The Friday afternoon crowd at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland, Oregon was anxious but relaxed. The gray haze burned off by late afternoon and the temperature was just right for sampling the 72 beers from brewers around the country invited to participate. Many improvements were noticeable over years past. There were entrances on all four sides of the fenced-in event area and ID checks went fairly quickly. Mug ($3) and drink ticket ($1) booths were centered in between the two long open-sided tents, with pouring tables only along the West side of the perimeter. Pour sizes have shrunken from previous years to the current four (4) ounces for one token and 12 ounces for three. The tents were marked as Non-Smoking and most people followed the rules, allowing maximum enjoyment for those wishing to taste the beers. Designated smoking areas were marked along the Eastern sides of the perimeter fence. Folding chairs were lined up along the wooden tables under the tents as well as in sunny and shady areas in between the tents and in front of the stage. With temperatures in the mid-80s, there were rarely any empty seats. Food vendors also occupied the center area and included Der Rheinlander & Gustav's, Garbonzos, Greek Cusina, Hayden's Lakefront Grill, Kells Irish Restaurant, Raccoon Lodge & Brewpub, and Truly Med. I found that Salmon Pizza complements the numerous local IPAs on hand. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission seems to be developing a humane side, children were allowed to accompany their parents throughout the festival area. Beer was poured only to people displaying an ID stamp received at the entrances. There was minimal uniformed police presence and the highly visible Alcohol Monitors seemed to monitor things just fine without diminishing anyone tasting pleasure. No dogs were allowed inside but cyclists were accommodated with a secured bicycle parking area.
This year saw a contingent representing Hawaii's Aloha Brewers Guild. A nice touch for those who can't get out to the islands to see what's brewing there. The Longboard Lager from Kona Brewing was medium-bodied with an even balance but big mouthfeel, where a light hops came across only into the finish. The Macadamia Nut Brown Ale from Ali'i was light brown with a perfumy aroma and an interesting pronounced flavor that is like no other "nut". The Kauai Sunset from Keoki featured a complex nutty flavor with a slight hoppiness toward the finish. The Mehana Red Ale from Mehana Brewing Company seemed a bit bland with a thin body matched to a slight malty flavor. The Uli Uli Ale from Waimea offered a nice malty flavor.
Other standouts included the Bridgeport Rye'no, clear amber in color, its light hop aroma was accompanied by a light caramel malty flavor that led to a smooth dry finish. The Blackberry Porter from Wild River Brewing offered a combination of dry chocolate flavor and tart blackberry to produce a nice light-bodied brew. The Drunkin Squirrel from Casey's Restaurant and Brewery began with a pronounced bourbon aroma and flavor that dominated the light malty character. The IPA from Terminal Gravity Brewing was big and malty with a great sharp hoppiness. From Lucky Labrador Brewpub came the Crazy Ludwig's Ale. A great synergy of hop bitterness and malt, this even-balanced, medium-bodied brew was very drinkable. The Vitzen from Angel City was a hazy gold with a refreshing sweet/spicy wheat flavor. The Maximus from Lagunitas featured a great hop aroma from its four constituent hops. Widmer's Killer Bee Mead started with a strong aroma that was followed by a smooth, mellow sweetness with a slight tartness. The 7.5% Rogen Weisen from Mt. Angel was a full-bodied brew with plenty of malt, along with a slight wheat crispness and characteristic rye dryness in the finish. The big Badger Blonde Bock from Raccoon Lodge Restaurant & Brewpub leads with hops but finishes with the expected maltiness. At 8%, the Saquatch Strong Ale from Wild Duck offers a rich malty aroma and flavor where the alcohol warming comes through in the finish.
Another great feature this year was the inclusion of an Oregon Brewer's Guild tent where beers from various members would rotate in four shifts throughout the days. This gave festgoers the opportunity to try additional beers from across the state. The Mt. Angel Root Beer Garden featured hand-crafted sodas for the enjoyment of those of all ages. There were "compatible" vendor booths selling merchandise and offering information on the brewing process and the components of beer but, unlike last year, no obnoxious News Talk Radio booth destroying the ambiance with its 90 decibel babbling. The grounds were grassy, fairly dry and wheelchair accessible. The port-a-pottys at the North and South ends were adequate through most of the three days and the cannabis scented air fresheners were a nice touch. 5-gallon water stations were near the corners of the tents and a few rinse buckets were on hand. An increased visibility of these buckets might have helped convince people not to pour out their unwanted beer wherever they happened to be standing. The great sunny weather on Saturday and Sunday must have accelerated consumption since a hand-full of breweries ran out early. Fortunately, local brewers stepped up and offered a variety of their wares as substitutes so no tap handles went unused.
This year's event saw the majority of breweries bring some of their more full-flavored beers and the vast majority of the crowd seemed to appreciate that. The Oregon Brew Crew and it volunteer force of over 1200 are to be commended for organizing such a large but still enjoyable festival in spite of all the natural and artificial obstacles that must be overcome. Once again the great Portland July weather was accommodating and only encouraged visitors to this modern city to discover the myriad quality craftbeers available throughout the region.
|The Place to Taste||The Band Played On||Monitor This!||Here to Serve||A Banner Year|
Oregon Brewers Festival 2000
Tom McCall Waterfront Park
July 28, 29, & 30, 2000
Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - August 2000
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