The problem with a beer festival as big as the Oregon Brewers Festival is there’s no easy way to sample many beers… without getting wasted, of course. You could spread it out over two or three days, but it’s still no mean feat.
The Oregon BrewFest has 72 different beers on tap. A good number of them I’ve already tried or just didn’t sound interesting to me, and that combined with the fact that I only had one day to visit, I’d made up a list beforehand of the beers I definitely wanted to try. I was able to try all of them, plus a few others… so, here are my notes from the BrewFest for those beers (in order that I tried them, and pretty much transcribed word-for-word).
Watermelon Wheat (21st Amendment Brewing): More wheat than watermelon. Light. Watermelon in the nose… a little too bitter for expectations. [I was hoping for something very light and fruity and melon-y.] Pale yellow. Some fruit in the back of the palate…
Sunrye (Rye Ale, Redhood Brewery): Billed as an "Unfiltered, dry-hopped festival recipe." Not very hoppy. Rye is grainy but understated… like a mild bread. "Unfiltered" is relative. (It’s fairly clear.) Is this rye? Kind of plain… not strong. Looking forward to the other ryes…
Hop Rod Rye Ale (Bear Republic Brewing): Now this is more like it! Darker, hoppier, definite grainy rye character here… very good. Strong, too. Brown with some red… mouthfeel is medium but chewy… kind of like a thick, grainy dark bread. Beer is rich and smoky without any actual smoke character (hard to describe).
Farmhouse Ale (Saison from Jack Russell Brewing): 6.7% alcohol. Aroma is sour, farmy. Very light… has that saison character—fruity and musty/musky and spicy… it’s a bit light/thin for my tastes, but still good. I’m liking it overall… refreshing.
Honey Orange Wheat (Eugene City Brewery): Not on the normal schedule. Smell of orange blossoms. Taste is witbier-ish… orange instead of orange peel though. Color is like pale honey. Interesting… light clean honey character is there, along with fruity orange (blossom) and a hint of coriander and spices… Very thin-bodied and light.
10th Anniversary Farmhouse Summer Ale (Flying Fish Brewing): Very mild aroma, not like the other… Pale yellow and relatively clear. Taste is less saison (although there ARE saison elements) and more hoppy "summer" ale. It’s okay, but compared to what I was expecting in a saison, disappointing.
Brewer (Rogue): Rogue’s festival-specific ale. 7.33% alcohol. Dark… molasses brown. Aroma is very, very hoppy. As is the taste! Wow, it’s like a hop syrup… the hops are drowning out almost everything else. What are we looking at here? Willamette? It’s not fruity/grapefruity enough for Cascade. Medium-bodied. Wow… eau-de-hop.
[At this point my friend Justin had arrived, so I was focusing less on writing notes and more on visiting and enjoying beer.]
Double Dry Hopped Pale Ale (Boundary Bay Brewing): Very good. Hops in the nose and palate, but not syrupy like Rogue. Malty and dry.
Sirius (Lagunitas Brewing): (Imperial cream ale?) Strong and different… almost its own style (Well, it is!). Fruity without being specific…
White Lightning Whiskey Stout (McMenamins): Coffee, whiskey, sour mash… very good. Nice body. Long line—popular! Smooth, rich, dark.
Raging Rhino Red (Steelhead Brewing): Hoppy and astringently malty. An off-bite.
Zon (Boulevard Brewing): Belgian wit style. Light in character and mouthfeel—good.
Stone Pale Ale (Stone Brewing). [Didn't take notes.]
Powderfinger Rye (Big Time Brewing): Malty, grainy. Not as strong as the other ryes, but good. Mild. Some hop kick.
Pliny the Elder (Russian River Brewing): [Didn't take notes, but I remember this being very strong and hoppy... it's a double IPA. Very good, I'll have to find some in the bottle.]
And there we have it. I think my favorite beer of the day was the Whiskey Stout from McMenamins, of which I got a final full mug’s worth before we left. It was that good. As I remarked to my friend Justin, McMenamins in general make decent but often mediocre beers, but this one really stands out.
Other highlights had to be Rogue’s Brewer, which to my mind right now is probably the hoppiest beer I’ve ever had, the Hop Rod Rye, and Jack Russell’s Farmhouse.
The worst beer? Well, I didn’t try all of them, of course, but Justin got the Ned Flanders Red Ale from Rock Bottom Brewery and it was simply terrible. He didn’t like it, and let me taste it to see. Weird sour off-aroma, similar taste which was just way off… I don’t know what went wrong with it, but something definitely did.
So overall, I tasted 15 beers and got a final full mug of Whiskey Stout. Not bad for almost five hours on a Friday.