It all started with the Brewers Brunch at Portland’s PGE Park, where local mavens Kurt and Rob Widmer (think Hefeweizen) perched incognito as the line for the sold-out event streamed in. The brunch is also where I met my new crew for the day, consisting of a benevolent bunch of locals, Aly, Jay, Christian, Sarah, Dean, Brit, Katie and not timid girl from Phoenix, Sara. The rep for Widmer Bros. showered us with schwag to hand out during the parade. Yes, a parade.
The route ended at McCall Waterfront Park where the inaugural cask (I heard it was Widmer’s new Half Nelson Imperial India Pale Ale, but it seemed to lack the kick of an IIPA and was more likely the regular Broken Halo IPA) was tapped by the mayor of Portland. Not only did I meet Mayor Tom Potter, and not only did he wear one of my new Red, White, and Brew stickers* on his shirt, he put his "Mayor of Beertown" sash on me when we posed for a picture. I felt like Charlie to Mayor Potter’s Willie Wonka. We talked for a while about the joys and merits of being the mayor of Beervana, and it seems that it’s always been in the family, in that he has long enjoyed German brews and sausages whenever he visits his wife’s family in the Rhineland.
I spent my first wooden chip (buck-a-piece) on the Surfer’s Summer Ale from the Pelican Brewery, located on the Oregon coast. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’d only give in a 2. So I went in the opposite direction, both beer-wise and geography-wise, and went for a Bell’s Porter from Kalamazoo, MI. Paydirt! Other noteworthy concoctions included MacTarnahan’s Slingshot Extra Pale Ale (Originally Portland Brewing Co, Mac’s is now owned by Pyramid, which is now owned by Magic Hat in Vermont, so how come there wasn’t any Magic Hat at the fest?); kooky local brews like Caldera’s Ginger Ale (yes, ale with ginger) and Roots Organic Brewing’s Calypso Ale (unbeknownst to me, it was a spicy chili beer), and, from Idaho, Laughing Dog’s Rocketdog Red Rye, which had a surprisingly zingy bitter kick. It was good because sometimes, just sometimes, you don’t want ginger or peppers in your beer.
The day ended with a post-fest round at one of the McMenamin’s brewpubs, founded by Mike and Brian McMenamin . Which one? I don’t rightly recall, such was my wherewithall 12 hours after my first beer. That night, I attempted to sleep at my hostel, but the guy in another bunk had snored like a hibernating bear wrapped in a mauled wild boar’s last gasps for air being chased by an Unholy Thing.
I couldn’t spend four days in PDX and not hit one of my all-time favorite brewpubs, the Lucky Lab on Hawthorne. With The Manager finding her way to town to join me, we took a short leave of absence from the fest to walk over the Hawthorne Bridge and cool off. Irish Stout on the nitro tap for her, Black Lab Stout for me. Add several real live Labradors and other breeds out on the back porch and it made for a fine afternoon. Best part: for barely more than the price of a pint, they’ll hand fill a 22 oz bottle of your choice for take-home.
One unexpected highlight for me was running into Electric Dave from my official beer odyssey. (Seriously: click here.) As someone who could barely make his way from his home in Bisbee, AZ to nearby Tucson, I couldn't imagine what brought him to Portland. The next day, I met "The Other Dave," and I understood why they were in town. Bottom line: Electric Brewing has officially changed hands, but Electric Dave is staying on. It is a tale of two Daves. I wish them both good luck.
Finally, I met so many cool people, but will end with a political canvasser named Miles Greengard from Michigan. When I told him about my visit to Bell's there, he offered: “In Michigan there are two holidays that people celebrate: the opening of deer hunting season and the day Oberon drops. Nobody goes to class the next day.”