Oregon Brewers Festival 2007 - Preview

I have, several times in the past, given general a preview info about the OBF. If you've never been to it, look here for tips about how to approach the event. I will devote this post to the beers, of which I think there are 27 (literally) about which you ought to be aware. That's better than 72 (and also palindromic, which is somehow pleasing), but you're still going to have to exercise some discretion. For ease of use, I have divided the guide into three categories: Ones to Watch (the beers I'm most interested in), Old Reliables (beers that won't let you down), and New Arrivals (breweries new to the Fest).

Incidentally, I will have a 90-minute opportunity to sample beers on Thursday afternoon. I'll have a tip sheet based on my experiences up by Thursday evening. All right, onto the beers...

Ones to Watch
When I go to the Brewers Fest, I have a strong orientation to the new and/or exotic. This isn't everyone's situation. Some folks will never have tried Pliny the Elder (surely one of the best beers made in America), Terminal Gravity Tripel, or North Coast PranQster, and they should definitely have a taster. But in many cases, this will be my only chance to try, say, Stone Vertical Epic. So with that in mind, here are ten beers I will absolutely not miss:
  • BJ's C'est Bon Blonde. BJ's has developed a minor specialty in Belgian-style ales, and it will be interesting to see what they have whipped up for the Fest.
  • Brewery Ommegang, Hennepin. Okay, I actually know exactly what this beer tastes like--it's an amazing Saison, the only version that is in the same ballpark with Dupont. A world-class beer that I can't recommend more highly.
  • Flying Fish Bourbon Barrel Abbey Double. This New Jersey brewery regularly brews an abbey ale, but this batch has been specially aged in bourbon barrels. Bourbon doesn't always make the beer, but it should be an interesting experiment with a dubbel.
  • Golden Valley Quercus. Golden Valley started out as a winery, so things come full circle here: they've aged this ESB in a pinot barrel. A wonderful inspiration.
  • Klamath Basin Golden. Normally I wouldn't elevate a lowly golden ale to my must-try list, but this little brewpub from Klamath Falls knocked my socks off at last December's Holiday Ale Fest. They earned my interest, and so I'll be trying this offering.
  • Fax's Fanno Creek Farmer's Daughter. Max's is the new brewpub in Tualatin, run by brewer Max Tieger. It's gotten some buzz, so I'm interested to see what they can do.
  • McMenamins Monkey House. Each year, the McMenamins host their own in-house brewing competition, and this year's winner got to go to the OBF. It comes from Chris Haslett at the Fulton Pub, an IPA he called No Mas Lento in the competition.
  • Rogue Imperial Porter. A monster that was nevertheless designed as a "summer porter," it features orangey Summit hops and has an OG of 18.7 (Shakespeare Stout's is 15). Yow!
  • Stone Vertical Epic. The Arrogant Bastards do this very cool thing. Each year, they release a version of Epic Ale to be tasted in a "vertical tasting" in 2012. This year's was released on 7/7/07 and you'll be able to try it here. Dunno what kind of beer it is, but I expect it to be big, aggressive, and green.
  • Widmer Noggin Grog. Each year, the Widmer Brothers brew a beer especially for the OBF, and it is always interesting. Noggin Grog is described as an Imperial Wit, which is apparently all the rage in the brewing world.
Also of note is Bison Brewing's Organic Chocolate Stout (uses actual chocolate), Boundary Bay's Single Hop Pale (Galena hops; this is a good way to learn to accurately identify hops), Deschutes 19th Anniversary Belgian Golden (it'll be in stores soon, but people will still find it hard to resist), and Kona Passionfruit Wheat (it will be sweet and girlish, and have lots of fans--though I probably won't be among them).

Old Reliables
It's likely that a few of the above beers will be duds ([cough] Passionfruit Wheat [cough]). When I get into a run of bad experiments, I turn to the old reliables to save me. Here's a short list I'll keep handy:
  • Bear Republic Racer X. A big fan favorite: 9% abv, massive hopping--what's not to like? (Don't drink it first, though!)
  • Fearless Scottish Ale. Fearless probably brews other beers, but I don't know 'em. This is what they're known for: a malty, creamy beer that everyone loves. (It's not a hoppy palate-wrecker, either.)
  • Celis White. After Pierre Celis packed up and went back to Belgium, Miller sold off his equipment and ultimately the recipes to Michigan Brewing. And so the beer that introduced America to Belgian wits ("white") is back. If you like whites, you have to like Celis.
  • Russian River Pliny the Elder. Oh joy! Liquid strength, liquid hops. The best strong ale in America.
  • Sprecher Mai Bock. This is how they brew in Wisconsin--the German way. Try Mai Bock early and appreciate its subtlety (otherwise don't try it at all)--and see if you can identify the dry-hopping.
New Arrivals
Finally, let's welcome the newbies. These are breweries that haven't appeared at the OBF before. A surprising number of them have just recently opened--evidence of the robust craft beer market. For many of us, this will be the first opportunity to sample these new offerings.
  • Fifty Fifty Brewing, from Truckee, CA, near Reno, opened in May and is just down the road from Donner Lake. If that reference seems familiar, maybe the beer will remind you why: Donner Party Porter, a hefty 6.7% ale that sounds more like a stout. Let us hope the brewery's luck is better than the Donner Party's.
  • Hopworks Urban Brewery is Christian Ettinger's new place, and it's still not open. But the beer is flowing, and this IPA will please people who loved his hoppy Laurelwood beers.
  • Klamath Basin Brewing actually opened in 2005, but that qualifies as "new" for those of us in Portland. (See above for more.)
  • Max's Fanno Creek also opened in May, in Tualatin. (See above for more.)
There are some other breweries that are new to the fest (or back for the first time in years). Briefly: Diamond Knot Brewery from Washington arrives with an imperial IPA. Eel River, founded in 1994, is the country's first all-organic brewery ('99), and will also be pouring an IPA. Grand Teton Brewing is located in the remote town of Victor, ID (north of Jackson, WY), and they offer their GABF-winning flagship, Bitch Creek ESB. And finally, Trumer Brauerei was founded in 1601 in Salzburg, Germany, and because of the water, founded a branch in Berkeley in 2003. They debut their ancient Trumer Pils at Waterfront Park this year.

Stay hydrated, cool, and happy. And look for the balding, skinny guy with a patchy graying beard if you want to say howdy. Cheers!