Last week I shared some tips to attending next week’s Oregon Brewers Festival that I’ve gleaned from experience. The OBF is Oregon’s largest beer festival, attended over a four-day weekend by some 70,000 people, and features 81 beers on tap representing 80 breweries from around the country (the 81st beer is the Collaborator beer from Widmer and the Oregon Brew Crew).
Unless you’re planning a hardcore tasting mission encompassing all four days of the Festival, you probably won’t be sampling all 81 beers offered; or at any rate, I’ve never been able to get close. Since they post the list of beers online, you have ample opportunity to make a game plan ahead of time: work up a list of your “must try” beers. That’s exactly what I’ve done in past years, and that’s what I’m doing now—presenting you with a suggested list of beers that you should seek out first, with some notes about some of the others.
One of the most popular beers at the OBF is 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon Wheat, and if it’s one you haven’t yet tried then I suggest getting some early on, both because it’s a lighter more delicate beer that the stronger beers will overwhelm and because the line for this beer grows longer during the day.
Bend, Oregon is fairly well represented by Deschutes Brewery, Cascade Lakes Brewing, and 10 Barrel Brewing. Personally I would tend to pass these three up in favor of other beers I haven’t tried (though Deschutes’ Fresh Squeezed IPA sounds promising, it’s one I have not had), but if you want a fair taste of Bend then any or all of these would be good to sample.
Likewise I would pass over the more “mainstream” of the beers that I’ve drank numerous times in the past, or breweries that have had repeat showing at the Festival: Alaskan Brewing, Anderson Valley Brewing, Bison Brewing, Full Sail Brewing, Grand Teton Brewing, New Belgium Brewing. They are all fine breweries with great beers represented—but chances are you’ve sampled those beers before.
I always make an exception to this “mainstream rule” for Widmer, however, because they always brew up something unique and special for the Festival. This year it’s Captain Shaddock IPA, listed under the styles as a “Grapefruit IPA”—brewed with generous amounts of grapefruit peel to accentuate the grapefruity characteristics of the Northwest hops used. Definitely sounds worth trying.
And I’ll often make the “mainstream exception” for Rogue as well, as brewmaster John Maier always brews something special just for the Festival. This year it’s 21, an Old Ale done up right.
Bayern Brewing is pouring Dump Truck Extra Pale Summer Bock, a “Pale Summer Bock” that underwent a decoction mash, unusual for a commercial brewer, and surly of interest to a beer aficionado.
I’ve never tried the Leafer Madness Imperial IPA from Oregon’s Beer Valley Brewing, so I might seek this out later in the day—this 9% IPA is likely to ruin the palate for the more delicate offerings.
Boulder Beer is bringing Kinda Blue, a blueberry pale ale that sounds promising, especially if you like fruit beers (I do when they’re well-crafted). This would be an earlier-in-the-day beer, and if it gets really hot, this might be a good beer to refresh yourself with.
I’m a sucker for Farmhouse Ales, and Boulevard Brewing has their Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale on tap, so that’s pretty much a must-try. Plus Boulevard is not widely represented around here (though it’s been growing) so any chance to sample their beer is a bonus.
The Hibiscus Ginger Beer from Caldera Brewing sounds too interesting to pass up. It’s brewed special for the OBF, and I’ve had a very good version of their Ginger Beer in the bottle, so this is a one-time opportunity.
Likewise, the Summer Gose from Cascade Brewing (not to be confused with Cascade Lakes Brewing) should not be missed—how many commercial breweries are producing a German Gose style of beer? I bet you can count them on one hand.
Flying Fish Brewing is bringing their Exit 4, which is described as a “Hoppy Trippel” that you should seriously take a look at—later in the day, since it’s 9.5% alcohol!
Kona Brewing is bringing Coco Loco Big Island Brown, which is listed as a Coconut Brown Ale. I’m a big fan of beers with coconut—and if you want to compare with Maui Brewing’s CoCoNuT Porter, well, you’re in luck—that will be pouring at the Festival also. Side-by-side tasting, anyone?
I’ve heard nothing but good things about Laht Neppur Brewing out of Eastern Washington, and their Strawberry Cream Ale definitely piques my interest—I would seek this one out early.
Natian Brewery is pretty new, so it’s surprising to see them at the OBF. Their Destinatian is a “Honey Red Ale,” brewed with Oregon honey. I’d be interested in sampling this just because they’re so new.
Rock Bottom Brewery may be a “mainstream” brewer but brewmaster Van Havig is anything but mainstream—and the beer he’s bringing to the Festival, Oud Heverlee, is sure to prove this. The style is listed as a “Flemish Brabante” which is entirely new to me—the description lists dried tulips and a Belgian-style beer. Seriously, how could anyone not try this?
Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing is bringing Olallieberry Cream Ale, a Cream Ale brewed with rice and wheat added and infused with olallieberreis. Yes, it’s the first time I’ve heard of this fruit, and I’m intrigued.
Southern California darling The Bruery is showing up with their 7 Grain Saison, and since my experience with this fairly new brewery is limited I would make sure to find my way to a sample of this.
Finally, Portland’s own Upright Brewing is pouring their Reggae Junkie Gruit, the only hop-free beer at the OBF (a true Gruit). Instead, it’s spice with orange peel, peppercorns, hyssop, and lemongrass, and this is another beer any beer aficionado should be seeking out.
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