Portland Fruit Beer Festival Saturday June 11th 11am-9pm Sunday June 12th 11am-6pm Burnside Brewing 7th and East Burnside Portland, OR 97214

The inaugural Portland Fruit Beer Festival kicks off tomorrow.  We've mentioned it a few times already on the blog (official press release, main beer list, rare beer list, more event details, beer sampling preview), tweeted about the festival, and discussed it in person with you.  The hype machine is churning and spinning ever faster, but can the festival live up to all of these promises?  Let's start off with a simple question:

Do we need another festival?

While the common consensus might be "Yes, Portland can always use another beer festival", I'd like to add a qualifier: "Yes, Portland could always use another great beer festival".  A great festival once in awhile is much better then a mediocre festival every weekend.  The Portland Fruit Beer Festival finds it's niche easily by being all about, well, fruit beer.  From Cherry Stouts to Raspberry Gose's this fest covers a huge spectrum of flavors and styles.

What goes into the making of a festival?

Having a great beer list does not make a great festival.  While a festival is first and foremost about beer, there are a lot of other aspects that go into a beer event that can dictate its success or failure.  To get people to an event—and to come back next year—you need to plan for a few things other than beer.  I asked the festival's organizer Ezra Johnson-Greenough (Blog | Twitter) a couple of questions about some of the different aspects of this weekend's festival:

  • Great Beer: With a great list of consistently pouring beers alongside a rotating rare taplist throughout the weekend, there are plenty beers to drink and talk about.  Johnson-Greenough: "I felt like brewers would be into something like [the Portland Fruit Beer Festival] and it would be an opportunity to cut loose but the situation had to be right for them. I also spent a lot of time talking to brewers coaxing cool beers out of them.  Instead of just sending out an application and waiting to see if people return it or not, I actively tried to convince people and even threw out a few ideas for some of the beers. Then of course there is the rare rotating beer list filled with a lot of one-offs. This is something thats really special for the beer geeks and one of the better ideas from the OBF with their buzz tent. I know its stuff I am really geeking out about now, actually there isn't a single beer at this festival I am not dying to try. I couldnt be any happier with how the beer list came out."
  • Food: Drinking ten or fifteen samples?  Better eat something.  Luckily, it'll be something delicious.  Johnson-Greenough: "We have limited space but I want to give people more options and bring a higher quality than most food offerings. Burnside Brewing chef Ronnie Vance knows his meat so he will be preparing that classic easy BBQ food but stepping it up a notch--I hear he will is bringing meat in used whiskey barrels to cook up. For my other food option I only had one choice: Tastebud. These guys have a great restaurant but I am most familiar with them from their booth at the PSU Farmers Market where they bring in a mobile wood fired oven and slice up fresh veggies and serve up top of the line pizzas and their own wood fired bagels. They also can do some killer vegetarian and vegan dishes.  Lastly I thought having some handmade Ice Cream would just be cool and go really well with a beer fest and especially fruit beer. Fifty Licks mobile ice cream truck is pretty much the shit. They specialize in amazing creamy handmade fresh ice creams with just a little off the beaten path flavors. They will satisfy with both fruit flavors like Caramelized Apple plus more savory like Maple Bacon and even a vegan offering."
  • Hydration: Yeah, beer contains a lot of water, but it's not the first thing you want to reach for when your body needs water.  Johnson-Greenough: "Water can be a big issue. I think it needs to be easy to find and free flowing. Some festival profit off of selling bottled water and I understand that but I am not a fan. Your already shelling out your cash for the beer and water is pretty much free. So we will have picnic coolers in a few places with water that people can help themselves too."
  • Price: And it still gets better.  How about a festival with real glass pints and great prices?  You got it!  You can get a package for $15 that includes a glass festival pint and 10 tickets. Johnson-Greenough: "Then there are the little but important thing like prices and glassware. I think we could easily be charging more than usual for a lot of these beers, real fruit beer is more expensive to make, we even have some barrel-aged beers in the regular beer list but again I felt like for the first years fest I really wanted to provide a lot of value and bring more people in that might be hesitant to give these beers a try so everything but the rare rotating taps will be the standard $1 ticket for 4oz pour or 4 tickets for a pint. Oh yeah and we will have full glass pints for these beers. All of them should be available by the pint except for a few in the rare taplist. When you think about the deal on some of these its actually pretty amazing. For instance Ninkasi is going to have a Pinot Barrel-Aged Oatis with Cherries and Upright a pinot barrel-aged Wit with extra fruit and both will only be $4 for a pint. Glassware also seems to be going up in price, I am seeing some fests charging $10 for a glass when you add it up in the package. It better be a pretty nice glass for that price. Ours will cost just $6 standalone. Initially I was thinking we would do plastic mugs just to save money with our limited budget but I eventually decided that if I wanted to portray fruit beers as something special and beyond the norm than how we served them is just as important and for some reason glass is cheap unless you are using Belgian style glassware which suddenly shoots up a lot in cost."

It should be a great event.  While there are a lot of big promises, there has also been a lot of hard work putting this festival together, making it much easier to bring these promises to life.  Join us this weekend for the Portland Fruit Beer Fest (and tweet about it with the hash #pfbf).