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Monday, May 04, 2009

Final Thoughts on Cheers to Belgian Beers

In no particular order, a few random observations, opinions, and questions about this year's edition of the fest...
  • The glasses rocked. I have boxes of old glasses from other fests. None has been upgraded to my regular beer-glass rotation, but this one will. Classy shape, good size, cool logo, an an absence of sponsors or other unwanted signage.
  • What happens if a non-Portland pub wins the event? Are we off to Astoria or Corvallis next year?
  • All beers must be made with the same yeast. Last year, I voted for a brewery (Full Sail) that didn't use the selected yeast. (They eliminated that problem this year with an official ballot.) This year, a pretty decent number of the beers weren't made with Inglemunster. Breweries like Upright, which didn't exist when the event was set, get an exemption.
  • More volunteers. For the first couple hours on Saturday, there were two guys manning every tap in the fest. Two! I know this thing is only a semi-official fest and that the proceeds go to charity. Still, seems like they could muster a couple more folks.
  • On the other hand, the fest was an amazing value. The glasses were only five bucks--you'd pay at least that in a store--and the pours were just a buck. Given that most of the beers were north of 7%, your buck went pretty far.
  • The idea of compelling breweries to select a general quadrant (strong/mild and light/dark) was a good start. It effectively resulted in a number of different beers. Two things would improve it more: use a more versatile yeast (my vote: saison), and give breweries at least six months to brew their beers. Even better, start right away. Breweries might even have a chance to try a few different batches if you gave them a year.
  • What happens when they run out of yeast strains to try? Is this event doomed to sunset? (Or do we just go back to some of the ones we've already used?)
Big fun. Can't wait for next year.


  1. 1. Agreed! we need more fests with nice glassware, you can get these screened cheaply so you're still making a profit on them, just not $4.95 on a $5.00 plastic mug kind of profit.

    2. I asked Brian about that, no it will be held in PDX regardless.

    3. Yep, not sure why they did that.

    4. There were 3 volunteers at opening Friday and it was really dead in there. You did need a full on servers permit to pour though, not the typical OLCC temp permit.

    5. Can't complain about value, just had to find a good beer to stick with.

    6. I was hoping for the saison strain as well, or the roselare blend... keep dreaming. They should just do next years yeast announcement and dart throw at the festival, would generate some excitement and give time to brew.

    7. Run out?!? Lets worry about that in 2050 or so when it comes up. Then we can start doing some ambient ferments in different areas of PDX.

    8. Thanks for the plug!

  2. Jeff,

    Cheers to the Lab's - they were sending out a clear clarion call for more volunteers right up to the day of the fest - but as Derek pointed out the requirement that these volunteers carry OLCC server's permit is a pretty steep cliff - ask around at the OBF or the HAF to see what the percentages (OLCC/"dumb" labor) are for those that don't.

    Jeers to the Lab (thefted from Dr. Wort), why a brewer would pick a 'cool' yeast strain but not think about the practicalities of actually brewing (and more specifically fermenting) that beer...well that makes Abby a brewer, doesn't it?

    Unfortunately, a non-Pdx brewer is going to win this (at some point) so you have to give them yeast control as the winnings, but I'd rather the OBG pick the strain and let the winner host.

    And to your point re: running out of yeasts, I think until the brewing quality becomes elevated, the fest is more endangered by lack of interest than any other cause of death.

  3. Jeff,

    Thanks for plug #2 for Dr Wort!

    After reading all the current blog posts, I find the "majority" of us share the same opinions and reviews of the beers.

    There seems to be interesting levels of honesty, diplomacy and proficiency within the given blog reviews. Which is all good for the neighborhood... would love to see more reviews from even more bloggers.

    Maintaining his character, the doctor lays it out there. Honest, obnoxious and over the top. :-O

    Honesty and with hints of diplomacy seems to be the norm. Although, DA's line, "Unlike last year where cooked vegetable flavors were the common theme, this years beers seemed to run the gamut of odd flavors, from overly bitter, yeast smoothie, metallic twangs, le armpit, to the just plain rotten," seems to be a nice summary of the event.

    I think, I had that La Armpit beer, DA!

    Statements like, "Streaking the Quad (aged to perfection)," hail to the Doctors blog statement, "Always amazed at what some people think is quality or interesting…. Horrible things!" ;-}

    Not sure I'm looking forward to next year! Nightmares of a 4 month brewers prep to produce their best Brett beers is just too much to bare. Saison yeast?! Maybe. Of course, not sure I could stomach a Saison Stout, Saison Porter and Saison Barleywine! Brewers might consider coming to the plate with a CLOSER rendition to the classics with a small twist...?

    You may be right Jeff, this event may be doomed unless they can turn it into a full fledged Belgian Beer fest.

  4. Plugs are good all around. We are the blogging borg.

    You know, that Wyeast lambic's pretty nice, too--that would be kinda radical, wouldn't it? Even more radical--no yeast additions! (That is, spontaneous.) Couldn't taste the results for 2-3 years, though.

  5. Wasn't able to get there, but I did manage to sample the Dubbel from Hopworks yesterday and agree with the general opinion. Pretty satisfying stuff.

  6. Saison yeast is one of the least adaptable yeasts in terms of strength and color IMHO. Not sure where you're going with that one, if you're looking for variety that works.

    Personally I'd rather encourage all the breweries to pursue unfettered creativity, and not proscribe any yeast. Just brew something that, to the brewer, is a "Belgian-style" beer. To me that would be more fest-ive, and less of an exercise in geekologie.

  7. I agree with anon...!

    Lets just let the brewers brew something Belgian. I think we may get something more worthy of drinking...

  8. "Saison yeast is one of the least adaptable yeasts in terms of strength and color IMHO. Not sure where you're going with that one, if you're looking for variety that works."

    Um, what? WTF does color have to do with yeast? I've personally brewed several beers with the DuPont strain. It does have a tendency to stick for a couple weeks before finishing out, but other than that it has great attenuation and can handle plenty of alcohol.

    If you ferment it on the cooler end of the spectrum you get a nice semi-dry brew with only minimal esters. If you crank it up and ferment it in the 90's you can get a bone dry brew that's chock full of peppery, fruity, yeasty goodness.

    If anything I'd say it's one of the MOST adaptable strains. I mean shit, look at DuPont themselves; they make Avril (a flavor-packed table beer at 3.5%) and Avec Bon Voeux (9.5%, fairly dark saison) with the same friggin yeast. Isn't that the very definition of adaptable?

  9. Well put, Anon… now you're just making me crave next year's PCtBB.

    C'mon, Chris/Ben, do the right thing! (And do it now! Don't wait 'till 3 months before the event…)