Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cheers to Belgian Beers 2011

Cheers to Belgian Beers has been one of the most interesting Portland festivals during the last few years.  A great example of the friendly rivalry of Oregon brewers, most of the beers at the festival are brewed with the same yeast, chosen by the brewer who won the peoples' choice vote at the previous year's festival.  The beers are usually one-offs that might never be seen again, and give the brewers a chance to step outside of their usual lineup, or to flex their muscles with styles they particularly enjoy.  Proceeds from the festival are donated to charity.

Saturday's Cheers to Belgian Beers 2011 had even more advantages going for it.  Since the 2010 contest was won not by a Portland brewer but by Corvallis' Block 15, the venue for this year's festival was brewery equipment manufacturer Metalcraft Fabrication, and the yeast that Block 15 chose for the competition was the versatile and flowery Westmalle Abbey yeast.  Holding the event at Metalcraft turned out to be an inspired choice:  the big, airy warehouse comfortably held the crowd, and there was even more room in the fenced yard outside, along with mobile food from Philadelphia's and Koi Fusion.  There is a yellow-line MAX stop not far away, and the warehouse is right beside the Interstate bike lane.

This had to be the biggest CtBB yet, and I didn't get a chance to try even half of the beers.  Of the ones I tried, my favorites were:
  • Double Mountain | Wooden Nipel | Oak-aged tripel | amber color, dry and not hot for 9%, balanced but not very tripelly, mild hints of oak
  • Beetje | Eleanor | Tripel "sort of" | definitely a tripel though on the hoppy end, flowery yeast comes in at the end
  • Alameda | Say What? | Strong Dark Belgian | sweet and dubbel-ish Abbey-style ale
  • Lompoc | Alpha Blonde | Belgian Golden | light and drinkable, nice flowery taste, with plenty of hops
  • Logsdon | Seizoen Bretta | Farmhouse Ale with Brett | amber color, nice grainy saison, with a little barnyard funk, not very hot for 8%
  • Flat Tail | White Heat Wit | Wit with peppercorns | very tasty wit, just right
  • Cascade | Chugg it Pucker | NW sour | classic Cascade lactic cherry beer (really Westmalle?)
  • Silver Moon | Andre le Geant | Tripel | pretty hot 9.4%, nice tripel-yeast flower flavor
  • Coalition | Trifecta | Belgian Dark soured with Brett | nice balanced ale, like to try it with a little more age on it
[Update: 2011/05/04] The People's Choice award was a tie this year:  Logsdon and Hopworks.  Unfortunately, I didn't get around to trying the Hopworks, but the Logsdon was certainly worthy.  Here's the official announcement from the Oregon Brewers Guild:

PORTLAND, Ore. (May 4, 2011) More than 1,500 beer fans attended the 2011 Portland’s Cheers to Belgian Beers festival at Metalcraft Fabrication on Saturday, April 30 and selected Hopworks Urban Brewery’s Muscles from Brussels and Logsdon Organic Farmhouse Ales’ Seizoen Bretta as the People’s Choice champions. As the winners of the 2011 competition, Hopworks Urban Brewery and Logsdon Organic Farmhouse Ales earn the right to select the yeast strain for the 2012 event.

“This is the first year we’ve had a tie in the People’s Choice voting,” says Oregon Brewers Guild Executive Director, Brian Butenschoen. “It’s incredible to see how this festival has grown as public appreciation for Belgian styles and flavor profiles increases."

The 2011 Portland's Cheers to Belgian Beers festival marked the world debut of Logsdon Organic Farmhouse Ales. This is the second time Hopworks Urban Brewery has tasted People's Choice victory, the brewery also took home the coveted prize at the 2009 festival. The top five spots (including two ties) in the voting went to: Ambacht Brewing Honey Triple, Big Horse Brew Pub Bear's Choice, Block 15 Brewing Co. St. Macarius, Breakside Brewery Brewers Bramble, Cascade Brewing Co. Chuggeté Pucker, Hopworks Urban Brewery Muscles from Brussels and Logsdon Organic Farmhouse Ales Seizoen Bretta.

Hold on just a second: as Charles noted in the comments, Cascade's entry was not brewed with the contest yeast.  So how can they be in the running?  I only had a taste of Block 15's chocolatey entry, and while neither it nor Breakside's Bramble really rung my bell, they were tasty and I can see how people would vote for them.  I didn't try the Big Horse entry, so I don't know how it was, but I'm kind of confused that so many people liked the Ambacht Tripel, which wasn't flawed, but wasn't all that great, and not really much like a tripel, either.

Anyway, congrats to Hopworks and Logsdon!


    1. As in years past not all of the beers at the festival were made using the featured yeast, but the majority were. This year Cascade was one of the breweries that didn't make a beer with Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity yeast. Unfortunately, there was no indication on the festival program which breweries used the yeast and which did not. (I got my information about Cascade's beer while talking to Preston one night about the PCTBB a few weeks ago.)
      Hopefully in the future the program will reflect more information like the yeast strain used.
      As always, nice post Bill.

    2. Didn't bother with any of it.....