OGBF ’14 Weekend (part 2)

Being the second in a short series of posts about this year’s Oregon Garden Brewfest.

Following the Brewer’s Tasting Dinner, the Oregon Garden Brewfest itself kicked off the next day, starting Friday at noon. The weather this year was overcast and drizzly, but with most of the time spent inside the pavilion or the tent it really wasn’t a problem. We got there as it was opening (the best way to attend any brewfest), a few minutes early actually though beer couldn’t pour until noon, and scoped out the layout.

As I wrote the other day:

They changed up the layout a bit this year, particularly in the tent, and I think it works better: the beers being poured are wrapped around the inside of one end, the stage is on the middle wall, and the other end is the “porch” with propane heaters and picnic table seating and just seems to flow better than previous years.

Like last year, the commemorative logo’d glasses were shaker pints, with tastes costing one ticket ($1) and a full pour costing four tickets. And in looking over the brewery and beer list to select which beers to fill those glasses with, a couple of things were apparent: first, there was a nice ratio of new, untried breweries to established ones; and second, there were a lot of IPA, 39 that I counted in the guide (out of 130 total—that’s 30%), all arrayed out in a somewhat boggling number of subcategories. In addition to straight IPA, categories included American IPA, Black IPA, Double IPA, English IPA, Imperial IPA (what’s the difference between Double and Imperial?), Imperial Red IPA (???), Rye IPA, and Session IPA.

At any rate, my own strategy was simple: sample the new breweries and beers and start light if possible. To that end, I ended up sampling the following:

  1. Fort George Suicide Squeeze IPA (one of the better “session IPAs” I’ve had)
  2. Vagabond Brewing Wild Ride IPA
  3. Deluxe Brewing Resurrection Pre-Prohibition Pilsner (a nice representation of the style, brewed with corn which I liked)
  4. Falling Sky Oregon Logger (another Pre-Prohibition Lager, this one brewed with wild rice)
  5. Salem Ale Works Hootenanny Honey Basil (this ended up being my favorite pick, the fresh basil character really worked well here)
  6. Santiam Brewing Spitfire ESB (a bit disappointing considering how good their Pirate Stout is; I think it may have been suffering some off-flavors)
  7. Pelican Brewing The Governor Maibock
  8. GoodLife Evil Sister Imperial IPA (one I’d had before but was chatting with brewery rep Steve Denio and wanted to re-calibrate with it)
  9. Deluxe Pure Sin Schwarzbier (very good, I liked this one better than their Resurrection)
  10. 7 Devils Lighthouse Session Ale
  11. Sasquatch Oregon Session Ale
  12. Oakshire Smokin Hell (a smoked Helles bock, very subtle but nice)
  13. Gigantic Firebird Smoked Hefeweizen (less smoky than I would have expected, a little odd paired with the clovey weizen yeast)
  14. Falling Sky Dreadnut Foreign Extra Stout
  15. Feckin Stoned (apparently an English-style IPA recreated from an old recipe and “dry-hopped” with stones à la Steinbier…)
  16. Boring Brewing Big Yawn IPA
  17. 7 Devils Blacklock Oat Porter
  18. Kells Brewpub Miley Citrus India Session Lager (disappointing, I was expecting much more citrus from this)
  19. Coronado Brewing Islander IPA
  20. Sierra Nevada Ovila Saison with Mandarins & Peppercorns
  21. Vagabond NW Passage American Stout
  22. Uptown Market Oatis Reddin (some kind of Imperial Oat Red ale or something I think, it was pretty good and drinkable)
  23. Rusty Truck Brewing Cherry Chocoholic

I wrote in my previous post about meeting the owners of Deluxe Brewing, which just opened up this past September in Albany. They are focusing exclusively on brewing lagers, which is impressive for Oregon and matched only by Heater Allen Brewing in McMinnville I believe.

And then there’s Feckin Irish Brewing Company; they are new and based out of Oregon City, and both beers they brought (Feckin Stoned and Irish Oatmeal Porter) both claimed to be based on historic recipes. For their Stoned, and English IPA recipe, the description read (corrected for spelling):

India pale ale recipe from Findlater’s Brewery in Dublin. The brewery closed down in 1949, we’ve taken their original IPA recipe and hopped it up with NW hops, we dry hop with a river rock to submerge the whole leaf hops in the fermenter hence the name Stoned.

I don’t really get that—dry hop with a river rock. At first I thought it was a Steinbier-styled beer but upon closer examination it’s… not. It was a decent beer though, more English in profile that “hopped it up with NW hops” would imply.

There was an additional benefit to hitting the Brewfest early on the first day: a large number of brewery reps were there, many pouring their beer for the first shift. As such, it’s a good chance for fans, media, and others (such as myself on all counts!) to chat them up for first-hand knowledge of the beer and brewery.

Food options were decent; we only split a slice of pepperoni pizza but there were the usual suspects as well: pizza and flatbread, barbecue, sandwiches, corn dogs, kettle corn, gyros, and so on. Ultimately though, aside from the pizza, we took a break from the fest around 4pm to recharge and look at dinner options in town. We ended up hitting Seven Brides Brewing where I ordered a snifter of their Monki Love Imperial Stout and we had an appetizer of bacon-wrapped dates, which were very good (and nicely dusted just a bit with some heat—cajun spice or perhaps even cayenee pepper). Afterward we went to dinner at City Thai in downtown Silverton, which we enjoyed.

(Oddly, you’ll find two Thai restaurants about a block apart in Silverton, and I say “oddly” because the town itself only has just over 9,000 people in it. But apparently that’s big enough for two!)

After dinner we hit the Brewfest again to sample a few more beers and finish the night. Live music was playing on the two stages (Dead Wood Standing on the main pavilion stage, and The Great Hiatum on the tent’s Garden stage, we preferred the Garden stage overall) and with the propane heaters running in the tent it made for a nice evening. It was definitely a busier crowd but still manageable (not something you can say about a lot of fests).

All told, this was another great year for this brewfest—its 10th! I’ve definitely seen the growth even only over the past several years (we first attended in 2012) and they’ve done a good job of handling it and you still cannot beat the setting. I’m looking forward to next year.