I just recently moved to Portland in May of this year. Besides the incredible beauty of the city and friendly locals, <A HREF=images/features/127-2712_IMG.jpg>I have to admit to being drawn to the multitude of breweries and brewpubs here. I also have to admit that I didn’t know that Portland was host to North America’s largest gathering of independent breweries. The Oregon Brewer’s Festival is held during the last full weekend of July each year and runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It is free to get in but a tasting cup needs to be purchased at $3 a cup and tokens are $1 for samples and $4 for a full glass. They also have programs available for $3 that contain full descriptions of the featured beers and a space for your tasting notes. The riverfront is right downtown where hotels are a plenty and the public transportation is continuous.
<P>I have been to a few beer festivals but nothing could have prepared me for where I was about to go. With a few gallons of water and my Ratebeer friends <A HREF=images/features/127-2705_IMG.jpg>BeaverBrown, <A HREF=images/features/127-2713_IMG.jpg>mwsf, and <A HREF=images/features/127-2716_IMG.jpg>Bierbitzch, I hopped on the bus headed for the Willamette riverfront hoping that I would not be found hanging over the rail feeding the fish before the day was through. We got off the bus on the Burnside Bridge and strolled through the Saturday Market toward the riverfront. We entered the fenced off area to see two <A HREF=images/features/126-2699_IMG.jpg>large tents hosting 72 different breweries and 25 different styles of beer. It was already 1:30pm on Saturday and the tents were full of people already displaying their intoxication. A wave of yelling ran through the tent every so often and I felt as though I were at a sporting event. Beer drinking a sport? I’ll go for that.
<P>The tents were lined with flags displaying all the breweries. Full Sail, Kalamazoo Brewing (Bells), New Belgium, Rogue, Three Floyds, Stone and the list goes on. My heart raced and my mouth began to salivate as I read all the names. We all started to search for the token booth. The sooner we had a beer to our lips the better. There were booths with home brew equipment and booths full of food from local restaurants. There was a booth with handcrafted root beers and one with home brewing demonstrations.
<P>Finally, we found the booth for the tokens and some fellow Ratebeerians. BierBitzch recognized Beerguy101, whom we all met at the Belgian Beer tasting in California. I love the community of Ratebeer and the chance to meet beer lovers of all kinds at these great festivals. He was sharing a table with <A HREF=images/features/127-2701_IMG.jpg>portlandrunk, TimE and some of their friends (pic l to r: portlandrunk, Matt & Don (non-Ratebeerian frinds of TimE). They made room for us all and began to clue us in on some of the better beers they had so far. They were all smart enough to have hit the festival on Friday as well. One day does not do this festival justice.
<P>Beerguy101 told me about one of tents that had rotating taps featuring some of the more odd local beers like Hair of the Dog Greg and my favorite beer of the day by Mount Hood Brewing Company, Estonian Festival beer. The aroma had some sour notes but was dominated by fresh banana bread. The taste was much the same but also had a lingering fruitiness that was reminiscent of apple. I could have used a whole pint of it in order to really catch everything going on in it. Michigan Brewing Company brought their Celis White which was exceptional and worth the wait in line. It had an outstanding palate that was silky smooth and a nice floral flavor. There was anything from great tasting pilsners to the Saison Rabbid Rabbit by Three Floyds. There was the always solid and refreshing summer beer by Bells, Oberon.
<P>On the stronger side, there was an Imperial Schwarzbier by Rogue called Skull Splitter. That one beer alone was the cause of any hangover I had the next day. There was a fruit beer by 21st Amendment called Watermelon Wheat that sounded interesting but was out before I got the chance to try. That is just another reason to make this festival a 2 or 3 day event. There were some Belgian-style beers other than the Celis White. There was a tripel by Dick’s Brewing Company out of Centralia, Washington and a golden by Elysian Brewing Company out of Seattle called Golden Gorgon. There was an odd, strong brown ale by Widmer that was made with ginger that was surprisingly good. Not to mention the countless IPA’s, ESB’s and pale ales. There was a decent German weiss by Wynkoop from Denver called Wixa Weiss that I enjoyed.
<P>As the night went on, more and more people came and the crowds began to get crazy. About 80,000 people visit the festival over the weekend. The lines got longer for beer so, I went out on my typical ex-smokers search for cigarettes as the rest of them finished up their beers.
<P>Sample after sample, we spent our afternoon enjoying the company of our fellow <A HREF=images/features/127-2703_IMG.jpg>Ratebeerians (l to r: microdyke, mwsf, TimE, beerguy101)
and wonderful brews. The air was full of local live music and the aroma of my bummed smoke as I watched Mount Hood peer at us from the east and I was thankful that the fish would not be fed by me tonight.