The Portland Fruit Beer Festival is this weekend and it promises to be a highlight of the summer beer fest scene that has become so prevalent in Portland. The weather is supposed to be nice, the event now commandeers 7th street by Burnside brewing and will have much more pouring capacity than last year - so it is all shaping up to be a big hit.
And we are not talking about watermelon wheat here - these are some serious and seriously creative beers that are a-comin' to the fest. I had the chance to sample some of the beer that will be featured and here are some impressions and advice for the festival:
Winnners from the beers I have tasted
Hopworks Urban Brewery: What Up Apple-Weizen
A beer I assumed I'd dislike, beer and apple juice? Yuck. But I was totally wrong the wheat and apple play off each other elegantly with a subtle tartness and a really nice apple note that shines through. My only quibble is that at 6.5% ABV it is a bit big, something in the low 5s would make this a can't-miss summer session beer.
Widmer: Marionberry Hibiscus Gose
This Ben Dobler beer is a tremendously accomplished beer, a beautiful subtle tartness with a hint of salt that balance the marionberry nicely and the hibiscus adds some complexity all in a 5.4% beer that is very quaffable. This is the next generation of last years fruit beer fest one-off and now it is a national release (apparently it is a big hit in DC for obvious reasons).
Burnside: Red Light District
At 10.2% ABV, a very little of this goes a long way, but it is the ultimate desert beer. Rich in chocolate and strawberry, this imperial stout is rich, complex and sure to please.
Laurelwood: Cascara Obscura
This one is hard to describe. It uses the cherry from the coffee bean and had a similarity to hibiscus and there is a dark cherry note detectable. A tartness from a Belgian yeast balances it nicely.
Burnside: Barrel-Aged Mango
This beer almost caused WWIII, thanks entirely to Jeff, who is in Burnside's dog house apparently. But you could not buy that kind of publicity, now the whole world knows Burnside Brewing. Anyway the beer is a must try even though many will find it too aggressive. It started with a mango beer that was way too sweet and mango-y, so Jason decided to turn it into a curry and well he did with a bunch of hot peppers as dry-hops to give it a serious kick. Woah. It is about the most interesting beer you'll ever taste.
Can't miss beer I have not tasted
Block 15: Tropical Storm
I would go to the fest just for this. Seriously. "Farmhouse style ale brewed with Pilsner malts, Palm Sugar and Nelson Sauvin Hops. Conditioned with yellow papaya and blended with a one year old barrel of Ferme de la Ville Provisions." Remember Nick Arzner is at the helm - this will rock.
Intriguing beers I have not tasted
Gigantic: Hot Town, Summer in the City
You work a Lovin' Spoonful song into the name of your beer, I will try it. Plus, Gigantic is the buzz brewery of the moment.
Flat Tail: Strawberry Mandarin Wit
Sounds like a disaster, but Corvallis is where it is at and I have had more hits for their experimental beers than misses, so I'd give this the benefit of the doubt.
With good weather in the forecast, this is shaping up to be a hell of a fest. NE 7th and Burnside, Sat 11am to 9pm and Sunday 11am to 6pm.
And finally a note on Burnside Brewing. I had not yet had the pleasure of visiting prior to the tasting and I was pleasantly surprised. I thought, given its locale, it would be a bit gritty, but it is not at all. It is a very pleasant space, has some tasty appetizers and nice beer. I'll be back.