I really like beer. More specifically, I'm a woman who really likes beer. And while that may sound like a strange thing to say, there are still lots of women who don't, or who like their beer sweet and fruity (i.e. not tasting like beer) rather than dry, full-bodied and hoppy.
But when it comes to beer festivals, I defer to the wisdom of he-who-is-all-about-beer in this household, and that is my husband Dave. He estimates barbecue and smoker time in terms of how many beers it'll take to get the job done. Vacations? How many brewpubs are there in the area? The day my brother moved into a tiny apartment and asked us to store his kegerator in our basement will go down as one of the great moments in his life. And don't even get me started on how much he loves the beers brewed at Hopworks Urban Brewery. Suffice it to say that the words, "It's me or Christian's beers" will never cross my lips.
We've skipped the last couple of Oregon Brewers Festivals for various reasons, and Dave's regular beer buddy had to work that day, so I volunteered to accompany him with the thought that it might make a good blog post. We parked Chili on the east side of the river and walked across the bridge to the festival, where the crowd was starting to fill the tents where more than 80 craft breweries were pouring their beers.
About half the beers are in the pale-to-golden range, with another quarter dedicated to amber and the rest falling in the red, brown and black range. Dave had a few he'd heard about and wanted to try, though after a couple of pales he was ready to move on, as he said, "to the real beers." Here, in order, are the ones we tried:
- Organic Wild Salmon Pale Ale, Fish Brewing Co., Olympia, WA: Well-made (as are all these beers, so no need to repeat it each time) though unremarkable; a "lawn-mower beer."
- Clackamas Cream Ale, Fearless Brewing Co., Estacada, OR: The brewer asked two local homebrew clubs to submit examples of this style of beer for inspiration, and this crisp, light example was the result.
- Festivale, Terminal Gravity Brewing, Enterprise, OR: This one got the "Ooooh…that's good" rating right off the bat. (My man loves his big beers, all right.) At 8.3 ABV and an IBU of 73, this demands attention. The final word? "Pretty damn nice."
- Radiant Summer Ale, Ninkasi Brewing Co., Eugene, OR: "Very nice." Lots of malt but nice dryness from hops. When we couldn't fight our way back for seconds on the Festivale, this was his next choice.
- Big Eye IPA, Ballast Point Brewing, San Diego, CA: When Dave says an IPA is "not bad" (especially one brewed this far from the Northwest), that's a high compliment considering it's his favorite style of beer. Definitely worth drinking.
- India Red Ale (IRA), Double Mountain Brewery, Hood River, OR: "Really good." We've visited their taproom and it's well worth the drive to sample their excellent range of beers.
- Bitter Bitch, Astoria Brewing Co., Astoria, OR: This was a good beer but, as Dave said, it was "very bitter, more like an IPA" than a traditional English-style bitter. "Despite the name, it's pretty good."
- Organic Chocolate Stout, Bison Brewing Co., Berkeley, CA: One of the pleasures of going to these festivals is the chance to try beers you might not run across otherwise. "Good but not exciting" was the word on this one.