IMAGE: Kim Scafuro
The 82 breweries at this year’s Oregon Brewers Festival aren’t just there to have a good time. Events like the OBF are a vehicle for brewers to reach new audiences of consumers and wholesalers, and all of them, from 10 Barrel Brewing to Widmer, are vying for your attention. It’s hard to stand out from the crowd with another intensely hopped IPA, so many breweries opt for oddity, presenting ales brewed from or infused with unusual fruits, spices and grains, from Szechuan pepper (Upright’s Reggae Junkie) to cornflakes (Boulevard’s Tank 7). To give you some idea of what to expect, we tasted four of the strangest.
Caldera Brewing Co.: Hibiscus Ginger Beer
A pale, low-alcohol brew with a metallic odor and mildly floral flavor. “This smells highly questionable,” said one taster. “It’s not identifiable as beer.” “It’s the Gingerbread Man in a gray flannel suit,” said another. We drained our glasses.
SHOULD YOU DRINK IT? Only if it’s too hot for real beer.
Boulder Beer Co.: Kinda Blue
A coppery ale with a fruity nose from the Oregon blueberries added during fermentation, Kinda Blue nonetheless lacks berry flavor. “It smells like a nail salon,” volunteered one intern. “It’s kind of numbing,” said a reporter. “I feel like I’ve been to the dentist, but in a drunky kind of way,” offered another.
SHOULD YOU DRINK IT? Probably not.
Buckbean Brewing Co.: Original Orange Blossom Ale
This appropriately orange ale comes in an orange can and smells and tastes strongly floral and slightly acidic—no mild citrus flavor here. Tasters compared it to perfume and a Jolly Rancher. “Despite not wanting to drink an entire glass of this, I really like it,” said one.
SHOULD YOU DRINK IT? Yes, but taste it before you order a glass.
Maui Brewing Co.: CoCoNut Porter
More than just a coconut beer, this thick porter (also in a can) tastes like an Almond Joy melted in a double shot of espresso. Although one taster found it chickeny, the consensus was that it’s a fine dessert beer. “It would make a fantastic float,” said one. “Give me the other can,” said another.
SHOULD YOU DRINK IT? By all means.
GO: The Oregon Brewers Festival runs noon-9 pm Thursday-Saturday and noon-7 pm Sunday, July 22-25, at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Northwest Glisan Street and Naito Parkway. Free admission, taster packets $10-$50. Info at oregonbrewfest.org.