OBF (2012) Beyond the Beer

Oregon Brewers FestivalEven though the focus of the Oregon Brewers Festival is drinking beer (which I covered here and here for the two days I attended) but there’s also more to it than that: meeting friends, talking with brewers and industry pros, homebrew and education, people watching, and so on. Here’s my write-up of the OBF beyond just the beer reviews. (All my pictures to follow shortly.)

Full disclosure: I attended again this year as media, which includes the media kit and badge, mug, and 10 tokens.

We spent Thursday and Friday at the Brewfest, for about five or six hours the first day and about four and a half on the second. Thursday the weather was sunny and hot, just as expected, but on Friday the morning started out overcast and cool (as Portland mornings do) and surprisingly, stayed that way most of the time we there—the first time in my experience of attending that the day stayed cool (and for me very pleasant). All in all you couldn’t ask for better weather.

Thursday and Friday, early, are the days to go—and even then, that secret is out. As I noted last year, even those days are getting really busy early on: popular beers had lines outside of them by 12:15 to 12:30, and there are a lot of people under the tents by mid-afternoon. Thursday we spent time at both ends of the Fest, but Friday we staked out a table right next to the Buzz Tent and stayed there for the day, which worked out beautifully—otherwise we might well have missed the amazing Terminal Gravity 12-year Barleywine had we not been there already!

Crowded tent at the OBF

Overall the Brewfest is very well organized and if I have any criticisms, they would have to be: first, those just-mentioned crowds—and that’s not even a fair criticism because it’s hard to fault a Festival for becoming popular, and the Fest itself has done a good job of handling that. Second, the mugs were so new that they had a bit of a plastic-y, petrol-y smell to them at first: noticeable with the first few beers, making it hard to pull out the unique aromas of the beer. But that could have been helped if I’d thoroughly rinsed the mug out beforehand (which I should have done).

But frankly—“new mugs” really isn’t a legitimate criticism either. I really had quite a good time and have no complaints.

The other big highlight of the Fest is of course the people: meeting and visiting with friends and fellow bloggers and (best of all) getting to drink with them! Besides our friends Paul and Sandi who came with us (which was awesome), you can’t mention “people” and the “OBF” without first mentioning Chris Crabb, who is simply the hardest-working person in the Portland beer scene! This was her 18th year promoting and helping to organize the Oregon Brewers Festival, not even mentioning all the other hard work she does with other events and breweries. I caught this picture of her on Friday:

Chris Crabb at OBF

And if you look very closely you’ll see that she’s wearing a tiara provided by #pdxbeergeek Michael Umphress—who wasn’t at the OBF (at the same time as I was, anyway) but who joined us for a late Friday night at Burnside Brewing nonetheless. Thanks to Michael, Chris is queen of the OBF!

I also had the pleasure of seeing and talking to Sanjay Reddy, Charles Culp (who pointed me in the direction of the free pours of Cascade Summer Gose), a former co-worked, Ken, who hung out with us Thursday afternoon and joined us for dinner, Angelo De Ieso II (who I finally got to hang out with after missing each other for months), and of course Lisa Morrison, the Beer Goddess.

Lisa Morrison at OBF

Funny story: on our foray up into the North Tent on Thursday, we came across a table that had Lisa and another girl sitting next to a stack of beer! It turns out she had been approached by a Vancouver, BC television station (or show, not sure which) to film a live segment about beer and the Brewfest, but the TV folks had disappeared and left her waiting. So, we stuck around, sampled some of the beer and generally had a good time. We all sat at the table next to hers (which we stayed at for the rest of that day), and was able to catch some pictures of the live broadcast in action:

Lisa Morrison filming for Vancouver TV

After the television segment Lisa had to leave for other obligations but the remaining people (mostly just happy Festees, I think) engaged in making a beer pyramid (a “beeramid”) with the remaining beer.

On Saturday I also ran into Ezra Johnson-Greenough and caught up as well (though not at the Fest—it was at Full Sail’s patio party over at their Riverplace location)—he had just gotten in from a Brewing Up Cocktails event in New Orleans and had hit the OBF briefly before coming down to Full Sail.

(If I missed mentioning anyone else I saw and talked to this weekend, my apologies! It was a pretty busy couple of days!)

The final note I’ll leave you with is the exact time of the first big “whoop” wave (where somebody starts a “whooooo!” and everyone around them picks it up and it moves through the crowd much like the “wave” at stadiums): 1:11pm on Thursday. At least, that was the first one I heard; we were over by the Buzz Tent. Last year the first one I heard was at 2:45pm. I don’t know if it’s a particularly scientific measure of how busy the Brewfest is… but it’s a pretty good indicator to me.