One of the nation’s longest running beer festivals shares what’s new this year
PORTLAND, Ore. — More than 70,000 beer lovers are expected to travel from around the world to attend the 31st annual Oregon Brewers Festival (OBF), which starts in two weeks. Considered one of the nation’s longest-running and best-loved craft beer events, the outdoor festival will take place July 26 through July 29 at Tom McCall Waterfront Park on the west bank of the Willamette River. Taps are open from Noon to 9pm Thursday through Saturday, and Noon to 7pm Sunday.
The OBF will serve 80 craft beers from small, traditional, and independent craft breweries located in 10 different states, as well as The Netherlands, and Baja, California. The festival will present more than two dozen different beer styles ranging from Berliner Weisse to Belgians, IPAs to IPLs, pales to Pilsners, and sours to stouts. The vibrant festival will also feature live music all four days with no cover charge, six food booths, a number of beer related vendors, souvenir sales, and homebrew demonstrations.
There are a number of changes and new additions to this year’s festival, starting with the length of the event. The Oregon Brewers Festival has been a five-day festival since 2013, but this year, has returned to a four-day event. “Attendance has peaked the last few years, so it made sense, both in terms of economics and manpower, to cut back to a four-day festival,” explained OBF Director Art Larrance.
Another of this year’s biggest changes is the introduction of a festival app. “Our program annually uses more than 140,000 pieces of paper, which seems so wasteful,” stated Larrance. “This year, we’ve created a digital app that has full beer descriptions which you can search by style, take notes on, and find on a map. You can also chat with friends, post to the wall, check out the music lineup, and more.”
The new app can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play. Attendees that prefer to make a list in advance can access a Google sheet at OregonBrewFest.com that can be downloaded for sorting and printing. The festival will also be handing out a free one-page printed list of beers by trailer and by brewery, with a map of the venue, at the event.
For the first time in the festival’s history, there will be two ciders on site, as well as four wines – two whites, a red and a rosé. The cider and wine will be located in a separate tent, on the east (Willamette River) side of the festival, near the Pine Street Esplanade entrance. Cider and wine will be filled in the festival mug, which is required for consuming any alcohol.
This year’s festival theme, “With Beer Brings Friendship,” is a nod to the relationships that have been built at the festival over the years, particularly with foreign brewers that have made their U.S. debut at the event. This year, the festival will feature five breweries from Baja, California Mexico: Agua Mala, Border Psycho, Insurgente, Transpeninsular, and Wendlandt. “The northwestern Mexican state of Baja has defined itself as the country’s largest contingent for “cerveza artesanal,” and we’re really excited to present beers from that region,” stated Larrance.
The Oregon Brewers Festival is working with the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) on its SAFE RIDE HOME program, which offers reduced-cost rides home with the goal of preventing people from driving under the influence. The Safe Ride Home program will be providing discounted vouchers for $20 toward taxi rides; and $5 for Lyft and Uber rides throughout the festival weekend. Vouchers will be available to everyone on-site.
This year’s festival has pledged $20,000 to two local beneficiaries this year. The House That Beer Built, a partnership between Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East and local craft breweries and beer-related businesses, will receive $10,000; as will New Avenues for Youth, an organization dedicated to the prevention and intervention of youth homelessness. Look for a Brewer Dunk Tank at the New Avenues for Youth booth at the festival.
The OBF is not a ticketed event; it is free to enter the festival grounds. In order to consume alcohol, the purchase of a souvenir tasting mug from the current year is required, which costs $7. Alcohol is purchased with wooden tokens, which cost $1 apiece. Patrons pay four tokens for a full mug of beer or cider, or one token for a taste. Wine costs five tokens for a five-oz. pour; wine tasters are not available. The purchase of mugs and tokens is made on-site. The event is cash-only, with eight ATMs located on-premise.
The Oregon Brewers Festival was founded in 1988 as an opportunity to expose the public to microbrews at a time when the craft brewing industry was just getting off the ground. Today, that industry has flourished, with more than 6,000 craft breweries in America. The economic impact of the Oregon Brewers Festival on the local economy is annually more than $23 million. For more information visit OregonBrewFest.com or follow @OregonBrewfest on social media, using hashtag #OBF18.