UPDATE: Organizers behind the Westside Beer Fest announced Wednesday, Aug. 11 they’re scrapping the event, just over a week after announcing its inception.
The team says that they simply can’t proceed safely given the number of COVID-19 patients flooding the state’s hospitals. Brewers, volunteers and potential attendees also expressed concerns.
After nearly a year-and-a-half without large communal drinking events, beer festivals are officially back.
The team behind the Oregon Brewers Festival—the state’s largest—announced today that it will host a new gathering during the first week of fall. The Westside Beer Festival is scheduled to take place Sept. 24-26 at the Wingspan Event Center located inside the Washington County Fairgrounds.
“After the long months of lockdown, we are thrilled to welcome craft beer lovers to Hillsboro,” festival co-founder Art Larrance stated in a press release. “We want to raise a glass and toast Oregon’s craft brewers by spotlighting a few dozen of the state’s best breweries in this beautiful new space.”
The event, overall, appears to be a scaled-down Oregon Brewers Festival that’s been uprooted from downtown Portland’s Waterfront Park and placed inside a sprawling convention center. That makes sense given that Larrance has successfully operated OBF since 1988, making it one of the oldest of its kind in the nation. It typically draws hundreds of participating businesses and tens of thousands of visitors during the last full weekend of July every year. However, the event has been canceled the last two years during the pandemic.
So far, organizers are not planning on limiting the number of attendees despite the recent rise in COVID-19 cases due to the highly contagious Delta variant and a persistent population of vaccine-hesitant and vaccine-resistant individuals. However, that could change if health authorities or local leaders end up implementing new restrictions.
“We’ll abide by all guidelines imposed by the Westside Commons Complex, the City of Hillsboro, Washington County and the State of Oregon at the time of the festival,” Larrance tells WW. “At this time, we aren’t capping ticket sales, but we are keeping a close eye on the situation.”
Organizers also cite the size of the event center, which features an expo floor that’s nearly 40,000 square feet, allowing attendees ample room to spread out.
You can expect approximately 30 craft breweries representing all regions of Oregon to be pouring at the event. Two cider makers will also join the lineup. A full taplist is scheduled to be released later this month, but organizers have already teased that a number of original batches are set to debut at the fest.
Tickets will be sold on the festival’s website later this month as well as at the door day-of. A mug and three tabs costs $25, with additional drink vouchers available for $6, each worth a 14-ounce pour. Only adults 21 years and older will be allowed inside.
The Westside Beer Fest isn’t the only drinking event going forward with plans next month.
The Bavarian-themed village of Mount Angel will hold its 56th annual Oktoberfest Sept. 16-19, complete with five different beer- and wine-guzzling gartens. The only difference at this point will be the absence of Donaumusikanten, a traditional German band who cannot yet enter the country because of coronavirus travel restrictions.
Also happening in September is McMenamins’ UFO Festival, bumped from May due to the pandemic. The event, based out of the McMinnville Hotel Oregon property, will see the return of favorites like the alien costume ball as well as a speakers series that includes extraterrestrial investigators and abductees following a complete cancellation of activities in 2020.
And then in early October, the freshies are back. Hood River’s popular downtown Fresh Hop Fest resumes operations after calling off the harvest celebration last fall.