Thursday, July 24, 2014

2014 OBF's Soggy Start

Taken through my phone's ziplocked protection
There's no denying that the first day of the 27th Annual Oregon Brewers Festival was the soggiest in its history. Good beer lovers that we are, however, we weren't going to let a little, ok a lot, of rain stand in our way of getting our hands on beer.

I arrived as planned, just as the gates were opening, following the parade in. Choosing to skip the opening beer tapping (Super Duper Dog from the Lucky Lab) I plowed straight into my beer hit list. As it turned out the rain actually helped me stick to by game plan a bit more than usual as I was content to stay on the south end of the festival, getting a beer, scurrying back to the tented area and repeating until I was nearly out of beers I wanted to try from trailers 1 - 5.

By that time the worst of the rain had passed and I deemed it "safe" enough to venture to the north tents to continue knocking my list down. A couple beers there and the sun actually started to show its face. I gratefully soaked up its delicious warmth while enjoying a few more beers before calling it a day.

All's well that ends well
Of the 23 beers on my list, I gamely made it through 16, about what I figured I would be able to accomplish. There were some surprises, more good than bad, and although that is just a drop in the pail of the 88 beers (+100 specialty tent offerings) I give you my top two of the day.

Paradise Creek Huckleberry Pucker - This is the first beer I've had from Paradise Creek, a four year old brewery located in Pullman, WA. It was a great introduction to them and a wonderful surprise to find that this beer was as puckery as I was hoping for.

Sixpoint Barrel Aged 3Beans - The biggest surprise, since I was pretty sure I would enjoy it, was to hear how much Mag, generally a non-barrel aged beer fan, enjoyed it. At 10.3% this is amazingly easy drinking and easily the best "deal" of the festival, going for the "base rate" of one token per sample.

I suspect that attendance numbers may have been down for the day but with four more days, with better weather predicted, I'm guessing there won't be any problem making up for Wednesday's deficit. Whether I'll return remains to be seen. Even with the rain, it would be hard to top the great day I had sampling beers and hanging out with countless familiar faces.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

It's that Time Again - OBF Prep!

Tomorrow kicks off the 27th Annual Oregon Brewers Festival and per my tradition, not to mention the need to narrow down the list of 88 beers that will be pouring throughout the festival, I recently spent some quality time with the beer list.

Even before I was halfway through perusing the program, however, I knew I was in trouble. Sure, there were some easy cuts to make but many, way too many beers that sounded interesting. By the time I got done with my first round list there were 23 beers. That's still plenty but factoring in that I'll be going with friends there's a chance I'll get through them, but not without taking the next step.

That next step was to look at the listing of where those beers would be found (thanks to the wonderfully handy tent/trailer listing in the program). Really geeking out I grouped them by trailer, by general group (fruit-containing or IPA, the two groups the vast majority of the beers on my hit list fell into) and then tried to plan a low ABV to high ABV, lighter flavor to more heavily flavored path that didn't have me bouncing between trailers like some beer crazy pinball.

In the end I had to cut the list to a top 16 (the most I could fit on one side of my cheat sheet), allocating the remaining seven to the B Side. Those interested can check out the full game plan; for the rest just interested in my top five, the ones I'd be really sad if I left the festival without having, they are....drum roll....
  • Fitger's Hoppulujah IPA - This MN transplant is looking forward to having beer from this fine brewery again.
  • Gigantic Who Ate All the Pies? - Strawberry. Raspberry. Gose. Enough said.
  • Paradise Creek Huckleberry Pucker - I'm hoping for hugely pucker.
  • Sixpoint Barrel Aged 3Beans Baltic Porter - A fan of regular 3Beans, it has the potential to be great.
  • Old Market Cherry Derive - Their fruit beers have hit the right notes for me in the past, may the trend continue.
While it's unclear if the weather will be cooperative for opening day, I'll be there rain or shine. Perhaps I'll see you there. Cheers, Beer Friends!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tap Takeover

If you've been beer shopping lately you may have noticed Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp mixed 12-pack (10 bottles + 2 cans). The beers contained within come from 12 breweries across the U.S. that Sierra Nevada partnered with, all of which are probably familiar names even if they aren't generally available in your market.

The Beer Camp Across America tour starts this Saturday in Chico, Calif. with tour stops in seven cities. Portland wasn't chosen to be one of those cities (or anywhere in Oregon actually) but that didn't stop my favorite watering hole from getting in on the action. Last night The BeerMongers had a tap takeover in which they had all 12 of the beers available - and not just pouring from those 12-pks, oh, no, they were All. On. Tap.

I won't bore you with a blow by blow account of each beer but two of my favorites were Ninkasi Brewing Double Latte Coffee Milk Stout and Bell's Brewery Maillard's Odyssey Imperial Dark Ale. Ninkasi doesn't get a lot of love from me these days but they really hit it out of the park with this coffee beer. And Bell's, well I'm happy whenever I can get my hands on a beer from this upper Midwest mainstay and their Dark Ale was right up there with some of the best they make.

Two others I feel compelled to mention are Victory Brewing Alt Route Altbier and Asheville Brewers Alliance Tater Ridge Scottish Ale (made with sweet potatoes). Neither are styles I gravitate towards mostly because they tend to be too malty for me but both of these were nice beers that I'd happily order again.

If you get a chance to try these beers on tap, do it. Even if not, grab one of the 12-pks, a couple of friends and sample your way through all the offerings. I bet you find at least a couple you'll want more of.