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Friday, July 29, 2011

Oregon Brewers Fest First Reax

The first day of the fest is down, and the second is about to commence. I have some bits and pieces, pics, and even a video to share with you. I'm not alone. John Foyston has coverage (story, pix), as do Angelo, Brady, Jon, and Sanjay.

Now, to the fest. When you take into account the number of sniffs and sips I had from my own beers and those of friends, I managed to sample a pretty broad selection of the beers yesterday. A few that really stood out were these:
  • Ninkasi Helles Belles. This beer is designed to mislead. You want to read the name as "hell's" bells, but it's actually a Munich helles (pr. hell iss, not hels). You assume it's going to be an ale, a hop bomb, a booming Ninkasi beer. Instead, it's a classic helles and the beer that stood head and shoulders above others for me at the fest. A beautifully elegant beer with delicate, soft malts and peppery hopping, crisp and refreshing. It may be the most accomplished beer Ninkasi has ever brewed, and that's saying something.
  • Rock Bottom Zombie Flanders. Van Havig has brewed a Flanders Red called Ned Flanders in the past, and I don't know--but I assume--that this is one of those. Thus the Zombie. But whatever its provenance, the beer is exceptional: slightly sweet, almost chocolatey malts and a sharp, true sour.
  • Boulder Hoopla Pale. Colorado beers take some heat for their lack of hop character in these parts. But David Zuckerman, who cut his teeth at BridgePort before moving east, has put plenty of hop richness into this beer. A great hoppy session.
  • Goose Island Pepe Nero. This is an unusual beer, a peppery dark saison. It's the kind of beer that seems a little one-dimensional at first sip, but which deepens to reveal further layers as you sip. A ruminative pour.
  • New Holland Golden Cap: Speaking of peppered sasions, here's a blond example. Maybe it's the pepper: again, at first I was slightly put off by the beer, which had an astringency that seemed a bit pushy to me. But after a couple sips, it developed into a tang that I started to appreciate and then crave.
There were other interesting experiments I'd say were slightly misguided. Widmer's Foggy Bog Cranberry Ale could have used less cranberry and more ale; Dogfish Head's Black and Red featured both mint and raspberry--and the mint was too much of a weird thing. Finally, Elysian's Idiot Sauvin, made with Nelson Sauvin hops. Some people taste human sweat (me, Jon Abernathy), others get wonderful tropical fruits. In Elysian's, I got both.

Of course, there were lots of other great beers, some which others were raving about. That's the beauty of beer: its diversity pleases all palates. So sample broadly. I will leave you with some sights and video of the Fest.

A McMenamin Hammerhead escorts the ceremonial cask.

I shot this from my still camera and I don't know how to turn it off--so the end is bad. Sorry!

Organizer Art Larrance and parade dignitary Fred Eckhardt.

A rare sighting of Brian McMenamin.

The ceremonial tapping of the keg. (Again, a problem at the end of the vid by the videographer.)

Ninkasi co-owner/brewer Jamie Floyd.

Goose Island master brewer Brett Porter (an alum of both Portland/MacTarnahan's and Deschutes)


  1. My biggest regret - not tasting Helles Belles yesterday. I hope I get a chance to someday.

  2. The line for Helles Belles was out of hand already Friday afternoon. Must be good stuff, but I didn't have the stamina to wait for it.

    Pepe Nero is available in bottles at stores, no?

  3. I had the Helles at the media tasting and agree with you. I think it's the lager yeast that makes it what it is...a complex, tasty beer. Kind of an interesting shift for Ninkasi, perhaps showing they can do any beer well.

    The Dogfish Head beer is just completely over the top. It's like someone put toothpaste in the tank during secondary fermentation. A bit of mint might have been fine. This was too much and mostly wiped out the raspberry, I thought.

    Beyond the beers, look at the crowds being generated. To me, the tents seem to get busy much earlier than in the past. I'll be interested to get attendance numbers from Chris at the end of this. If more people aren't coming, the people who are coming are staying longer.

    Any thoughts on Art's plan to have a sour beers festival on Tuesday next year?


  4. You got "sweat" from Idiot Sauvin too? Good to know I wasn't the only one! (Actually another blogger at the preview got that as well.)

    I actually like the Dogfish Red & Black, but it IS pretty unusual. Need to go seek some more out tomorrow.

  5. The Thursday secret is out clearly. It was not annoyingly but 'evening' busy by just after the start. Brunch was also not on par with last year's... it was typical McMenamins though, so I guess that is to be expected.

    I am hearing the BUZZ TENT is done. Maybe they'll restock but that was a hit or miss find usually as stuff went, again, quickly for a Thursday.

    You can definitely see the new Red trend coming.

  6. Made it to OBF yesterday (Friday). The Ninkasi line was nuts all day. Into the middle of the tents at 1:30pm and just kept getting longer. They must have brought a lot of kegs though. Around 5pm the "tapped out" signs started appearing, but the Helles Belles line was still raging.

    Decided to skip it and just wander into the brewery sometime this weekend for a pint.

    Beer and Coding

  7. I thought the Rockbottom terrible. Three of us spit it out.
    Differences in tastes...

  8. Thursday's are no longer safe...the hipster douches were in full effect...I actually heard one say..."where's the PBR?"

    Now I know PBR is a Portland'esqe cool to be old school kinda thing but still...come on man!

  9. I like how you felt you had to explain what a helles is.