Even though the Oregon Brewers Festival starts on Thursday now (and, as media, I was officially invited to attend the brunch and parade that morning), I left for Portland Friday morning to attend that day and Saturday. I was able to stay with my friends, Justin and Raegan, who generously put up with me. Justin had to work on Friday, but made it down to the Brewfest after work and we went together on Saturday.
My Day One at the Brewfest, I was in "pro blogger" mode since I was there by myself: writing a lot of notes, taking a bunch of pictures, exploring the Fest and trying to beat the crowds. Day Two was more of a social day, since Justin and I were there together; my Day Two writeup will follow tomorrow or Wednesday, after I deal with Part Two of Day One..
I’m not even writing about the beers in detail yet—that’s a post on its own since I took a fair number of notes. I’ll list what I tried each day, though, to give an idea.
I arrived in Portland right about 12 noon Friday, and went to my friends’ house to park the car and set up my "base camp." (That sounds cooler and more expeditionary than "place to crash.") Nobody was home, but they left me a key and Raegan left me a note inviting me to pizza in the fridge and left a booklet of bus tickets out for me to use.
I unloaded my stuff, got my fest pack ready, and grabbed a slice of pizza. It was a giant New York-style slice, so lunch was taken care of. By the time I had everything ready to go, I walked to the bus stop and caught the bus, and after an uneventful ride downtown, walked up to the main gate of the Brewfest at 1:30.
The first thing I did after getting my wristband at the gate was check in at the information booth. I met Chris Crabb, the head of public relations for the Brewfest who was kind enough to set me up with the official media kit, and got an additional surprise: a "2007 Media" badge. I clipped this to my camera strap and looked like the professional amateur that I was.
Mug and tokens in hand, I set out for the northern tent to check out the action.
One of the handy things that came with the program in the media kit was a map of the beer and trailers for the Fest. Basically, there are two (large) tents there, one at the north end of the park and one at the south end, corresponding to the main beer pouring areas. Each "beer zone" consists of three trailers, each trailer pouring 12 beers each. The map showed what brewery was represented at each trailer—so I didn’t have to wander randomly. I went down my list of must-try beers and made an "X" next to each brewer at the respective trailer.
All in all, I had 15 tasters that day. But more on that in a bit.
Busier than last year
The day was clear, sunny, hot and beautiful—blue sky, with an occasional breeze cutting through the tent. Even though I was there relatively early on a Friday, it already seemed busier than last year; there was definitely more of a crowd. I guess the popularity it catching up with the Brewfest, and that’s why they start on Thursday now; I’m thinking Thursday is the new Friday.
Busier than before, but not overwhelming by any means. Lines were minimal and I was able to sample all of the beers I wanted without any problems. Seating became more of an issue, though; at first, I was able to find space at tables relatively easily, but as the day wore on, more people were saving more seats and I ended up doing most of my writing standing up, my mug tucked under my elbow.
Which worked out fine, anyway. Later in the afternoon one of the event staff wandered by, and said something like, "The chaos must help with the writing" with a good-natured laugh.
I didn’t run into anybody I knew—"knew" in the loosest, blogging-only sense, of course—but early on, I saw legendary beer writer Fred Eckhardt in the northern tent, hanging out near the Rogue tap and talking with a small group of people. Later I saw Tom Dalldorf at the Celebrator News tent and almost stopped to introduce myself except I was hurrying to meet Justin at the entrance. Oh well. Maybe next time.
Oregon Brew Crew
In the southern end of the park, the Oregon Brew Crew was in the process of brewing a batch of beer: Random Hop Red. They had already finished with the mash and had just commenced the boil, and it was a doozy: a three-hour boil. Nothing wrong with that, by any means, but it was a bit surprising.
I asked about the "random hop" part, and was told that starting at about 4 o’clock onward, they were going to let people start randomly throwing hops into the beer. Pretty brave, I thought.
Color changing mugs
I first saw the color changing mug early on, at the rinsing station; the bottom was toilet bowl blue and my first reaction was, "OMG, what is in the rinse water?" As it turned out, the OBF was selling the color change mugs (blue or pink) for only $5 (regular mugs are $4).
After I spotted that first one and found out what the deal was, I started seeing them everywhere. Kind of neat, but a bit gimmicky; after all, these are really only mugs I’m going to use once, and then put on my shelf for the commemorative factor.
The beer list
I’ll go into my detailed notes on the beers that I sampled, but for now here’s what I had on Friday:
- Honey Orange Wheat from Eugene City Brewery
- Galena Single Hop Pale Ale from Boundary Bay Brewery
- Donner Party Porter from Fifty Fifty Brewing
- Oregon Trail Wit from Oregon Trail Brewery
- Red Thistle Quercus from Golden Valley Brewery
- Noggin Grog from Widmer
- Crater Lake Golden from Klamath Basin Brewing
- Wildfire from Four + Brewing
- Bourbon Barrel Abbey Dubbel from Flying Fish
- Spruce Ale from Siletz Brewing
- Hennepin Farmhouse Saison from Brewery Ommegang
- 07/07/07 Vertical Epic from Stone Brewing
- Watermelon Wheat from 21st Amendment
- Fearless Scottish Ale from Fearless Brewing
- Double IPA from Standing Stone Brewing
Those last three I had after Justin had arrived, and it was near the end of the day. The Standing Stone in particular I wasn’t on the lookout for—since I’d just had that less than a month ago—but it was the nearest available line and sounded like a good finish to the day.
And, even though that’s a lot of beer, I was careful to drink a lot of water (and Gatorade I’d brought) and space it out so that I was able to keep my senses about me and suffer no ill effects.