Drink Organic

30 Jun

Let the beer festivals begin! July is craft beer month here in Oregon, and literally, there are more beer events, activities, and festivals than there are days in the month. Did you say, “but it’s not July?” Good point. See, there are so many events, that they have to spill over a little. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. I know, I know…the curse of the blessed.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. It does, however, require you to prioritize: pick your favorites? pick a couple new events? a little of both?

Unless of course you have nothing to do or accomplish during the month of July, in which case it will be totally acceptable to stumble from event to event drunk, show up hungover, just to get drunk again, stumble into The Original to take the Poutine Challenge, and then half mumble, half sleep the whole way home on the bus/MAX, then get up the next morning, pound a pot of coffee, splash water on your face and do it all again. Thirty more times. Come to think of it, I hope you have nothing to do in the month of August, either, as you will need to take a liver recovery vacation.

Well, unfortunately, that’s not me. I have to work for a living. And if you speak to my husband or co-workers you know that on a regular basis, I am like a hibernating beer in his den in the morning. One tiny disturbance may awaken the beast.  And by regular basis, what I really mean is: Every. Morning. Multiply that tenfold if I am hungover. So, hitting up all the beer events in July wouldn’t only destroy me; it would destroy all of you.

So, I have to prioritize, and at the top of my list falls the NAOBF: North American Organic Brewers Festival.  It would probably look better if I said it was my favorite because organic is better than non-organic. I generally support, and do think organic is better, but that’s not it. And it isn’t because organic beer tastes better, because sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. Mostly it is because there is enough space to accommodate the crowd (overlook park), and because in past years the beers have been organized in alphabetical order.

This last part many of you may have overlooked, but being able to look at your program, beeline it to the right beer tent, and get back to your table in 5 minutes, cannot be underestimated! I hate having to search the signs for ten minutes just to find the beer I am looking for. This year it was a bit disappointing to find they had abandoned this method. I assume it is because they have even more beers, or they showed up late, and they needed to just get them served, but you can’t underestimate the efficiency and effectiveness of organization!

On top of being one of the most organized beer festivals in Portland, (this is a big deal, because overall I would say the standard in Portland / Oregon is not set high enough, but that’s a discussion for another day), they have the best location, the sun always makes an appearance, and they get a good rep of food carts because of all the space (as I type this, I am noshing on a delicious burger from Violetta). They also admit for free, so everyone can come and hang at the park, even if they don’t drink. Oh yeah, and they serve good beer!

And that is what you are here to read about – what I am drinking and what is worth drinking if you show up. Here goes. We got to meet up a little early with the Beer Goddess herself, Lisa Morrison, for a little tour around the beer tents. So, we tried more samples this year than in years past. Including several ciders. Overall there was a nice range of beer styles – from ciders to saisons to fruit beers to belgian strongs to IPAs. There should be something for every palette. Here is what the three of us drank:

AlamedaYellow Wolves of Thailand:  Nice fruit with a bit of sweetness, the mango wasapparent amid all the earthy grassy bitter hop.  The basil was very noticeable, adding to the spice of the hop, which finished with just a hint of ginger.

AmbachtGolden Rose Farmhouse Ale/Belgian Specialty: Even at a FG of 1.008, it still has some body left, and there is a nice light bit of sweetness.  Different from a lot of the beers here at the fest that were dry summer beers.

BrunehautBlonde/Belgian Blonde (Gluten Free):  The only 3 ticket beer at the fest and it is nothing special, smooth and easy drinking but nothing to rave about. It was very malty with just a hint of spice.

Captured by PorchesBavarian Hefeweizen:  Great body and that super-banana one would expect from a hefeweizen. A fantastic beer to enjoy.

Commons Brewery, Haver Bier/Oat Saison:  Crisp , spicy, refreshing and pleasant light aroma.   The effervescent and dry finish make this a multiple pint drinker.  My favorite beer from Commons.

Elliott Bay BrewingOrganic Olde Burien 600 Malt liquor:  This reminds me of the  Lompoc 1060EZ.  Smooth and very easy drinking. Want to get fucked up and make an ass of yourself in public…belly up to a few glasses of Olde Burien.

Finnriver Farm & Cidery,  Dry hopped cider:  I learned something today, a hopped cider is an old European drink known as a Graff.  And this is the first time I ever tasted such a beverage.  Great aroma, the cascade hops come through nicely adding some really nice grassiness to the cider.  The finish is dry and crisp and while I like ciders, many times I find them to be a one pint and done, but here, Finnriver makes a cider I could sip on all day.  I know it is a beerfest but damn this is good. Their Black Currant cider is also worth a try; extremely dry with a tartness like that of cranberry juice. You might serve that along side Thanksgiving dinner.

Fort George Brewery, Spruce Budd Ale:  Good beer, light sweetness upfront before you are met with the spruce.  Now this is definitely a personal preference, not for everybody, but I really enjoy one from time to time.  Now compared to the king of the category, a brewery past…Siletz River, it was not up to par, but if you have never tried one and you are adventurous, give it a taste. This one is light on the palette despite the strong spruce and floral nose.

FOTM Brewing, Shocks of Sheba:  This IPA had a really hefty pallet to pair with a strong hop but the balance of the two really work. This beer finished with a bitter hop and left me interested in trying more of the beers from this relatively new brewery.

HUBAce of Spades:  Great name and I know you are singing Moterhead right now but on to the IPA.  Good IPA for the hop lovers out there.  I liked it a lot. It maybe could have used a bit more body to balance the 100IBUs, but this is not a flaw but a personal preference.

Laht Neppur Peach Hefeweizen: It definitely had the taste and body of a hefeweizen, which is a bit too much for me. However, it did have a nice, light peach flavor at the front end. If that is your thing, I think you’ll really enjoy this beer.

Lompoc BrewingCluster Fuggles:  This is exactly what I expected from an IPA made with these hops: classically English.  Solid IPA, as expected from Lompoc.  I had a whole glass and it just got better as it warmed.

Logsdon Farmhouse AlesKili Wit:  Interesting/funky flavor.  A bit perfumey, with obvious coriander notes.  Noting that I really like Logsdon, this one is just so/so.

Mt. Emily Ale house, Wildfire Red Ale: This definitely had a strong malt profile with nice body, and just enough hops to balance the malt out with a little bitterness. I really enjoyed this, but by the bottom of my glass, I was ready for something a little crisper and hoppier on such a nice summer day.

Natian Brewery La Luz/Organic Summer Ale: This was the perfect summer ale. I could drink this pint after pint. This was a smooth, light summer beer with a little bit bigger body than others and a little more complexity. There was a lot of lemon citrus balanced by a light fruity, caramel malt and just a touch of spice and bitterness.

Pints BrewingGreen line Organic Summer IPA:  Hoppy, spicy hoppy.  The light body and smooth IPA was in my opinion just too dry.  I thought it took away from the citrusiness the Amarillo hop can bring to an IPA.  Again this is a personal preference and if you like a dry, crisp IPA, do not be dissuaded from trying this beer.

Rock BottemDirty Hippy:  Sorry Rock Bottom, the name is too descriptive and tasted like licking a dirty hippy.  This is the only beer I recommend skipping but more power to you if you are brave.

UintaWYLD:  Had this pale at the Hawthorne Hophouse and loved it.  This batch is a bit different, and didn’t quite live up to my previous experience. The hops did not show as well and it was a bit too sweet.  But I really don’t expect each batch of a craft brew to taste the same – where is the art in that?

Wandering Angus, Anthem: Also a dry hopped cider, this one was much fruitier on the nose and palette. It had a true apple flavor with just a hint of hop. It was very good, but not as sessionable as the Finnriver.

Wandering Angus, Dry Oaked Cider: This one had a funky aroma and taste. Michael loved it and thought it would go great with food. Miranda was done after two sips.

Widmer Brothers BrewingBrother Nature:  Nice and easy drinking pale, even at 6.1%.  Nuttiness does come through in the finish.  Not my first choice of beer at the fest, but for you non-hopheads, this just might be your beer.

Overall, a lot of the IPAs and Pales were trending toward a drier, more spicy bitterness and away from the piney, citrus NW hops. As we are seeing overall, there were a lot of farmhouse and fruit beer experiments – some worked, some failed. We didn’t get to try everything, but if you are looking for suggestions, I think this would be our top five worth trying:

  1. Finnriver Farm & Cidery,  Dry hopped cider
  2. Commons Brewery, Haver Bier/Oat Saison
  3. Natian Brewery La Luz/Organic Summer Ale
  4. Alameda, Yellow Wolves of Thailand
  5. Lompoc Brewing, Cluster Fuggle
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