Monday, July 20, 2009

12 beers not to miss at the 2009 OBF

The 2009 Oregon Brewer’s Festival begins Thursday at noon (10 AM for those attending the Brewer’s Breakfast, and Wednesday at 6 for Brewer’s Dinner-goers), and Oregon’s summer weather is cooperating by giving us a real beer-drinker’s forecast. I suspect I’ll be as thirsty as I need to be once those taps open.

The thing is, no matter how many hours I spend at the Festival, I never hit all of the taps. This year, with 81 beers flowing in addition to the 20 or so poured in the extra-charge “Buzz Tent”, the likelihood of hitting them all is even more remote. The best we can hope for is to try the ones we’re unlikely to find on Portland’s nearly infinite supply of taps in its rich supply of awesome neighborhood pubs.

Thus, it’s good to have a game plan in mind before you wet your whistle. Rather than numbing my taste buds with four ounces of each brew, I prefer to taste strategically. I look for:
- New beers from consistently good breweries. If the places that brew up my favorites are brewing up something new, I know I can expect a quality taster from them at the fest.
- Beers from new OBF participants. The OBF staff works hard to mix up the line-up of breweries and to balance local with long-distance contributors.
- Experimental beers – within limits. I want to know what spelt beer is like, but I also know what I don’t like (sour beers, fruit beers, and really really light lagers). Selective support of experimentation keeps your taste buds fresh, especially after taking a beating from all of those 100-IBU IPA’s.
- Thirst-quenchers. When all is said and done, the OBF is a hot, dusty place. Crisp, hoppy beers go down well.

Luckily, for the past three years I’ve had the good fortune of getting to know the OBF beers in advance by writing the descriptions for the program. Unfortunately, I don’t get to taste them all before writing about them, odd as that may seem. The ones that are special to the OBF or that are being shipped from the east coast, for example, simply aren’t available, so I go by what the brewer tells me.
Based on that information, here are the top dozen beers I want to make sure I don’t miss at this year’s OBF:

Deschutes Brewing “Miss Spelt” – a great brewery and a unique, special-to-the-fest formulation. It might well be my first stop on the tour.

Eel River Organic Acai Berry Wheat – I know, I said no fruit beers, but this one is truly original, and Acai berries are good for you, right? And it’s organic.

Elysian Loser Pale Ale – Elysian is introducing the Sorachi Ace hop, grown in Yakima from Japanese stock. I’m curious.

Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA – A new brewery from a long-established California company, I want to see what they’ve got.

Laht Neppur Neddy’s Brown Nut – Another newcomer just three years onto the scene, and brave enough to bring a dark ale to an IPA-crazy event.

Kona Kailua Kona Coconut Brown Ale - Sounds sweet and mellow, perfect for when the sun goes down and the air gets just a touch chilly.

Marin Brewing Bluebeery Ale – Once again violating my fruit beer rule (what are rules for, anyway?), I want to see if their attempt at using blueberries in an ale works any better than mine.

Moylan’s Pomegranate Wheat – Okay, shut up about the fruit thing, okay? Come on, it’s pomegranate. I have to know. Don’t you?

Rogue Latona Pale Ale – It’s a one-hop, one-malt brew. Crazy. It might be one-dimensional, and it might knock my socks off. Let me at it. Besides, Rogue always rocks.

Three Creeks Stonefly Rye – One of Oregon’s newest breweries, with Dave Fleming (formerly of the Lucky Lab) at the helm of the brewery, how can we go wrong?

Vertigo Razz Wheat – Another Oregon newbie, which once again makes me violate my no-fruit rule. Besides, Oregon raspberries are awesome, and I’m sure my girlfriend will finish this one for me if I don’t like it.

Widmer KGB Russian Imperial Stout – you can only get this one at the Gasthaus, and I don’t get there often enough. And it’s just. Incredible. Beer.

There you go – my first 12 stops. What are yours? (Check or for a complete list with descriptions.)


Anonymous said...


Be warned that the Eel River Organic Acai Berry Wheat is really flavored with pomegranate also!

Anonymous said...

Which one are you having twice? That's only 11 beers..

Bill Schneller said...

What no Collaborator Saison Christophe? It's newly reformualted for the festival (spices down, IBU's up slightly)although I heard from Ike that it may not be as dry as the original (dang yeast just won't go down to 2 Plato this time). I'll definitely keep your suggestion in mind. See you there.

Anonymous said...

Backing up my pomegranate statement: