Monday, September 19, 2011

Hopworks BikeToBeerFest 2011

I had a nice time Saturday at Hopworks Urban Brewery's bike-in version of Oktoberfest, the BikeToBeerFest  -- the third annual.  They always roll out some special beers for the festival, and this year was no exception, with two fresh hop beers, several barrel-aged monsters, and a few other rarities pouring alongside the brewery's standards.  The gigantic glass that Hopworks founder Christian Ettinger is drinking from contains a special pale ale called Lover Brau, an homage to head brewer Ben Love, who is leaving HUB to help found Gigantic Brewing.  To keep it a surprise, Lover Brau was actually brewed at Golden Valley in McMinnville.

Last year I made a big stink about Hopworks labeling beers "fresh hop" when they contained only dried hops.  This year I'm told that the fresh hop beers really do have some "wet hops" (I hate that silly term) in them.  Perhaps my whining paid off -- I just hope that one day it will be heard in Chico, California.  I thought the true fresh hops really made this year's Fest of Fury Märzen the best batch I can remember.  The Give Me Liberty fresh-hop Pale Ale was also very hoppy and bitter, very good stuff though I didn't pick up much of the fresh-hop flavor.  Hats off to Hopworks for going fresh this year.

At the 2010 festival, the most noteworthy big beer was Piledriver -- Hopworks' dubbel, barrel-aged with cherries and brettanomyces.  It was back again this year, and people were saying it was the same batch, though that seemed strange to me since it didn't look nearly as dark as I remember it -- look at these pictures of it last year over on the New School.  Whichever batch it was, it was at least as good as before -- nice cherries and a little drying funk on top of what was already a nice beer.  I also liked the bourbon barrel-aged Ace of Spades, though several people told me it was too over-the-top for them.  And Kronan the Bourbarian was another fine use of bourbon barrels -- adding a little extra kick to HUB's already potent Baltic Porter.

The beer price scheme has changed every year of BikeToBeerFest.  This year's was the most sensible system yet, so I hope it sticks.  Normal-strength pints were $4, or $2 for a half pour.  Strong beers were $3 for a half pour.  If you remember last year, the choices were either a full pint for $4 or $6, or a four-ounce pour for $1 (even for the $6 bruisers).  The half-pint option this year is a much better option all around.  Also this year there was no charge to get in to the festival, just the cost of a glass and your tickets.

Attendance seemed to be down from 2010.  Just a week ago, we were talking about how the hot weather might have kept people away from the Beermongers 2nd Anniversary Brewfest; Saturday the intermittent rain might have similarly dampened the BikeToBeerFest crowds.  Can we blame the weather, or are we really starting to have beer event fatigue in Portland?  Whatever it was, the bike racks in the lower parking lot were mostly empty during the time I was there, and there was never much of a line for any beer -- not that I'm complaining about that.  Maybe there was more of a crowd after I left.

Bikes and beer -- a great Portland combination, and a great thing to make a tradition of.

Sanjay has a post about the event, including some nice video, over on the Not So Professional Beer Blog.


  1. When I got there at 2pm, it was pretty empty. By the time I left at 6pm it was starting to pick up. The lines were a bit longer and it was a bit more crowded. Last year it was hot and wall-to-wall people. The music and break dancing was excellent, too. Oh Darling was fantastic. Oh yeah, the beer was superb! I had a great time.

  2. Maybe it's the economy?

    I know that my personal spending habits have decreased considerably and it's directly chained to the money I have available.

    I'm not saying that Hopworks' event was overcosted. From what you're telling me, it seems entirely reasonable. I just don't quite have the money and perhaps I'm not the only one.