The 2009 edition of the North American Organic Brewers Festival had a successful three-day run at Overlook Park in North Portland. Bright sunshine and a cool wind off the Willamette River made for an excellent environment to taste new beers and old favorites. 45 breweries were pouring 80 different beers over the three-day event that started at noon on Friday and concluded at 5 PM on Sunday.
I made a beeline for three breweries that I was really jazzed about trying for the first time. First up: Captured by Porches from St. Helens, Oregon, which started as an eclectic home brewing club and grew into a small family owned brewery. They brought their Invasive Species IPA and the Red Emma Amber. The IPA had a different spicy kick to it than the hop monsters from Stone or Green Flash. The aroma was mild and it was nice and bubbly. The amber was a complex mixture of malt and spice and Belgian notes. All of their beers are naturally carbonated which make them stand out from others.
Second on my list was Upright Brewing that is just about to open its doors to Belgian beer fans in Portland. They brought two farmhouse beers. One was “seven” which is a golden ale which was a beautiful orange color and had a slight tart finish that made it really refreshing. They also poured the Reggae Junkie Gruit, which was made without hops. It was lightly spiced with a sour smell to it. Roots Brewing, which was the presenter of the festival, also had a Gruit, which was more tea-like and had a bready smell to it.
The last brewery I targeted was Crannog Ales. They are from Canada and their beer is not bottled or distributed down here in California. It is part of Left Fields which is a ten-acre PACS (Pacific Agricultural Certification Society) certified organic farm. It is a diversified farm, with a market garden, livestock, a hopyard, and a small orchard. It is also home to Stellar Seeds. I tasted their Back Hand of God Stout and Beyond the Pale Ale. If you are a fan of Guinness then you will really enjoy their stout. It had notes of coffee and malts with a wonderful roasted smell. The pale seemed off to me. It tasted almost pilsner like and seemed to bold for a pale.
Once my mission was complete, I tried a few (OK, 11) other samples. But not before I perused the food section of the event which included Bella Luna Coffee, Horn of Africa, Zuppa and Hunger Rescue. You could have tacos, lamb, roasted nuts or a grilled cheese sandwich like I did. Beer NW magazine was also on site along with the Zipcar folks and Seven Bridges organic home brewing supply store. The cash registers were solar powered and the sample glasses were made of a compostable material which will make for some happy gardens. You could even get a five-minute massage if you could withstand a pitch for car insurance.
Back to the main event, the beer. Hopworks Urban Brewery debuted its Secession Cascadian Dark Ale at the festival. It was akin to a dark IPA but the people at HUB prefer the Cascadian moniker. It was nice and hoppy with some bread-like characteristics. Some of my other favorites over the two days that I attended were the Honey Basil Ale from Bison Brewing in Berkeley, Hop Lava from Double Mountain in Hood River, Oregon, and Oakshire Brewing’s Watershed IPA and Overcast Espresso Stout from their brewpub in Eugene, Oregon. My absolute favorite for the both days was the Widmer Teaser. It was a light gold color with a light fruit smell to it. It was made with the Teamaster hop which is aptly named. This tasted like a green tea. It had a nice level of carbonation and would be perfect on a hot summer day with a grilled salmon or Thai food. It earned my vote for best beer of the festival.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.