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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Twenty-odd Years at the Oregon Brewers Festival

I have been attending the Oregon Brewers Festival every year since somewhere in the 1990-1992 range.  (I have a spectacular inability to remember the years things happened.)  Just to put that in perspective, we're talking about the Bush administration--the first Bush administration.  Not only were there no real cell phones (and consequently no vintage selfies to offer), but the internet didn't yet exist.  (!)  Neither did the Pearl District, Voodoo Doughnuts, or food cart pods.  You could, however, smoke wherever you wanted, and there was a kick-ass old brewery wreathing downtown in the scent of wort and hops.

The OBF did exist, however, and the experience was almost identical to the one you can enjoy over the next five days.  There have been a few changes on the margins--it has gone from two to five days, and those old opaque-plastic mugs were finally dumped in favor of glass.  But the experience has not changed.  The fest is still located on a green ribbon between the buildings of downtown and the mighty Willamette River.  It's still "always the last full weekend in July."  There are still north and south constellations of trailers, each with eight taps manned by smiling volunteers.  You still saunter up to one of those volunteers and offer a $1 wooden token for a pour (four for a full glass), and take it back to your clutch of friends, standing in a circle in some shady spot.  As inflation eats away at that dollar, the real price for a pour has been roughly halved since the first fest.

In three hours, I'm going to meet friends for the annual ritual.  We always went on the opening day, and fortunately, we're all old men who have managed to get jobs that allow us to take a Wednesday off to go drink beer all day--when we started, the first day was a convenient Friday.  We'll still stand around in a circle and tell each other familiar old stories.  (Next year, a friend's son will be old enough to join us if he wishes.)  Wars and famines have come and gone, regimes have risen and fallen, the world has shrunk and sped up, and yet each year in July, Portlanders can step into a bubble where time has been frozen--and where the beer is always fantastic.

I made this little video back in 2006, and except for those plastic mugs, there are very few clues to suggest it wasn't made last year (or next year, if you're feeling quantum).  If you're a lucky old (or young) man (or woman) and are heading down today, say hello--


  1. Brings a tear to me eye, laddie. My first was ...erm... 20 years ago. My last was 10 or 9 years ago, can't remember if I went during my last Oregon summer. Nostalgia.

    Glass mugs and opening on WEDNESDAY? Hope they still do the "wooooOOOOOOOOoooooo" thing just to irritate those who don't like it.

    PS...the internet has existed for longer than that, you're thinking of the WWW. Not to late to stop with the "selfies" either, FWIW.

  2. I will raise a glass to your good health and curse your unnecessary pedantic comment about the internet!

  3. Ahh, a proper tribute-- The Fest is the best! ;) My son Jordan will indeed be old enough to partake next year... (And oh yes, they still do the "wooooOOOOOOOOoooooo" thing, baby!)