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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Craft Beer Month -- It's a Party

Thanks to a post by a certain reliably-dyspeptic blogger, there's a mini-boomlet in criticism over the events of Craft Beer Month, now less than four weeks away. Joining the disgruntled one--reluctantly, it seems--Derek characterizes it this way:
Ok, so I’ve been thinking about this whole Oregon Craft Beer Month, frustrated at the fact that we have a whole “beer month” but the excitement just isn’t there. Organization? Honestly I’d trade for Seattle beer week any day.
Craft Beer Month is what it is. The intention is not to appeal to the fringe of extremely sophisticated connoisseurs who read and write beer blogs. We have so many events that do that already we've grown complacent. (Fresh hop ale season, the cask beer fest, Cheers to Belgian Beers, an organic beer fest, a winter beer fest under the Christmas tree in downtown Portland--the list goes on and on.) We don't need Craft Beer Month to be a specialty event because we already have those.

Rather, it's a huge group hug for the Oregon beer industry and an open invitation for all-comers to belly up to the bar, any bar, for some really good beer. It's not exclusive, it's inclusive. There are 140 events across the state, and if you can't find something interesting, you're just not that interested in beer. Nearly every brewery will roll out something new and special and most will throw a bash. Can't stand the OBF? Can't find anything you like from among the 150 beers at PIB? No worries--try Puckerfest or the Concordia Ale Cup or Hopworks Bike Fest or try some cheese and beer pairings with Fred Eckhardt.

If you go into Craft Beer Week thinking it is anything other than a big party, I would suggest--gently--that you're missing the point. When you're in the backyard hanging with friends and someone brings out a half-rack of Pacifico, you don't whinge that it's not Boon Geuze--you crack a bottle and enjoy it. Of course, in this case, you will have an abundance of extremely good beer, not Pacifico. So what if it's familiar? Craft Beer Month is a party, and parties are good things. There's no region on the planet that celebrates beer in more ways than we do. I expect to find a way to have a good time and celebrate that fact.


  1. Jeff, thanks for the link to last year's events. You might want to link to this year's events if you can find them. The current "Oregon Beer Calendar" (posted 2009/05/25) on the OBG's site lists 11 events for the month of July.

    BTW, the majority of the beers at the Oregon Brewers Festival are from outside the state of Oregon.

  2. Jeff,

    Sadly I think you missed the point of my post. It's about improving and organizing, no call for more geekery, not being upset about fest line ups, not claiming a lack of good festivals in portland. Group hug? I'm just confused by this, are we just naming the month to honor it? like how we thinking changing street names is a good way to honor a person?

    My aim was to generate ideas to get this thing to its full potential, not a cry to appease the beer geeks. I don't think any of this is being spoiled and unhappy with what we have here, only to pull off something that lives up to the Beervana hype.

    If you think Oregon Craft Beer Month is fine as is, well great, please let me know what the plan is, I haven't heard anything, it's next month right? or in other words, when I asked my friends about Oregon Craft Beer Month they had no idea about it... that probably means a good portion of PDX doesn't really get it either.

  3. I wasn't trying to represent that as this year's--sorry if it was unclear. It was an example of what happened. To the extent that Dr Wort and Derek are complaining that the Brewers Guild is slow getting off the mark for this year's event, I agree.

  4. Derek, I didn't miss the point--I bent it to my will! Bloggers are terrible that way, famously misusing others words to make their own points. I'm glad you clarified your own point. And I encourage everyone to go to Derek's blog and offer suggestions.

  5. Yah Jeff, that was some pretty extreme bending, comparing our beer week to Utah.... taking a page from the GOP playbook are we?

    Kindergarten Cop looked like a damn good Arnold movie if you put it up against Jingle All the Way.

  6. Hmmmm.... I think you're trying to provoke a response from the Doc. ;-}

    Sloppy Drunken Party Vs. Respectable Line up of quality Fests and events? Oh, that's a tough one! ;-} I guess that's what it gets down too?

    Derek makes some great statements! In regard to Oregon Beer Month:

    "Why is Portland letting this great opportunity slip away?"

    Yes, we have numerous beer events all year round. Is that your argument, Jeff? If so, how many of those are organized on par with other states events? 2-3?

    How many Oregon Beer fests are just a regurgitation of the Same ol'stuff? What's the point? Wanna have a party? Get some friends together and buy the beers you really want and have BBQ or Picnic... Costs less and you can drink the beers you want.... Don't even have to buy a glass or wait in long lines. ;-}

    Specialty events? Yea, we do a REAL good job at those too... The doc wasn't the only one to complain about the beer quality at the "Cheers to Crappy Belgian Beer Fest." Others would like an expansion of the Pucker Fest, as would I. Some thought the Barley Wine fest was a little shoty compared to others and those list of complaints go on....

    Now, we're hearing people talk about a more respectable Organization of Oregon Beer Week or Beer month, just to bring us up to other Beer City standards. Shouldn't Beervana be setting the example for all others to follow?

    The doc isn't twisting arms, just trying to open some eyes. These people have something they want better, brighter and more admirable. It's not just the Doc quacking anymore.. ;-} The people have the right to be heard and they have a right to they're opinion. I think there are many silent voices that want to be heard.

    Power to the People! - John Lennon

    Jeff states: "There are 140 events across the state..." Great! Some "Beer Weeks" have more events than that within the week... What's your point?

    Jeff, if you are happy with mediocrity, GOOD for You! You can lead up the Portland Beer Pep Squad.... Keep them Pom Poms flying! ;-}

    I think there's a large contingent out there who are tired of the same ol' lackluster festivals and haphazard events. Do they have a right to an opinion and to voice they're disgust with the current festivals and embarrassing Oregon Beer month standards? YES, they do!

    Where's the Beervana pride? Is it buried in brown nosing beauocratic Bull sh*t or has indifference just filled the bill? Are we to become Beervana of the Mediocre? I appears there's a contingent of people that are saying, "NO."

    So Jeff... Are you saying it's OK if Oregon Beer Week/Month is fine being a disorganized non-collective sham? We can maintain the status of Beervana without at least coming up to par with other cities Beer Weeks and well organized events? Are you just saying, "We have tons of crumby little beer events and fests... and THAT should be an acceptable effort to carry the title of Beervana? It's OK to have a Weenie Roast instead of a moderate to highly gourmet Beer Pairing Dinner?

    Is THAT BAR too high for Portland, Oregon?

    What are we really doing that sets us apart from any other beer city? That may be the big question? Are we filling the boots of the city we call Beervana?

    The Doc is just asking questions, here... ;-}

    Washington's Brewers Guild organized a whole series of Beer events and fests throughout the year. I've been to many and I have to say, they are well organized and executed. Is THAT BAR to high for us? Is that too lofty for us Oregonians? ;-}

    What if we create two camps? One camp for those who accept "Passable" and One camp that wants something more creditable? That might be the answer. Unless we think there's not enough people who want a respected Beer presence? If that's the case.... we might as well pass the self proclaimed Beervana title to a city that's willing to come up to the plate and do it right.

  7. Ralph! You want and come work for the Dr Wort camp? I like your style!


  8. Oh.... I don't drink or party with people who drink Pacifico... Gee, call me a snob!

  9. I don't drink or party with people who drink Pacifico...

    I have a hard time believing you'd go to ANY party. And if you went, I can't imagine how you'd relax long enough to enjoy it. It is my hope that you try. Homework: go buy a sixer of Pacifico. Wait for a sunny day and take it into the back yard. Invite some friends over. Crack the beer, converse pleasantly and see what arises.

  10. I'm with you doc.

    I don't recall the last time I had a Pacifico. But I did manage to have a homebrewed saison that was quite appropriate yesterday with the humidity.

    A strange phenomenon though, I do enjoy Corona warm, not hot, but 65-75 degrees. Something about that skunkiness doing down at that temp that just makes it seem right.

    You can come over to my place doc, I'll buy the Pacifico and put it in a glass for you so no one will know. ;)

  11. "Crack the beer, converse pleasantly and see what arises."

    Probably the contents of my stomach!

  12. Thanks Ralph, but if I have to drink a beer from Mexico, I'd prefer a Negra Modelo or maybe a Dos Equis. Maybe we can meet Jeff on the Eastburn patio... I read they had Dos Equis on tap!

    We can watch him turn green from the smoke..... ;-}

  13. Let's see. Twelve comments and counting over Craft Beer Month. We're fortunate to live in a place where we can complain about the riches of a craft brewing industry that doesn't organize it's Craft Beer Month very effectively.

    The fact that we have something like this recognition and the number of events involved is a testament to the vitality of Oregon brewing and, however disorganized, something to be heralded. No cheerleading here, but there are plenty of places where just finding more than a couple of taps of craft beer, local or otherwise, is difficult.

    "Ralph," you are correct that the majority of beer at the OBF is from out of town, but so what. By my count, 34 beers from Oregon will be represented. Are we so parochial that we eschew our neighbor's brewing? As one of Oregon's most accomplished brewers said to me, "Can't we just drink some beer and have some fun?" In other words, and I think this is Jeff's point, do we have to create, organize and produce a Craft Beer Month that is so serious, so devoted to the ultimate expressions of the brewer's art?

    Well, time to open a local beer.

  14. Mark,

    I guess I have the following questions:

    It is:

    Oregon Brewers Festival


    Oregon Brewers Festival

    And yes, I have read the FAQ. :)

    Just looking to discuss the finer points.

    Also, as long as we consider the following states our neighbors:

    New Jersey

    Cheers to you Mark, I'm enjoying a Bridgeport Fallen Friar myself right now as I make up my yeast starter for a Cream Ale brewing session this weekend.

  15. Mark,

    Have ya been to Seattle, San Francisco or Phillies Beer Week events?

  16. Mark,

    Sure there are inordinate beer splendors year round in Portland. We are indeed fortunate, but the 'we should be appreciative' argument has been known to foster apathy. There are tons of good events year round and great beers to drink, so why can't a showcase event mirror this? I don't think you are rebuking the notion of improvement, but finding fortune in the ability to complain downplays the idea that perhaps Craft Beer Month isn't the most efficient representative or celebration of Portland's beer culture.

    I tried to go to many events last year and experienced a typical day at the brewpub. Special releases? I really feel that most of the beers would be released in the summer months irrespective of a craft beer month.

    If the purpose of craft beer month is to celebrate by doing what the community normally does, with a few extra events throughout the month, then that is fine. I really enjoy this superior state of ‘normalcy.’ But if the mission is to have the greatest celebration, then perhaps a consolidation to a week or two makes more sense. This is easier on the event planners schedules, logistically more manageable and frankly ‘Oregon Craft Beer Fortnight’ really rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

  17. Having read some of the commentary on other blogs whose authors comment here, I think the ideas promulgated are wonderful. Now, who will do something with them? I noted on the Seattle Beer Week site that the week is "organized" or promoted, etc. by "the Seattle Beer Collective (that) consists of four like minded individuals passionate about beer and its community." Sounds a bit like the commentators here. The challenge is not identifying the problem or even recommending better approaches. The challenge is doing something about it. Who has approached the Oregon Brewers Guild and volunteered to put in the time and energy to create a better Oregon Craft Beer Month? What was the response?
    Full disclosure: I do some work for the Oregon Brewers Festival. I have personally passed on what I have learned from this and other blogs about the shortcomings and opportunities for that one event.
    Having done work there, I can tell you that it is a massive undertaking requiring thousands of volunteers. So, for those of us who want something better in an Oregon Craft Beer Month, it's gonna take much more than defining the problem or pointing to "better" events. I think that is an excellent start. I'd be happy to join in a discussion of how that might happen. mark at rebers dot com.

  18. "Others would like an expansion of the Pucker Fest, as would I."

    Trust me, as the person who came up with the idea 3 years ago and convinced the owners that it wasn't crazy, no one would love to see the event blown up into a full-fledged beerfest more than I.

    Unfortunately we don't have a budget to pay someone like Preston to spend all year schmoozing with breweries and importers, organizing the volunteers, or dealing with the permits, insurance, and OLCC, so we work with what we've got.

    If anyone wants to take on a volunteer project and help me expand I'm wide open...

  19. Mark said:

    "Who has approached the Oregon Brewers Guild and volunteered to put in the time and energy to create a better Oregon Craft Beer Month? What was the response?"

    Thank you. People can bitch and moan all day on the internet, but unless someone wants to dedicate their time and energy to make things better you've got no ground to stand on.

  20. Chris,

    In regard to Pucker Fest... It's all about contacts and elbow rubbing. ;-}

    Working at Belmont Station should open plenty of doors for contacts and elbow rubbing with National and International brewers. Of course, unless someone is paying or sponsoring you to go on Belgian Beer junkets to Belgium, you make not get a chance to rub elbows with the brewers. Funny, they give those junkets to the media! The media doesn't care about contacts for importing beer.. just drinking it! ;-}

    Seriously, I would imagine you're in a business position to make some phone calls to the "RIGHT" guys and get whatever you need? I could come up with a list of people who to contact that could "Help" acquire many Belgian beers, and I wouldn't charge you for my services because I'd do it for the love of beer and not to line my pockets.... :-O

    Greed is such an ugly thing in the beer community!

  21. Chris,

    In regard to bitching vs. non-bitching...

    In all my years with the beer community I've always found it hard to find the Doers, the TALKERS come easy.

    I've found plenty of BIG TALKERS in Oregon, but not many that come to the plate and do any work.

    DA seems energetic! What about Ralph, Josh and Patrick? Mark is happy with mediocrity.. he even works with the OBF, so he knows all about mediocrity.... ;-} Just yanking ya Mark, I'm sure whatever you do is a true asset to the festival... BTW, can you tell them to start hand picking the beers???

    In fact!!! Dr Wort is willing to call breweries himself and hand pick a diverse selection of beers for the OBF. There's a step up for be responsible, think anybody would give me the reigns??

    Chris is right! We need action, not words! The Dr Wort team is willing to put in some time for the Beer Events cause!

    It appears we have a large group who are satisfied with the current beer event landscape and quality. They're easy to please... ;-}

    If we want to get something done we'll have to form a committee for new and improved events. We have to hope the OBG will work with us. Why wouldn't they?

    Here's the fun part!!! Who wants to be on this committee??

    email Doc Wort if needed.

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. Regarding the DIY:

    This was my point on Doc's blog. I normally don't partake in these discussions because either a. the criticisms are unfounded or offbase and b. it mostly revolves around tail wagging, high fiving a good idea, and piggy backing on the criticism. Everyone gets inspired from the agreement and then nothing more.

    I volunteer for every beer event I can and would love to do more. Since most of my volunteer activities are labor oriented and my relationship with industry folks casual at best, I obviously do not have the full scope of effort. I guess my point is that, I'm willing to help and I know others are as well. I don't need a t-shirt or commemorative glass either.

    Doc, I honestly place you in the group of talkers. It's very difficult to be physically proactive and anonymous. I'm not calling for you to officially unmask yourself, but just to stay true to your mission of calling it how it is. It's great to education via a blog and emails, but to put on an actual event you'd inevitably have to meet someone in person. Are you willing to do that for the sake participating and planning a great event?

  24. Also, in regard to OBF. I believe the keg minimum is too daunting at this point for breweries to send something special. It's not practical from both a supply and revenue standpoint.

  25. Chris and Mark,

    I'm not here to bitch about how things are currently, my whole involvement in this discussion has been to help improve how things run to further promote the Portland/Oregon beer scene. I have zero experience in festival planning and know it is a crap ton of work, but I have an ongoing open offer to help. My hope was to get these ideas flowing, then with a plan I'd be glad to help get this going on the action side of this.

    I would hope that any suggestions that deviated from the current state weren't seen as bitching.

  26. For the record, I think the bitching is good. If it weren't for the complaints, whether backed up with action or not, nothing would improve.
    As for the OBF, we are working on an on-site, but separate area where participating breweries can bring a keg of their specialty beer for sampling. This action is in direct response to the complaints that the OBF pours mostly pale beers that do not showcase the brewers' highest levels of achievement. Stay tuned.

  27. @Doc:

    Trust me, after 5 years as the buyer here I've got plenty of contacts. What I don't have is the free time to handle all the planning, organization, and bureaucracy involved with hosting a large, off-site festival.

    There's a lot more involved than simply finding a venue and throwing a bunch of jockey boxes on tables. You have to get OLCC and City approval (easier said than done), deal with the insurance companies, co-ordinate with the brewers, etc.

    There's also the financial outlay incurred because Oregon is a "COD state" which means we have to pay for all the beer as soon we take possession of it. Even with our "little festival" I've got close to $3000 tied up in kegs that have been sitting around for up to a year. The opportunity cost involved with that much capital tied up is significant.

    Lastly, we need space to store the kegs, and refrigerated warehouse space ain't cheap.


    No offense intended. I realize you (like most of us this thread) have full time jobs and limited free time to help organize something like this, and you've offered some good suggestions, but posting on Jeff's blog isn't going to help us achieve our goal of better promoting Oregon beer.

    At the very least we should all take a few minutes and email the OBG, the OBF organizers (like Art Lawrence), and other in the industry to express our concerns and offer up some of these great suggestions directly.

    Let's take this momentum and run with it...

  28. Chris,

    That was sort of my plan. The posts on the blogs were just idea generation before the actual action process. I was hoping people could offer up some new ideas for beer events, maybe pull something new out. I really like the idea of the regional collaboration project that I posted on my blog, hopefully a few fresh ideas might draw some interest.

    I only wish I was lucky enough to spout of ideas on a blog and have them come to fruition!

  29. Wow! You guys have been busy in the past couple of hours!

    @ Chris

    I understand the complexities of running a big fest, but your post does help spell out to others what is involved.

    I'm willing to help organize inflow and acquiring of kegs. Money and cold storage would have to be donated by "Hopefully" cooperative beer industry sources. I'd hate to believe that a brewery or pub or other source would CHARGE to hold kegs! That would go against camaraderie and assistance in the big picture, which all should be the focused.

    COD.... Someone would have to be willing to put up the cash, whether that be a business and private citizen.

    How big of an event are we talking? While Belmont station has limited space, other pubs and/or breweries have more ample space. Couldn't we ask if Concordia, Green Dragon or the like to share in the sponsorship as to acquire more space and possible taps?

    How many taps do we want to run? 20-30?

    I'm still into Washington's concept of doing a Pucker Fest in Paid Sessions. Each session would have a singular cost, say $50. That would include beer tasting for 3-4 hours. All inclusive. No fancy glassware or the like, just pure sampling of 20-30 beers.

    Maybe have the hosting establishment offer a meal or food deal. The goal would be to just acquire enough money to float the next years event...

    @ Mark

    I agree.... bitching stirs the pot on change. Pretty much what Dr Wort is about.

    @ DA and all

    DA has a great idea. Lets' create a list of possible events and submit to the OBG. I'm willing to run the list on the DW website for the public to see. I would hope all bloggers would do the same. It would get the ideas out there and maybe create interest or even demand for something new...

    DA... Lets work on getting a list of solid ideas. So far, Dr Wort and DA are the only bloggers putting out ideas. I guess the rest are satisfied with the current Beer events or maybe they'd just rather TALK.... ;-}

    I think everybody's input is very helpful to the cause. Thanks to those who are willing to step up to the plate!

  30. I think we need to move this conversation to Dr Wort's blog. Jeff really doesn't have much interest in the advancement of the Portland Beer Event scene. Lets' leave him to his own interests...

    I'll post a "Portland Beer Week Think Tank" entry and everybody cab discuss this there....

    I have a partner in crime writing up a spoof article for Beer Week too... Don't let that distract from this effort.

  31. Jeff really doesn't have much interest in the advancement of the Portland Beer Event scene.

    Man, between you and Ralph, I barely need to offer my own views at all. Of course, I have a deep interest in Portland's beer scene. I just don't seen anything wrong with Craft Beer Month. Youu want to jaw about how it can be improved, more power to you.

    The only event I'd like to see added to Portland's beer calendar is a beer fest featuring small beers <5% ABV. Honestly, I don't know that a city with less than two million people really needs a whole hell of a lot more events. But that's just me.