Each year before the Oregon Brewers Festival I go through the beer list and make note of the “must try” beers that I plan on seeking out—usually ones I haven’t had, and often by breweries that are new to me. I usually do a pretty good job of hitting most of them too, though inevitably there’s always some varying depending on the situation (and convenience).
Here are my must-try picks for this year; even though they’re numbered, I’ve simply left them in alphabetical order by brewery to make it easier. And I note there are at least seven beers with fruit in them on this list—eight if you count the lemon zest in Widmer’s beer. What can I say? The fruit looks interesting this year!
- Alameda Brewing – Huckleberry Hound IPA: I’m intrigued by an IPA with a fruit addition, and this beer has been around (it was at last year’s OBF plus the two Portland Fruit Beer Fests) so it’s time to seek it out.
- Beer Valley Brewing – Oregonberry Wheat Ale: A 4% abv session wheat beer, made with “Oregonberry”—a “mix of plums, blueberries and cherries”—which is enticing. Plus I try few beers from this far Eastern Oregon brewery.
- Collaborator (Oregon Brew Crew/Widmer) – Pineapple Express: Yet another fruit beer! A light-bodied wheat beer with pineapple added, which sounds perfect for hot weather.
- Dogfish Head – Positive Contact: It’s Dogfish and big, so it will be a popular beer. The OBF description calls it experimental and “so secret” but really it’s the latest in their music collaboration series: “brewed with apple cider and spiced. A positive combination of Fuji cider, slow-roasted farro, a bit of cayenne and fresh cilantro.” Definitely one to try!
- Double Mountain Brewery – Goliathon: A monster beer at 11% abv but Double Mountain makes interesting beers and this one—a “Dark American-Belgo-Style Ale” brewed with two different Belgian yeast strains—sounds too good to pass up.
- Dunedin Brewery – IPA Chronicle: FL-Oregon Trail: This will be my first taste of this Florida brewery (“Florida’s Oldest Craft Brewery“) and I believe the first time any Florida brewery has been at the OBF! Plus they clock the IBUs in at 125 (calculated I’m sure, whether it would truly measure in the lab that high I don’t know) so it’ll be one to watch for especially among the lupulin-obsessed.
- Electric Brewing – Electric Beer: I don’t know if this Kölsch-style beer is particularly good or not, but after reading about founder/brewer “Electric” Dave Harvan in Brian Yaeger’s book Red, White, and Brew (a book I highly recommend, by the way), I couldn’t not try the beer!
- Flat Tail Brewing – White Light / White Ale: An 8% Wheat Wine that sounds intriguing, and given Flat Tail’s propensity for experimentation it’s definitely worth seeking out.
- Flying Fish Brewing – Exit 16 Wild Rice IPA: The only times I seem to get a chance to try this New Jersey-based brewery’s beers is the OBF, and this year will be no exception. Plus it’s a high-alcohol IPA brewed with wild rice (as well as brown and white)—that’s like beer geek bait.
- Gigantic Brewing – Dyn-O-Mite!: The latest beer from one of Portland’s newest and most-talked-about breweries, an Imperial IPA? Yeah, that’s pretty much a no-brainer. (It will be good, too.)
- Lagunitas Brewing – OBF Fusion: This is billed as an “Oregon Specialty mystery beer” brewed to a secret recipe so naturally curiosity reigns. The OBF site lists the ABV at 5.9% and IBUs at 40, but not much else. Knowing Lagunitas, something IPAish/hoppy…
- Oakshire Brewing – 25: An “Imperial Oregon Ale” brewed to celebrate the OBF’s 25th year, “Made with 25 ingredients including Oregon grown grains and hops, locally sourced honey, herbs, toasted hazelnuts, cranberries and more”—this is a crazy beer (but in a good way!) that I hope is crazy-tasty.
- Occidental Brewing – Occidental Kellerbier: I have yet to try any of this Portland brewery’s beers (they brew all German-style lagers, which is unusual for Oregon) so I’m glad to see them at the OBF this year. Their Kellerbier is basically an unfiltered “zwickel” beer which sounds both rustic and tasty.
- Old Market Pub and Brewery – Cherried Alive: Last year I tried their “Berried Alive!” (similar though made with different fruit obviously) and I admit, I’m sucked in a bit by the pun in the name. But it also sounds good: 700 pounds of cherries in secondary fermentation, then 200 more pounds in Pinot Noir barrels.
- Oregon Trail Brewery – Oregon Trail Lavender Ale: A nice lower-strength (4.9% abv) beer infused with lavender which sounds decidedly interesting.
- Prodigal Son Brewery – Splendor in the Glass V: The Splendor Under the Stairs: It’s “only” an American Pale Ale but with both a name like that and the fact that I’ve only ever had one other Prodigal Son beer (Bruce/Lee Porter, first had it as last year’s OBF), this had to go on my list.
- Redhook Brewery – Peach Trippel: It’s a big beer—8.2% abv—but it sounds really good to me, so I’m hoping it pays off!
- Russian River Brewing – Row 2 / Hill 56 – The Story of Simcoe: The latest big hoppy beer from Russian River that is by all account very good and that at least one blogger called the “new Pliny the Elder”! This will be a hot pick at the Fest, I predict.
- Upright Brewing – Upright Alt: A traditional German-style Altbier, which I’m always on the lookout for—and Upright makes good beer so I have high hopes for this. It’s also a session beer at 4.5% abv which is always a bonus.
- Widmer Brothers – Smooth Cream-N-Ale: I love what Widmer does for the OBF each year—they bring a specially-brewed beer— and this year is no exception: a specialty Cream Ale with lemon zest, ginger, and milk sugar. (And yes, that’s a Michael Jackson pun in the name.)
20 seems like a good round number, and I’ve definitely got my eye on some others that I don’t consider essential but I’ll try if I get the chance: Columbia River Brewing’s Rye Not IPA, Elysian Brewing’s Space Dust IPA, Flyers Brewery’s Pacemaker Porter (out of Oak Harbor, Washington), Golden Valley’s Rosé de Valleé, Ninkasi Lady of Avalon, and Paradise Creek Brewery’s Dirty Blonde (out of Pullman, Washington). And I’m not even counting the time I’ll spend in the Buzz and Sour Tents!