Bread & Brew: Tap into Oregon craft beer
Crazy good beer — it's a point of pride in our state. At the 32nd annual Oregon Brewers Festival, July 24-27 at Waterfront Park, citizens and visitors alike can stand tall as they taste new offerings from Oregon's best craft brewers.
There will be 93 beers and eight ciders to choose from, 85 of which are first releases for the festival. For the first time in the event's history, all of the beers are made in Oregon.
Offerings hail from 23 breweries across Oregon. From new discoveries like Bend's Bevel Craft Brewing to big boys like Deschutes, they've all gathered to share their stuff.
Founded in 1988, it's one of the nation's longest running and best loved craft beer festivals. As many as 85,000 people are expected to travel to Portland to attend the event.
The industry has been shaken recently with the closing of the 35-year-old BridgePort Brewing, one of craft beer's founding fathers. But the strength of small breweries like Baerlic, Ecliptic and Great Notion proves that the passion and ingenuity that defined BridgePort lives on.
In a format change, the festival ends Saturday, July 27. This still leaves four days to peruse all the new sours, IPAs, hazies, gose, lagers and pilsners. Beer nerds can pinpoint traits of a double-dry hopped hazy, or a sour aged in pinot noir barrels. Casual fans can just ride the summer breeze and enjoy the taste of guava, raspberry and blackberry in the beers.
The festival also will feature a Meet the Brewer Tent, a Brewer Dunk Tank, five food booths, a number of beer-related vendors, games, homebrewing demonstrations, and the Crater Lake Soda Garden, where designated drivers and kids can have free handcrafted soda.
Each participant will bring 12 kegs for the event. Funny beer names are welcome. Old Town Brewing brings Mango Unchained and Sasquatch Brewing has Passion of the Rice. Central Oregon's Sunriver Brewing unveils a sushi-inspired Japanese lager called Sunriver Roll with fresh cucumber and wasabi. Enterprise, Oregon's Terminal Gravity presents Hi My Name Is, a milkshake-style brew made with lactose and a touch of vanilla.
"We'll have 27 different styles pouring," said spokeswoman Chris Crabb. "It's always been really IPA-heavy in the past, but this year we're seeing a lot of pilsners and lagers," adding that the gose (pronounced go-za) style beers are also big this year.
Gose are traditional German ales made with sea salt and coriander. Great Notion is bringing Double Stack, a breakfast stout fermented with tons of maple syrup. You'll also see a lot of beers with hints of grapefruit, key lime, or passionfruit. Sometimes it's the hops that add flavor, other times the fruit is literally in the mash.
The festival will kick off with a parade at 11 a.m. Wednesday, July 24, from Ecliptic Brewing, 825 N. Cook St. The parade's grand marshal is Portland's Unipiper, whose ties to the local beer scene run deep. Portland Brewing even named a hazy IPA after the long-time homebrewer, aka Brian Kidd. In his official capacity as grand marshal, he has the solemn duty of tapping the official fist keg.
"It's the longest walk we've ever done, but we're up for it," Crabb said. The parade starts at Ecliptic, crosses the Broadway Bridge, then ends at the waterfront. Five food courts will be on hand to serve fondue, pizza, burgers and more.
"We've arranged things a little differently this year with beer trailers on the riverside. The area under the trees will have picnic tables and more room for people to enjoy the shade," Crabb said.
Natalie Baldwin, brewer at Breakside Brewing, said trends show "the consumer is more educated. It's more about the nuanced, really delicate and beautiful beers that the makers like. Not so much the really hoppy in-your-face style."
She has words of encouragement for new tasters: "When a beer doesn't work, you know. Maybe you don't have the language to describe it, but you can identify flavors. If you drink it and it tastes good to you, then enjoy it. If you like off flavors, that's OK, too."
At the 32nd Annual BrewFest, Wednesday-Saturday, July 24- July 27 at Waterfront Park, gates open 11:30 a.m. with taps pouring from noon-9 p.m. noon - 9 p.m. For more: www.oregonbrewfest.com.
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