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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Organic Beerfest Preview

North American Organic Beer Festival, June 27-29
Overlook Park, North Portland, Oregon
Fri, 3:00 to 9:00 p.m., Sat, noon to 9:00, Sun, noon to 5:00.
Compostable tasting mugs: $5, samples $1
Children welcome with parents.
Tomorrow at three o'clock, the North American Organic Brewers Festival opens its doors. Believe it or not, this is the fourth iteration of the fest, which seems like it just got started a couple years back. I have the distinct displeasure to have to miss this year's fest do to an unavoidable trip out of town, but you shouldn't be cavalier: this is the premier event for quality West Coast beers.

Organic beers are no longer the oddity they once were, but they're still special. Few breweries are all-organic, so those that do brew an organic beer do it with intention. (An example: in order to have Green Lakes certified organic, Deschutes had to spend six months working with Oregon Tilth just for the one beer.) Whether or not organic ingredients offer empirically-better tasting beer is debatable. But what became clear to me at last year's fest was that as a class, organic beers tend to get more loving attention from brewers and are consequently showcase products. Nearly every beer you try at this fest will be better than average, and that just can't be said for any other fest. So don't miss it.

I will not presume to tell you what to sample, but if I were able to go, this would constitute my short list:
  • Dupont Foret. Was Dupont the first brewery to produce an organic beer? They started way back in 1990. Pinkus (see below) may have started even earlier, but together, these two breweries are organic pioneers. Foret is one of the saison variations offered by the most renowned farmhouse brewery in the world, somewhat more robust than the standard Saison, and I would love to try it on tap.
  • Pinkus Hefe-Weizen. This German brewer started experimenting with organics two decades ago, and if you think you don't like hefeweizens, test the theory by trying Pinkus. It is a revelation of delicacy and tartness. And from the keg, it should be super fresh.
  • Crannog Hell's Kitchen Potato Ale. I had this last year, but I would love to revisit it--the potato is, I recall ... interesting.
  • Bison Single Hop IPA. Last year, I was impressed by Bison's offbeat Gingerbread Ale, but I'd like to see what they can do with a straight-up IPA. (No evidence of which single hop has been deployed.)
  • Willamette IPA. What's a brewfest for if not trying beer from new breweries? I was unaware of this Eugene joint, which looks to be about a year old. (What the hell kind of blogger am I to have missed this? A question for the sages.)
  • Santa Cruz Dread Brown. Why? Because this is the beer's lineage: "This is the first ale by brewster, Emily Thomas, co-owner of Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing. Thomas brewed up her first batch of brown ale in the bathtub of her college apartment almost ten years ago." Female brewer? Check. Bathtub? Check. Award-winning brown ale? Check. A trifecta.
  • Hair of the Dog Greg. Though HotD has three choices, I'd probably go with the Greg, just so I could still stand up in a roughly vertical manner afterward.
  • Nelson Brewing IPA. Okay, I've got too many IPAs on my list. But come on, it's from British Columbia, eh.
  • St. Peter's English Ale. You may recall Britain's St. Peter's from their characteristic flat bottles. I recall them for their extraordinary quality. Never had the English Ale, though.
  • McMenamins Saison du Pass. The buzz beer last year, to which I responded coolly. I'd like to give it a second chance.
  • Widmer WOMP Pale. Because Widmer always tries something interesting.
This list excludes beers that I know to be exceptional, like the Double Mountain beers, Sam Smith (another organics pioneer), Schneider, Fish Tales, and Roots (which I can get at the pub near my house). And I'm certain that I've overlooked some stellar beer that will float your boat. And with this fest, you probably can't go wrong.



  1. Jeff,

    We will have the Saison at Puckerfest this year as well...and if you cannot make that, come on out to the Roadhouse and we will get you a pint or two. By the way, this year's version is much better than last. I actually got the yeast to do what I wanted, so it dried out much more than last years.

    Corey Blodgett
    Head Brewer, Cornelius Pass Roadhouse Brewery

  2. I had the Saison on Wednesday and it was AWESOME. Can't wait for more.

  3. Corey, that sounds most promising, then. Last year's was too wet in my view. Saison is one of my favorite styles, and it's so hard to make well. If you got the right yeast, that's great news. I would move it up to "very high" on my list.