In terms of overall consistency of beers, it may have been the best ever (even PIB, with its 200+ beers and dozen countries, always has a few losers in the bunch). This may have been due to a selection process--were the beers juried? More likely, it is a reflection of a particular moment in time: breweries don't lightly brew organic beers. Since they take special effort, it seems like breweries take special care with the recipes. We had habenero stouts, gingerbread browns, potato beers, and Belgian IPAs. And they weren't gimmick beers; they were serious and seriously good.When this year's version unfolds, I'm looking at two things: 1) are enough new organic beers available to give the fest variety year-by-year, and 2) is the quality still so high? To the second question, only the tongue and nostrils will decide. To the first, however, a glance at the beer list gives a clue.
What emerges is that while there is a fair diversity among new beers, there isn't so much among breweries--and I guess this isn't surprising. Organics are still a niche, and most breweries still aren't making organic beers. Of the 41 breweries (that includes cider-makers and meaderies), only four are new--and three of those are new breweries. However, of the 78 beers pouring, 45% (36) haven't appeared in the past two Organic fests. Obviously, the organizers are doing a good job of making sure familiar breweries bring new beers.
What I'll Be Trying
It's worth noting that I try beers new to me. That means I won't be sampling a lot of local beers I can get easily, nor beers I've had in past years. If you don't live in Portland or have never been to this Fest, you'll have a larger and/or different palette to work with. That said, here's what looks good:
- Bison Honey Basil Ale (Berkeley, CA). I've really enjoyed Bison's beer, and this is the only one I've missed.
- Dupont Foret (Belgium). True, it was here last year, but it's generally extremely rare to see it on tap.
- Eel River Acai Berry Wheat (Fortuna, CA). Acai (pn: ah sigh ee) berries are native to Brazil, and so you know this must be tasty, right?
- Elliott Bay Coffee Stout (Burien, WA). An oatmeal stout brewed with coffee. Because I'm a stout slut and I can't help myself.
- Hopworks Secession (Portland). Brewed for the fest, so I make an exception to the Portland rule. A beer brewed in the style Abe Goldman-Armstrong is trying to popularize as Cascadian Dark Ale.
- Lakefront Fuel Cafe (Milwaukie, WI). See above.
- Nelson After Dark (British Columbia). A dark mild ale. I hope to add another name to my growing list of great small beers.
- Oakshire (Eugene, OR). Oakshire's sending two beers, yet another coffee stout (Overcast) and an IPA (Watershed), and I haven't decided which I'll try.
- Pinkus Jubilate (Munster, Germany). From the founding brewery in the organics movement (1980!), a dark lager brewed in a throwback style.
- Sam Smith's Fruit ales (Tadcaster, England). The famous English brewery is sending a passel of beer, including cherry, raspberry, and strawberry ales. I may go for the cherry.
I plan to attend Saturday, and I'll be live tweeting. Any of you who go Friday, report back so we know what to look for. Cheers--