What is that deep rumble I hear shaking the earth like a refrigerator-sized subwoofer? Why, it's the sound of beer trucks trundling toward Tom McCall Waterfront Park for the annual Oregon Brewers Festival. And as surely as those trucks make their trek, so do I journey deeply into the database of beers to provide you with a by-the-numbers look at the grandaddy of American beer fests.
For those of you who are too busy to read the details, two trends that will amaze and astonish: there are more beers using fruit (23) and almost as many flavored beer (18) as there are IPAs of all types (21); the huge trend last year in Dortmund exports (3) seems to have run its course. Also, for the first time, the OBF is styling itself the Oregon Brewfest. Dunno what you want to make of that.
This year, the specialty tent returns (formerly called the "Buzz Tent"), but we don't calculate those in the figures. (I am nevertheless delighted to have it back.) Also note that in the numbers below, the bolded text refers to 2014, while the text in the (parentheses) are last year's. Here we go...
Years since inception: 27
Total beers: 88 (84 in 2012)
Total breweries: 87 (82)*
States represented: 14 (12)
Percent Oregon: 58% (57%)
Percent California: 14% (14%)
Percent Washington: 11% (14%)
All Others: 17% (15%)
Beers using spices/flavors: 23, 26% (14, 17%)
Fruit beers: 18, 20% (16, 19%)
Belgian styles: 13% (12%)
German/Czech styles: 15% (18%)
Totally weird beers**: 8% (15%)
ABV of smallest beer (Cigar City Blood Orange/Dragon Fruit Florida Weisse): 3.5% (3.5%)
ABV of largest beer (Dogfish Head Oak-Aged Strong Ale): 11% (10%)
Average ABV: 6.11% (6.0%)
Beers below 5.5% ABV: 31 (31)
Beers above 7% ABV: 21 (14)
Fewest IBUs in Fest (Beer Valley and Elysian): 0 (8)
Most IBUs at the Fest (Heathen Megadank): 120 (116)
Average IBUs: 40 (38)
Beers between 0 and 40 IBUs: 50 (58)
*In past years, the Fest allowed some breweries to surreptitiously double up--like Rogue and Issaquah. This year the only double is Widmer and gluten-free Omission--which is nearly permissible. (But I doubt Harvester would agree.)
** A big caveat here. A ton of these beers are brewed to no style whatsoever, and about half have either fruit or flavors added. But there's a "black wit" and a few oddballs like that which, even by today's free-and-loose standards, are totally weird. To me, beers like this year's smallest, Cigar City Blood Orange/Dragon Fruit Florida Weisse, is not totally weird. Your mileage may vary.