The North American Organic Brewers Festival (NAOBF) kicked off yesterday at Overlook Park, and it remains one of the most pleasant annual beer festivals simply due to the fantastic setting. The fest is also on the smaller and more welcoming side, with only a handful of the more popular beers creating long, lingering lines—a markedly different experience than the packed-to-the-gills Oregon Brewers Fest in July or the Holiday Ale Fest in December. The other hook is that all the beers are organic—or mostly (95%) organic, since a beer is not required to be 100% to qualify for organic certification. It's actually very difficult—due to the delicacy of hops and the pesticides needed to keep them free of disease—to brew organic beer, but over 30 brewers have brought more than 50 of their organic beers to the fest to showcase what organic brewing can do.

These aren't the big guns, for the most part; there's a feeling that brewers are saving those for the bigger fests later in the summer. And my impression of organic beer is that while it's often good, sometimes the flavors are more muted than those in non-organic beer. That said, there's a range of subtle beers to be had at this year's NAOBF, and some very good ones in the pack.

Terminal Gravity's organic IPA is among the best of the many IPAs at the fest. It's not their regular, famed IPA which is packed with sweet, puckery, citric hops; this is a darker, more robust, pinier-tasting organic version, and it's very, very good.

Lucky Lab's Overlook Amber is another solid pick, with a serendipitous name (the fest takes place at Overlook Park, but the beer is actually named for their newest pub). It's a dark, stormy amber with a rich and woody malt base that is contrasted by a very strong but not abrasive hop profile.

The new, tiny Natian Brewing has a Makeshift Golden Ale on tap, and it's a very good, mellow beer (a good one to start with before hitting the big IPAs and stouts). The breadcrumb-y malt profile is very delicately balanced with gentle hops and some honey, too, which lends a sweetness and an earthy tone. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for more of Natian's beers.

Upright Brewing has two beers at the fest: a barrel-aged saison that was too weird, convoluted, and perfumey for me to really enjoy, and their bulletproof, excellent Five farmhouse ale, which is as good as ever.

Astoria's Fort George Brewing have a spruce ale that is also very good, with spruce playing the bittering role of hops to excellent effect. It's a medicinal, piney beer that works surprisingly well in the summer sun.

NAOBF continues today and tomorrow at Overlook Park—so go outside and drink some beer.