Writing on an assigned topic takes me back to high school and college classes and after having penned this blog for seven years without assignments I must admit that it's a lot harder than I thought it would be. However dangling the dual carrots of free registration to the 2014 Beer Bloggers Conference in San Diego and a free trip to the National Beer Wholesalers Association's Annual Convention in New Orleans was enough incentive for me to take a crack at a post on the wide topic of "America's Beer Renaissance: Consumer Choice and Variety in the U.S. Beer Market."
Portland, whether or not that other city believes it, is the craft beer capital of the U.S. and last Saturday was a perfect example to support that claim. January is historically a quieter time of year for beer goings-on with some people recovering from the hectic holiday season, others slogging their way through winter by hunkering down and a few determined souls sticking to their New Year resolutions to eat better/drink less/be healthier. You wouldn't have guessed that by the fact that the lucky beer ducks in Portland had a choice of four, yes four, beer festivals happening simultaneously.
1. Portland U-Brew Winter Brew Fest - The combination homebrew supply store/brew-on-premises facility/brewpub hosted a beer festival showcasing 10 beers, six of their own making and the rest from other local breweries. If that doesn't sound exciting enough, there was one beer brewed with gummi bears and another with candy canes and M & M's.
2. NW Coffee Beer Invitational - The organizers of this inaugural festival clearly didn't think a January date was undesirable to host an outdoor festival that brought together 12 breweries, all utilizing coffee in the creation of their brew. The offerings weren't just limited to the usual suspects - stouts and porters - but also included a berliner weiss and a couple of IPAs.
3. Bailey's Taproom CellarFest - One of the best taprooms in Portland, Bailey's annual festival digs deep, into their cellar that is. The beer list featured over 20 beers going back as far as 2008. Most of them topped 9% ABV, being imperials and barleywines, but there were also a few aged sour beers to keep things interesting.
4. Belmont Station Bigger Badder Blacker Week - One of the top bottle shops in Portland was in the midst of their week-long festival, an "annual trek to The Dark Side" that offered a multitude of rare, big beers. Saturday featured imported beers, a departure from the other festivals that were pouring beers primarily from Oregon or West Coast breweries.
Admittedly these festivals were smaller than the five-day extravaganza of the Oregon Brewers Festival held in July along the Portland waterfront and its winter counterpart, the Holiday Ale Festival. Nevertheless, I challenge you to find any craft beer lover that wasn't torn trying to decide where to spend their Saturday imbibing. In total there were over 50 beers available from these four events alone expressing the creativity of the brewers that so generously keep us from going thirsty. If that doesn't illustrate choice and variety I don't know what does.