Oregon Brewers Fest First Reax

The first day of the fest is down, and the second is about to commence. I have some bits and pieces, pics, and even a video to share with you. I'm not alone. John Foyston has coverage (story, pix), as do Angelo, Brady, Jon, and Sanjay.

Now, to the fest. When you take into account the number of sniffs and sips I had from my own beers and those of friends, I managed to sample a pretty broad selection of the beers yesterday. A few that really stood out were these:
  • Ninkasi Helles Belles. This beer is designed to mislead. You want to read the name as "hell's" bells, but it's actually a Munich helles (pr. hell iss, not hels). You assume it's going to be an ale, a hop bomb, a booming Ninkasi beer. Instead, it's a classic helles and the beer that stood head and shoulders above others for me at the fest. A beautifully elegant beer with delicate, soft malts and peppery hopping, crisp and refreshing. It may be the most accomplished beer Ninkasi has ever brewed, and that's saying something.
  • Rock Bottom Zombie Flanders. Van Havig has brewed a Flanders Red called Ned Flanders in the past, and I don't know--but I assume--that this is one of those. Thus the Zombie. But whatever its provenance, the beer is exceptional: slightly sweet, almost chocolatey malts and a sharp, true sour.
  • Boulder Hoopla Pale. Colorado beers take some heat for their lack of hop character in these parts. But David Zuckerman, who cut his teeth at BridgePort before moving east, has put plenty of hop richness into this beer. A great hoppy session.
  • Goose Island Pepe Nero. This is an unusual beer, a peppery dark saison. It's the kind of beer that seems a little one-dimensional at first sip, but which deepens to reveal further layers as you sip. A ruminative pour.
  • New Holland Golden Cap: Speaking of peppered sasions, here's a blond example. Maybe it's the pepper: again, at first I was slightly put off by the beer, which had an astringency that seemed a bit pushy to me. But after a couple sips, it developed into a tang that I started to appreciate and then crave.
There were other interesting experiments I'd say were slightly misguided. Widmer's Foggy Bog Cranberry Ale could have used less cranberry and more ale; Dogfish Head's Black and Red featured both mint and raspberry--and the mint was too much of a weird thing. Finally, Elysian's Idiot Sauvin, made with Nelson Sauvin hops. Some people taste human sweat (me, Jon Abernathy), others get wonderful tropical fruits. In Elysian's, I got both.

Of course, there were lots of other great beers, some which others were raving about. That's the beauty of beer: its diversity pleases all palates. So sample broadly. I will leave you with some sights and video of the Fest.

A McMenamin Hammerhead escorts the ceremonial cask.

I shot this from my still camera and I don't know how to turn it off--so the end is bad. Sorry!

Organizer Art Larrance and parade dignitary Fred Eckhardt.

A rare sighting of Brian McMenamin.

The ceremonial tapping of the keg. (Again, a problem at the end of the vid by the videographer.)

Ninkasi co-owner/brewer Jamie Floyd.

Goose Island master brewer Brett Porter (an alum of both Portland/MacTarnahan's and Deschutes)