Arrogant Bastard, Smuttynose Finest, Trout Slayer. Call us superficial, but Bite Club loves P-town's biggest kegger, the 18th annual Oregon Brewers Festival, as much for the bizarre brew names as for the variety of malty flavors. But with 72 breweries pouring pints and more than 50,000 drinkers in attendance, the largest gathering of independent brewers in North America can be overwhelming. So Bite Club called up Noel Blake, who pens the fest's detailed program, to formulate a liquid strategy.
Many beers showcased this year are big, hoppy IPAs-because Northwesterners have a reputation of being real "hop heads," Blake says. He recommends starting off with what the Bite terms girly fruit beers. A tart Raspberry Wheat brew from locals Raccoon Lodge comes packed with whole berries, while 21st Amendment Brewery pours a "soft and fragrant" Watermelon Wheat beer.
Blake also named a few must-guzzle candidates for this year's "buzz beer." Topping his list was California-based Stone Brewing Co.'s Oak-Aged Arrogant Bastard, a spendy beer that usually finds its home in big magnums rather than communal kegs, and Walking Man Brewing's Flip-Flop Pilsner, a Washington lager packed with Czech Saaz hops. And here's one for the wine lovers-Bend's Deschutes Brewery has an Enigma in its keg: The brewers are trying to age dry-hopped pale ale in old pinot noir casks.
*Finally, after nearly a month of crawfish-tail withdrawal, tiny Northeast Broadway Cajun house Lagniappe (pronounced lan-YAP) has relocated to its roomy new Northeast Alberta Street digs (1934 NE Alberta St., 249-7675). According to chef Madison Ragland, the bright yellow-and-purple space is nearly three times the size of its former HQ, not counting the sprawling patio that overlooks the bustle of the Northeast arts district.
The 'Yap ain't the only Alberta newcomer. Off the main drag on Northeast 22nd Avenue sits the polished wood facade of the soon-to-be open Mash Tun Brewpub, named for the pair of copper mash tuns that squat in the pub's front windows. The space promises laid-back eats-roasted-eggplant sammies, fried oysters and root-beer floats-along with 13 varieties of housemade beer.
While you're indulging in a little Last Thursday action, keep your eyes open for Ivan Antonio Preciado, the 13-year-old entrepreneur who often sets up shop in front of the La Playita Market (2815 NE Alberta St., 284-5676). To parched art gawkers, the enterprising youngster sells $1.50 cups of icy cold honeydew, cantaloupe, pineapple and mango sprinkled with a savory mix of chilis, salt and a squeeze of fresh lime-a puckery-sweet nod to the salt-topped fruit hunks often found in the open-air markets of Mexico. If you're lucky, Ivan may also let you sneak a sample of his tongue-teasing tamarind sno-cones.
Oregon Brewers Festival, Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Southwest Oak Street and Naito Parkway, 778-5917. www.oregonbrewfest.com. 4-9 pm Thursday, noon-9 pm Friday-Saturday, noon-7 pm Sunday, July 28-31. $4 souvenir mug (required), $1 beer tokens. All ages (except for the drinking part).