opportunity though and try what's on tap while you're there.

Things to keep in mind:
- The beer starts pouring at noon each day (gates open at 11:30am).
- It is a cash-only event (although ATMs will be available...for a fee of course).
- Entrance itself is free; drinking requires a tasting mug ($7) and tokens ($1/sample).
- Besides the obvious silliness of operating a vehicle post-fest, parking in the area is horrible. And expensive. Use public transit, take a cab/Uber/Lyft or hoof it.

Oregon Brewers Festival
Wednesday, July 27 - Sunday, July 31
Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Portland
12-9pm Wed - Sat, 12-7pm Sun