As I mentioned on Monday, I was the head steward for the Oregon Brew Crew’s Fall Classic competition again, which had somewhere around 330 (but maybe even 360!) entries for judging this year.
And once again, I stole the best of show stewarding for myself. I hustled a picture while the judges plowed through the twenty-five best of show entries, starting with a creme ale, which the judges liked on first impressions. And second.
But as the styles got whittled down, some due to obvious flaws (diacetyl being mentioned more than once) others because the judges had to start cutting things down (a beer sparged with donuts could not find a champion)…the creme ale found itself cut.
In the end, nits were picked as I listened to a discussion between an American brown ale and a bock. Once again, I was impressed by the judges’ ability to talk about the beer itself, separate from their style preferences. I did my best to remain impartial but as a fan of brown ales, I was pulling for it (although both were delicious). It’s hard to root against a beer that’s delicious and that bock was quite tasty.
Still, I’m glad the brown took the big prize, especially if that means more brown ales.
Second thought: huh, the rest of these styles don’t really lean towards the experimental side. But that’s OK! Organic beers tend to have a tougher row to hoe in my experience, because “organic” is sometimes valued over “tasty” and can frequently mean “experimental weirdness”.
While that has been changing, I think it’s a positive sign that many of the beers are straightforward in style (at least, it seems like that from my browsing) because that’s how you hook people: with something that is just as good as the regular stuff, just different.
Once you have the basics down, then you can let ambition kick in.
I am hoping to be there the 26th, with a post up later that day on what I had.
I had a realization walking through the 2016 festival this year: so long as the crowds aren’t insane, I really enjoy it. Because it’s one of the few places in Portland where I see people from different cultures coming to share beer. During an era of American politics where thick lines are being drawn to divide us from them, an event that’s just an “us” is nice to attend.
As always, these are the lightly edited notes. If I don’t think the description does enough, I’ll try to say whether or not I think one should try the beer. If there are mistakes, please forgive me, as I’m hurriedly trying to get these up so they may be of use to other festival goers.
Old Town Brewing, Kentucky Refresh-Mint: It has a mint nose, and a hint of lime at the finish. The goal was to make a mint julep beer and…well, I have to say they did it! I like it-YMMV.
Jing-A Brewing, Eightfold Path imperial stout: nose of chocolate pudding mix, dry, a little sweet. The flavors mostly match this, with a bitter chocolate note on the finish. But…this is a a collaboration with Elysian & 10 Barrel which means one of two things: This is a subsidiary of ABInBev, or it’s a way for Jing-A to get their way into the US. If it’s the latter, then the bummer is that I don’t know what a true-blue JA beer tastes like. If it’s the former…hey, it’s a good beer.
Collaborator, We Rye’d Like Kings, session IPA: This is a pretty subtle beer. Low ABV, lots of hops but nothing overwhelming, a little grainy flavor in the middle. It’s meant to be a really drinkable beer and it is.
North Island, IPA: NW IPAs have really taken a hold across the world, is what I draw from this beer from Japan. It’s pretty solid for what it is though! Grapefruit bent with a little malt in the middle before the hops take over, it’s a solid example of the style.
Shonan, Wiezenbock: This has a bitter finish that I’m not sure should be there. And I don’t get a bit of toasty malt flavors either. I think they overhopped it. There’s a creamy start to this beer that doesn’t quite jibe either; all in all, pass.
Doomsday, Cascadia Fault CDA: nose hints of gasoline and the finish is, once again, emphasizing the burnt roasted quality of the malt instead of the hops. I was hoping for something better, because the name of the brewery is kinda rad, but this beer is just not a good take on the style.
Seaside, Honey Badger Blonde: The honey badger may give no fucks, but this beer is entirely fuckable. That…didn’t come out quite right. This is a light, crisp ale with a solid malt nose and a super clean finish. There’s a nugget of sweetness in the middle and it’s an eminently drinkable ale.
Melvin, 2×4 DIPIA: This is practically the definition of an exceptional juicy double IPA. Grapefruit nose, sweetness on the finish that’s strong enough to meet in a fine handclasp with the hoppy bitterness: have some.
Riverbend, Oregonized Love: It’s difficult to not let the good be the enemy of the great at this moment. Is this a bad IPA? No. But after the Melvin, it has too long a road to climb to meet the standard of the 2×4. I’d say give it a shot-but early.
Pints, Lemon Curd ESB: Lemon and a little spiciness on the nose. The lemon flavors pair quite nicely with the maltiness of the beer, with the lemon touching in enough at the finish to keep the beer really crisp. Recommended.
Squatters, Bumper Crop: this has a great lavender nose and is super easy to drink. Sweet, with a little herbal pulse on the finish; I’m really enjoying this beer.
Brauerei Nothhaft, Rawetzer Premium Export Festbier oktoberfest/wiesn. This is exactly what it say it is. Complaint factor zero. It’s light, drinkable and a pleasant way to finish this festival.
Twenty nine: that’s the number of breweries coming to the OBF this year that haven’t been there before. That’s a lot of beer to try and I’m pretty sure I won’t get to it all. On the upside, I’ve had beers from some of the local brewers already, so that narrows things down a little bit.
Still, looking at the list, there’s a pretty broad range of breweries, including a bunch from outside the US, which is super cool. The styles are, predictably, tilted heavily towards lighter fare; a lot of sessionable IPAs, lagers, fruit beers and the like. There’s still plenty of options though. So long as the beers are tasty, I don’t really mind the summertime bent.
I’ve got a press pass to the OBF this year and will be attending on the 29th. While I’ll be off all next week, I hope to have a post up either late the 29th or early on the 30th so people attending on the weekend can take whatever recommendations I’ve got. I’m not going to pick out any one brewery this year beforehand, because my process tends to lean more on “Is there no line for this beer? Let’s have that!” than “Hunt and acquire this.” What can I say? I don’t think lines are good for beer.