August 21st, 2008 5:33 pm | by Matt Graham News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

Hooch Heaven: 4th Annual Great American Distillers Festival

Great American Distillers Fest '08 - liquorHave you had enough to drink this summer? Wait...what, am I saying? Of course you haven't. Granted, we've already had the North American Organic Brewers Festival, the Portland International Beerfest and the Oregon Brewers Festival amidst slew of other festivals, fairs and fabulous events featuring our favorite barley beverages, but isn't anybody going to show the distillers some love?

Fear not, hooch hounds. This weekend, Rogue Spirits and friends are stepping in to make sure that hopheads don't steal all of the season's alcohol gala glory with the 4th Annual Great American Distillers Festival. More than 20 distillers from all over the country are converging on our humble little booze-soaked town for what Rogue president Brett Joyce claims is "the largest collection of craft distillers in the country." Joyce said they started the festival play off of, and hopefully facilitate, the recent explosion of craft distilleries. "The movement is happening now before our very eyes," he said, noting that the local spirits business is now growing at a rate similar to that of craft breweries 20 years ago.

How to account for this sudden burst? Maybe the world is going global, but if you want to stay hip you've got to stay local. "I think consumers enjoy knowing they can drink something that was made down the street," Joyce said. While he was hesitant to take potshots at his more well-known competitors with names like Jose, Jack and Jim, he said that more local distilleries means more creativity and more variety. Great American Distillers Fest '08 - Crowd

Those in attendance will have ample opportunity to sample that variety, but the event organizers also have entertainment plans. The Gerding Theater in the Pearl District will play host to a "mixology competition" as area bartenders go head to head and bottle to bottle to see who can whip up the tastiest concoction. For those worried about possible brain cell-related side effects due to all this making merry, the event organizers are also offering a series of educational talks on Sunday afternoon.

New Orleans' Robert Hess will discourse at 1 pm on the history of the cocktail; at 1:45, Phil Prichard and Lee Medoff will opine on the virtues of rum; Lisa Averbach and Michael Klinglesmith will hold a seminar at 2:30 on distillery technology past and present; and at 3:30 Gwydion Stone and Rich Phillips will partake in a Q&A on everybody's favorite newly-legalized hallucinatory drink, Absinthe. Gear up for the weekend event Thursday night with a distillation demonstration at 6 pm at the Portland Farmers Market at Ecotrust, then continue on to the Cocktail Trail tour of local liquor lounges starting at Teardrop and moving to R Palate, 50 Plates, Rogue Distillery and Public House and the Green Dragon.

The festival proper opens at 1 pm on Saturday and runs until 9 pm, and goes from 1-7 pm on Sunday. A one-day pass costs $10 and includes three drink tickets. Two-day passes are also available for $16.
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