This weekend, the annual Oregon Brewers Festival is taking place at Portland’s Waterfront Park. Naturally I attended. During the event, I did a little livetweeting, and in response a number of folks asked me what I was drinking. The answer was, of course, lots of stuff. Too many to tweet about in the moment, since I mostly wanted to taste beer. Better, I thought, to share my experience in the aftermath.

My wife and I wandered the Beer Fest together. There was some great people-watching to do along with the beer tasting. Clever beer t-shirts abounded. Most of the tasting was by me, though she did take a sip of whatever I tried. As a rule, I like beers weighted toward the maltier side of things, not too hoppy, not too floral. For example, I’m generally not an IPA drinker, though there have been IPAs I’ve loved, including my favorite of the bunch from this year’s visit to the Brew Fest. I’m also something of a lightweight, and once I start to get tipsy, my taste reaction tends to become, “I love this!” rather than a nuanced examination of the merits of the brew at hand.

So my tasting was limited to 12 beers, and in no case did I drink a full mug, though there were a few brews I’d happily quaff in excess. I also ate a giant pretzel, which you can see in the picture above. Yes, it really was bigger than my head.

So, with further nattering, my brief thoughts on the beers.

Eel River Brewing Co.
Fortuna, CA
Style: American-Style Pale
OG: 1.048
FG: 1.009
ABV: 5.2
IBU: 40

Climax Extra Pale

This was our opener. I found it to have excessive fizziness. While drinking it, the citrusy flavor was not unpleasant, but it had a lingering, chemical aftertaste. I didn’t hate this beer, but I also did not want more. My wife’s assessment was more terse: “Gross.”

Dick’s Brewing Company
Centralia, WA
Style: Belgian Dubbel
OG: 1.070
FG: 1.008
ABV: 8
IBU: 40

Dick’s Dubbel Trouble

We followed up the Climax with this, and it was a welcome relief to the palate. Yummy, complex, with a nice balance of sweet and bitters. No aftertaste. I really liked it, and would definitely pick some up if it appeared in the beer case at my grocery.

Stone Brewing
Escondido, CA
Style: Herb and Spice Beer
OG: 1.058
FG: 1.008
ABV: 6.6
IBU: 60

Saison du BUFF

Stone Brewing has never disappointed me, so I was excited to try their Saison du BUFF. I’m a newcomer to Saisons, and generally have liked them. There’s a lot of nose to this one, but the aromas all seemed at war with each other: herb and citrus in mortal combat. My wife kinda liked the flavor, but in the end it was not my favorite. Alas.

Redhook Brewery
Woodinville, WA
Style: Tripel with fruit added
OG: 1.069
FG: 1.009
ABV: 8.2
IBU: 20

Peach Trippel

In the summer, I drink a fair amount of Pyramid Apricot Ale. Not all fruit beers work for me, but when it’s hot I like the apricot. Redhook also brews my all-around go-to beer: Redhook ESB. So it was with anticipation that I tasted the Peach Trippel.

I was not disappointed. It was refreshing and balanced, a bit crisp and dry. However, I must admit it earned a frowny face from my wife.

Mt. Emily Ale House
La Grande, OR
Style: Fruit Beer
OG: 1.045
FG: 1.004
ABV: 5.3
IBU: 15

Organic Strawberry Honey Ale

Another fruit beer, very light and very dry. No hops flavor to speak of. A very good summer beer, particularly for someone who doesn’t like a strong hops profile. We both enjoyed it, but it wasn’t interesting enough that I would try it again. I may lean toward less bitter beers, but I do like hoppy complexity. This was something of a beer for people who don’t like beer.

Moylan’s Brewing and Restaurant
Novato, CA
Style: Fruit Beer
OG: 1.046
FG: 1.008
ABV: 5
IBU: 8

Pomegranate Wheat Ale

There’s a character in my YA work-in-progress named Moylan, so I had to give this beer a try. The line was long, and the people ahead of us were on their second time through. They loved it, and couldn’t wait for more. Me, not so much. It was fizzy and sweet, basically a soft drink with a weird aftertaste. If I want a soft drink, I’ll get one. This one wasn’t worth the wait to me.

New Belgium Brewing
Fort Collins, CO
Style: Golden or Blonde Ale
OG: 1.080
FG: 1.016
ABV: 8.9
IBU: 90


Back on track at last! This was a refreshing, light ale with a touch of apricot and a balanced complexity. New Belgium, like Redhook, is a go-to brewery for me, and the Somersault reinforced my already high opinion of the brewery.

Maui Brewing Co.
Lahaina, HI
Style: Witbief
OG: 1.048
FG: 1.008
ABV: 5.1
IBU: 18

La Perouse White

This was a nice, uncomplicated beer which didn’t wow me, but didn’t disappoint me either. It had a hint of citrus in the nose, and a soft fizz.

GoodLife Brewing Co.
Bend, OR
Style: World- and Barrel-Aged Pale to Amber Ale
OG: 1.056
FG: 1.016
ABV: 5.5
IBU: 40

Traditions Oak Aged Pale Ale

Another good, if not overwhelming beer. A floral nose, with a bitter aftertaste which lingered a bit longer than I wanted it to. I enjoyed this while drinking it well enough, but wanted something else right away to clear my palate.

Fearless Brewing Co.
Estacada, OR
Style: Scottish-Style Heavy Ale
OG: 1.056
FG: 1.016
ABV: 5.3
IBU: 35

Fearless Scottish Ale

I hit a trend here, with yet another solid offering that didn’t blow me away. The malt flavors were interesting, creamy and a tad bready. Good, but not complicated. Maybe I’m more of an IPA drinker than I think.

Old Market Pub and Brewery
Portland, OR
Style: Fruit Beer
OG: 1.058
FG: 1.008
ABV: 7.9
IBU: 19

Cherried Alive

Another fruit beer, the last one we tried. It opened with a hint of sweetness that gave way to tartness on the backside. It didn’t do it for me, but my wife drank while noshing on a chocolate granola bar and noted it went well with the chocolate. I thought that made sense, and I believe I will try this again when I have a chance to pair it with some chocolate myself.

Gigantic Brewing Company
Portland, OR
Style: Imperial or Double India Pale Ale
OG: 1.080
FG: 1.016
ABV: 8.9
IBU: 90


Boom. This was the winner of the day, and not just because I was edging toward tipsy. It was big, bold, with lots of nose and a rich, complex flavor. Yes, it was not in my usual wheelhouse, being an IPA on steroids. But the balance of malt and hops was perfect for me. I loved it, and would drink it again without reservation.

I suppose the lesson of the day is I like bitter styles more than I realize, which isn’t a bad thing to learn. If we go back to the Beer Fest tomorrow (a good possibility), I can see myself going for more of the big, Imperial IPAs on hand. It’s a great opportunity to try something new, so why not take advantage?