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Oregon Trail
By Lisa Morrison

There's no better place on Earth to be than Oregon in July, especially for those of us in western Oregon, where it's the height of Outdoor Beer Drinking Season -- that beautiful zenith of the year when the skies clear, the sun shines and the beer merrily flows (as opposed to Indoor Beer Drinking Season, when it's cloudy and rainy and the beer merrily flows).

Last year, the happy culmination of Outdoor Beer Drinking Season was celebrated with Oregon Beer Week, which, even in its first year, was so huge it actually took nine days to get it all done. Oregon Beer Week this year has graduated to Oregon Craft Beer Month, declared as such by both Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Portland Mayor Tom Potter.

There are more than enough events to keep even the biggest beer fan busy. The month kicks off July 7–9 on the north coast with the second annual Buoy 10 Beer Festival at the Hammond marina, just a wee stretch south of Astoria. New this year to the maritime-themed event: a sturgeon fishing derby on Saturday morning. It ends at 3 p.m. so anglers can join the nonfishing folk in enjoying samples of about 25 or so Northwest craft brews. There's also local music and a carnival for kids of all ages. For more information, see oldoregon.com/Pages/crabfestandevents.htm.

Next up is the Portland International Beer Festival, always a stylish affair on the shady North Park Blocks in downtown Portland. With more than 100 world-class beers available from 15 countries, this event ranks high on the swank scale. Serious beer lovers abound. The event runs all weekend, July 14–16. Mouse over to portland-beerfest.com for all the details.

Thankfully, the next weekend is a "bye," which lets everyone enjoy a much-needed liver break before the push through the second half of Oregon Craft Beer Month. That's a good time to drink a lot of water and double up on the milk thistle, because the rest of July is going to be busy!

On Saturday, July 22, the Raccoon Lodge and Brewpub kicks off Round 2 with a Beer and Sausage Festival. Enjoy a variety of sausages and beer at the huge outdoor beer garden while tapping toes to live music. Their website raclodge.com has all details.

Also on July 22, Rogue Ales is featuring its second annual Great American Distillery Festival. Not exactly about craft beer, mind you, but 20 microdistillers will be featured from as far-reaching locales as Kentucky, Idaho, Texas and California — as well as some Oregon spirits. There also will be live music and special foods, including cheeses and chocolates. A donation to get in benefits the Oregon Zoo.

If you can't make it to Rogue on July 22, plan to join Fred Eckhardt there on July 24 as he pairs 10 artisan cheeses with craft beers. Tickets are sold at Rogue. Visit rogue.com for details on both events.

The very next evening, July 25, is the always-anticipated Oregon Brewers Dinner at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland. Considered the unofficial prelude to the Oregon Brewers Festival, the barbecue includes dinner, souvenir pint glass and half-pint tastes of beers not featured at the OBF. Proceeds benefit the Oregon Brewers Guild. Attendance is limited to the first 650 participants — and it always sells out. For details and online ticket sales, visit oregonbeer.org.

On July 26, you will need to have your wits about you not only to participate in the Oregon Blind Tasting & Test but also just to follow how this event works! But you will want to pay attention; two winners will get to join a winning brewer at Oktoberfest in Munich.

The person correctly identifying the most beers from each category will win a trip to Munich’s Oktoberfest.

There are three parts to this event, which begins at 5 p.m. at Waterfront Park. First is the Blind Tasting, where 12 Oregon pale ales and 12 Oregon IPAs will be served in two-ounce samples on a tasting tray. Patrons will be asked to vote for the “People’s Choice” — one vote for each of the two styles. Following the tabulation, the winning People's Choice breweries announced from both the pale ale and IPA divisions will receive a trip to Munich’s Oktoberfest for the brewer and a guest.

The second segment is the Blind Test, in which participants will be asked to identify each of the 12 pale ales and 12 IPAs served. The "tests" will be "graded," and the person correctly identifying the most beers from each category will win a trip to Munich’s Oktoberfest for themselves and a guest (a total of two trips for the test portion). If more than one person correctly names the beers, there will be a drawing to determine the winner.

At the conclusion of voting, all 24 beer taps will be opened, and the attendees will be invited to sample beer in their OBF souvenir mugs until the taps close at 9 p.m. The event is a benefit for the Oregon Commission for the Blind Foundation. It is limited to 5,000 people, and tickets are required. Find out more at oregonbrewfest.com/blind_taste_test.htm.

But wait! There's more. On Thursday, July 27, the Oregon Brewers Festival begins. The granddaddy of them all, the OBF is world-renowned, attracting nearly 100,000 fest-goers over four days. And while the OBF is wonderful, it also spawns many other events, including the Over the Edge Tour (formerly known as the On the Edge Tour). The low-key Edge Tour features beers that aren't available at the OBF — at pubs and bars all across Portland. Also, rumor has it that the Rose & Raindrop in Portland will be holding another double and imperial IPA festival sometime during OBF weekend. Keep your eyes open for last-minute info on that one.

Beer lovers who are itchin' to get a little physical activity can enjoy a round of golf on the morning of Friday, July 28, along with some of the West's most celebrated brewers at the second annual Sasquatch BrewAm golf tournament. You don't have to be a good golfer to enjoy the 3-par course at McMenamin's Edgefield in Troutdale; there are plenty of games, beer and other fun items around the course to keep even an amateur duffer entertained. Lunch and raffle follow the golf. The event is a fundraiser for the Glen Hay Falconer Scholarship Foundation, which offers scholarships to the Siebel Institute to Northwest brewers. More information can be found at sasquatchbrewfest.org.

Don't despair: Even if you can't get to any of the actual events, rest assured that taverns, pubs, bars, bottle shops and even grocery stores will be getting into the game with deals on Oregon craft beers. Watch for special signage and keep your ears on for updates on all the happenings.
It promises to be a beer-u-tiful time to be in Oregon!

Widmer Gets Goosed
A recent announcement squelched rumors that Anheuser-Busch was going to buy a stake in Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Company — sort of.

What happened instead was that Goose Island entered an agreement with Portland's Widmer Brothers Brewing Company, which is partially owned (39.5 percent) by A-B. In the official announcement, Goose folks said the move would allow Goose Island access to the network of independent wholesalers that distribute A-B beers.

Goose Island also announced that it was in final discussions with Widmer to make a minority investment in Goose Island’s Fulton Street brewery and bottling plant.

In a prepared news release, spokespeople said the agreement paves the way for Widmer to purchase a minority equity interest in Goose Island. The terms of the deal were not announced, as both companies are privately held.

Team Eugene Has Serious Altitude
Congrats to Team Eugene, an athletic group from Steelhead, McMenamins High Street, Wild Duck and Ninkasi (expect to see beer from owner/brewer Jamie Floyd very soon). The defending champs once again took the coveted Altitude Cup at the Summer Brewers Games at the Pelican Brewpub in Pacific City.

The Golden Pelicans, a team from Pelican and Golden Valley Brewpub in McMinnville, came in second. Colby Jack, one of two teams from Deschutes Brewing, were awarded third place for their efforts and their trek from Bend.

About a dozen or so costumed teams competed in such grueling events as the hand-truck race, the keg toss and the mash relay. The event raised a record $3,500 for local charities.

This reporter just hopes those Oregon Trail boys who were dressed in burlap pants had plenty of talcum powder on hand afterwards to soothe their chaffed thighs. Also, special thanks to Artie from Seattle, who helped the esteemed yet numbers-challenged judges determine the winners!

Portland-based beer writer Lisa Morrison holds a degree in journalism — because numbers just ain't her thang.


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