Last night I drank a beer for sheer pleasure and took no notes, knowing that the Oregon Brewers Festival was coming up today. I needed to relax. You know who else needs to relax? Sam Adams.
If ever there was a mayor that needed a beer, it’s probably Sam Adams. Luckily for our mayor, the OBF brewer's parade stopped by city hall to pick him up this afternoon on the way to the festival grounds at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. That didn’t mean our mayor would be getting his beer for free. He had a bit of work to do first.
After saying some kind words about Oregon brewing and speaking of his efforts to promote Portland’s craft brewing in Taiwan, Mayor Sam was asked to tap the first keg of the festival, Full Sail’s bourbon amber. Unfortunately, he broke the ceremonial mallet while pounding in the tap—pent-up frustration, perhaps. Never-the-less, the bourbon amber flowed and the festival was underway.
If you’re heading to the OBF, I have a few suggestions…
Watch the ABV: The first mistake I made today was to start by drinking beers with high alcohol by volume. I didn’t mean to, it just happened. That, in turn, decreased my staying power. Start with beers that have an ABV of around 5% and work your way up. You can also go back to them as palate cleansers between bigger beers. Vertigo Brewing’s Razz Wheat is a perfect beer to start with. Like raspberry sorbet, this beer is light, bright, and refreshing—especially if the weather gets too hot.
About the weather: Dress appropriately. Because I was being a complete ass-hat today, I was wearing an outfit that not only made me look like a total douche, it was also completely uncomfortable. You should always be comfortable when drinking beer. Do not let stylish shoes hobble you before your liver does.
Don’t mind the hollering: It’s only natural at these things. Occasionally a roar will pass through the festival attendees. Don’t ask why it’s happening. Think of it like a pack of wolves. Once one starts howling, the whole lot of ‘em chime in. It’s kinda like that, except for the fact that the wolves are getting drunk.
Rinse often: Rinse your plastic mug between brews. It’s only fair to the brewers and your palate.
Pace yourself: You only have so many tokens. Taste a lot before you commit yourself to a whole mug. Not every beer at the festival is stellar. There are a few “dumpers” as they say in the festival parlance.
Girls get a heavier pour: I’m sure it’s not malicious or anything, that’s just the way things work. And for the ladies, you can almost be guaranteed; a bigger smile means more beer.
Try not to “break the seal”: The porta-poties are on either side of the festival grounds, a good walk through a tipsy crowd if you happen to be somewhere in the center. It’s best not to urinate too soon. “Breaking the seal” will mean more frequent trips to the john and more elbows thrown to clear your path.
Look to the fences: If you’d like a quiet spot to chat and drink, the fences closest to the river are usually the quietest place at the festival. Everyone else will be huddled around the beer lines looking for the next taste.
Know your limits: I’m all for drunkenness, but sloppy drunkenness in a crowd of people is just plain embarrassing… for everyone.
Communicate: Talk with everyone about what they are drinking and what they like. It’s easy to overlook beers that just don’t sound tasty. Sometimes the recommendation of a friend will lead you to a favorite that you never expected.
My favorites so far?
Vertigo, Razz Wheat
Rock Bottom, Eat a Bale o’ Hops