On a sun-soaked July afternoon, there’s no better place to sip suds with friends than the Oregon Brewers Festival, one of the nation’s longest-running and best-loved craft beer festivals. Nearly 80,000 fans annually travel from points around the world to take part in the event. This year, they’ll have an extra day to celebrate; the 26th Oregon Brewers Festival will take place July 24 through July 28 at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland, marking an expansion to five days. Event hours are Noon to 9pm Wed. through Sat., and Noon to 7pm Sunday.
“The festival continues to grow in popularity every year, especially with tourists,” said festival owner and founder Art Larrance. “Due to space constraints, we can’t expand our footprint, so we decided to instead add a day to accommodate more beer lovers. Portland’s role as the ‘cradle of craft beer’ had led our city to be one of the premier beer tourism destinations in the United States, and the Oregon Brewers Festival continues to support that movement.”
In 2005, the festival expanded from a three-day to a four-day event; that turned out to be a huge success, and ever since, festival purists have declared Thursday to be the best day to attend due to shorter lines and a full beer selection. Festival organizers are now hoping Wednesday will become the new Thursday.
Another big change to this year’s event is the introduction of a tasting glass. In an effort to improve the tasting experience for the guest and to be more environmentally responsible, the Oregon Brewers Festival will now sell a tasting glass in lieu of the traditional plastic mug. Admission into the festival grounds is free. In order to consume beer, purchase of a 2013 souvenir 12-ounce tasting glass is required and costs $7. Beer is purchased with wooden tokens, which cost $1 apiece. Patrons pay four tokens for a full glass of beer, or one token for a taste. There are no advance tickets sold to the festival; all purchases are made on-site.
From Ambers to Alts, Belgians to Blondes, Pales to Pilsners and Sessions to Stouts, the Oregon Brewers Festival serves up more than 25 beer styles from 82 craft breweries from around the country; there are 84 different beers served, one per brewery plus two gluten-free offerings. The festival is first and foremost a celebration of beer, but the event also features five days of live music, food booths, craft vendors, homebrew demonstrations and industry displays. A root beer garden provides complimentary handcrafted root beer to minors and designated drivers; minors are allowed into the event when accompanied by a parent.
Alternative modes of transportation are encouraged, with free monitored bicycle parking available each day. The main entrance is at SW Oak Street and Naito Parkway, one block from the MAX Light Rail line.
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, especially in Oregon, which has 134 brewing companies operating 166 brewing facilities in 60 cities. Portland alone has 51 breweries — more than any other city in the world. The Portland metropolitan area is the largest craft brewing market in the US with the most number of breweries at 68. A study conducted at the 2011 Oregon Brewer Festival estimated the economic impact of the festival on the local economy to be $23.2 million; it also showed that out-of-state and international visitors accounted for 56% of attendees. For more information about the Oregon Brewers Festival, visit www.oregonbrewfest.com.