This year’s Fred Fest was quite interesting to say the least. Not only was it an excuse to drink special beers while supporting a noble charity and celebrating the birthday of an American and Portland beer icon, but it was an opportunity to get a look at Alan Sprint’s new Hair of the Dog Brewing location.
Beneath the Morrison Bridge, not far from the Eastside Waterfront, and nestled into an unsuspecting neighborhood of industry and warehouses, Hair of the Dog lives on. After joining a queue of craft beer enthusiasts that spanned around the block from the south side entrance, we passed our time in line chatting it up with others who were just as geared up to see what was to come.
Finally to the front of the line and in through the doorway where open garage doors let setting sun shine in, we entered, received our taster cup, food and raffle ticket, and quickly caught wind of this year’s buzz beer. Word was out that a special 2002 Wild Duck Barleywine was drawing quite a line around the corner and toward the back. We raced over to where this beer brewed by the late Glen Hay Falconer was located. Back into another long line.
Apparently the keg was pouring rather foamy, causing the line to take longer than expected. Still, when you hear of a beer like this, you must endure to ensure not missing out on a once in a lifetime tasting. And, happily, the mighty brew was well worth the wait. Picking up the age in an expected and pleasant mild oxidation, the notes of honey, caramel, and surprisingly sharp hops dazzled in this mighty brew that was not even included in the pre-game list of beer to be poured. Before we knew it, this beer was gone, and it made us quite pleased to get in on it.
The two jockey boxes adjacent to the Wild Duck tap were virtually empty of people. It was as if the buzz beer had drawn all attention away from anything within a ten foot radius (sans for the line). This was a perfect opportunity to pony up to the Rogue John John Juniper Pale Ale aged in Spruce Gin barrels. A unique and rather interesting beer, John John was a nice balance of light flowery notes and a subtle woody, almost minty twang. The other tap on this island was Rock Bottom’s Maude Flanders. While a few people really seemed to enjoy this, like we enjoy sours ourselves, the cutting acetic nail polish remover fumes were a little overwhelming four our preference. Still, a rather interesting specimen.
As great as the beers were, it really was the ambiance created by elated and enthusiastic beer lovers sharing in a passion that the man of the hour, Fred Eckhardt helped to create. Not just in Portland, Oregon, but on the West Coast and throughout the land where good beer is brewed, served and/or adored. Hair of the Dog founder and brewer Alan Sprints and a team of happy-to-serve volunteers did a spectacular job. Considering the mayhem of opening his new brewery and restaurant coupled with the pressure to organize this charity event for folks with high expectation from brew, Sprints did a great job putting the pieces together and churning out one hell of a fun time. Even if the festival didn’t pan out the way anyone had hoped, though it did live up to our expectations, the bottom line was that it was a success in providing 100% of the proceeds to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Other beer highlights from Fred Fest:
After the Wild Duck Barleywine, Cascade’s 2010 The Vine was perhaps the most talked about brew of the night. This Northwest Style Sour Ale is a blend of soured Triple, Blonde Quad and Golden ales that have been refermented with the fresh pressed juice of white wine grapes. The beer spent many months in lactic fermentation and aging in small oak barrels. Firestone Walker’s Parabola was another brew that is always special to taste. The abysmally dark black brew has been a major component of past anniversary blends and is one of our most aggressive offerings from the Paso Robles, California brewery. Featuring bold bourbon and tobacco aromas and a rich dark chocolate, charred oak flavor, is best enjoyed in moderation and is a perfect beer to pair with those chocolate dessert favorites like Fred’s beerthday cake or his beloved M&M candies. This 13% ABV brew is one of the most intense Russian Imperial Stouts we’ve ever had the pleasure to drink. Hopworks’ Ben Love mixed some of the Parabola with some Hair of the Dog Cherry Fred From the Wood, for a blend dubbed FireWood (or something like that). One thing we learned on this night, don’t let Hopworks brewers blend beer. HUB’s Organic Radkeller, a mix-up of lemon drink and lager was utterly atrocious. While we’ve enjoyed this radler blend at the brewpub, something about it stewing a keg for a length of time lends to a flavor best described as “grody.” Still, give ’em points for trying.
Speaking of intensity, Roots’ 2006 Epic Ale might have taken the cake in this category (as well as paired with it pretty decently). Nearly four years of aging later, this big boy employs about 60 pounds smoked malt flavored over cherry wood soaked in glenlivet, cognac and cherry juice that lends wonderful smoked toffee and cherry notes both to the palate and the nose and a warm bitter sweet finish. With over 1,700 pounds of malt and 65 pounds of hops, this beast lives up to its name. The 2006 vintage is weighed in at 13.5% ABV.
Mixed reviews were in for the Oregon Trail SoBoChePo, or Sour Bourbon Cherry Porter, but we simply loved it. Not the kind of beer to consume in large quantities, but certainly nothing we’d want to shy away from, SoBoChePo was a great balance of desirable craft brew complexities that all shined within one glass. Some acetic notes expected for such a boozy brew, but not as cutting as the Maude. The cherry character was nicely balanced, not overly sweet, while the meshing of fruit tartness, creamy tannins, and warm bourbon intermingled spectacularly.
Deschutes Double Black was another beer of interest. Not a particular favorite of the night due to a somewhat overly aggressiveness and some rough off-notes, but bold as all sin, and ready to keep you guessing about what the hell was going on with this mammoth incarnation of Black Butte Porter. Our thought was it was similar to Black Butte XX, but without the taming coffee and cocoa nibs. Still, perhaps another go in the ring with this beer could prove a new opinion. The thing with tastings like this is that there’s so much damn tasty high alcohol brews, that palate fatigue is not uncommon to set in early. Still, being in a fun beer geek atmosphere made us feel right at home and fully contented.
To view more photos from Fred Fest 2010 by Brewpublic, click here.