A Traditionalists Review of BiKETOBEERFEST
Having been raised in a family with strong German roots, I have been to many Oktoberfest's. I love the taste of a good Bratwurst, weisswurst, potato pancakes and spatzel. I love the smell of the German food cooking, the sound of polka playing (only during Oktoberfest) and seeing people dressed in their lederhosen and dirndls laughing, dancing and having a good old Deutsch time. BiKETOBEERFEST isn't that. It's more like the strange second or third cousin of Oktoberfest that the family back in Deutschland doesn't sprechen of.
This is a festival Portland can call it's own.
At BiKETOBEERFEST, lederhosen is transformed into cycling jerseys and cycling shorts. Steins are replaced with pint glasses donning HUB's logo and a picture of... what else? A Bicycle. Traditional footwear is nowhere to be seen. It has no use here, because here we wear hi-tech cycling shoes. Men wearing funny hats with stuff on them is replaced by men wearing different funny hats with logos on them. The most important thing that has been Portlandized is of course the brews. Most Oktoberfest's buy imported German beer which usually includes a few Dunkelweisens, maybe some Belgian styles and overall a buttload of lagers. That is totally cool if you're looking for traditional, but BiKETOBEERFEST offers fifteen of it's own beers. These beers range from Oktoberfest style to bourbon barrel aged IPA... which is what I started off with. This Imperial beast was aged for three months in a bourbon barrel giving it the perfect balance of hoppy aroma, bitterness and sweet bourbon flavor that lingers in the aftertaste. Personally, I love when a porter or stout has been aged 10 or more months in a bourbon barrel, because it gives it an overwhelming flavor of oak and whiskey. But IPA's you must be careful with when aging. First, you don't want to age it too long because you'll lose hop freshness but also you do not want the bourbon to overpower the defining characteristic of an IPA which of course is the hops. These guys definitely got this one right.
With the sound of Brownish Black's 60's and 70's reminiscent R&B and Soul in the background, I strolled over to grab a Kronan the Bourbarian on Matt's advice since I'd never had the pleasure. With brew secured in hand I headed over to the Huffy Toss to watch some department store bicycle carnage. I enjoyed the sweet chocolate malt flavor mixed with just a hint of bourbon while observing men and women do their best to send these bikes that in 1994 I would have killed for, into the atmosphere. Kronan has a nice full body much like some of the contestants. I couldn't help but wonder if these fearless athletes could have been the motivation behind this dark and mysterious brew.
To change it up I grabbed a Firkin Cool Grand which was brewed to commemorate... well something to do with a thousand brews. By this time I was running out of tokens and suffering a little bit of short term memory loss. The Firkin was a very interesting beer because they brewed it with one thousand pounds of malt which totally reverses what usually happens in beers which is hops overpower malt. The aroma gives a hint of hop and a lot of malt and the flavor and body aren't much different. The flavor is almost overwhelmingly malty with a very slight bitterness with a malty aftertaste. Quite the change-up indeed.
To finish my evening I gave my last 3 tokens for a 2 token Brouwers Imperial Stout and headed over to the stage to listen to Jared Mees and the Grown Children. While listening to the music and watching everyone around me singing along I felt a bit out of place. So I found comfort in the stouts refreshingly original taste of bourbon and pear like flavor that meshed very well with the roasted malt aftertaste.
With the last sips of my brew dwindling away I had a few thoughts on the festival and how it could be improved. This really should be a multi-day event due to the fact that there are fifteen beers and at this festival they give generous eight ounce pours for two tickets. So to try all of the beers would require one to consume 120 ounces of beer, some of which weigh in at eleven percent ABV. I'm pretty sure that would make bicycling away quite a challenge and quite illegal. I would also recommend to festival goers to go into the HUB's restaurant before you enter the event because the delicious food that is inside is not available out back and the food that is available at the event such as bratwurst and chips is delicious but does not offer much to absorb alcohol.
This festival is certainly one of a kind, just like Portland. It offers original beers, brews and music. Would I call it an Oktoberfest? No. It's in a class of it's own. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised to see BiKETOBEERFEST become a tradition followed by cyclists and beer lovers worldwide. Maybe someday in Munich they'll trade in their clydesdales for a Scattante and the chicken dance for a breakdance.
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