The Session #130: Create Your Own Beerfest

3664495894_75dbf1b0bf_mWell this is fun. Writing my own entry for The Session that I’m hosting/foisting on my fellow beer bloggers. The self-imposed assignment is to write about how (I) would design (my) dream beer festival. Conceptually, I tried to take all the major facets into account: theme, beer style(s), location, attendance, ticket pricing, and my overarching-ampersand that affects the way I think about enjoying beer, writing about beer, and celebrating beer, “and,” as in “beer and.” In other words, this is a festival for beer and what-else?

The level of self-interest in this ain’t veiled. I actually throw a few beer festivals back in Portland where I got to live from 2010 to the summer of 2017. And I may take a stab at one here in SoCal (since beerfests and sun go snifter-in-hand). My first baby is Baker’s Dozen in which I invite a baker’s dozen worth of breweries to make a coffee beer using 13 roasters’ beans and attendees also get samples from 13 doughnuteries (the 4th annual fest will be March 11, 2018). There’s Kriekfest, a celebration of Belgian Kriek-inspired beers or imports from Belgium that takes place in the Columbia River Gorge surrounded by Oregon cherry orchards (mark your calendars for July 21, 2018). For a couple years I had a hoot doing The Rural Brewer, inspired both by visiting all the tiny Oregon breweries in tiny towns far from the greater beer map as well as the running gag in 30 Rock about an off-broadway musical, The Rural Juror. And, what started as and really should’ve remained just a fun what-if exercise in beerfest tomfoolery, City of Goses. (Because beer puns.)

What these tell me is that I clearly love niche beer festivals. And that, both by design in the fact that sales are capped and never would’ve sold far beyond that cap (500), I prefer settings that are cozier. It’s what the Dutch call gezellig. That was my pitch to Portland’s moribund Bazi Bierbrasserie in launching Gluhbier Night—an intimate affair of warm, mulled beers that are a way of life at European Christmas markets (along with the infinitely more popular gluhwein). Beer fests, to me, are like the perfect concerts. It’s not that I’ve never attended stadium concerts (Rolling Stones. Eric Clapton. Even Michael Jackson at Dodger Stadium supporting Thriller!). And it’s not that I don’t love OBF and GABF with their thousands and thousands of revelers. But when you’re at a smaller venue, you feel a sense of camaraderie and anyone there might become your new beer drinking buddy. I’m still friends with someone I met a decade ago at a blues and brews fest, highlighting the power of both beer and music. So for me, when the number of attendees stretches out into the triple digits but not the fours, I think you’re really mashing with steam.

Style-wise, there’s absolutely something to be said for a fest where you get to enjoy as wide a range of styles as brewers can conceive. My palate doesn’t mind bouncing around from bitter IPA to boozy BBA behemoth to puckering lambic-style and then mellow out with an approachable Continental lager. But my dream beer fest doesn’t peddle in that kind of cerveza schizophrenia. I do relish IPAs, stouts, and barrel-aged beers, but there’s no shortage of IPA fests (and IIPA and IIIPA) or dark beer fests or wood-aged ones. I’m not interested in recreating an event that’s been done before. Clearly, I really love coffee beers. And my favorite fruited beers really are cherry ones (sorry Framboise-o-philes, I rarely share your raspberry romance). One beer fest I loved conceptually was Mighty Mites, conceived and curated by session beer statesman Jeff Alworth. Nothing over 4% ABV! Imagine a fest where you can truly sample every beer and walk out on your own accord. It occurred once and then Bazi continued a watered down (I see what I did there) version of it as part of the Hawthorn Street Fair. I also was enamored with Portland Mercury’s Malt Ball, wherein Portland brewers and bands truly sat down and created a beer designed to pair with the band’s sound. They never pulled it off perfectly, but the concept was divine. So for this imaginary fest I’m scheming up, one thing I’m currently crushing on is herbal beers. (Sage beers, anyone?!) Saisons infused with Basil or thyme supplement my love of hops. This is very much in the domain of Beers Made By Walking.

herbgardenAs for my “beer and” thoughts above, since every festival is essentially a giant beer garden, naturally this one would have a giant herb garden. Picture a farmer’s market meets cooking demonstration where you get to learn about ways to use these various herbs: homemade tinctures, remedies, growing tips, and more. Keep in mind I can hardly grow a bed of mint so this is something I could really use.

As for the twin elements of festival location and region the participating breweries hail from, which I cushioned as “locavore vs. globetrotter,” I’m torn on this. Much like the best beer is, theoretically, the one in my hands, the best beer fest is the one closest to me. But in reality, neither is always or frequently true. I’ve seen some beer events championing smoked beers, and I have no clue if this is a thing, but if someone held a Rauchbierfest in Bamberg, I’d be part of that zeitgeist. Still, I’d like to see the best of smoke from breweries in and beyond Franconia. I’m still kicking myself for not getting to Night of Great Thirst, Belgium’s lambicfest, when we lived in neighboring Holland. And even that now includes great representations from breweries as far afield as the USA. So my mythical Herbal Beer Fest for anywhere from 500-999 beer fans is to be held in a gnome’s garden or a færie’s forest. And I want creatures from all around to fly or burrow their way in.

Incidentally, one of the items I put forward to participants for this exercise is to come up with the price of admission. This is something I completely struggle with IRL. As the events organizer, I confess I’d like to make money off of them. As someone who attends way more beer fests than I put on, I like to not spend a ton. I’m convinced that my events are a great value, based on how little I’ve ever made off of them. Maybe I should bring in sponsors. Maybe I should charge more. One thing I’ll never do is offer a VIP session. Unlike, say, flying somewhere where the passengers have nothing in common except a destination, concert goers and festival attendees are in it together. They should be communal and therefore egalitarian. (By way of confession, when I accept media passes to a beerfest, they sometimes include the perks of VIP admission. Perhaps that’s hypocritical, but I’d never pay extra to feel entitled to MORE of the beerfest than my anyone else. Also, I never use all my media tokens and end up sharing them with strangers.) So I don’t like to give anyone special privileges just because they could pay more than the hoi polloi. Maybe that’s just me and maybe I’m leaving money on the table as a result.

Now, am I really going to put on this beerfest? No. Well, never say never. Like I said, I do want to create something here in SoCal that we don’t already have. And despite the bi-annual release of the Stone Brewing collab saison featuring parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, I don’t believe there’s any event just for herbal beers. If anyone reading this wants to partner, you know where to find me. But first, gut check: would you buy a ticket?

Announcing The Session #130 – Create Your Own Beerfest

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The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is our–the global beer blogging community’s–monthly get-together to write from our own respective perspectives on a single topic (of the monthly host’s choosing, which for December, 2017 means me). Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. The series was created and is organized by the duo of Stan Hieronymus and Jay R. Brooks, and more information can be found on the latter’s site.

I’m honored to be hosting for the second time, first back in 2009, and not unexpectedly have landed on a topic near’n’dear to my heart: beerfests. Your mission, should you choose to accept it (and please, as someone who’s come back to The Session fold, I’m pushing to get 20+ fellow beer bloggers to participate in December, and onward) is to write about how you would design your dream beer festival. Posts are due Friday, December 1.

There are actually so many regional, local, and niche beer fests these days, we’re hearing a bit about “beerfest fatigue.” And I get that. Can you really hit 52 of ’em a year if you live somewhere near Portland, San Diego, Denver, Chicago, Philly, NYC, etc? As someone who attends more than my fair share, sadly not all are created equal, but one I may not care for is probably someone else’s annual favorite. Things to ponder:

  • Size matters: When building your own fest, are you striving for a crowd of Oktoberfest proportions in the millions, an epic party of many thousands, or more intimate few hundred?
  • Styles matter: From GABF where over 7,900 beers across every imaginable style (and mash-up) were available for sampling to themed events such as barrel-aged beers or holiday ales, to the plethora of IPA fests and some other single-style fests, would the event of your design be a grab-bag or exhibit razor-sharp focus?
  • Locavore vs Globe Trotter: After deciding what kind of beers to feature, or even before, think about if you’re inviting your local breweries or ones from your Brewery Fantasy League. Are attendees going to be more tempted to support local or to get a taste of beers from breweries they don’t already have access to? Let’s put aside for a second how hard it can be to bring in a brewery that’s not already licensed to distribute in your home town if that’s where this event is.
  • Location, location, and timing: The most important element of a successful event is its location. Followed by location. Followed by timing. When and where is this fantasy beerfest of yours? Is it in a city rife with events (meaning they’ve proven to be popular) or one starved for such a fest (but who’s to say if the locals will support)? And does it take place in the summer at the height of beer drinking season or a less-crowded date where it can shine on its own?
  • Etcetera. There’s a lot more that goes into organizing a beer fest. (I know from experience in producing some that have turned into annual events and some I’ve let slip away as a one- or two-off.) So if you want to opine about your favorite kind of glassware (or hated glasses you always see), ticket prices, food vendors, or anything else that you hate witnessing or wonder why we don’t see something like we should, add that, too. Finally, end with a note about why you can see trying to make this fantasy fest a reality or why you’ll never advance this idea of yours beyond the Session post!

Thanks for participating. Again, please post your blog in the comments below by or on Friday, Dec. 1. Or you can tag me @yaeger when you post on Twitter.

ANNOUNCING BAKER’S DOZEN FREE—FEATURING 13 VICELESS COFFEE BEERS & DONUTS

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Brian Yaeger Presents
brian@beerodyssey.com

ANNOUNCING THE 1st ANNUAL BAKER’S DOZEN FREE—FEATURING 13 VICELESS COFFEE BEERS & DONUTS

Beervana, OR, April. 1, 2017 – Following on the heels of the Third Annual Baker’s Dozen Fest last month comes the festival Portlanders have been clamoring for, which will feature 13 gluten free non-alcoholic beers made with decaffeinated coffee and vegan donuts.

“Every time we do the whole coffee beer and doughnut thing, people chime in on Facebook or Snapchat, “Are any of the donuts going to be vegan?” said beer festival organizer Brian Yaeger. “We get people showing up and asking where the gluten-free beers are, or stating that the event would be more inclusive if the brewers considerately used decaf coffee. And you wouldn’t believe how many people ask if kids are allowed to attend and if so, will there be non-alcoholic drinks for them. So Bakers Dozen FREE is our way of saying, “We hear you. You’re on a gluten free, caffeine free, alcohol free, animal free diet. And you deserve a beer fest of your own.” Up from Baker’s Dozen’s three sessions, this event is expected to sell out and hence will occur over three sessions on Saturday, April 1. To commemorate Baker’s Dozen Free, tickets will be free, with the usual online ticketing fee of $14.99, available at TicketMaster.com/BakersDozenFree.

Admission includes samples of every non-caffeine-infused, coffee-infused, enzymatically-deglutenized, unfermented-beverage and cruelty-free donut bite. Examples of treats, er, “treats” featured at the event include a collaboration between Lunarmollusk Brewing Company and Slumptown Coffee Roasters. Queue up early for the beer everyone will be raving about on Intreppd: a Cracker Barrel-aged, hazy IPA made from flax seeds with zero IBUs and zero ABVs dry-hopped with Folgers flavor crystals. Pair these with whatever’s available from the spinning display case of Voodoo’s vegan offerings.

Bring your partner. Bring your Tinder date. Bring your kids. Bring your Mormon, Celiac, PETA-supporting neighbors. Bring everyone because this is the beer festival everyone’s been clamoring for that doesn’t exclude anybody’s restrictions.* (*Event organizers are working on Bakers Dozen Tree-nut-free for April 1, 2018.)

Pertinent links: Ticketing TicketMaster.com/BakersDozenFree ($Free online, $Priceless at the door.)Facebook: Facebook.com/BakersDozenFree

Facebook: Facebook.com/BakersDozenFree

Twitter: @BakersDozenFreePDX

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The Rural Brewer Spotlight: Siuslaw in Alsea

Alsea is the smallest town in all of Oregon with a brewery. Give or take, 164 people call it home. When I wrote the Oregon Breweries guidebook, I made it to each and every brewery in operation across the state. Several have opened since it was published and it burns me that I haven’t made it to all of those, as well, but, let’s face it, for city folk like me in Portland, it’s not often I find myself in Alsea. Truth of the matter is, I’d never heard of Alsea (named for the Alsea River and/or the Alsea tribe of Native Americans) until Siuslaw BrewingSiuslaw field (named, presumably, for the Siuslaw National Forest that occupies a tiny part of Alsea’s Benton County) put it on my map.

The 2nd The Rural Brewer Fest will be my first time trying their beer. It sounds pretty bad-ass since, get this, Duane and Jesse (the brewer) Miller grow their own hops. OK, a few other breweries do that, too. But they also grow some of their own barley and malt it themselves.

The farmhouse brewery—or rather, forest-house brewery—in Alsea is located in Benton County about halfway between I-5 and the coast 30 miles southwest of Corvallis. As such, its nearest breweries are ones like Block 15 and Flat Tail, but keep going and then the next closest ones are 45 miles farther including Yachats Brewing and Wolf Tree Brewing. Yeah, those are so rural they’re also featured at The Rural Brewer fest (as returnees!)

Wanna see it for yourself? As Miller said via FB DM, “We have a beautiful piece of property on the Alsea River and welcome all who want to stop by and see what we are doing. We brew many styles and continue to perfect our recipes. Hopefully we will meet up sometime!”

Those styles include an IPA and a Double Black IPA. A Blonde Belgian and a Strawberry Rhubarb Ale. There’s a wide range but as for what they’re bringing up to Portland, Grass Clippings is a cream ale brewed with barley grown on the farm (and again, malted there too), using a method that retains the fresh barley flavor.

 

The Rural Brewer Fest Spotlight: Chetco

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Photo: Chetco Brewing’s Facebook page.

Interested in attending the 2nd The Rural Brewer Fest on Sat., July 23 at the Hawthorne Hophouse? Get your tickets here.

Down in Brookings, named for a man named John Brookings, some 6,374 people reside in the picturesque coastal hamlet. That’s about 1% of Portland’s population. But whereas Portland has roughly one brewery for every 10,000 residents, Brookings–home to Chetco as well as Tight Lines and Misty Mountain breweries–boasts a 1:2,100 ratio. Clearly those who’ve followed in John Brookings’ footsteps love local beer. And while the first two aforementioned breweries didn’t even open until 2013, Chetco didn’t take long in establishing itself as a world class brewery by winning a silver medal for Block & Tackle Stout at the 2014 World Beer Cup.

While that onyx ale achieves a unique viscosity after aging for six months, and the resulting notes of baker’s chocolate achieve the right balance between a sweet and dry stout, it hardly seems like a fitting sample to enjoy at a summertime beer festival. Instead, brewer Mike Frederick, who co-founded the brewery with his wife Alex, will be pouring The Chetco Effect. This summer ale is a light, bright ale dry hopped with Sorachi Ace to give it a crisp lemon finish. It’s named for a weather phenom in Brookings (that you can read about here but they lost me at “adiabatic” in the first sentence.)

Mike loves brewing single-hopped IPAs and beers in general. “I just think it’s a fun thing,” he said to me over an IPA. “You get those particular characteristics.” One characteristic of some of Chetco’s beers that no other brewery has is that they boast his homegrown hops. The Fredericks have some 80 bines in their backyard, eleven varietals strong. Within three weeks of his first home brewed batch from the kit his wife, Alex, gave him, not only did he graduate to all-grain brewing but, said Mike, “I had ordered hop rhizomes so I could grow my own.” The brewery’s rooted in their DIY ethos having self-financed. Even the system comes with a good story, a nano-story that Mike sports on the back of his T-shirt. “A good friend lends you his awesome home brewing system. A great friend lets you open your microbrewery with it.” The friend in this tale is James Smith from Arch Rock Brewing up Highway 101, which, incidentally, has some gold medals under/over its belt so if anything The Rural Brewer Fest proves it’s that a beer trip to Oregon’s South Coast is in order!

The Rural Brewer spotlight: Boring

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Interested in attending the 2nd The Rural Brewer Fest on Sat., July 23 at the Hawthorne Hophouse? Get your tickets here.

Some city folk think rural towns are boring. But this place that’s more of a suburb of Portland—15 miles east sandwiched between Gresham and Sandy—is truly Boring. And it’s where John Griffith’s road to becoming a nanobrewer began in back 1989 when he grew obsessed–his word choice–with homebrewing, thanks to the likes of Charlie Papazian.

Griffith has never stopped championing the DIY approach to better beer. After years of dreaming about starting his own brewery, a little fate and a lot of paperwork allowed Griffith to brew commercially in an accessory building on his own property. Visitors used to have to look for the little sign he sets up out front on the sleepy street and then were greeting not by stainless steel equipment but his goats and chickens, who are happy beneficiaries of his spent grains. He launched Boring Brewing with a 5-barrel brewhouse in 2013 and earlier this year, March of 2016, he opened a Taproom (located at the corner of Hwy 212 and Richey Road next to the Boring Station Trailhead; you can get three crowlers for twenty bucks if he puts them on special.) Last year, Griffith produced just over 100 barrels.

Here seems like a fine time to interject: the city’s named after William H. Boring, a Union Army veteran who moved here after the Civil War. The town adopted its name in 1903. Also fun to note: Boring (population 8,000) is the sister city to Dull in Scotland.

As a radiology administrator, Griffith has worked in health care since 1983 and took up homebrewing in ’88. He did take also a weekend course in brewing science at University of California, Davis. In 1993 his porter took first place at the state fair.

The first Boring beer, RyPA, which he’d been honing since it was still the 20th century, went into fermentation tanks in late 2012 and debuted in early 2013. Hoppy Blonde, a true light-bodied blond with just enough of a floral kick to keep it from being, hm, uh . . . banal, has become his bestseller thanks to having more permanent tap handles than the others. Riffing off the name, Griffith introduced Big Yawn IPA as an even hoppier option. “I got feedback on the RyPA,” he said with an implied scratch of his head. “It didn’t have a big enough hop character for the Portland crowd.” For the sake of comparison, Big Yawn makes folks open wide for its 7.5 percent ABV backed with 75 IBUs. This, my friends, is the beer you’ll get to sample again at this year’s The Rural Brewer Fest.

Wooos and Brews: Oregon Brewfest 2014

Illustration: Kenneth Huey

Illustration: Kenneth Huey

This year’s Oregon Brewers Festival has something for every kind of beer lover, and there are many kinds of beer lover. The festival has beers for hopheads, sessionistas, fruitheads and those drunks who always grab the highest-ABV brew on the board—this year that’s Dogfish Head Burton Olde English at 11 percent.

There are 88 beers from 85 breweries. Actually, though, there are about 200 beers to sample this year thanks to the Dutch—more on them in a minute.

Here’s what to expect at the 27th annual installment of Oregon’s biggest, drunkest party.