Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Upcoming Portland Beer Festivals

As the days grow longer and the weekends start filling up with Portland beer festivals, I thought it would be a good time to highlight some changes that are planned for a few upcoming festivals.

Spring Beer Fest

For some years now the spring festival held in the fluorescent glory of the Oregon Convention Center has been called the "Spring Beer and Wine Fest", but in 2014 the organizers have recognized that they have a much more diverse festival than just beer and wine.  This year the festival has been rechristened the "Spring Beer Wine Mead Cider Braggot Vodka Gin Snack Condiment Tattoo Piercing and Home Improvement Festival" (italics theirs) to more accurately represent the range of exhibitors at the festival.  I'm not sure why they left commas out of the name -- "Condiment Tattoo Piercing" all runs together for me -- but I guess saving 10 characters might help out on Twitter (hashtag: #SBWMCBVGSCTPHIF2014).

Beer-loving Portland Catholics have often complained about the festival's perennial Easter weekend scheduling.  In an attempt to reach out to that demographic, this year's fest will add a Thursday night session featuring a screening of Mel Gibson's 2004 movie The Passion of the Christ with live Mystery Science Theater 3000-style commentary by a trio of comics who bill themselves as Cathloholics Anonymous. Not sure how well that will go over.

Spring Beer Wine [etc.] Fest:  April 18-19, 2014, noon to 10 PM.


Portland Fruit Beer Festival

Photo credit: Draft Magazine
You've heard of a Kissing Booth, but how about a Rimming Booth?  That's an exciting addition this June to the Portland Fruit Beer Festival:  a special area of the festival where attendees can accessorize their pretty, hop-free beers by decorating the rims of their beer glasses with colorful slices of fruit or various sprinkles and additions that you'd be more likely to find in an ice cream shop than a taproom.

Festival founder (and Pub Night friend) Ezra Johnson-Greenough has never hesitated to take beer in unexpected new directions, whether brewing a chocolate and peanut butter stout, crafting beer cocktails, or in this case updating the "lemon your Widmer" idea.  Rimming is a practice I first read about in this Draft Magazine article, and it sounds a little perverse at first, but I've heard it can be a very pleasurable experience.  Apparently it is something young people do a lot of these days, especially as a way to add even more cookie and pie flavors to pumpkin beers.  The Fruit Beer Fest's Rimming Booth will be set up between the dedicated cider taps and the children's face-painting station.

Portland Fruit Beer Festival:  June 7-8, 2014.  11 AM to 9 PM Saturday, 11 to 6 Sunday.

Hopworks DriveToBeerFest

Although the date for Hopworks Brewery's fall festival hasn't been set in stone yet, some major changes in the theme are in store for the 6th annual event.  Instead of the bicycle-centric BikeToBeerFest of the last several years, this year Hopworks is holding a DriveToBeerFest.  It sounds like an off note to the Portland ear, but it makes sense on at least two levels.  For one thing, in a more competitive craft beer market, suburban beer lovers are a market that Hopworks wants to cater to by demonstrating that driving to a beer festival is just as cool as biking to one.

On a more practical level, you may have noticed how crowded BikeToBeerFest has been the last couple of years.  The more the merrier, up to a point, but lately the crowds have been so large at the festival that Hopworks is ready to dial it down a little.  One very natural way to limit attendance is to encourage less efficient modes of transportation, so that fewer people are able to attend.  With that in mind, instead of setting up hundreds of bike racks for people to park at, attendees will be encouraged to drive their cars to the festival, preferably with each person arriving in their own car (they call it "designated driving").  In a partly symbolic, partly utilitarian measure, the dozen or so bike racks in front of the pub will be removed during the weekend of the festival to make room for a single parking space.  Watch this space for more information on the dates and times for this exciting festival.

Of course, there are a couple of other minor festivals happening between all these events, but I wanted to keep you abreast of the exciting innovations that are coming up.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Protip: Sierra Nevada Ovila Quad is on the Shelves

I have been one to bash Sierra Nevada Brewing, for their recent corporate tax dodge, and for shamelessly passing off all-dried-hop beers as "Fresh Hop Ales" (again and again and again).  That doesn't prevent me from being a huge fan of many of their beers.  And as an inveterate cheapskate, I find that some of their high-end beers are sold at very sensible prices compared to their peers.

Case in point, Sierra Nevada Ovila Quad brewed with plums, on the shelf now in corked 375ml bottles for about $4.  I picked up a couple last year in a grocery store almost by accident, and then was heartsick a couple days later when I couldn't find any more for sale anywhere in town.  But I saw them on the shelf today, grabbed six of them, and then decided to share the love with you, dear readers.

If you like a good Belgian quad, you'll want to try this beer, it hits all the bases (flowery Belgian yeasts, dark plummy richness, and a nice alcohol burn).  The corked bottle argues against cellaring, but if this year's vintage is anything like last year's, it's good to go right now.  Act fast, it's an occasional seasonal, and they'll go fast at that price.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Alphabet of New Oregon Breweries

The other day Dave invited me over to help out with a growler of delicious Omegatex IPA he'd brought back from a visit to Fort George.  "We also checked out this new brewpub in Astoria called Buoy."  In my Omegatex-addled bliss I was hearing that as "Bowie", like how Texans pronounce "Bowie knife", or how George Clinton pronounces "David Bowie" at about 3:00 in Make My Funk the P. Funk, until he showed me the logo with an ocean buoy on it.  I used to be so good at keeping up with new breweries, but I had never heard of this one.

A couple days later I was reading about the OBG's Malt Ball, which included a beer from another Oregon brewery I had never heard of:  Claim 52 in Eugene.  It made me think that there is almost an A-Z of Oregon breweries that are so new that I haven't tried their beer yet.  That's a bit of a stretch, but let's try and come up with an alphabet of Oregon breweries that have opened in... oh, the last three years (so that we can at least get through the letter G).

I'll get it started, please help me out with the rest, since I'm obviously no longer keeping up with current events, or even past events [Thanks to commenters for J-O, R-U.  And for telling us that apparently Yachats and Zigzag are on the way!]:

Wow, that list is very Eugene-heavy.  Is Eugene the next Bend?  Is Ninkasi the beer that made Eugene famous?

One-day only special:  If you happen to be reading this today, March 13, 2014, you can meet the brewers from letters A and P tonight at the White Owl Social Club (SE 8th and Main Street, just down the street from my house).