Editor’s note: Bullpen member Amy O recently went to Portland and found just a few things to write about. I know, big shock, lots of beer stories from Portland. Here’s the first article about a beer festival that’s being added to my personal beer bucket list. — Stoutmeister
Rose City (or City of Roses), Rip City, Stumptown, Bridgetown, P-Town, PDX … the list goes on and on. Whatever you want to call it, Portland, Oregon, really is a beer Mecca that consistently ranks in the top three beer towns in the United States. I lived there for six years and I go back and visit a few times a year, usually in conjunction with one or another of my favorite Portland beer festivals. There are many. One of my favorites was last weekend, the Portland International Beer Fest (the festival also has a “twin” Seattle International Beer Fest.)
This year the three-day festival returned to a previous, larger location in Holladay Park. The park has plenty of space and shade, and is easily accessible via a quick ride across the river from downtown Portland on the MAX light rail. Unlike other Portland beer festivals, the lines at this event are short for entry and for beer. As is common, attendees pay an entry fee for a glass, wristband, and a starter amount of tickets. Additional tickets are available for purchase. Samples start at one ticket per four-ounce serving, with a majority of the samples only requiring one or two tickets. A very limited number of beers can cost up to seven tickets, and price is based upon the amount the beer costs the organizers.
There are hundreds of beers at this event. Most of the foreign beers were from Germany, Belgium, and England, although there was representation from as far away as New Zealand. Pilsner Urquell sponsored a beer garden with $3 pints of their beer. I spoke with a very nice Pilsner Urquell representative from San Francisco who explained their new freshness initiative involving faster shipping, better packaging, and improved temperature control. The goal is to be able to offer beer that is of similar quality to the beer served at the factory in the Czech Republic. It did improve the flavor, in my opinion. Domestic craft beers were largely from western states (mostly Oregon, Washington, California, and Colorado) but there were some from the Midwest and East Coast as well.
Our group of 10 people sampled a wide variety of beers on two visits — Saturday evening and Sunday midday. Despite the fact that it is difficult to get even two people to agree on anything, we were actually able to come to a consensus on some clear favorites. The top five (no particular order) in our crowd were: “Chrome Satin,” a California Common/Steam Beer style made by Hilliard’s Beer in Seattle (5.7% ABV); “PranQster” Belgian Golden from North Coast in Fort Bragg, Calif. (7.6% ABV); “Barrel Aged Mayan Cave Bear” Belgian Strong Dark Ale from Sound Brewery in Poulsbo, Wash. (10% ABV); “Hofbrau Munchen Marzen” Marzen/Oktoberfest Style from Germany (6.3% ABV); and “Wild Turkey Barrel Stout” from Anderson Valley, Calif. (6.9% ABV). It’s also a tradition dating back many years now that we all get at least one “Black Boss” Baltic Porter from Poland (9% ABV) at every Portland International Beer Fest. (Editor’s note: I’ve seen PranQster and Hofbrau available at stores in New Mexico, and the Wild Turkey Barrel Stout may also be available as Anderson Valley does distribute here. Franz Solo will probably track it down at some point. — S)
Sadly, there were no New Mexican beers at this event. I would love to see more representation from New Mexico breweries at out of state beer festivals. We may lack volume, but certainly not the quality. All of our top breweries produce beer that can easily match up, so I believe it’s high time to show them off to the world! The International Beer Fest is a great place to start. I mean, after all, some people in this country have no idea New Mexico is even part of the United States. At least I was never asked to “show my passport.” That has happened to me once or twice in the States, though, thankfully never in Oregon.
— Amy O