We got out for another Zwicklemania. We did a new route this year – Columbia River Breweing, Laurelwood Brewery, Second Profession, Fire on the Mountain Brewery, Migration Brewery, Coalition Brewery, Culmination Brewery, and Natian Brewery.
Jeanette and I went for the opening night of the Portland Fresh Hop Festival held at Oaks Amusement Park. We did this event a couple of years ago and had a good experience so we went back to try it again. Not as good of an experience this time. This festival is reasonably priced if you get your tickets on line ahead of time. It is nice from an educational stand point as they have a number of single hop beers. This allows you to find hops you really like and ones you know to avoid in the future. It is not a bad venue for it. Problem became the crowd. We got in right at the first and stayed for an hour and a half. By the time we left the lines had gotten so bad that folks were getting their sample and then getting back in line for there next sample and had plenty of time finish the first sample before they got up front for the next pour. This was Not a venue problem but a problem with organization. They had room for two or three lines but had only one server so all of the crowd had to go to one line. I don’t know if that was bad planning or being unable to recruit enough volunteers. Since this is a brewery event (there was a good number of well known breweries pouring) and a good promotional tool for breweries I hope they will look into it.
One part that I know was bad management was signage saying “ask for beer by name” and the servers only had the name of the brewery. That led to some confusion. Under the conditions the servers did a good job and were trying to be light heart about it all.
Considering everything I think this is the last time I will be going. Festivals use to be a good educational opportunity to learn about beer by sampling many beers from many breweries at a fair price. Now most are over crowed, even at off hours, prices are to high and it just is just not a good experience anymore. It is more affordable now to go to a brew pub or taproom with a long list of beers and do samplers then go to a festival. Or do a walking pub crawl. Either way you can try many style of beer to learn the different flavors. So I think we will be turning more to festival beer pub outing and crawls (Oregon City Brewery has so many beers we could do two or three festival just there). This will be bad news in the future for new breweries starting up but it is the reality of the experience and economics.
Jeanette and I went to the Oregon Brewer Festival. I was looking forward to going as this had been the last beer festival that still emphasized the education and sampling of micro brew beer. For many years they have not changed the festival structure but this year there was change and not for the better. A staples of the festival like 4 oz. samples and that was cut down to 3 oz. So now even $5 would buy you a pint of beer. We were also surprise to find the extensive show brochure explaining the beers was no more. This time we got a single sheet of paper with a list of beers available at each trailer and told to look up on line if we want more info. This made the process of trying to figure out what we wanted more difficult. So if you are older and old tech don’t bother going. And the special guest beers has ended. This reduces the beers available to sample. But the biggest change was the number of people arriving early. It use to be if you went the first day, early, you had a quit time to sample beers and discuss what you thought of them but not now. This time number of folks was like the 7 pm crowd. So I guess if you are bring in so many people you don’t have to provide as much and education is no longer need as you have reach market saturation. So overall it does look like the craft brewing in Portland has reached the mature market phase with breweries closing and Festival events just becoming money makers for promoters.
As for the beer itself still mostly the same. Some breweries were brewing gose beer. Jeanette and I hatted them and talking to a few other folks and they felt the same. So these brews ended up being declared festival beers and got dumped. The hazy IPA trend continued. There were three stouts and a brown and that was it for dark beers. It used to be able to always find at least ten. One of the stouts by Hecetic Brewing that we felt was the best beer at the festival and they are from California not Oregon.
So beer festivals are now events and not a place to learn about beer. It has reach a point where it is cheaper and you can have a more relaxing time and learn more doing a pub crawl and sample trays then doing a festival.