There are few better places to witness the size and scope of Portland's beer scene than the Oregon Brewers Festival, which took place over the last weekend in July. The largest outdoor event of its kind in the US, OBF is spread out across the waterfront between the Morrison and Hawthorne bridges, offering hundreds of beers from dozens of brewers to roughly 80,000 visitors.
It's a frenetic five days, and considering the heat of this past event, it was probably for the best that light ales were bountifully available. The Dragon Weisse from Buoy Beer Co., a 3.5% sour ale that's red in color and positively bursts with fruity happiness, was the best of the lot, although Stone's Gose Gose Gadget almost had it beat in sheer refreshing-ness. Drinkers who didn't care what season it currently is, meanwhile, made a beeline for the New Holland line, which offered a special version of their Dragon's Milk imperial stout flavored with Mexican spice.
"It's a very big scene," said Eigo Sato of Shiga Kogen Beer, one of the six Japanese breweries that poured at OBF's international pavilion. "There is a lot of excitement and a lot of demand for creativity, both things that I like seeing a lot."
Of course, the fact that Portland has a large beer festival isn't exactly news. What is, however, is the fact that the real festival now takes place across the entire city of Portland at the same time—much like how Denver's bars and breweries party it up when the Great American Beer Festival comes along in autumn.
That was clear at Hair of the Dog Brewing (HOTD), where Sato worked on a collaboration beer with owner Alan Sprints over the weekend. On tap were several beers from Shiga Kogen, along with some heavy stout selections from Browerij de Molen, HOTD's longtime partners from the Netherlands. Top among them were Adamu, a take on HOTD's Adam traditional ale brewed in Japan and stored in peated barrels for a thick, boozy, but addictive taste. Bailey's Taproom, closer to downtown, also joined in the barrel kick, offering 32 different aged beers for its ninth anniversary party. The 2012 version of Firestone Walker's Parabola was the highlight there, although the Consecration sour brown ale from Russian River was also a unique (and rare) delight.
Sato and Sprints' collaboration, along with five more from other Japan/Portland brewery duos, will begin coming out later this month.