Monday, July 29, 2013

Oregon Brewers Festival

A taste of awesome
Crowded. Hot. Expensive. Still, there's something amazing about a huge mass of beer lovers lined up to taste some of the best beers made anywhere in world. The lines can be long on the busy weekend days, but there's a pitcher full of wonderful waiting for you at the end. It's kind of like Disneyland for grown ups. The Hoppiest Place on Earth, if you will.

We're talking the Oregon Brewers Festival.

The festival is held every year in June at Portland's Waterfront Park and you get to take in a fantastic view of the river and downtown while sampling dozens of fantastic brews. People watching is fun in Portland. Lots of interesting folks--many of them at least partially illustrated. The locals are friendly and the vibe is relaxed. Portlanders know their beer, so you can bet that the longest lines lead to something pretty tasty.

In previous years, the souvenir tasting mugs have been made of plastic. Not very eco-friendly for a Portland event, I'm just sayin'. I'd typically see dozens of those plastic mugs at Goodwill soon after the festival. Gratefully, they provided real glass tasting vessels this year (for $7.00), which created some minor controversy. Some overly-cautious folks with hyperactive imaginations foretold of an inebriated throng slinging around breakable glasses, resulting in a stream of blood flowing into the river and filling the local hospital emergency rooms in no time flat. Of course, that didn't happen. My taster glass now occupies an honored space on my bar.

This would mark my fourth time at the Oregon Brewers Festival and I'm officially marking off the years of my exile in Portland with my attendance at this event. I finally have this one wired: obscure craft brewery t-shirt--check; multi-pocketed shorts for holding fists full of tokens and wads of cash--check; unique hat so my crew can spot me in the crowd--check; beer tap scepter--check.

This is the freaking Pacific Northwest Oktoberfest. The biggest, bestest, baddest beer festival in Oregon and perhaps the entire country. You MUST go early if you want to get in on the best beers. There were so many of them this year, my only problem was staying on top of documenting them all. (How DO young people work those smartphones so quickly? Takes me 20 minutes just to take a beer pic.)

Yes, it gets insanely crowded during peak hours. Yes, you have to pass through a gauntlet of panhandlers to get to the gate. Yes, you have to park a mile away if you don't take the MAX. Yes, they only take cash. But, if you're a local, you should know these things. Get there early, take the day off on Thursday or Friday, find the Buzz Tent, and leave the weekend dregs for the tourists.

I got some VERY generous taster pours during my trips to the tables. A please and a thank you still goes a long way with some of the volunteers. Taster tokens were a buck each and unused tokens are still good next year! I still have a few. Tip: they're great for propping up wobbly table legs.

See you in 2014, OBF!

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