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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cheers to Belgian Beers Wrap

Portland Cheers to Belgian Beers is one of the signature events by Oregon's breweries every year and about the only complaint I have is that the celebration is but one short day long.  It's far too little time to try all the beers--unless your stamina and liver are sturdier than mine.  The conceit of this annual gathering is simplicity at its finest: everyone brews a beer with the sme yeast.  They are brewed to different strengths and styles, and festgoers vote on their fave.  The winning brewer(s) take a victory lap, bask in the admiration of their peers, and select the yeast everyone will use the next year.

Seven breweries stood tall among the masses (Block 15, Breakside, Cascade, Double Mountain, Logsdon, Occidental, and The Commons) and the big winner was--for the second year in a row--Logsdon Farmhouse Ales.  Congrats.  My thoughts, in no particular order, are these:
  • Metalcraft Fabrication's plant is one gritty-ass place to hold a fest.  The venue works brilliantly, but it is one amazing industrial tableau.  The pen outside the massive warehouse is a gravel lot surrounded by a fence topped in razor wire and overlooks Interstate and the industrial zone beyond.  I love gritty-ass industrial scenes, but I'm guessing not everyone does.  (It is far, far better than the cavernous convention center which hosts the Spring Beer and Wine fest, though.)
  • The new breweries made quite a showing.  I got a kick out of Eugene's Falling Sky, which brought a 3.5% Mighty Mite called Summer Sprinkle.  My favorite came from a brewery called Solera which I couldn't place at the time.  A wonderfully silky, brightly lactic beer called Table Logic (it wasn't made with the appropriate yeasts, though).  Later I checked, and of course it's Jason Kahler's new joint.  Jason, you'll recall, used to work for Big Horse where he wowed folks--especially with his skill in tart beers.  Gigantic led with an appropriately huge "imperial black saison" which was more or less an imperial stout.  Finally, Dave Logsdon made his winning beer with the Roselare yeast (two breweries tied last year, so there were two strains).  It didn't taste much like a Flanders wood-aged beer, but it was complex and assertive without being punishing.  My favorite so far from the year-old brewery.
  • On the other hand, much as I want to love Hair of the Dog's Michael, I can't.  Michael is an homage to Michael Jackson, the writer who called Rodenbach "the most refreshing beer in the world."  Unfortunately, Michael the beer is nothing like Rodenbach--which is not itself a failure (especially for Alan Sprints, who copies no one).  It's just super heavy with brett, and in this case has become battery-acid harsh, with a grinding dryness.  (I wonder if it has to do with wine-barrel aging, where the beer is exposed to so much more oxygen than in Rodenbach's massive foeders.  The brewer there, Rudi Ghequire, told me that the ideal size are 180 hectoliters--a bit over 150 barrels.)
  • Special props to Coalition for making a dunkelweizen, a beer that more than any other showed the range of Unibroue's yeast.  It's extremely versatile--pretty much anything people wanted to make with it, they could.
My vote went to Solera for best in show, but of course, tastes vary.  A few pics in case you missed it:

The vast Metalcraft hangar.
More hangar.
The venue.
Rock star brewers playing deejay.


  1. Sounds like a pretty awesome time. Do they do tickets or is it a one time fee and taste as much as you want?

  2. Ye gods. What an odd venue for a great event. If they want it to grow, it will have to move, imo.