About 11 months from now, when you're asking yourself, "Self, should I pony up the $X to go to Fred Fest this year?", make sure that you do whatever it takes to make yourself answer in the affirmative. This is the kind of right-place, right-time beer festival that you should absolutely attend if at all possible. I'll remind you of a few of the good reasons:
- It's your chance to chat with craft beer legend Fred Eckhardt, and pick up some of his off-the-cuff homespun wisdom.
- You get to taste several one-off or otherwise rare beers, limited only by the laws of supply and demand.
- There is copious excellent food prepared and served under the supervision of Hair of the Dog brewer Alan Sprints.
- You'll be surrounded by a jovial and convivial crowd that is dense with Oregon brewers, publicans, retailers, beer experts, and beer scenesters of all stripes.
- All proceeds go to charity.
One of the most ridiculously rare beers this year was a keg of Wild Duck Barleywine brewed in 2003 by the late, lamented Glen Falconer. As if that wasn't enough backstory, the keg had been stashed away by the similarly late and lamented Toby Day. With no disrespect intended at all, Brian pointed out that this beer was really a Double Dead Guy Ale. It was the first beer that many people headed for at the festival, and it was worth it -- a classic strong barleywine, with lots of hops, a brown-sugar palate, and a little bit of papery oxidation.
Another once-in-a-lifetime beer was brought by Fred himself, and if you were standing in the right place, at the right time, you got a taste of it. Here's Fred's description of it:
I have two big gallons of Sierra Nevada pilot brew on their Thirtieth Anniv.... Charlie Papazian and I were s'pozed to have designed this beer for Ken, but Charlies plan was way beyond mine. This is a magnificant, but very dark, Helles-bock lager. 16.8Plato, 7%abv, 35ibu.
As you can imagine, once Fred's growler was opened, it went fast, but most of the people who got their tasting glass underneath it were generous and poured it around for other folks. In fact, that's how I got a taste, and I am forever grateful to the young fellow -- a complete stranger to me -- who kindly slopped half his glass into mine. It was an interesting brew: grainy (like you'd expect a Helles-bock to be) with mildly citrusy hops.
I foolishly missed the Firestone Walker Parabola and the Rock Bottom 3-5 year old Maude Flanders, but here were a few other noteworthy beers:
- Deschutes Wood-Aged Double Black: strong, slightly tart, and malty
- Barley Brown's Cherrywood-Smoked Rye Whiskey Beer: mesquite smoke, like candied BBQ pork
- Cascade The Vine 2010: smooth delicious winey sour (Sharon said it was like a stronger Berliner Weiss)
- Bridgeport 2008 Fallen Friar: sour wine notes, smooth, floral yeast (2 years aging has helped this a lot)
- Bend Brewing Rocksy Stein Lager: bitter, caramelly lager -- I'd been wanting to try this lager brewed with hot stones for a long time.
For further reading: check out Angelo's writeup at Brewpublic, Jeff's at the Beer Cave, and Lisa's at the Hop Press. And remember: next year when faced with the question of whether to go to Fred Fest, don't even hesitate.