Photo ©2011 Ian Lass.
2011 Bend Brewfest

If you've spent enough time living here in Portland then odds are that you have made the 3 and a half hour trip southeast to our other beer mecca that is called Bend. If you haven't... well then crawl out from under your rock. Besides offering everything an outdoors enthusiast craves from kayaking, hiking, caving, horseback riding, skiing and snowboarding and many other activities, it goes without saying that Bend offers some of the finest beer Oregon has to offer. I mean this is the birthplace of Deschutes Brewery, 10 Barrel Brewing, Boneyard Beer, Bend Brewing and a fine few others that call this place home. That is why I was so surprised and initially disappointed when I saw the taplist for the Bend BrewFest. Now, you can call me jaded but when I go to a brew festival and pay for a mug and then stand in a line to buy tokens then go stand in another line to get 4 ounces of beer for my one dollar token... I expect that beer to really stand out and be something that I may not be able to attain easily or something I may never get to try again. So when I started reading off the familiar names on the taplist of brews such as Mirror Pond, X-114 IPA, Moose Drool, Kingpin, Rise Up Red ect. I started to wonder why I had made the trip over here when I could have stayed at home, driven 10 minutes to the nearest supermarket or convenience store, bought a six pack or 22oz bottle of one of those beers for less than the cost of the mug and then enjoyed them in the comfort of my air conditioning sans pants. But then again this kind of thinking put me at the risk of looking like a complete tool having not read the beer list before leaving Portland so I decided to put on my happy face (and pants) and I packed up my parents and we headed for the festival.

We entered the festival and stood in the previously mentioned lines to attain the required mug and tokens. Once set up with those it was time to get some brews. We scouted the guide for a beer I had not previously tried and I made my first sample a Hop Head ale from Bend Brewing. The initial impression of this beer is one of very fresh and potent hop aroma and flavor and after about 2 sips your tastebuds kind of go into a happy little flavor coma and the beer becomes an easily drinkable ale with a light body and bitter aftertaste. Next off was Bayern Dump Truck Summer Bock from Bayern Brewing Inc. out of Missoula Montana. This brew was deceptively smooth, light and easy to drink even when weighing in at 7% abv. The body is reminiscent of champagne with a very light bubbly highly carbonated profile but the flavor is that of a nice low hopped cream ale. This brew made me think it would be perfect for enjoying after a day out hiking or mountain biking in the desert. I then moved on to something I had never tried before, which was an Acai Berry Wheat Ale from Eel River Brewing Co. from Fortuna California. This is brewed with Acai Berries (duh) and pomegranate and other berries. While drinking this ale I couldn't help but reminisce of the days when I was a kid and would enjoy a Capri Sun or Kool Aid while playing out in the sun. Hops are all but absent and all that is there is a nice clean berry flavor with a light summery body that is perfect for satisfying the kid and connoisseur in all of us. Lastly I waited for the Fire Mountain Steam Fired Stout to be released on the X-Tap. A sidenote: the X-Tap is where they hide all of the hard to get beer and release two of them at a time every two hours which is smart as opposed to the OBF where the Buzz tent ran out halfway through the festival. So I payed my two tokens for a taster of this and I was pleasantly surprised by this stout. It started off just like every other stout with a dry body and roasted malt flavor but finished with a very chocolaty aftertaste which is something usually found more in porters.

The festival was nicely laid out over the grounds of the Les Schwab Amphitheater so everyone had room to walk around, lay down a blanket in the grass or grab a table under some tents. This was something that I think made the festival stand out from others because it made the atmosphere relaxed and enjoyable unlike most of the festivals here in Portland which are generally crowded and laden with drunk people. None of that here.. just lots of people enjoying the craft of brewing and not over-doing it. The lines to the beers were short to non existent, except at the X-Tap when they first released a beer and even then I only waited 3 minutes to get my taster. The volunteers were all polite and helpful and the food choices were plentiful ranging from frozen yogurt to hot dogs to food trucks with just a bit of everything and yes... Nut Love was there too with their delicious almonds,  just in case you were starting to panic. The other cool part about this festival is that families with children can attend until 7pm and you can bring your fuzzy companion along too. Wine drinkers could enjoy four different tasters from Toasted Head Winery which included Untamed White, Untamed Red, a chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon. I also had a chance to chat with some of the guys from Central Oregon Homebrewers Organization (COHO) at their booth. We discussed homebrewing techniques and stories of brews that went good and some that went awry, plus I got to check out the sweet gravity fed brewing station they had on display.

So I guess the big question is will I come back to this festival next year and is it worth your time to make the trip out to it? In short.. the answer is hell yes. I genuinely enjoyed myself at this festival this year and I am glad I did not judge a brewfest by it's taplist because I would have missed out on some great brews, a great time and great people! So mark it on your calendar for next year and plan a beercation for you and even your family!

...Or you could just stay under your rock.