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Organic Beer Fest 2016

I’ve been invited to this years Organic Beer Fest so huzza! Let’s take a look…

First thought: hey, a mushroom beer!

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.

NAOBF 2014

Despite an overcast sky and a muggy environment, I went out to brave the NAOBF last Friday. The upside was that it never seemed to get too crowded, so I could try any beer I wanted. The downside was that there were beers that looked like this:

Seriously. That…that is not beer. I mean, I understand they claim it is and it may even chemically be beer but that looks like a collection of bull semen. Don’t ask how I know.

So here’s the limited notes on the stuff that I did try:

Lakefront (pictured) Fuel Cafe Coffee Stout: Intense nose but mild coffee flavor and very drinkable and tasty.

Thirstybear Howard St IPA: basic grapefruit IPA, tasty,bitterness restrained in finish.

Three Creeks Greenwash IPA: smellled like farts and tasted like it was burnt. Dumped this.

Loowit Giabolical: Smells like pot, but is thin until the bitter finish. There’s just no there, there.

Ft George Pi: malted strawberry nose, which I liked, dry dirty finish. Nope

Falling Sky Biopiracy: (pictured): tasty, clean, sweet. This was my first beer of the day and a good one to start with.

Ambacht-G++: Hot finish, faint bourbon in nose. Fruit mish-mash flavor and I can’t get into it.

So there you have it! There wasn’t anything stellar but there were definitely some questionable beers. I know that visual presentation isn’t everything and I certainly have brewed beers myself that weren’t clear and sparkling but there were some ales that just didn’t look like enough love and care had gone into them.

Plus, I got a nagging sense that some of these beers were castaways, there because it’s a festival and whatever, people will drink it. I hope that’s not the case but there were so many beers that just didn’t work for me I start to get suspicious.

Organic Brewers Festival

I decided I wasn’t going to write about any beers that tasted like dirt. This was a way for me to simply eliminate beers and write about the non-dirt tasting ones. My plan was in vain however, as most of those beers didn’t have the dirt aftertaste. This was a good thing, as I’ve had to rethink my stance on trying organic beers, however the payoff wasn’t as positive.

Friday was the first is what is being called a heat wave in Portland; 95+ degrees for the next few days. Not a bad time for an outdoor brewing fest, and Overlook Park is a nice place. I’d taken the day off and Fuz was willing to join me, so we walked into the park and this is where things started to go wrong.

First, we had to deal with a jam band called The Grokkers. We knew they were going to be a jam band before we even knew who the band was. I don’t know why hippie shit is associated with organic beers, but there you go. Fortunately, we were early so the band was still setting up but so, unfortunately, were some of the tables serving beer. Fuz’s comment: “Are you telling me a hippie organic fest isn’t starting on time?!
Clearly, we were going to have fun mocking some of the attitudes here. And why not? Why do organic brews apparently only appeal to hippies? If you’re going to make good beer, that ought to appeal to anyone who likes beer.  

That said; the festival was running smoothly; it didn’t take us long to get out 21+ bracelets and cups for drinking. The volunteers setting up the beer lines were working as efficiently and pleasantly as they could, and there was a nice layout of beers, alphabetically set up spaced apart from each other so crowding would be lessened, but I could almost always find the brewery I wanted to try. Plus, there was a large grouping of tables and chairs under the shade of a gigantic tree. This was a very welcome relief, especially since I was still wearing jeans. (Not very smart, I’ll admit.) Let’s move on to what you’re here for though; me talking about beer. For whatever reason, the nose on most of the beers I tried didn’t show up. I’m not sure why-there was a bit of a breeze, so that might’ve affected things, as could my allergies. Suffice it to say, for the most part I had to rely on my tongue and not my other senses for much of this event.

The first beer I took notes on was Eel River’s Triple Exultation Old Ale. It had caramel flavors and an alcohol warmth to it. I enjoyed the beer, but felt like it was something to have on a much cooler day; too much of this beer and it-or I- would’ve felt sludgy. With this in mind, I started looking for more refreshing drinks; if the heat was going to get to me, I figured I ought to play along.

My next selection was Ukiah’s Liberator Bock. The sign said that Ukiah’s was the US’s oldest organic brewery, so I was hopeful that they’d have some promising beers. This bock had a very smooth mouthfeel, and was very easy to drink. It also had some caramel notes, but because as a darker beer it was balanced out by a slight coffee bitterness. Again, I thought this beer was solid, but the sweetness of it didn’t play nice with the weather.

Redstone Meadery’s Black Rasberry Nectar Mead was my next selection. I figured I ought to just go all out and change everything up. Fuz joined me here; the Sunshine Apricot Nectar Mead was also available, but I prefer raspberries. This mead was much more refreshing, with a berry start, and then a rising honey influence as I drank it. The drawback was that this drink tasted a little thin, like a popsicle I’d sucked most of the flavor out of, and was just getting the dregs and ice now.

Things really started to go wrong when I had Walking Man’s Sasquatch Legacy Project Imperial Vienna. I took one whiff of it, and reeled back.
“I think something is wrong with my glass,” I said to Fuz, “My drink smells like Spapghetti-o’s!” (The cups given to us were made of corn and are 100% compostable. I thought that maybe the glass was impacting the beer, but this was the only one with this scent.) Fuz took my drink and took a breath.
Nope. That smells like Spaghetti-o’s.” Ah, shit.
So with a slight grimace, I took a drink. Spaghetti-o’s. I have no idea what went wrong there. I took a 2nd sip. Spaghetti-o’s.
I hate throwing out beer, but really, could anyone be expected to drink that? I was surprised, more than disappointed. I am not a fan of Walking Man, but they generally do solid beers, so this was really stunning to me.

By now, the jam band had started to play, and Fuz commented, “If the lead singer from Live had gotten involved with a Phish knockoff, that’s what these dudes would sound like.” Ugh. This afternoon was rapidly turning into an experience to avoid. There was even a vendor of yurts. Fuck me.

Ever hopeful, I went to Standing Stone’s Double IPA. This, finally, was a beer that really suited the day. Strong pink grapefruit nose, with flavors that mirrored it, but the beer didn’t get bitter. It was very, very refreshing and I was quite thankful to drink something that really caught my attention. I’ll be looking for other beers by them for certain.

Having never heard of the Willamette Brewery, I tried their dunkel next. It was a light, if unassuming brew, that didn’t want to leave much of an impression on me. My notes say that it’s nice, but I may have been in just the mood for something that didn’t leave much of an impression.

As we made our way toward the exit, Fuz and I came by the table for Pinkus brews, from Germany. Impulsively, Fuz tried their Alt beer, and we were both in for quite a surprise. First, it had the look of a lager; sunny yellow and very clear. I had expecting something much maltier and denser, along the lines of Rogue’s Dead guy, but it wasn’t even close. It didn’t taste quite like a lager, though, more like a pilsner. It was clean and very, very refreshing. It wasn’t quite anything we’d had there, and we were quite pleased. The sun was insisting that we go, so we went to our last stop. 

The final beer was Crannog’s Hell’s Kitchen Potato Ale. Fuz joined me with their Back Hand of God Stout. I wasn’t expecting much, because a potato ale? Really? Potatoes are known for their neutrality of flavor, and well…this beer bore that out, but not in a good way. One of the blandest beers I’ve had, there weren’t hop notes to speak of, nor yeast influence that I could tell. Fuz, unfortunately, got the worse end of the deal; the Back Hand of God was not a good beer. I had a sip and my face corkscrewed with and unpleasant bitter flavor that I almost spit out. Neither of us finished out beers, and as we walked out we talked about what a waste it was that the Back Hand of God (which we both loved as a name) was so unpleasant to drink.

On our way back to the car, we saw a dog tied to a tree, alone and wishing that someone would play with her. I couldn’t be positive, but I was pretty sure that she was waiting there in the shade while her owner went and drank.
“Goddamnit, that’s fucking wrong,” I said. Fuz agreed, and that kind of put a capstone on our afternoon; jam bands and bad pet owners coupled with hot weather and mostly uninspiring beers. Can’t win ’em all.