The second annual Portland Fruit Beer Fest (PFBF) returns to Burnside Brewing (NE Burnside & 7th) this Saturday and Sunday, June 9 and 10, 2012. Dave Knows contributor Mike Allen was invited to a recent media preview event, and filed the review below (he also took all the photos!). Enjoy the review, and find more from Mike at his blog Gangster of Food, and on Twitter @GangsterOfFood.
Portland Fruit Beer Festival is up for its second iteration, and after lasts year’s unanticipated success they’ll be more prepared with 25 regular taps, 30 rotating four at a time, five times the staff, a stage, and more food than the inaugural year’s bash. Plus they’ll be closing 7th avenue to make more room for stumbling.
Among the offerings will be Burnside Brewing Company’s Red Light District, an imperial stout incorporating 44 pounds of chocolate and 400 pounds of strawberries. Four, with two zeros. I don’t know how much they brewed, but judging by the strawberry tang on the fore, mid, and after palate, it wasn’t a huge batch. It’s not sweet; at least the sugar doesn’t come through on the palate. No one could say what the final gravity was. The lack of sweetness is, at least in part, due to the massive dark cocoa bitterness and splintery tannins from the rum barrels it spent 5 weeks in. I would scarce have noticed the 10.2% alcohol, if this weren’t the first of six beers I was to taste.
Lompoc’s Bomb.com had a hard time standing up to the wall of cocoa coating my palate, even after a full glass of water. However, it had a slight though pleasant whiff of acetic acid, and a little funk in the mouth. By “funk in the mouth,” I mean the good kind, the kind that opens up your singing voice. The notes describe the fruit as cherry, which sounds right, but I wouldn’t think of it as cherry unless it had cherries on the label. Mostly, it’s pleasantly, subtly sour. It may actually be ass-kickingly sour, but it’s hard to tell after having had one’s ass kicked in the red light district.
Laurelwood will be bringing the truly punny Cascara Obscura to the fest. Cascara is the fruit from around the coffee bean, and it normally goes back on the ground, to fertilize the bushes. Fortunately, brewmaster Vasili Gletsos found a better use for it. The dark reddish ale’s toffee caramel nose was slight enough to engage even a confirmed philistine like me, and led to deeper pleasures. Toasted biscuits on the palate were enhanced by the tang of rose hips. Truly engaging without proselytizing.
Hopworks‘ What Up Apple-Weizen was a fermented blend of Cameo apples and Hefeweizen. Some marriages seem destined to win, and fail anyway.
Widmer returns with its Marionberry Hibiscus Gose, based on an authentic German Gose recipe. Gose is style of German sour with salt added which has struggled to exist in the 20th century. I remember Upright had one for a while, tasting attendees sniggered about some inside joke concerning the fate of that brew, but it was good. This Gose was also pretty good. The color is intense. The hibiscus makes the marionberry taste like a more sophisticated fruit than it really is, like a lingonberry, or an evergreen huckleberry. Otherwise it drinks light, the salt of the Gose style really adds to its thirst quenching qualities. A summer spectacular.
Upright’s entry into this mash-up is called the Levinator. It’s described as a barley based bock brewed with Bavarian weisse yeast. The pinot noir barrels that it did time in certainly lend it that elegant pinot vitality. The war of tart and bitter is something to think about. It is absolutely viscous with Oregon black currants. Fortunately, Oregon black currants are delicious.
The festival costs $20 to get in (free for non-drinkers, and open to all ages – sorry though, no pets!). This buys a glass and 12 tickets: each ticket buys four ounces of beer. The festival starts Saturday at 11:00 a.m. but, if you feel like spending a little extra, you can get in at 10 a.m. on Saturday for $25, same deal. There will be some special, limited quantity brews to try during that first hour including at least a keg of hard cider that will likely run out before the crowd rushes in. For more details, read Dave’s post about the fest here at Dave Know Portland, and visit PortlandFruitBeerFest.com.