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Monday, July 12, 2010

PIB's Best Beers Are ... American?

The something-annual Portland International Beerfest (PIB) pulls into the North Park Blocks this weekend. (The event must be at least in its tweens--I seem to recall going in the 90s.) For the student and and fan of international beer styles, it's easily the quickest ways to educate oneself about the standards. More than that, it's an opportunity to see how the trend winds are blowing. I first noticed how Northwest hops had begun to inspire European breweries five years ago (Belgians, per usual, got in on the act first). Barrel-aging, collaboration brewing, imperializing--all of these trends have appeared first at PIB.

Well, here's something to consider: America may now have the greatest density of the world's best breweries. Dunno if you call that a "trend" or not, but it's something. Looking through the list of beers (sortable by country), a thought sprang to mind. If I were forced to only drink the beers of one country, which would it be? No contest--the US. Hell, if I were to choose between domestic and all imports combined, the choice wouldn't be easy. This is in no way to denigrate any other country. Offerings from Belgium, in particular, are looking most appetizing. (Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek, Jandrain-Jandrenouille IV Saison, Urthel Hop-It headline a nice list.)

But have a look at some of the Yankee selections and see if your mouth doesn't water:
  • Firestone Walker Parabola and Double Jack
  • Old Lompoc Barrel-Aged Doppelbock
  • Rogue Deschutes Black Butte XXII
  • New Belgium La Folie
  • Double Mountain Devil's Kriek and Molten Lava
  • Cascade Brewing barrel-aged mystery beers
  • Walking Man Parade Belgian Pale
  • Great Divide Chocolate Oak-Aged Yeti
  • Caldera Rose Petal Imperial Golden
We'll never find agreement about "best brewing country," but it's far from absurd to include the US in the conversation. For the first time, I expect about half the beers I sample at PIB will be domestic.


  1. Rogue Black Butte XXII?!? Besides Deschutes has pulled this from the line-up due to the chocolate fiasco, I suppose. They will be pouring Mirror Mirror and Jubel 2010.

  2. Is it American's judging the beers? If so, it would make sense that Americans are choosing American beer, as it is the taste they are accustomed to.

  3. Where can a man get a decent half dozen pints of session beer around here over a lovely game or two of Scrabble?

  4. Has Rogue bought out Deschutes and taken over their Black Butte annual series and I dont know about it?!

    Anyway looking over your picks of the best local brews, I am not going to argue there are some good selections but I must mention that there is only a few I have not already had before...wait nevermind, I had that Walking Man last time I was in Stevenson. Yep, I have had every single one of them.
    Weakest beer list of any festival so far this year.

  5. Fish and Samurai, thanks for catching that embarrassing typo.

    Ted, I know of some guy way out in the center of the state who makes some nice cask ale.

    Ezra (again), you are a statistical outlier on beer tasting; there are probably fewer than ten people in Portland who have tasted all those beers.

  6. Count me in on that ten.

    and Jeff, I'd take "Currently Known as Belgium" as by "best beers country" pick.
    -Drie Fonteinen Schaerbeekse Kriek
    -De Ranke Cuvée De Ranke
    -Dupont Saison
    -Cantillon Iris

    Spezial Rauchbier on tap might be really nice though.

  7. You can count me in on that ten too... and at this rate you're going to reach that mark pretty quickly. ;-) I don't know that I agree with Ezra that it's the weakest beer list of any festival so far this year, but it's most certainly the weakest beer list the PIB has fielded thus far. Very dissapointing.

  8. Well, I could be wrong--maybe it's more than ten. Given that Double Mountain Kriek and Deschutes XXII are recent releases (also Lompoc's doppel?) and others are hard to find, I expect that the number of festgoers who've tried all of these will still be less than one percent--probably way less.

    I will consider the question of "weakest yet" study the list, and offer an opinion. My quick reaction is that this reflects the growing sophistication of beer geeks and the growing availability of foreign beers rather than a weakness of the list, but I will keep an open mind as I study it again.

  9. Oh come one now, the Cascade beers are a "mystery" so how could you all know that you have had them?! Anyways, I think I've had all of those as well. The biggest shame of the festival to me is the 6 or 7 ticket beers. It is really hard for me to overcome the $1/oz hurdle.

  10. Harry,

    I think we are assuming Cascade will continue the trend set in previous years as just using some of their previous offerings as "mystery beer". Last year I believe they had Gose and Sang Rouge, and the previous year was the Cuvee I believe.

    I agree on the pricing though, 6 or 7 tokens is steep and sadly the quality of the contents doesn't correlate to what those breweries are charging for their bottles.