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

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