The Oregon Brewers Festival, which takes over Tom McCall Waterfront Park for five days starting July 27, is the biggest fest in Oregon—one of the oldest and probably the largest outdoor beer fest in the country, with 111 beers ranging from traditional Czech Pilsners and Leipziger goses to, like, mint julep beer and beer made with pesto. Which is to say, it's a very big deal.
The many local breweries tend to pull out the stops and brew special beers, because 80,000 people from all over the world come to try them—along with craft brews from as far away as China, Japan and the Netherlands. There is no admission fee, and after you get a cup for $7, each taste is a mere buck. It's a gigantic clusterfuck, and it's terrific.
But like anything big, it has haters. We talked to one, local man Walker MacMurdo.
WW: What's your beef?
Walker MacMurdo: When I visited on a Friday last year, the grounds were a swelteringly hot, overcrowded, overlarge, dust-choked clusterfuck of a beer festival. I'd recently enjoyed the Portland Craft Beer Festival in Fields Park, which was a fraction of the size, and the contrast stuck out immediately.
So your problem is…you'll be drinking beer on what's essentially the city's hugest beer patio, in the summer, next to the river, in 80-degree weather?
Patio, my ass. It's a fairground that takes 20 minutes to cross. And the river would be nice if not for the infernal dirt.
That, and the crowd isn't exactly the normal beer fest crowd either. I saw at least five variations on cutoff T-shirts that said "STOMP MY FLAG, I'LL STOMP YOUR ASS."
The people who go to the Oregon Brewers Festival believe people will stomp on flags in front of them. The whole thing was Donald Trump's beer fest.
From the brewers' perspective, it's putting their beer in front of people who otherwise never see it. You just want to drink beers with 17 guys named Rodney?
I'm not attacking the concept of the beer festival. But is it worth digging the gems out of a hot, sprawling mess? If you put the world's best beer festival inside a Tilt-a-Whirl, would it be worth it?
The OBF is a total state fair midway. But it sacrifices every nice thing about a beer fest, which is that it's a way to drink a bunch of rare beers without being trapped in a sandstorm.
There are six things like that every week. This is pretty much the biggest outdoor beer fest in the country. You don't complain when Oktoberfest is a drunken carnival. You go because it's a drunken carnival. Also, sandstorms? Seriously?
When I went to get the beer, the lines were invariably extremely long, especially if you want anything halfway across the country or the world. And it's an endless expanse of countless stalls.
On the bright side, it's an endless expanse of countless stalls. And each one has a beer you'll never see again. There's craft beer from Japan. Brewers who flew in from the Netherlands. Craft beer from China. China! Just go at 2 pm Thursday, when it's less crowded.
I went when I could. That's when normal people get to go to these things. Not everyone is a highfalutin alternative journalist who gets to go whenever he wants.
Take a damn day and drink. The nerds are there early, and there's so much beer.
Beerfests should be generally enjoyable whenever—but, oh, I guess it's fine if there's nerds there.
GO: The Oregon Brewers Festival is at Tom McCall Waterfront Park on Wednesday-Sunday, July 27-31. $7 for a cup, $1 for each 4-ounce taste. Cash only.