PIB VS OBF – part 1

July and Oregon Craft Brewery Month are coming to a close, which means that Portland’s two biggest summer brewfests have come to

Outside PIB, eager to get in!

town.  Last weekend was the Portland International Beerfest (PIB) and the Oregon Brewers Festival (OBF) started today at noon with the arrival of the Brewers’ Parade.  With both of these pricey brewfests happening within weeks of each other (4 days apart this year!), which ‘fest is the better one?  Especially if you don’t want to spend that much or drink that much in such close proximity.

What do you think: Which brewfest do you like more?  I’d love to hear your opinions or anecdotes of either ‘fest.  Leave a comment below!

I have a few pro/cons for PIB and a few comparisons between them that I’d like to share:

Portland International Beerfest takes place in the North Park Blocks – only occupying one block – and serves both local, state, national, and, of course, international beer.  This year it cost $30 (at the gate; less $2 if tickets were bought ahead of time online; or plus $10 for a VIP package) for admission, a tasting glass, and 10 tickets.  You can buy extra tickets for $1.  Free re-entry all weekend with wristband and glass.

Pro:      Because of the admission price (which is comparable to other beefests), the crowd is beautifully limited to die-hard beer drinkers.

However:        $30 is pricey, especially with two beerfests to consider.  $40 for the VIP package is a good deal with two admissions, two

PIB bus

tasting glasses, and 20 tickets to share, but there are a limited number of those packages and you have to buy them in advance online.

 

Con:    The area is small with little seating, so people are hanging out right in front of the taps making it really hard to get around or to find the end of a line.  Ugh, this is one of my biggest pet peeves!  Luckily, the lines were fairly short; while at OBF the lines seem endless (this brewfest is huge, occupying several acres of Tom McCall Park, with an attendance of over 80,000 last year).

However:        Since this festival is in the park blocks, there is plenty of shade, while at OBF your only shade is under the tents that start to feel like a sauna by 3pm.  It also makes for a more cozy experience where you can bump into two groups of people, at the same time, that you knew from very different times in your life, and all it takes is “What’s the best beer you’ve tried so far?” before everyone’s friends.

 

Pro:      You get to try tons of different beers you wouldn’t get to try without paying upwards of $10 for a bottle of rare international beer or traveling to those far off breweries yourself.

However:        Those rare international beers don’t cost just one ticket.  Which leads me to the worst con…

Hop heads! Literally, look at the girl in the top left-hand corner, and the guy in the bottom right-hand corner

 

Con:    Most brewfests charge 1 ticket per 4 oz. taster, or maybe sometimes 2 tickets for extra strong or rare beers.  But PIB charges anywhere from 1 ~ 7 tickets for one 4 oz. taster!  SEVEN TICKETS?!   I guess if you have a sizeable income you can afford to pay basically $7 for 4 ounces of beer, but that’s still crazy!  So, don’t waste your tickets on one of those beers, you say?  Easy, except MOST of the beers are at least 2 tickets or more.

However:        I did manage to try mostly 1 ticket beers, along with a few 2 ticket beers, so it’s very possible to not spend too much at this festival.  Which leads me to the best pro…

 

Pro:      The beers at this festival are not low in ABV.  While sticking to my 1 ~ 2 ticket a beer budget, I managed to find double IPAs, triple IPAs, barleywines, and other strong beers.  Most of the 3 ~ 7 ticket beers were all strong beers.  Plus, most of the beers I tried were really good.  I even had two Samuel Adams that were really (surprisingly!) good.  So you’re not wasting your money on crappy beer.  Also, the lines weren’t all that long when I was there on a Friday evening, so getting your next beer doesn’t take as long as it does at OBF (where waiting time can be up to 20 minutes).

However:        Make sure you don’t drive home!  You’ll probably get a bit tipsy.

 

The crowd at PIB

To sum up:  Attendees at PIB are primarily beerhards, but it’s expensive.  PIB is small, but cozy.  At PIB you get to try several different types of limited kegs or rare imports you wouldn’t get to try otherwise, but it’s expensive.  PIB beers are usually strong, of high quality, and quite drinkable, but you’ll probably need a DD to get home.

Overall, despite the pros, I was a little disappointed with PIB; it’s just too expensive!  But I’m really excited for OBF this weekend, so see you there!  I’ll give you my critique of OBF next week!  So keep a lookout for part 2!  Cheers!

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Concordia Cup

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Concordia Ale House in NEP

I love summer in Portland.  There is nothing better than sitting on a restaurant patio hanging out with friends on a warm summer night.  Except, if beer’s involved, and then it’s perfect.  This past weekend I had one of those nights with my boyfriend Matt and my old friend Taylor at Concordia Ale House in NE Portland.

Concordia Ale House often has beer tasting events that are perfect for me.  However, I have never been to one of these events until Saturday.  This past weekend was the Concordia Cup where one could sample 12 different imperial IPAs (imperial means strong, and IPA stands for India Pale Ale, a hoppy and often bitter ale) and then vote for your favorite.  The catch is it’s a blind taste test.

Like usual I gave each beer a star rating, but with Taylor’s advice I also wrote a little note about each one.  He suggested doing so because he found that as the beers warmed the beers’ tastes changed.  Sometimes, a warmer IPA tastes better than when cold (know what I mean Brits?).  Here are my ratings and notes:

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Bottoms up!
Thanks for the picture Matt!

#1: ✬✬✬ – better warm

#2: ✬✬✬✬ – Mmmm, my favorite!

#3: ✬✬ – bitter (lost a star after it got warm)

#4: ✬ – bland, and got worst after it warmed up

#5: ✬✬✬ – sweet, thick

#6: ✬✬✬ – boring, but it got better and earned another star as it warmed

#7: ✬✬✬ – bland, better warm

#8: ✬✬✬ – lemony (lost a star, and its lemony taste, after it warmed up)

#9: ✬✬ – bitter (lost a star as it got warm)

#10: ✬✬✬ – thick

#11: ✬ – very bitter (lost a star as it warmed up)

#12: ✬ – even bitterer than #11 (lost a star as it warmed up)

Today we found out what beer was what after all the votes had been counted (365 people voted!).  Results:

#1: Nelson – Widmer                                        2nd

#2: Hop Venom – Boneyard                          1st

#3: War Elephant – Columbia River

#4: Big Rack – S.O.B

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All gone!

#5: Comatose – Good Life                               4th

#6: Double Vortex – Fort George                5th

#7: Tricerahops – Ninkasi

#8: Leafer Madness – Beer Valley

#9: Green Mammoth – Laurelwood

#10: Hop Henge – Deschutes

#11: Licentious Goat – Flat Tail                       3rd

#12: Alpha Centauri – Hop Valley

What a nice night that was.  God I love summer and beer!  Next weekend is the Portland International Beerfest in the North Park Blocks.  See you then.  Cheers!

North American Organic Brewers Festival (NAOBF) 2012!!!!

Happy Independence Day America!!

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Compostable tasting cup and Beer West magazine
Thank you Matt Costa for the photo

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Me ticking off my beers!
Thank you Matt Costa for the photo

Organic.  It’s a pretty popular buzzword in relation to just about everything you may consume these days, and of course that includes beer.  This past weekend was the 7th annual North American Organic Brewers Festival (NAOBF) held at Overlook Park in North Portland.  The NAOBF was established in 2005 by Craig Nicholls, who also started the now defunct Roots Organic Brewing Co.  Organic beer is super popular, with numerous local breweries going organic, like Hopworks, Laurelwood and Fish Brewing Company, to name a few.  The point of this organic brewfest was to educate people about sustainable living.  The plastic Solo-like cup used for beer tasting was a compostable cornstarch cup “made from domestically grown corn by a zero-waste, solar-powered company” (from the program).  That’s all great and dandy, but I would much rather have spent $6 on a commemorative glass or mug that I could keep.  Then I wouldn’t be throwing anything away.  Also, If you brought three cans of food, showed your MAX ticket or road your bike to the festival you received $1 off the price of the cup or got an additional token.

Unfortunately, this past weekend wasn’t nice, weather wise, so when Matt and I got there on Sunday around noon, not many people were in attendance.  After a few hours it did get busier though.  There were food vendors (all using compostable materials), retail vendors (all using energy from biodiesel and solar generators), and bands playing on a stage opposite tables sheltered by tents.

Now, the beer itself, wasn’t bad, but there were only a handful I really liked.  Beers that got perfect five-star ratings include:

-Captured by Porches Brewing Co., St. Helens OR – Bavarian Hefeweizen

-Elliot Bay Brewing, Burien, WA – Organic Olde Burien 600 Malt Liquor

-McMenamins Old Church Brewery, Wilsonville, OR – Dark Night Organic Dunkelweizen

-Ukiah Brewing, Ukiah, CA – Navarro Yarrow, herbal beer

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A band playing at the brewfest
Thank you Matt Costa for the photo

There were several beers that were already tapped out.  I understand, we were there on the last day of the festival, but really?  How do you run out?  One beer that was out – Bison Brewery’s Organic Honey Basil – was the most popular beer last year!  Why weren’t you prepared?  Another complaint I had was why weren’t the brewers served next to each other?  Pretty much each brewery brought at least two beers, but one would be on one end of the brew tents and one would be other the other.  I spent too much time looking for a brewery’s second beer.

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Exit!

All and all, this beer festival is not one of my favorites.  I don’t think organic beer is any better than non-organic beer.  The music was okay, but not great.  And there was this air of stuffiness about the festival; this was not a brewfest to drink and enjoy beer, it was a brewfest to be environmentally correct.  As much as I’d like to skip NAOBF next year, I probably won’t :-).

Cheers!

Welcome to my blog!

Hello.  My name is Brittany and I’m an American Ticker.  What’s a ticker you ask?  In Britain there is a hobby called “ticking” where a beer connoisseur tries as many beers as possible and then “ticks” it off their list.  This was my hobby before I even knew what ticking was.  In other words I’m a beer geek (not a snob, because I don’t say no to any beer).  I was born and raised and still live in Beervana, also known as Portland, Oregon.  The perfect place to feed my beer ticking addiction.  But more (much more) on that later.

This blog will be about my beer ticking experiences and I’ll post about good places to sample lots of beer.  I’m not the type of person who tastes beer like winos taste wine (but who knows, I might be later on), so I won’t talk about a particular beer having a fruity nose (smell) or oak-y overtones or how nice of a head a beer has or what kind of glass a beer should be served in (I know it’s best to drink a good beer from a glass, but gimme the can/bottle, I don’t really care).  I’m about if a beer is drinkable.  I may label a beer sip-able or one that you could drink all night long.  I don’t really like boring adjunct macro lagers (but I do drink them when there’s no other choice, my go-to being PBR), I like beers with creativity.  Hopefully I can sell you on a good beer based on my opinion, or at least entertain you with my beer-having antics.

Me with the Asahi beer

My hobby (and obsession) started in my second year living in Akita City, Japan.  I always marveled at how many different brands and kinds of beer were available in Nippon, even though I figured they all tasted the same, save for the infrequent craft beers that are not very popular.  So I decided one night, stopping in at the conbini (convenience store) on my way to a friend’s place to pass away another dull Saturday night in a small city with very little night life, to get one can of all the variations of Asahi beer.   This is all I could find at that one conbini that night (see picture to the left).  Later I would find more Asahi to try as my collection and knowledge continued to grow.  And honestly, they really did all taste the same.  Granted I didn’t have the palate then to discern the different flavors that I do now.  But really, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between these bland adjunct rice lagers.

Me with the Kirin beer

The next weekend I decided to tackle Kirin.  I found a lot more Kirin than I did Asahi (I have another picture with nine more cans of Kirin in addition to these ten in the picture below), which I found interesting since, in my opinion, Asahi is more popular in Japan.  Maybe Kirin has to try harder to keep up, hence all the different kinds.  After Kirin I tried Suntory (“for good times, make it Suntory times” –Lost in Translation), then Sapporo and Yebisu, and then I started hunting for lesser know beers.  Surprisingly Akita City has a brewery called Aqula * Brauhaus Akita, there’s also another brewery in Tazawa, Akita Prefecture, and one in nearby Iwate Prefecture, so I did get to sample some micro-brews.   I’m sure with more time and research I could have found more, but unfortunately I started this hobby too close to leaving Japan.

I wrote down all the beers I tried, so I would remember which ones I’ve tried.  My friends tried to get me to do more, like take notes or star the ones I liked the best.  But at this time it was all too overwhelming and all the beers tasted the same to me, so I didn’t.

The Sapporo Brewery

Old beer advertisments in the Sapporo Beer Museum

Samples of different kinds of Sapporo Beer

One of my best memories from Japan was my visit to Sapporo City in Hokkaido for the annual Snow Festival.  A whole group of us went up to Sapporo and we traveled via ferry, sleeping on the floor (duh, it’s Japan!) of the boat over night and arriving the next morning (we had fresh snow crab and uni [sea urchin] for breakfast at a fish market, yum!).  Of course the festival was amazing with ginormous snow sculptures in the shapes of buildings and animals, glistening ice carvings including a walk-through Bailey’s Ice Bar, and enchanting little snow sculptures designed by people from around the world (including one from Portland, Oregon, holla!).  But my favorite part about this adventure was visiting the Sapporo Brewery.  Really, they don’t brew the beer here any more 😦 but there was a wonderful museum and fabulous restaurant with tabehodai (all you can eat) where you grill your own meat and veggies right at your table called Genghis Khan and partake in nomihodai (all you can drink).  At the end of the beer museum tour you can try samples of Sapporo beer, and of course i did!  Just be careful, if you decide to visit the Sapporo Brewery and do some beer tasting and nomihodai that you go into the gift shop BEFORE said activities.  I ended up leaving Sapporo with some odd souvenirs from the brewery.  Oops!  I had a blast.

I hope you enjoy my blog, or if it’s not your thing, pass it along to someone who might enjoy it.  Please send me feedback, but don’t be an asshole.  Thank you to my boyfriend, my family, and my friends for putting up with my crazy hobby and encouraging me to finally write about my nerdyness.

Cheers!

-Brittany, an American Ticker

My Japan friends (from left after me) Alison, Elaine, Mara and I enjoying tabehodai and nomihodai at the Sapporo Brewery