The beer highlights for me were:
- Ninkasi Pinot Barrel-Aged Oatis with Cherries: beautiful taste of cherries, chocolate, and oak
- Lompoc Cherry Fechter: classic cherry pie taste in a light ale; reminded me of Bridgeport's cherry Stumptown Tart or Upright's 2009 Four Play, high praise for me
- Laurelwood Mango Mint Pale Ale: nicely balanced with a tiny hint of mint and a little whiff of mango
- Hopworks Chupacabra Chile Stout: an instant classic, rich coffee stout with dark dried-chile notes but not too much heat
- Breakside Brewer's Bramble: uniquely flavored amber ale, an homage to the gin cocktail called the Bramble
- Block 15 Psidium Guava Farmhouse Ale: I went on and on about this tasty little number in my festival preview; brewer Nick Arzner was pouring his own brew Saturday afternoon
The PFBF was also my first experience with pouring beer at a festival since I got my OLCC card a couple months ago. I had a great time pouring at the rare beer taps on Saturday during the quiet early hours, before passing the torch to Angelo and Margaret when the going got tough.
Some people who arrived late Saturday afternoon had a few complaints about the festival. It was very crowded by that time, and several of the beers had already run out: Alameda, Ninkasi, Breakside, Upright, and Fort George were early casualties. There was also some confusion about the rare-beer taps; the system was explained in the festival program, but apparently it could have been explained more clearly, or in bold-faced type or with better signage. Many people didn't understand that the beers rolled out two or three at a time, some on Saturday and some on Sunday, in a particular order but with no set schedule.
But these were minor hitches, and things were surprisingly well-organized -- including alphabetical order at the beer taps and a nice pint glass for samples -- for a first-time festival. It was better for the festival to run out of some beers than for it to lose a ton of money on its first outing, which was by no means an impossibility. Saturday's attendance of 2,600 people was higher than what the organizers expected for the entire weekend; Sunday's 1,200 people were just icing on the cake. Even though the lines got a little long the first day, it was nothing like, say, OBF lines, and they flowed pretty quickly, especially in the rare beer area. While I'm comparing the PFBF to other beer festivals, consider that all but one of the rare beers went for only $2 a sample -- compare that to the Portland International Brewfest, where you have a tough time finding something interesting for $2, and $5-$7 samples is not uncommon.
All in all, it was a very promising start for an exciting new festival. Check it out next year.