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Oregon Trail
By Lisa Morrison

There are two seasons in western Oregon: Rainy Season and Beer Fest Season.

Not that we don't enjoy some really stellar beer festivals during the Rainy Season (heck, beer was made for misty weather). In fact, a new beer festival that took place recently in the sleepy town of Silverton celebrated the glorious results of those November-through-April showers of ours. The first-ever Blooms & Brews festival was held at the Oregon Garden on April 22–23 as a way to draw more attention to the 80 acres of lush gardens — and as a fundraiser to help market the nonprofit organization.

The gardens provided a colorful setting for the brew fest, and admission to the Oregon Garden was waived for festival-goers, who gleefully sauntered around the flora and foliage with tasting glasses of craft beer in hand.

“It is really a win-win,” said Silverton Mayor Ken Hector. “Gardening and good beer are two things that people enjoy in our area."

Kudos to the organizers. It definitely was not their first rodeo. The festival was packed the first night, but there were no big glitches. How many times can you say that about an inaugural beer fest?

Blooms & Brews was just a warm-up for Beer Fest Season, though. Starting in early June with the Sasquatch Brew Fest in Eugene and running well into October with the Blues, Brews & BBQs fest in Hood River, you can hardly count all the beer-festing opportunities available in these parts. (Actually, if you attended every one of them, you probably wouldn't be able to count at all, but that's another story.)

The calendar gets a tad packed for the beer lover this time of year, and many Oregonians find themselves requesting vacation time from work — not to take the family on a trip to Disneyland or go with friends on a big camping excursion, but to fully enjoy and participate in the many festivals right in our own big backyard.

The Beer Fest Season really gets into full swing in July with the Portland International Beer Festival. Once again, it will be located on the shady North Park Blocks in downtown Portland. Rick Carpenter and his crew promise to deliver an "over-the-top beer festival" celebrating the world's legendary brewing styles — even including some New World innovations from the good ol' U.S.A. One that falls in the latter category is Walking Man Brewing Company's Somnambulator Doppelbock, which won the People's Choice award at the Spring Beer & Wine Fest. The Stevenson, Wash.-based brewery has been lauded with the esteemed award three years in a row, each time for a different brew. (WM also took second place this year for its "Knuckle Dragger." Bob Craig and Company is definitely doing something right!) Get the FAQ on the PIB at portland-beerfest.com.

Of course, things really start building steam as Beer Fest Season careens toward the Oregon Brewers Festival, held the last full weekend in July since 1987. The OBF is the granddaddy of them all — and there's even more proof of that this year with all the "extracurricular" activities surrounding the big event. The OBF will be a bit longer this year. The usual three-day event gains an extra afternoon and evening with gates opening at 3:30 on Thursday, July 28. Art Larrance, who started the festival 18 years ago, added the extra time so everyone will get a chance to leisurely sample from the 72 beers on tap. Learn more about the OBF at oregonbrewfest.com.

If you want to get a head start on the festivities (July is American Beer Month, after all), consider joining celebrity brewers and other beer fans in the inaugural Sasquatch BrewAm, a fun, friendly game of golf at McMenamins Edgefield Pub Course in Troutdale the morning of July 28 — before the OBF even opens. You don't have to be a good golfer to enjoy the par-3 tournament, the proceeds of which go to the Glen Hay Falconer Scholarship Foundation, a nonprofit named for the former head brewer at Wild Duck in Eugene who died in an accident a few years ago. The foundation's scholarships send Pacific Northwest brewers to the Siebel Institute to further improve their craft (which means we get to enjoy the benefits of their education!)

"Like many great ideas, the Sasquatch BrewAm was the brainchild of some of Glen’s friends, who were sharing each other’s company at the Horse Brass Pub in Portland," said Glen's brother, Quentin Falconer. "Glen always liked golf. As kids, we would go to the local public golf course in our hometown of Atlanta. Glen might have thought otherwise, but he was always a duffer. So the BrewAm is designed to cater to golfers and duffers alike. The day is as much about fun and beer as it is about golf. The event also represents another incredible example of the craft-brewing community coming together."

The BrewAm golf tournament starts at 9:00 a.m. and promises to get everyone back to Portland in time for the OBF kickoff. The $75 cost covers greens fees, a picnic lunch, fun prizes and a chance to play with brewers such as Shaun O'Sullivan of 21st Amendment in San Francisco, John Harris of Full Sail, John Maier of Rogue, Jamie Floyd of Steelhead, Tom Kerns of Maui Brewing and Dean Duquett of Terminal Gravity — just to name a few. Click on sasquatchbrewfest.org for details or look for the announcement in this issue of the Celebrator — but don't hesitate! Space is limited and the cutoff date for registering is July 11.

A couple of other activities are going on concurrently with the OBF. Once again, publican Don Younger is organizing the On the Edge tour. This time, bars and pubs across town will be pouring special beers from breweries that didn't make it into the Oregon Brewers Festival. Details were still in the works at press time, so be on the lookout for more information on this one.

On Saturday, July 30, the folks at Rose & Raindrop will be hosting a double and imperial IPA competition. Sounds like a good excuse to take a break from the heat and crowds at Waterfront Park and head across the bridge. The festivities begin at 2:00 p.m. More information is available at roseandraindrop.com.

Fortunately, there's a bit of a respite after the flurry of foam in July, but the folks of Joseph, Ore., in the far northeast corner of our fair state, play some heavy metal in August. The Bronze Blues & Brews festival — this year on August 13 — pairs bronze sculptures (Joseph has become a bronze capital) with hot blues musicians and a dozen or so local and regional craft beers. Get the lowdown at bronzebluesbrews.com.

You'll have to travel across the state to the far northwest corner for the next fest. On September 2–3, the first-ever Buoy 10 Brew Fest, at the mooring basin in Hammond — just south of Astoria — promises local music, fresh seafood, an up-close look at fishing gear and a chance to chat with fishing boat guides, plus samples from at least a dozen breweries.

Of course, it could be a bittersweet moment on the Oregon coast, because September means the Rainy Season is just around the corner — not that the end of Beer Fest Season means you can no longer enjoy Oregon's bounty of craft beer (and those from other parts of the country as well).
After all, here in Oregon, when it rains, beer pours.

Portland-based writer Lisa Morrison is a beer lover during all seasons. You can reach her at beergoddess@comcast.net.


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