This July, visitors from around the world will converge at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland with mugs, tickets and lots of sunscreen to celebrate unique, diverse beers from Oregon’s craft brewers for the 33rd Oregon Brewers Festival (OBF). The renowned beer festival, returning after a two-year hiatus, will feature more than 40 Oregon-made beers and ciders representing large, established breweries as well as smaller, new-to-the-festival operations.
From July 28-30, the shore along the Willamette River will teem with locals and tourists alike, all seeking to be among the first to try brand-new, small-batch releases from dozens of top-notch breweries around Oregon. There will be exceptional choices for more familiar styles on tap, like hazy IPAs, Pilsners, and lagers; but the more adventurous palate will be pleased to find choices like Lime Leaf Kölsch from Zoiglhaus, Creamsicle Sour from Crux Fermentation Project, and Berliner Weisse with Kiwi from Ecliptic.
The Oregon Brewers Festival got its start in July 1988 as the brainchild of Art Larrance, founder of Portland Brewing Co. He had been to Oktoberfest in Munich and wanted to create a similar atmosphere while exposing locals to the variety of good microbrews. Back then, there were only four microbreweries in operation in Portland (BridgePort, McMenamins, Portland, and Widmer), and six across the state (Full Sail and Deschutes).
Art, along with a handful of close friends, established the Portland Brewers Festival Association of Oregon and staged the very first Oregon Brewers Festival. None of them had ever done a huge event like this before.
"We were all flying by the seat of our pants," said Art. "It was a great learning experience." When asked if he could have ever imagined the success of the festival, Larrance replied, “Yes and no. Having gone to Munich with its 200-year tradition, I could see where a lot of people liked to congregate around beer. But I never anticipated the OBF would grow to the magnitude of popularity and international recognition that it currently experiences.”
Today, the Oregon Brewers Festival is one of the nation’s longest-running and best-loved craft beer festivals. Along the Willamette River with majestic Mt. Hood as a backdrop, it is the ideal venue for beer-lovers to congregate. The laid-back attitude and dozens of craft beers and ciders embody the spirit of the city of Portland.
Typically, around 50,000 visitors annually travel from all parts of the world to drink up what the Oregon Brewers Festival has to offer, infusing more than $20 million each year to the local economy. Visitors from every U.S. state, several Canadian provinces, and more than a dozen foreign countries have signed up to be notified each year about OBF.
Tasting mugs, required for enjoying beer and cider, are $10 each, and drink tickets are $20 for a sheet of 10. Mugs and tickets can be purchased at the entry gate, located at SW Oak St. and Naito Parkway, or online in advance. Details are at OregonBrewFest.com, and updates can be found on Instagram @OregonBrewFest.