Wooos and Brews: Oregon Brewfest 2014

Your cheat sheet to the most interesting beer at the Oregon Brewers Festival 2014.

This year's Oregon Brewers Festival has something for every kind of beer lover, and there are many kinds of beer lover. The festival has beers for hopheads, sessionistas, fruitheads and those drunks who always grab the highest-ABV brew on the board—this year that's Dogfish Head Burton Olde English at 11 percent.

There are 88 beers from 85 breweries. Actually, though, there are about 200 beers to sample this year thanks to the Dutch—more on them in a minute.

Here's what to expect at the 27th annual installment of Oregon's biggest, drunkest party.

The longest line will be…

At Cigar City Brewing from Tampa, Fla. If you think low-ABV beers draw few takers and Florida is a desert for craft beer, think again. Cigar City is kind of a big deal. If you're there before the keg kicks, get a full mug of blood orange/dragon fruit Florida Weisse. You won't get too buzzed, because it's only 3.5 percent alcohol. It'll probably be the most sought-after among the 31 fruited beers, which have become increasingly popular in recent years.

You could call Portland's western waterfront "Little Bombay"…

At last year's festival, beers with the IPA designation accounted for 15 of the 84 on tap. This year, it's a whopping 27—nearly one in three beers. That includes "standards" such as Terminal Gravity IPA from Eastern Oregon and perennial favorite Ballast Point Sculpin from San Diego. It also includes six double IPAs and five kid brothers, low-alcohol session IPAs. Dig this: The festival also incorporates seven fruit-infused IPAs. Citrus fruits are becoming almost ubiquitous in tarting up IPAs—Lompoc's Pamplemousse is a terrific example, with grapefruit juice complementing the hop bill.

You can see some weird stylistic mash-ups…

A good example is Omission Beer O'Shandy gluten-free grapefruit shandy. Or, for those who want a double IPA with fruit, Maui Brewing's Lorenzini with blood oranges. Don't miss the beer, er, braggot—a honey-enhanced crossbreed—from newish Viking Braggot Co. We tried a pineapple IPA at the Eugene braggotery; it starts as a straightforward IPA, then welcomes more than 50 pounds of sage honey and 30 raw pineapples. It's fruity, but not so juicy that you couldn't think it's brewed with just Simcoe hops.

There's some new blood…

Viking Braggot is among 17 new breweries at the festival. Nine are from Oregon, including Bend's Crux and Portland's Kells. Of those 17, seven weren't invited last year because, well, they didn't yet exist. Let's give a big Portland welcome to locals Ecliptic and Ex Novo, McMinnville's Grain Station Brew Works, Corvallis' Mazama, Bend's North Rim, and Redmond's Wild Ride.

There's also some old heads…

On the flip side, 14 of this year's attendees are at least 20-year festival veterans, including BridgePort, Deschutes, Full Sail, Widmer Brothers and, from Missoula, Mont., Bayern, which has never missed an OBF, dating back to the inaugural one in 1988. You'd expect to find McMenamins on that exalted list, but it had a gas leak in 1998.

The specialty tent is back…

In the specialty tent, all offerings will be available only as tastes, which cost two tokens. The list is subject to change—find out what's on tap by following @OBFltdTent on Twitter—but we hear Boneyard will bring an out-of-character Flanders Red called Funky Bunch, Deschutes will tap into the Wayback Machine with the Abyss 2012 and 2011, and Cigar City will bring some of its much-ballyhooed Hunahpu, which caused a mini-riot during its special-release event in Tampa that was plagued by counterfeit tickets. Among the various Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across America collaborations, we can rejoice about the first-ever offering from New Glarus Brewing—a Wisconsin brewery that doesn't distribute a drop outside the state. It will pour There and Back English-Style Bitter.

There are two very interesting collaboration beers…

Old Town Brewing and Rock Bottom jointly brewed an imperial red ale called Kaw-Liga, which features smoked malt, as an homage to Hank Williams' song of the same name. The quarter-barrel available at the festival was racked onto tobacco. Also look for the collaboration between Hood River's Logsdon and its neighbor, Parkdale's Solera. The resulting saison, inoculated with Brettanomyces, is called Half Naakte Paasvankantie, which is Dutch for Half Naked Spring Break.

And, oh yes, the Dutch…

The festival has a new highlight, dubbed #NLtoPDX. When Americans think of beer from the Netherlands, they tend to think Heineken, Amstel Light, Grolsch—the Bud, Coors Light and MGD of that country. When OBF co-founder Art Larrance attended the Borefts Beer Festival at Brouwerij De Molen, he discovered the burgeoning Dutch craft-beer scene. He also discovered that his Cascade Brewing's reputation preceded him.

To celebrate this, OBF is hosting nearly a dozen Dutch brouwerijs, including Rooie Dop, De Molen, Oedipus, 't IJ, Het Uiltje, Rodenburg, Maximus, Duits & Lauret, Oersoep, Ramses, and Emelisse, each serving a different beer every day of the festival. Attendees can meet the brewers, who will also participate in local collaborations as part of an awesome foreign-exchange program. Oersoep, a wild-ale brewer, will collaborate on a beer with Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, whose owner, David Logsdon, has a Dutch wife.

Mark Strooker from Utrecht's Rooie Dop—ranked by Ratebeer.com as the best new Dutch brewery—spearheaded #NLtoPDX with Larrance and will pour beers that include Ot the Explorer DIPA and Utrecht Strong Ale.

"Featuring international brewers is a natural extension for the OBF," says Larrance. "We want to develop a long-term cultural exchange and share our passion, knowledge and friendship."

Also, our beer. 

GO: The Oregon Brewers Festival is at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, main entrance at Southwest Oak Street and Naito Parkway, oregonbrewfest.com. Noon-9 pm Wednesday-Saturday, noon-7 pm Sunday, July 23-27. Free admission, taste tokens $1 after $7 glass purchase.

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