Sunday, August 11, 2013

Saraveza's IIPA Festival

It's a celebeertion.
I attended Saraveza's 4th Annual IIPA Festival this afternoon. For the completely uninitiated, "IIPA" stands for Imperial India Pale Ale, aka, the American Double IPA. An IIPA is typically distinguished from it's more conservative IPA sister by two things: 1)  A massive flavor and/or hop profile; and 2) A massive, massive alcohol content. In short, an IIPA is an IPA on steroids (hoproids?). It's a beer that will typically sucker punch you right in the taste buds and has the ability to knock you flat on your butt, if you're not careful. As you can imagine, an IIPA Festival is no place for beer drinking amateurs. No sirree.

This IIPA tastival is held at Saraveza, a great little taproom and bottle shop in North Portland. The cost of admission was $20 this year, which included a commemorative tasting glass (suitable for reuse in any respectable beer geek's bar) and 10 tasting tickets. Each ticket generally resulted in a 4 oz. pour. There were several premium brews that required two tickets for a taste, but those were the exception, not the rule. All-in-all, a very good value, considering that a full serving of virtually every beer featured in this fest would cost you some extra scratch.

The physical venue is small and intimate for a beer festival. A makeshift bandstand was set up out on the sidewalk and the pouring took place in the main bar area and the little event space next door. The crowd was primarily serious beer aficionados--not at all like the throng of rowdy amateurs you'll find at most of the highly advertised mega-fests. The folks at this IIPA Fest were clearly looking for some unique and/or legendary heavy-hitting beers--and Saraveza delivered.

Bar area at Saraveza pouring
some tasty IIPA's.
I counted 40 IIPA's on the taplist, most from popular Oregon and West Coast breweries. The cast of characters included the elusive Pliny the Elder and Dogfish Head's 120 Minute. There were a few super-charged or "Xtra-Hopped" versions of some well-known local brews, including a Gigantic IIPA poured from a Firkin, and a couple of brews ran through a Randall. Cool.

I found that the initial 10 taster tickets were more than enough for me. These are beers that are meant to be tasted, savored and discussed among your beer-loving peers. It ain't guzzlin' beer. However, if you wanted to knock back a few, the bottle shop was in full operation, with plenty of other beers waiting to be purchased and enjoyed from those cold cases. I saw plenty of attendees doing just that.

They also serve food at Saraveza. They have pasties--meat pies--and lots of appetizers to choose from. That really helps at a beer festival that is serving a boatload of high ABV brews. It's also a big plus that the food is pretty darn good. I got some deviled eggs, some jalapeno poppers and a BLT they had on special for the event. Still, I had a pretty healthy buzz going when I left.

I will definitely have Sarazeza's IIPA Festival on my must-do list for next year. We had a great time. No big crowd. Plenty of interesting beers to taste. Friendly, chill atmosphere. Tasty food. And with the Alberta Street Festival going on a few blocks away, it made for a really fun afternoon. I'll be back! 

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