Not only does 2022 mark the return of Portland’s longest-running beer festival, Oregon Brewers Fest (OBF), it also marks the return of its shortest-running beer festival: Fuji to Hood, happening Saturday July 16.
Fuji to Hood actually has its trans-Pacific roots in OBF. For a brief while, the craft beer festival featured an international tent, showcasing brewers from a specific, rotating countries. In 2016, that was Japan. And that tent was brought about by Red Gillen, who not only operates Oshuushu—a blog about Oregon’s beer and beverages written entirely in Japanese—but who facilitates brewing partnerships and collaborations, with extra emphasis on Sapporo. We've noted before that Sapporo is not the best-selling Japanese beer in America, but it has a special hold in Portland, as Sapporo has been Portland’s sister city since 1959.
Named for Japan’s and Oregon’s respective iconic mountains, Fuji to Hood first took place in Portland in 2018. The lineup was comprised of beers brewed at Oregon breweries, but with quintessential Japanese ingredients and in collaboration with a different Japanese craft brewers. Such ingredients included yuzu, sansho peppers, kokuto (Japanese brown sugar), or sake rice.
Gillen didn't know if it would fly, explaining: “We honestly didn’t know if anyone would be interested in such an event—it was such a new concept. As it turned out, we had to turn people away.”
That first iteration saw the Japanese brewers attending the event to represent their breweries and, in a wider sense, Japan’s beer culture. Craft brewing began to take off there in 1994, when national regulations on brewing eased. Due to the ongoing pandemic, Japanese brewers are not obligated to attend this year, but over half of them will.
Ideally, Fuji to Hood alternates locations annually. So in its second year, the event worked in reverse, with Portland brewers attending a fest called Hood to Fuji, held in Tokyo.
For obvious reasons, an event that boosts beer and sister-city relationships couldn’t take place in 2020 or 2021, so Saturday July 16 marks the only the third year of the fest and the second time Oregonians get to sample a lineup of beers dually inspired by the rising sun and the clouded-out sun (we see it less than half a year).
The 2022 lineup looks awesome. It features 18 Oregon breweries collaborating with 18 Japanese breweries as well as a ciderery combo: Reverend Nat’s and Fukuoka Craft's yet-to-be named citrus cider with yuzu kosho and Fukuoka kabosu. Distilling duo, Portland’s Aimsir and Japan’s Kozue are furthermore teaming up for a matcha gin: a spirit based on matcha tea, with notes of juniper, raspberry, and cardamom.
Among the dozen and a half Oregon breweries you’ll see Great Notion, Threshold, almost-retired Hair of the Dog, and Culmination—the last of which has a sister brewery in Japan, Culmination Takamatsu.
“The Fuji to Hood and Hood to Fuji festivals are special for us at Culmination," the brewery's co-owner and brewmaster Tomas Sluiter noted. "It’s a chance for us, as brewers and people, to reach across cultural borders, have fun, be creative, and make new friends. I’m continually impressed with the Japanese culture, food, craft beer, and commitment to quality and innovation.”
Sluiter added, he “already can’t wait for next year in Japan.”