Portland Fruit Beer Festival: A Sneak Peek
What a sweet weekend it's been! 80 degree weather, Portland Rose Festival and the chance to sample some of the fruit beers that will make an appearance at the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, next Saturday and Sunday. Burnside Brewery and Ezra Johnson-Greenough hosted a media preview Friday afternoon, that included 8 samples of some of the most interesting beer I've ever tasted.
My experience with fruit beer is pretty limited. I once ordered a bottle of Shock Top's Raspberry Wheat at some hole in the wall BBQ joint in North Cali. The ale was way too sweet and lacked any actual beer flavor. The only thing it was good for was washing down my Po' Boy sandwich. So, when I first heard about the Fruit Beer Festival I was half expecting to find a whole bunch of wimpy beers, flavored with raspberry extract. What I discovered at the preview is that a real fruit beer is much more natural, balanced, and quite worthy of its own festival.
Ezra introduced the samples by stating that many "fruit beers" are composed of flavorings and extracts, rather than real fruit. All of the beer at the fruit festival is required to be brewed with real fruit, rather than extracts or flavorings. This can be purees, whole fruit, or even parts of the fruit, like just the peel.
With this new information, I felt very inexperienced with this type of beer, yet captivated about what were about to taste. Real beer with real fruit? Holy hell, what a brilliant idea!
Our first sample, Barrel-Aged Pure Wit, from Upright Brewing, was a Belgian-style wit brewed with a pound of dried sweet orange peel and a Tangelo peel added to the barrel. The most noticeable thing about this one was it's super strong citrus aroma. Strong enough to almost taste. But surprisingly, there was no real robust citrus taste, like I'd expected. A trickster indeed, and an overall delicious mind blowing beer. I knew I wasn't in Kansas anymore after this first sample and this festival isn't making room for any commercial namby-pamby beers that taste like fruit juice.
The two brews that really stole my heart (technically, they didn't steal it, I'm letting them borrow it) were Block 15's, Psidium and Alemeda Brewery's Huckleberry Hound. Block 15's brewer, Nick Arzner, introduced Psidium and the process involved in making it. It began as a Belgian Pilsner, brewed with Saaz and Citra hops. He explained that the decision to add guava to the batch was made because of his curiosity and little knowledge of the fruit initially. He was schooled on this fickle fruit shortly after purchasing a whopping $300 worth of fresh guava that turned moldy, after being stored in a dark cellar. Disappointed I'm sure, he gave it another go. This time deciding to switch to guava puree to avoid spending a small fortune. Well, I was glad he stuck with it, and I'm sure you will be too, because this fruit concoction is a mighty fine one. I couldn't determine what guava actually tastes like, but the light sweetness of this beer is perfectly balanced with the bitterness of the hops and light carbonation. Not too heavy, not too light; this beer is all around perfect. I can only hope that it will have a permanent home at Block 15 after it's discovered at the festival.
Our last sample, Huckleberry Hound, was an IPA, aged and dry-hopped with huckleberries. This one was had a very bold, hoppy strength at first, but the sweet huckleberries and honey highlights leave your taste buds wanting more. The explanation of the process at the preview on Friday, was a quick one and consisted mostly of the word "doctored". I hope to get more information about the brewing process of Huckleberry Hound next weekend at the festival.
The preview was definitely an eye-opener for me and a good lesson about what fruit beer really should taste like. I will definitely be re-sampling some of my favorites from the preview but I'm also looking forward to a few others on the list. I hope to christen my festival glass with Peach Love from New Belgium; a super sour single barrel beer was aged in Whiskey Barrels with Peaches and Breakside's Whiskey Ginger, a beer aged in an Oregon Whippersnapper Whiskey barrel and brewed with blueberries, fresh ginger, lime peel, and a touch of grenadine. My mouth is watering already.
The Portland Fruit Beer Festival takes place next week. On Saturday, from 11-9pm and on Sunday, 11-6pm. Bring the kiddos too; it's an all-ages festival with plenty of entertainment and delicious grub. It would be a crime to miss this one. See ya there, beer lovers!
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