It may be the big grand-daddy of Oregon beer fests.
The first time I went to the Oregon Brewers Festival with my buddy Brent Drinkut last year, I was overwhelmed by the size and the offerings.
This year, I went on Wednesday to the first day to beat the crowds and was even more amazed than last year. The selection and variety of beers that were being poured were incredible. There were Saisons, Pilsners, Berliners, Weiss, and an amazing array of fruited beers alongside the IPAs that serve as the backbone of the festival.
Also this year is a special treat. In the International Beer Garden, there were at least 9 beers being poured from Japan. I got to meet the brewer of my favorite beer of the day from Iwate Kura and though there was a language gap, he understood when I said his beer was my favorite for the day.
Iwate Kura Beer is a unique brewery in Japan, perhaps the world, as it is a cooperative brewery rather than a company. Launched in 1996, Iwate Kura Beer has the backing of five different companies. Like other countryside breweries, Iwate Kura Beer also has its history in sake manufacturing from the parent company Sekinoichi Shuzo. All of Iwate Kura Beer’s are fermented at room temperature and also do not undergo pasteurisation or filtration at any time during the brewing process.
The beer being poured from Iwate Kura was a Japanese Herb Ale Sansho. It had a nose filled with sage, papaya and pineapple. It tasted fresh and tropical despite its 5,000 mile journey to Oregon. The addition of sansho peppercorns, the berries of a spiny Asian shrub, lends it a floral and sweet berry note.
Festival organizer Chriss Crabb said the participation of Japanese brewers was the result of a Japanese beer blogger who attended the festival last year and made a pitch to the fest to help organize a contingent from Japan for this year’s festival.
My other favorites for the day included the following:
Ninkasi Grapefruit Sour: refreshingly tart, this beer is soured in the kettle using lactobacillus brevis and lactobacillus delbruekii. It is then fermented with Ninkasi’s house ale strain, adding character and esters to the flavor profile. On the cold side, 100 percent grapefruit concentrate is added to give the beer a citrusy note and even more tartness.
Buoy Beer Co. Dragon Weisse: Brewed with german pilsen malt and malted white wheat, this Berliner Weisse was made tart using a kettle souring process. A light dose of Perle hops in the boil provides just enough bitterness and the brew was dry hopped with Calypso hops. Dragon fruit puree was added during secondary fermentation, giving the beer a wonderful flavor of kiwi, melon and dragonfruit and the amazing bright ruby color.
Great Divide Brewing Co. Nadia Kali Hibiscus Saison: Nadia Kali is an inspired Saison with a cross-cultural influence. Its ruby pink glow comes from a generous infusion of hibiscus, while ginger root gives it a subtle spice undertone and woodsy note. Lemon peel adds tartness. Full of complexity and intrigue, this unfiltered beauty was definitely a treat.
Green Flash Brewing Co. Passion Fruit Kicker: This bright and highly drinkable wheat ale allows its natural ingredients to sing, particularly the post filtration additions of passion fruit and white tea. It serves up the sweet aromas of ripe passion fruit with a tart kick on the finish. Low in bitterness and light in body with an unfiltered haze, it finishes crisp and refreshing with interlaced notes of sweetness and tartness.
Ordnance Brewing Bloops: Go figure that the geniuses at Ordnance would combine a wheat beer with blueberries and serve it up during the height of the blueberry season in Oregon. Genius! Lactose is added to the malt base of white wheat, pale malt, dextrapils and carawheat for a light-bodied, golden brew which is then bittered with Nugget hops and finished with Cascades. A reverse osmosis process treats the water, rebuilt with calcium chloride and gypsum. The house ale yeast ferments clean and allows the flavors to shine.
Aslan Brewing Co. Disco Lemonade: This tart refreshing brew will make you boogie. Originally brewed in collaboration with the Bellingham, Washington, Homebrewers Guild, this sour brew is a refreshing beer brewed to a style that dates back to the Middle Ages and is often referred to as the “People’s Champagne.” The tartness of this beer sings of lemon while the generous amount of wheat rounds out the body, lending a remarkably similarity to unsweetened lemonade.
Base Camp Brewing Co. Mango Helles: My favorite mango-flavored offering of the festival, this brew was made especially for the festival. It combines the process of the tradition of the Helles-style light lager with the tropical fruity glory of Willamette Valley-grown hops and organic mango puree. Both the mango and hop additions are carefully timed in the brewing process, providing tons of flavor and aroma without excessive bitterness or sweet fructose. I felt like I was transported to a tropical island with white sandy beaches with this brew.
New Belgium Brewing Co. Lemon Ginger Berliner Weisse: This hazy beer has a light fine foam head filled with aroma of lemon zest, ginger ale and candied ginger, herbaceous notes along with lemongrass. There’s a sweetness mid-palate and finishes dry.
The festival continues its run through Sunday. Thursday through Saturday, taps are open from noon to 9 p.m., Sunday taps are open noon to 7 p.m. Mug and glass sales close half an hour prior to taps shutting off.
The Oregon Brewers Festival is not a ticketed event, and there is no admission charge to enter the festival grounds. In order to consume beer, the one-time purchase of a 2016 souvenir 12-ounce clear plastic mug is required and costs $7. Beer is purchased with wooden tokens, which cost $1 apiece. It costs four tokens for a full mug or one token for a taste. The purchase of mugs and tokens is made on-site. The mug/token sales booth is CASH ONLY and does not accept credit cards or checks. The festival does provide eight ATM machines on premise.
The festival is held at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland.
The Oregon Brewers Festival is one of the nation’s longest running and best loved craft beer festivals. Situated on the west bank of the Willamette River, with towering Mt. Hood as a backdrop, it is the ideal venue for anyone who loves craft beer. With a laid back attitude and scores of award-winning beers, the festival reflects the essence of the city of Portland, aka Brewvana. Approximately 80,000 beer lovers annual visit during the five-day event.
The Oregon Brewers Festival is a great opportunity to sample and learn about more than 20 craft beer styles. There are 111 independent craft beers available this year: 88 from craft breweries from all over the U.S.; and 23 more in the International Beer Garden featuring beers and brewers from Japan, China, Germany and the Netherlands.
The festival’s focus is craft beer, but there’s more than sampling involved. The event features live music, beer-related vendors, beer memorabilia displays, home brewing demonstrations and an assortment of foods from a variety of regions. The Crater Lake Soda Garden offers complimentary handcrafted root beer for minors and designated drivers. Minors are always welcome at the festival when accompanied by a parent.
For more information, click here.
Cheers to beer!
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