Yours truly is heading to the mammoth beer event that is the Oregon Brewers Festival (OBF). As you read this, I will be recovering from my revelry of choosing and sampling beer from a list of 80 breweries from Oregon, Washington, California, Colorado and even Minnesota. All pouring their best over four days on the Portland riverfront.
My next posting will detail the beers that I sampled as well as chronicling the side trips to other great beer hot spots in Beervana. But for now, the back-story on the OBF.
Set the time machine for 23 years ago. Widmer Brothers Brewing, BridgePort Brewing Company and Portland Brewing companies joined forces to create a festival celebrating craft beer from the nation’s then fledgling craft beer scene. 13 breweries attended that first gathering. Organizers were expecting maybe 5,000 people. But more than 15,000 showed up to taste the 16 beers on tap. There was obviously a thirst (pun intended) for this new type of beer.
Now the OBF is a four-day extravaganza and the centerpiece of an entire month dedicated to craft beer in the state of Oregon and 70,000 are expected to converge on the scene to sample new beers from far away or old favorites, there will be a buzz beer tent powered by the Twitterati, a craft root beer tent, homebrew clubs on site, breweriana collectors and some music and a little parade with ceremonial tapping of the first beer by the mayor.
There are great beer weeks all across the United States. Philadelphia and Seattle had their 2010 versions recently. San Diego and Los Angeles will have theirs in the fall and of course the Great American Beer Festival takes over Denver. But for sheer quantity of events all over the state from Portland to Bend to Eugene to the coast, you just can’t beat Oregon Craft Beer Month.
Of course it helps that the beer scene is not stagnant. In such a beer soaked marketplace, more new brewers are entering the fray. Mt. Tabor Brewing, Coalition Brewing, Migration Brewing and Ambacht Brewing are all recent arrivals to a scene that has major players like Widmer, regional favorites like Oakshire Brewing and Ninkasi Brewing Company and even a whole new class of brewery, the nanobrewery like Natian Brewing.
My only worry is how can I bring back some great beer but also the great creative spark that has made Oregon such a beer mecca. Los Angeles has a small toehold that I hope grows into a worthy partner to our neighbors to the north.
And speaking of local brews, you have two pieces of homework to accomplish. First some math, and it involves dollars and ounces and the word growler. If you want a great deal on great local (and fresh) beer, and you want it for your next BBQ or party. Head to Eagle Rock Brewery and pick up a fancy new growler and fill it with Revolution XPA (my favorite). You get a nice big bottle that will last for a few days when the taproom isn’t open.
Second, get your tickets now for the L.A. Beer Week finale, which will be held at the historic Union Station in the Fred Harvey restaurant. $40 gets you unlimited pours of some great California beers. If you attended the inaugural event at Descanso Gardens last year, you know how well run and fun this beer fest can be.
Returning to the Oregon theme, the beer of the week is an Oregon classic that you may not have had in awhile. Widmer Hefeweizen. I know that some people have moved on, and some people hate the whole lemon wedge eccentricity and yes, it is more a wheat beer than a Hefe. But it remains a refreshing drink with that distinctive hazy yellow appearance. And because it is common nowadays, it is usually cheaper too.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.