There were 29 beers that used this year's prescribed Belgian yeast, and were thus eligible for the festival's People's Choice award (Kevin has a nicely formatted list of this year's beers). I got around to tasting fewer than half of the 29. My favorites, roughly in order:
- Big Horse Cuvee de Ferme (Sour Saison/Golden blend): sour balanced well with malt, peachy notes. Grade: A
- Upright Mingus and Monk (Farmhouse Brown): tart, cherry notes, with bitter finish. Grade: A
- Green Dragon King Ghidorah (Biere de garde): funky and full-bodied with vanilla and banana notes. Grade: A
- Deschutes Portland Sinfully Delicious (Dark Strong Ale): nice Abbey dubbel. Grade: A-
- Widmer Biere de Table (Farmhouse Table Beer): very drinkable with light grassy, lemony flavors. Grade: A-
- Oakshire La Ferme (Farmhouse Ale): nicely dry and citrusy, surprisingly bitter for 15 IBUs. Grade: B+
I listed the Big Horse sour in first place above -- I thought it had the best-balanced combination of interesting flavors -- but as I left the festival I cast my ballot for the Upright Farmhouse Brown, partly out of personal loyalty to Corey and Alex, partly out of the calculation that I didn't want to risk sending the festival to Hood River next year. It wasn't much of a stretch, it was a fine beer. I also think that aging will make Mingus and Monk into an even nicer beer than it was Saturday, and I suspect that Alex will oblige us by bringing a little out at a time as the months go by.
In fact, a lot of the beers at the festival would probably benefit from a few months' aging: I especially thought that the Oakshire and Green Dragon entries were not yet at their best. It was kind of a common refrain in talking to people about the beers -- "I'd like to try this again in a few months". Talking to Derek and Josh at the festival, they had the idea that this year's winner should announce next year's yeast immediately to give brewers more time for experimenting and aging. One of them even proposed scheduling out the yeast several years ahead of time, but I'm not sure the brewers are taking the event quite as seriously as the rest of us are.
To fill in some of the gaps I left in the list, and for valuable second opinions, check out the writeups by other Portland bloggers: Dr. Wort, Derek, Jeff, Angelo, Brady.
Update: The People's Choice winner has been announced: Block 15 Ferme de Demons Black Saison. Congratulations, Block 15! Definitely one of the most creative breweries in the state, though I'll admit that Ferme de Demons was one of my least favorites of the festival. Now the big question is, where will the CtBB be held in 2011?