There are 81 beers on tap at this year's Oregon Brewers Festival
, running now through Sunday at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Over the course of four hours yesterday afternoon, I tried about 30 of them.
I say "about" because things get a bit fuzzy towards the end—the point when, after you've tried everything from a 100 IBU Green Flash Imperial IPA to a 9 percent alcohol Widmer KGB Russian imperial stout, you just can't taste anything anymore. That's when you hit up the coconut beer, hurting yourself just so you can feel something, anything
But I digress. For the thousands of you who will attend the Festival this weekend, here are my top picks to sample and to avoid.
TASTE: Wheatfish Wheat Lager by Great Northern Brewing. A nice, light quaffing beer. Very crisp. Refreshing. It's in trailer 8.
Trumer Pils. What the hell is this over-hyped beer even doing in the Festival?
TASTE: Mountain High IPA by Mt. Shasta Brewing. My notes read only "great IPA!" It is a very nicely balanced, totally unsubtle, delicious beer.
TASTE: Titan IPA by Great Divide Brewing. A nice robust, malty beer. Very drinkable.
AVOID: Green Flash Imperial IPA by Green Flash Brewing. Tastes of garlic.
AVOID: Eat a Barrel of Hops IPA by Rock Bottom Brewery. There's some aggressive hops up front, and then nothing. After the first sip you'll taste only water.
TASTE: The Trip by New Belgium Brewing and Elysian Brewing. Brewed with the crazy Citra strain of hops and lemongrass (!), this one smells like apricots and tastes of grapefruit. And not in a bad way.
TASTE: Saison Christophe by Collaborator. A nice sour saison by Portland home brewers Bill Schneller and Chris Johnson, working with Widmer. Good stuff.
TASTE: Crazy Ivan by Bear Republic. A weird hybrid of American and Belgian, with a sharp hop flavor fading to a great fruity finish. This is the ideal beer to accompany a grilled bratwurst. Delicious.
AVOID: Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale by Boulevard Brewing. Inoffensive, but boring. The least interesting beer I've tried from Boulevard, an outstanding brewery.
TASTE: Razz Wheat from Vertigo Brewing. A crew of Intel engineers has been brewing single barrel batches of this remarkable raspberry beer since May. It's crisp and incredibly fruity. This is the beer you would put in your kid's lunchbox, if you were to do such a thing.
AVOID: Festina Peche from Dogfish Head. A neo-Berliner Weiss that tastes like peach vinegar.
AVOID: Bluebeery Ale by Marin Brewing. One of the worst things I've ever tasted.
AVOID: Organic Açai Berry Wheat by Eel River Brewing. Tastes like Fruit Loops.
AVOID: Sweet Jesus, any of these damn things.
TASTE: Bitch Creek ESB from Grand Teton Brewing. This is a goddamn great beer. Just try it.
TASTE: Festivale by Terminal Gravity Brewing. An 8.3 percent old British Ale. Nice and chewy, with a creamy head and complex enough flavors to keep you tasting for hours.
AVOID: Coco Loco by Kona Brewing. Kona deserves props for getting this much coconut flavor into their beer, but you don't want to drink this one. It's like eating a Mounds bar dipped in Newcastle. An impressive feat, but not one that should ever be replicated.
TASTE: Overcast Espresso Stout by Oakshire Brewing. A little watery, maybe, but a good espresso stout. Save this one for last.
TASTE: KGB Russian Imperial Stout. Oh, man this is good. Thick, black, syrupy, 9 percent ABV. You can get this one at the Widmer Gasthaus. I may head over there this evening. Yum!