Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Your Thoughts on the Spring Beer Fest?

What is it about the Spring Beer and Wine Fest that turns Portland beer snobs off? Is it the:
  1. Flea-market vendor list, as Jeff says? Vinyl windows, violins.... Someone's been thumbing through the Yellow Pages.
  2. Boring beer offerings, as Dr. Wort says? Blue Moon?!?
  3. Houston Intercontinental Airport atmosphere of the Convention Center?
  4. Monosyllabic festival moniker? It's really called a "fest", not a "festival".
  5. Easter weekend dates, as Mary Sue says?
  6. All of the above?
It's coming up this Friday and Saturday, April 10th and 11th. It seems unlikely I'll go, unless I happen to be walking down the street in front of the convention center when it's open. That's the excitement level.

One spark of interest: there are three breweries on the list I'd never heard of. The Beer Mapping Project was able to inform me about 10 Barrel Brewing (Bend, 2006; not sure how I missed them) and Lang Creek Brewery, but not even the mighty Google can tell me what's up with Lat 44, who is bringing their -- wait for it -- IPA to the festival. The SBWF website doesn't have links to exhibitor websites -- anyone know anything about Lat 44?

[Update: I emailed the promoter about Lat 44. He replies: "It's from the folks at Miller/Coors. Think upscale Henry's. It is made at Hood River though." Ugh.]

What about you? Do you go to the SBWF? If so, enthusiastically or begrudgingly? 10 Barrel's Sinister Black Ale looks interesting -- are there any other beers on the list worth going to check out?


  1. All of the above!

    The Doc really wishes the Spring Beer Fest was far better. It has SO many problems and short comings it's just amazing.

    The big corporate feeling Convention Center wouldn't be so bad if the fest didn't feel like a swap meet out in the desert. Maybe, you'd have to be at swap meet in the desert to understand that statement??? The Spring fest just feels haphazardly put together to make someone money. "Lets' advertise we're going to have everything: Beer, Wine, Food, Cheese, Booze, Cigars... the whole works! But! Lets not really put in a effort.... Lets have mostly boring beer and throw in some big corporate beers; The most desperate Vintners; One or two Distillers; Carnival quality food and a few cheese logs and call it a fest! Everybody with me?? Great! Lets make some money!"

    The only thing worse than the Spring Fest are the Beers Fests for public institutions or causes. I'm all for donating to a good cause, but don't try and entice people with shitty, make shift little fests, just give me a discount card or a nice tax write off and I'm happy!

    Beer Fest at the Zoo, Beer Fest at the Garden, Beer Fest for old dead Tom McCall, Beer Fest for the Hipster Relief Fund, Beer fest for China Town, Beer Fest to save the Crystal Ballroom (Oh wait! That's McMEnamins!), Beer Fest for saving the Blind Bald Balless Guinea Pigs....

    I think it would be much more interesting if these "CAUSES" picked 2-3 really good beers and each cause charged $1-2 for 4 oz tasters. One big festival... Call it the "All Cause Beer Festival!" 50-75 causes and donatable institutions, everybody picks 2-3 beers and serve them. All their proceeds go to their cause! Wanna see everybody scramble to acquire some real interesting beers for their cause!!?? I bet you wouldn't have anybody hawking Widmer Hefe for $1 for 4 oz taster.... ;-}

  2. For me, it's the fact that every year it happens on *the* largest festival of my religious practice.

  3. Mary Sue nailed the reason for me!


  4. For me it's the selection. I'm willing to forgive the venue if there's good beer available--for example, the Astoria Brew Cup is held in the middle of town in a parking lot, but there was a lot of good beer being poured. Looking over the Spring Beer and Wine Fest, though, it's mostly stuff I can get down the street at New Seasons, Zupan's, Belmont Station, or even Freddy's. I know that's not necessarily the fault of the organizers, but there aren't enough uncommon/rare/special beers to pique my interest.

  5. Bill,
    I think 10BBL brewing is the same as Wildfire brewing, I think there was a lawsuit over the name.

    Reasons stated are accurate, I will be doing something else instead of attending this festival, as fun as vinyl windows and blind balless guinea pig charity contributions sound.

  6. Having a beer festival that is not AS fantastic as a couple of others in town is not a bad problem to have. Sure, there are a lot of issues with this "fest" -- no focus, no ambiance, etc. However, it's BEER, people. Yes, Blue Moon and MillerCoors are there, but can you honestly look at the list of breweries that will be there and not spot quality beer?

    Maybe I don't get out enough, but there are still a lot of beers that I am excited about tasting. There are a even a lot of local beers that I haven't had a chance to try. Have you had Lang Creek or 10 Barrel beers? As a beer nazi, don't you want to know what there beers taste like? When was the last time Lost Coast brought anything other than Great White to the OBF? Two different beers from them this time around.

    I didn't realize that God didn't want people to drink beer on the Friday or Saturday before Easter Sunday. Good thing I'm an atheist.

    One thing I never see mentioned is that the brewers are often at the Spring Beer Festival. I can ask specific questions about the beer to the brewers themselves instead of having to ask the pourer who knows nothing more than the sheet taped to the table.

    Is it my favorite festival? No. Will I go? Yes. I am going to be un-hip and not bash it like everyone else. I will instead enjoy the many tasty brews offered. And I will be happy.

  7. Derek:

    I think the Spring Festival is a good venue for those who haven't sampled or drank through the local Beer Standards (or Standard like) or those who are gateway drinkers. In fact, it may be the best Gateway Beer Festival Portland has...

    "Welcome to Portland! Lets get ya started drinking!"

    God vs. Beer vs. Hedonism....Hmmmm?

    What are the three things you should never talk about in polite company?

    Politics, Religion and Personal wealth? Well...Two out of three aren't bad for the Doc ;-}

  8. DABeers: Thanks for the clarification. Although I'm not sure I've had much Wildfire stuff either.

    Derek: You have a point: we're spoiled here, we can afford to turn up our nose at a festival. By the way, in the post I linked to, Jeff did mention that the SBWF started off with the brewers involved. But by 2006 he found mostly uninterested volunteers at the booths.

  9. Bill:

    I agree with everything that Jeff wrote in his article.

    My point is that even if it is a "flea market--with great beer" it has great beer. I'd rather spend an afternoon enjoying the variety of great beer than most other things I could do that day.

  10. I just don't like that you are spending a dollar for samples of common beers that cost about a dollar per 12oz bottle. I mean, if I want Lost Coast Great White or New Belgium Wit I'd go buy a bottle at the store and get 8 extra ounces for the same price.

    I don't think the festival is a bad thing and I agree that it is a great way to get people to try more craft beer, but if you are there to try some new beer you'd be better served heading down to Bailey's Taproom and doing a couple sample plates. The cost would be about the same and the selection would be more exciting.

  11. I think I agree with many of the comments here, but it's true we can be snobbish because there are *SO* many fests here. It's hard to keep up.

    1) It's on Easter, which is brimming with other events for me
    2) It's not an "exciting" fest in terms of special beers, etc.
    3) Feels a little like a yard-sale.

    On the postives, it's one of the early fests, actually has nice glassware, is weather independent, and it's easy to get to on MAX.

    I'm considering going this year.. but my fave fests of the year are:

    Seattle Cask Festival
    Cheers to Belgian Beers
    Fests at my house (no crowd, better beer!)
    OBF (but only early in the week near opening time)

  12. Bill:
    Enjoying the comments...

    I'm not a fan of SBWF...it's my least favorite of the annual beer events for a several of the reasons already mentioned. Horrible venue has to be my "#1" peeve, however...with the 'trade show' vibe being "#1A".

    That said, I really enjoy POURING at this festival. Like Derek mentioned, it's one of the few festivals that brewers actually attend, at least during early sessions. Last year I poured for Ninkasi and hung out with Jamie Floyd for 3 hours (well, actually about 1 hour, as he was often off 'sampling' the works of fellow brewers...); got a free T-shirt out of the deal, too. Hung out with Ben & Andrea from HUB the next day...in the past have poured for Laurelwood and for a meadery from NorCal. All good experiences and a chance to talk with lots and lots of often novice craft beer fans. Sure there are some hardcore beer geeks, but it's a different crowd than, say, the HAF or PIB or Big Beer & Barleywine Fest...

    So, not the greatest but I can think of worse ways to spend a rainy April Saturday afternoon...


  13. Hey Bill,

    It will be my first year having a beer there. I brewed the Beatnik Saint: A Dry Hopped Biere de Printemps which is just a snooty way of saying Spring Biere de Garde. I will also be there from 4-7 on Saturday. C'mon! You know you are going to go!


  14. Corey: I wondered if that was yours, you Beatnik. If you, Brett, and Brian will be there, I may have to make the effort. Twist my arm...

  15. Something else that bothers me is my memory of the Fest circa 1998. It was the city's best fest back then. It mainly featured small breweries from around the state, and most of the brewers came along. It was amazing to chat with brewers about their beers, one after another.

    So part of the reason I don't plan to go is that going reminds me of what it used to be like. Others probably don't feel it, but a sadness kind of hangs over the place.

  16. Bill, Brett, Corey, etc:
    I'm pouring mid-day Friday and early Saturday...Sharon probably is joining me at 3:30+/- Saturday (once my shift is over) for a couple hours of tasting/token spending...gotta get my annual fill of Calapooia Chili Beer!

  17. Jeff:

    That's funny because I thought that was maybe why I don't hate it -- the great memories from those early festivals. Right after moving to Portland in 1995 I volunteered at the festival at the Greyhound Park and got to spend the day with the Lost Coast brewer. After the festival ended, a lot of the volunteers and brewers hung out and finished a lot of the beer.

    Maybe I still see the festival through those rose-colored glasses (beer goggles?)

  18. I just have issues with going to festivals. They always seem to be 1) overpriced and 2) more trouble than they are worth. I suppose if I was volunteering, I'd feel better about attending.