Today marks the run-up to the Oregon Brewers Festival (OBF) and, at least for me, anticipation is running high. The hope is, having attained the focus and skill necessary to talk knowledgeably about Oregon beer, I’ll be less doe-eyed and overwhelmed as I traverse this year’s OBF selections. I’ve got three days to cram.

Luckily, I have a crib sheet. I’ve been sent a preview of the OBF program, which means that I’ll be able to do a bit of research about the Oregon beers on tap at the festival before they hit my glass. I’m pairing the program preview with the Beer Judge Certification Program style guide so I can have a better idea of what I’m looking for.

Hit the jump for a sneak peek at what Oregon brewers are bringing to this year’s OBF! Also, notes on Hair of the Dog’s Fred and an awesome pickled rhubarb recipe.

Before I post a few of the Oregon brews that will be represented at OBF, I’d like to say a word or two about Hair of the Dog’s Fred.

I cranked this beer open last night with high hopes, and I was not disappointed. In short (for the lazy and annoyed), it was worth trying.

Fred is probably the most unique beer that I’ve had all month, occupying a space in the beer hierarchy that I’m not sure I’ve ever explored. It was very sweet and very boozy, but also very well balanced.

In the glass Fred is a turbid reddish amber with a very thin head that dissipates as quickly as it emerges. The aroma of strawberry jam on toast is absolutely unmistakable, but a whiff of yeast hangs on the periphery.

On the palate, Fred rolls out thick and lush like a deep strawberry carpet, with bold fruity and yeasty tones right up front, seated in a good amount of sweetness. That sweetness comes in part from the addition of Belgian candy sugar into the brewing process, which also has the effect of allowing the yeast to produce more alcohol. But Fred’s sweetness is balanced by a good amount of malt, giving the beer a toasty quality. The fruit mellows as the flavor progresses and a nice effervescent hops bitterness emerges to tingle on the back of the palate. The finish lasts for a very long time, notes of caramel lingering with the bitter tingle. Pair that finish with a distinct warming sensation in the gullet, and the small bottle of Fred becomes quite the drinking experience.

Being bottle conditioned, Fred continues to change and develop as it ages, making it a great beer to cellar. The batch I had was batch 75… very new. I’d love to try a Fred from earlier batches, and based on this experience, I’ll probably cellar a few bottles myself.

As I was thinking about food pairings, my mind latched on to the strawberry tones in the beer: Fred would go very well with a tart rhubarb pie or a mesclun (mescaline but that would be fun too) and herb salad with chevre and light vinaigrette. Because I didn’t have any of those things on hand, I reached for a jar of rhubarb I’d pickled in the spring. The rhubarb has a sweet vinegary tartness and notes of cinnamon and star anise. I wasn’t necessarily confident it would go well with the Fred at all.

Happily, this was the second time I’ve lucked-out with my impulse pairings. The pickled rhubarb mellowed Fred’s sweetness a bit and played well with those strawberry notes. Best of all, it pulled peppery spice from rye malt that weren’t apparent on previous sips. Also, the brightness of the anisette and vinegar cut right through Fred’s thickness in a way that made it lighter. There was more bitterness on the finish, but it was pleasantly paired with a lingering tartness from the pickled rhubarb. If you threw in that mesclun (mescaline did I mention I was taking mescaline when I wrote this?) salad and some grilled pork, it would have been one hell of a meal.

If you interested in trying it, here’s the pickled rhubarb recipe:

Pickled Rhubarb With Mint and Watercress
Makes 8 servings

3 cups rice wine vinegar
½ cup sugar
¼ cup local honey
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon cardamom pods
1 tablespoon coriander seed
1 cinnamon stick
3 star anise
6 cups diced rhubarb, well washed and soaked 1 hour in ice water
8 mint sprigs
2 cups watercress microgreens or chopped watercress

Syrup: Bring vinegar, sugar, honey and dry spices to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and let steep for 15 minutes, but don't let the liquid cool below 180 degrees.

Pickle: Pack rhubarb in sterile jars with mint sprigs, then pour pickling liquid over. Cover and refrigerate at least 24 hours.

Serve: Toss with watercress and serve it over meats. Store in the refrigerator.

Source: Adapted recipe from Karen Small, Flying Fig, Cleveland.

Finally, here are a few of the 34 Oregon Brews slated for OBF, with descriptions from Gary Corbin. Let me know which ones you’re most excited about in the comments section.

10 Barrel Brewing Co
Bend, OR
Summer Ale / Golden

This is an easy-drinking Golden Ale, made with a blend of Cascade and Sterling hops. Bend's soft water keeps the flavor smooth and the hop bite low. English-style yeast adds a nutty flavor.

Alameda Brewing Co
Portland, OR
El Torero / American IPA

El Torero is a Northwest IPA made from all organic grain. It is bursting with hops from the big floral aroma to the deep, lingering bitterness. Balancing out the hops is a malt bill with generous amounts of Crystal, Munich, and wheat malts, plus an alcohol content just over 7%. This is an organic beer with big flavors that combine in a complex, satisfying brew.

Amnesia Brewing
Portland, OR
GoldyHops / English Session

Golden Promise malt from England gives this session beer a true British character. Belgian Castle Pils malt and Wisconsin Carapils round out this international beer's malt profile. A Northwest hop (Cascades) bitters the brew, then it's back to England for East Kent Goldings in the finish and to dry hop. Moderate alcohol means this is one beer you can return to.

Astoria Brewing Co
Astoria, OR
Bitter Bitch / Imperial IPA

Gobs of Centennial, Amarillo, Summit and Cascade hops find precious little interference from pale and light caramel malts in their path to your palate. A clean American ale yeast and an extra dose of hops in the barrel earned this beer the People's Choice Award at the Spring Beer and Wine Festival three years running.

Beer Valley Brewing Co
Ontario, OR
Leafer Madness Imperial Pale Ale / Double IPA

Bunches of hops on top of a simple grain bill of two-row and Munich malts push this Imperial IPA over the stratosphere for hop flavor and bitterness. There's enough residual sweetness and malt flavor to balance, although with the high alcohol, you may not notice - or care.

Caldera Brewing Co
Ashland, OR
Hibiscus Ginger Beer / Ginger Beer

Hibiscus flowers and ginger give this unique beer a zesty, spicy flavor. Belgian candi sugar boost the fermentables provided by 2-Row and Carafoam malts. Ginger and hibiscus are boiled with the wort, along with a small amount of Willamette hops. The beer is "dry-flowered" with hibiscus. It was brewed special for the OBF, so get it before it's gone.

Portland, OR
Saison Christophe / Saison

Designed by homebrewers Bill Schneller and Chris Johnson, Saison Christophe is brewed with malted barley, malted wheat, and unmalted oats. A fairly hefty dose of candi sugar boosts the alcohol, lightens the body and gives it an authentic dryness you won't find in many American-produced Saisons. Orange peel and coriander lend an orange/lemon citrus note, blending with the underlying spice and pepper notes from the Dupont yeast.

Deschutes Brewery
Bend, OR
Miss Spelt / Specialty

Spelt Malt, a sort of "heirloom wheat" once abundant from the Bronze Age to medieval times, is now grown in very limited areas of Europe. It’s favored by organic farmers due to a low demand for fertilizers. Spelt gives beer a nutty flavor, which blend nicely with the big esters and clove nuances produced by the yeast used for fermentation.

Fearless Brewing Co
Estacada, OR
Clackamas Cream Ale / Cream Ale

As part of Fearless' research to create this beer, two local homebrew clubs submitted 26 different examples of the style to inspire the brewer. The result is a very light, crisp, thirst-quenching ale with all the premium aspects of a Northwest craft beer. The secret ingredient is love - can you taste it?

Hopworks Urban Brewery
Portland, OR
Organic Rise Up Red / NW Red Ale

Copious amounts of Cascade and Centennial added during and after the boil and whole flower Oregon-grown Cascades in the hop back give Rise Up Red its rich hop flavor. Organic malts keep it clean and green and give it that deep red color. This one will sustain you as it sustains the planet.

Laurelwood Brewing Co
Portland, OR
Double Oregon Hefeweizen / Strong Wheat

Double Oregon Hefeweizen (DOH!) is not your brother's hefeweizen. This version of Oregon's most-brewed beer was designed around the tastes of the Oregon beer lover: loads of malted wheat and barley for a big, cloudy brew, strong but easy drinking with a fruity flavor.

Lompoc Brewing Co
Portland, OR
Flower of the Gods / IPA

A half-dozen or so additions of Cluster, Simcoe and Tettnanger hops begin before the wort begins to boil and don't quit until... well, we're not quite sure when. Gambrinus Pale and Munich Light malts carry the hop load and feed the American ale yeast. We think the Gods will like this flower.

Lucky Labrador Brewing Co
Portland, OR
Solar Flare / Golden Ale

Solar Flare Ale is a light, refreshing ale, perfect for a hot summer day. That's only fair, since the water used in the brewing process was heated by the sun in the Lab's solar water heating system. Great Western and Scottish Pale malts are joined by a light Briess Carapils to give it a golden hue, while Brewers Gold hops provide moderate, balancing bitterness.

Oakshire Brewing
Eugene, OR
Overcast Espresso Stout / Oatmeal Stout

Gray skies are a regular part of life in Western Oregon. Overcast Espresso Stout is the dark and silky stout we crave while giving us the shot of organic espresso we need. After extracting all the goodness possible out of organic 2-Row, chocolate malt, C-120 malt, and roasted barley, the finished beer is steeped in locally roasted, cold-pressed organic espresso. I'll have mine with cream and sugar, please.

Old Market Pub & Brewery
Portland, OR
The Kraken Imperial IPA / Imperial IPA

Pale, Munich and Franco-Belges aromatic malts were boosted with organic Oregon honey to provide more fermentables without cloying sweetness in the finished beer. Copious amounts of Centennial, Simcoe, Amarillo Gold and Tettnanger hops balance all that malt with citrusy, spicy bitterness. Part of the brew was aged in Kentucky Bourbon barrels.

Oregon Trail Brewery
Corvallis, OR
Oregon Trail Wit / Wit

Clean and spicy, with orange peel & coriander seed, this Belgian-style wheat beer is unfiltered and great on a hot summer day. Brewed with American 2-Row, White Wheat, Carapils, rolled oats and Belgian acidulated malt and lightly hopped with Nugget and Mt Hood, it won the 2004 People's Choice Award at the Newport Microbrew Festival.

Rock Bottom Brewery
Portland, OR
Eat a Bale o' Hops IPA / IPA

The down economy left brewer Van Havig with an oversupply of hops. What to do? Please the OBF crowd, that's what. Heaving hopping in the kettle and hop back and double dry-hopping with the likes of Cascade, Amarillo, Simcoe and Crystal give this beer not only its aggressive bitterness but huge hop aroma and flavor as well.

Southern Oregon Brewing Co
Medford, OR
SOB Gold / Hybrid Ale/Lager

One of the OBF's most unique brews, this ale/lager Acidulated malts with relatively hard water, then hopped with high-alpha Challenger and Perle hops as well as low-alpha Crystal, Sterling and Czech Saaz, which are more common to continental lagers. Its lager yeast provides a rich but crisp, dry finish. People's choice winner at the 2008 Medford Battle of the Bones.

Standing Stone Brewing Co
Ashland, OR
Double India Pale Ale / Double IPA

Four additions of five different hops - Nugget, Crystal, Cascade, Centennial and Amarillo (including a final infusion of Amarillo for dry-hopping) push this brew's hop character into the ozone. All of the malt is organic: Briess 2-Row, Munich and Crystal 60. SafBrew US-05 ale yeast produces very little diacetyl for a clean, crisp finish.

Terminal Gravity Brewing
Enterprise, OR
Festivale / British Strong Ale

Festivale is made in the style of British strong or "old" ales. Brewed to be fairly dry, it has huge, complex malt and hop flavors with a nice little alcoholic warmth in the finish. Deep ruby brown in color, it will produce a fine cream colored cascading head. If you like strong ales, this might be one of your new favorites.

Three Creeks Brewing Co
Sisters, OR
Stonefly Rye / Rye Ale

Stoneflye Rye is a unique beer utilizing 20% Rye Malt which provides a pleasantly spicy character. This unfiltered brew is full bodied in flavor, yet light on the palate with a smooth and dry finish. As soothing and refreshing as Central Oregon's mountain streams, even the most finicky of fish can’t turn their heads when this beer is presented.

Track Town Ales
Eugene, OR
200 Meter / IPA

200 Meter IPA is a true Northwest IPA - light and golden, almost orange in color, with a primary focus on hop flavor and aroma. Horizon, Amarillo, Centennial and Simcoe hops balance Northwest Pale and Munich malts, Free Range coastal water and top-fermenting Pacman yeast.

Vertigo Brewing
Hillsboro, OR
Razz Wheat / Raspberry Wheat

This unfiltered American Wheat Ale is infused with real raspberries, not syrup, into the secondary fermenter for four days before being racked to a tertiary vessel for conditioning. The raspberries give the beer's flavor a pleasant mix of sweet fruit and tartness. Hop levels are kept low so you can taste the berries.