Portland Fruit Beer Fest

Being a beer writer absolutely has its perks. Today, I was honored to attend the media preview for the 3rd annual Portland Fruit Beer Fest, set to take place June 8th and 9th at Burnside Brewing.

I was never really a fruit beer guy. I tried Shock Top shortly after I turned 21; it gave me a headache and I haven’t tried it since. But, the offer was out there and I took it. I was absolutely surprised by the quality of beers the brewers brought.

Empty Glasses

They started by offering the beer from the host brewery, Burnside Brewery. I had just arrived as they were handing out samples, so I didn’t catch the name. But, it was a great, rich beer with blueberry and fig notes. I overhead that it was aged in Pacific Rum Barrels for two months. Relatively crisp but full of flavor. The nose hits you with deep fig and blueberry notes and the aging really makes it a smooth, enjoyable drink.

They followed with a Hopworks collaboration with Hop-o-matic brewing called Tiger Tonic. The brewmaster presenting the beer said that with this beer, they were “looking for an alternative to hops,” so that’s how they landed at this one: a stunning tropical medley comprising passion fruit, pineapple, and mango, graced with citra, nelson sauvin, galaxy, and meridian hops. In my opinion, this was the best beer I tried at the event. I highly encourage grabbing a glass of it. Sitting at about 5.3% ABV, it’s a nice session.

Next up was Alameda brewing’s Alamosa. They used their Portland Pilsner as a base and added citrus (lemon, orange peel, orange juice) to make this concoction. It came out tasting weak, flat-tasting, and a bit like watered-down orange juice. I expected more from them. A better version of the Alamosa was Upright Brewing‘s citrus, barrel-aged belgian brewed with Saison (dry) yeast and citrus (blood and sevilla orange with some grapefruit). It was pretty low hopped and surprisingly full-bodied with a strong, sweet nose. Check this one out.

Then, the cider came out. I was disappointed with Two Town‘s Rhubarbarian, hitting the shelves today. The nose reeked of plastic or something unnatural, and the taste was off. It was a bummer—I was excited for this one. But, I”m sure they will tweak the recipe and get a better one back to us. They also gave us samples of the Made in Marion, which I liked in moderation. I couldn’t imagine drinking a whole 22 of that one.

Next, a newcomer came along in the form of Lompoc brewing—I had never heard of them before this event. But, he brought along with him a sour cherry, willamette hopped beer that has been in the works since 2011. He fermented it, aged it in port barrels for three months, then left it alone until now. The beer was extremely complex and an experience all around. Highly malty, but rounded out by the barrel aging and sour cherries, this one shouldn’t be missed.

Widmer brought a extremely tart pomegranate Berliner Weiße that started with a thick nose but kicked your taste buds into shape, leaving your mouth watering uncontrollably. Wasn’t good, wasn’t bad.

It was rumored that Oakshire was bringing a strawberry farmhouse ale, which sounds amazing. I’m going to keep my eye out for it. Also, Burnside hinted at a lime kölsch with coconut…key lime pie, anyone? New Belgium is allegedly bringing back some sour, barrel aged beers that a couple of brewers squealed about.

The Commons Brewery gets the award for the biggest risk, and coincidently gets the award for biggest reward. Their concoction, Bier Royale (he knows it’s the German “bier” with the French “royale,” don’t worry), is the brainchild of brewmaster Sean, who put a “dallop” of Nancy’s Plain Yogurt in with black currant syrup—modeled after the popular French cocktail “Kir Royale.” The presence of the yogurt is very clearly evident in both the nose and the taste, along with the subsequent mouthfeel. It feels a bit like you’ve finished a yogurt cup after you’ve taken a drink. The black currant is present, both in appearance and flavor. They used their Urban Farmhouse Ale as their base, making this one near-or-at the top of the list of those that you need to try during the weekend.

There will also be food served by Burnside’s restaurant attachment, as well as ice cream and woodfired pizza. Ezra, the event coordinator, predicts 21 different beers being there all together. Plus, this year they are adding an extra feature if you’re feeling extra fruity—you can pay a bit extra and go a couple of hours early (an alcoholic-like 10:00 a.m., but I mean it’s fruit beer…like breakfast right?) and get first attack at the taps as well as a couple of special taps. $20 bucks will get you a gold-flaked tasting glass and 12 tickets (good for about 6, 6oz tasters or three full pints). Extra tickets are going to be a dollar. If you want the early-bird VIP treatment, you’ll pony up 28 bucks total for the glass and 17 tickets total.

For more information, check out the website for the festival. It’s supposed to be nice (says the way-too-early weatherman), and nothing says nice weather like tangy fruit beer.

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