Monday, October 8, 2012

Pacific Northwest Brew Cup - Guest Post From Jessica Murphy

Today's special guest post is from Jessica Murphy. As mentioned below I had the privilege to meet Jessica and her husband Chris back in July at the Beer Bloggers Conference in Indy.  When I found out they were coming to #PDX, I was more then happy to show them the town. If you want to follow Jessica and her beer adventures in Chicago, check out her blog GirlsLikeBeerToo

On a pristine fall weekend in the storybook town of Astoria, Oregon, the 11th Annual Pacific Northwest Brew Cup was held in a small park overlooking the Columbia River. My hubby and I were visiting the Pacific Northwest from Chicago, and the timing of our trip was based solely on this festival. We met Michael Umphress from #pdxbeergeeks and Brian Bovenizer from Fort George Brewery at the Beer Bloggers Conference in July and, when we mentioned our desire to visit the Portland area, Bovenizer mentioned this festival that occurred the last weekend of September. That seemed like as good a time as any to visit Portland so we planned an epic Pacific Northwest Beercation, commencing with a weekend in Astoria to attend the Brew Cup.


In conjunction with the Astoria Downtown Historic District Association, Bovenizer and Fort George Brewery were the primary organizers of the fest. This was a three-day beer-xtravaganza and had free entry, although you needed to purchase a tasting glass for $8 and tokens in order to sample the many ales and lagers. The tokens cost a dollar a piece and each was good for four ounces of beer. One dollar for four ounces of beer? Yes, please! Especially since you could pay three tokens to get your sample glass filled to the brim. While the hubby opted for full pours of each of the beers, I wanted to sample as many beers as possible so I went with the four ounce pours.

As could be expected on the West Coast, the beer list was IPA heavy, which was OK by me. While many of the beers impressed us, the biggest treat was the plethora of fresh-hopped beers. For those of you that are not familiar with that term, it means that the fresh hops are added to the boil immediately after harvesting them. (Typically, hops are dried and formed into pellets before used in a beer.) Hops are harvested in August and September, and the Pacific Northwest (and the Yakima Valley of Washington, specifically) grows 75% of the nation’s hops, making it quite easy for breweries in this area to make fresh-hopped beers. One of the highlights at the Brew Cup was the fresh-hopped Vortex from Fort George Brewery, a bright and citrusy IPA with fresh Simcoe, Amarillo, Citra, and Centennial. Delish!

In addition to the 30+ beers on tap, there were amazing food vendors serving up everything from potstickers to beer cheese soup, hamburgers to organic produce. This was also one of the most kid friendly beer festivals that I have ever been to. In Chicago, while it is not a strange occurrence to find a baby in a bar, they are typically not permitted in festivals. At the Brew Cup, however, there was a whole section for kid’s activities, including sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and hula hoops. Towards the end of the night as the beer was flowing, though, the adults were getting in on that action, too.

Steve Panos
The Brew Cup was a testament to Oregon’s love of all things local. In addition to the local beers and food, local bands rocked out on stage, including Bovenizer’s band on Saturday night. While volunteers were pouring the beer, brewers and brewery workers were wandering around to speak with patrons. It was a lot of fun meeting Steve Panos, a brewer at Pelican Pub and Brewery, who used to work at the Rock Bottom in Pittsburgh, Pa. He knows one of my friends, Brant Dubovick, who used to be Head Brewer at Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh and now is Brewmaster at Dryhop Brewers in Chicago. It’s such a small brewing world!

As this was a Brew Cup, there were two prizes awarded. The ‘Thar She Blows’ cup was awarded to the Honey Orange Wheat from Eugene City Brewing since it was the first keg to kick. The second cup was for the People’s Choice award, won by Two Kilts Brewing for their Scotch Ale. Congrats to the winners! The Pacific Northwest Brew Cup was a perfect introduction to the truly exceptional beers of Oregon. A huge thank you to Brian Bovenizer of Fort George Brewery and Michael Umphress of #pdxbeergeeks. I couldn’t have asked for a better beercation!