The first day of the Oregon Brewers Festival for 2012 is in the books, and it was a good one! We arrived in Portland and checked into the hotel early, and managed to make it down to the Brewfest by about 12:30 or so, and with our friends Paul and Sandi we stayed until about 5:30—trying a good number of beers along the way, of course!
I managed to make it through 10 of the 20 beers on my must-try list,plus a couple of extras. If you’re inclined towards such things, here are my notes on those beers:
Electric Beer: Nice clean Kölsch,good bitterness, a crisp and drinkable start to the day. Very competent, if not big and flashy like some of the beers here.
Alameda Huckleberry Hound IPA: This beer already had a line in front of it, as early as 12:30! So I went after this beer next (thinking about last year’s Maui CoCoNuT Porter sellout). It’s a malty, danky IPA with some fruity color but not a lot of fruit in the flavor—there’s a bit of a bite to it but it’s fairly mellow overall. Not as fruity as I was hoping.
Hopworks Kentucky Christmas (Buzz Tent): Amazingly full of bourbon, almost like a boilermaker (as Paul pointed out). Vanilla, wood, a touch of char, and that leathery bourbon character building on the already malty ale.
Widmer Smooth Cream-N-Ale: Really refreshing and nice and easy drinking, very clean and yet flavorful; the flavor additions they made to this (lemon zest, ginger, and milk sugar) really work here.
Occidental Kellerbier: Exactly what I thought it should be—an unfiltered lager, clean and yeasty, seems nicely fresh (like a zwickel pour indeed) and nicely hoppy. Bracing.
Cascade Summer Gose: This isn’t on the schedule anywhere, because it was the beer in the official OBF kegs, which accompany the parade and are ceremonially tapped at the start of the Brewfest. The (open) secret is, when these kegs are tapped—the beer is free to anyone who wants to fill a mug! The only reason I hadn’t immediately headed straight for the kegs was because I figured that they would be tapped out already (and given the number of people already present early on the first day, this was a natural assumption). Nope! I ran into Charles Culp (of An Ear For Beer) at the Buzz Tent and he told me they were still pouring, so we stopped for a fill on our way up to the North Tent. Good thing we got there when we did, as the kegs were nearly empty!
It was tasty, a good beer, with a bit of the wheat and spice and a touch salty, but was no real lactic sourness that I could detect, which was a bit disappointing. I mean, it’s a Gose; it should be puckering!
Collaborator Pineapple Express: This is tasty, light, and surprising—you get a distinct flavor of fresh pineapple at the back of the throat! There’s also a nice pineapple aroma and this is the nice touch of fruit in a beer that I’ve been looking for in the fruit beers.
Dogfish Head Positive Contact: The OBF program talks about the secret recipe behind this beer, but really it’s brewed with Fuji apple cider, roasted farro, cayenne pepper and fresh cilantro. It’s an interesting beer with a mildly sweet flavor from the cider and hint of spicy heat at the back, and it certainly doesn’t taste like 9% abv! It’s definitely an interesting beer at the Fest, but not as memorable as Dogfish’s beer from last year (the raspberry chocolate mint imperial stout).
Lagunitas OBF Fusion: Another “secret” recipe beer, this one brewed just for the Brewfest, so it made my list. It has the same Lagunitas house character in the nose that I find in most of their other beers (that character is not my favorite). The beer itself tastes a lot like what I remember “Lagunitas Sucks” (last year’s holiday ale) to be like, more malty than hoppy. For me, it’s unremarkable.
Beer Valley Oregonberry Wheat: All the fruit has fermented out (plums, blueberries, cherries), yielding a decent if run-of-the-mill amber ale.
Double Mountain Goliathon: The 11% abv monster (highest alcohol at the Fest), a big, sticky sweet, Belgian barleywine—it has a bit of Dubbel “funk” in a very good way, pretty much what you’d expect a big Belgian strong dark ale mixed with an American barleywine should be. Really nice but really big!
Russian River Row 2 / Hill 56: Danky, Pliny the Elder-like aroma, zesty and hoppy; it’s light and fresh on the palate. Crisp, refreshing, really well-balanced and a nice drinker. Another excellent beer from Russian River.
I also had a number of sips from Paul and Sandi’s various beers, and some of the various Sour Tent tastes that my wife was opting for, so it was a full day of beer for sure! We also finished out the day by visiting Breakside Brewery and Saraveza (which will be covered in later posts).
All in all, a great first day of the Brewfest and some really nice beers to recommend if you’re wanting to know what to drink!