Organic Brew Fest

Kudos to the organizers of the North American Organic Brewers Festival for bringing great beer, food, and live music to Portland’s Overlook Park. Friday June 26 kicked off the fourth year of the event, and the third at its present location, perhaps the best outdoor venue for any beer fest I can think of.

Certified organic and sustainably-minded beers and breweries joined forces to show the impact that eco-aware malters have been making in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. Beers from as far away as Belgium, like the Saison Du Pont, and as close as Widmer Brothers, just down the street from the festival constituted several booths where a spectrum of beer enthusiasts congregated to celebrate a new era in conservationism and environmentalism.

Innovative new brews were featured alongside beer geek favorites to round out a spectacular show in the largest organic beer festival on the planet.

Here’s a look at some new beers unveiled at this year’s NAOBF:

Hopworks Secession Cascadian Dark Ale: Celebrating the fact that about 30% of the world’s hops come from Cacadia/the Pacific Northwest, this dark, delicious beer may very well employ that many of ’em. Pungently hopped with a clean robust malt spine, this beer is just another example of the kickass beer that HUB is producing these days. The long lines at their booth as well as all their groupies donning their gear is evidence of the impact they’ve had in the short time they’ve been in existence.

Hopworks founder/brewer Christian Ettinger
Hopworks founder/brewer Christian Ettinger

Upright Reggae Junkie Gruit: If you’re a beer geek in the Portland area, then you’ve heard about the beers of Alex Ganum. He and his partner Gerritt Ill have only been at it on their own for a short time, but have already captivated the imagination of local brew zealots by daring to produce some styles that are unlike any others around. Following in the footsteps of imaginative brewers in the area like Roots Organic Brewing, the organizers of the event, Upright has produced a hopless gruit that takes us back to Scottish recipes from a time and place when hops were not readily available. The Raggae Junkie employs Colonel Ganum’s special blend of herbs and spices such as lemongrass, two types of orange peel, hyssop, and sichuan peppercorn. There is also a touch of spelt in the mash to give it a unique backbone. Despite how odd it might sound, the end product is a compellingly soft and quaffable session ale.

Mateveza: Once brewed by Butte Creek Brewing of Chico, California, the latest incarnations of this yerba mate infused brew includes an India Pale Ale and a Golden Ale that are now produced by Mendocino Brewing of Ukiah. The IPA is an assertively hopped, piquant selection that makes use of bossy Cascade, Centennial, and high-alpha Simcoes in association with an earthy dose of tea equivalent of 1/2 cup of coffee per twelve ounces. The great thing about yerba mate is that it doesn’t induce as much jittery, teeth-chattering effects as coffee due to the gentler nature of the caffeine. The Mateveza Golden offers a bicuity honey flavor that pairs becomingly with the Centennial and Cascade hops. With slightly less caffination than its counterpart, the golden also offers a unique and approachable perspective on what beer styles can be.

Fort George Spruce Budd Ale: I was very pleased to get a few tastes of this unique hopless brew. Replacing lupulin with freshly picked Clatsop County (Oregon) Sitka spruce tips, this ale had some mystifying flavor profiles. I heard some mixed reviews regarding its drinkability, but I was quite satisfied with the distinct creamy, almost oily textures. Burying my nose in my cup, I whiffed in a peculiar air of almost nutty and minty notes. Founders Jack Harris and Chris Nemlowill are certainly not afraid to take risks when it comes to beer styles, even if it doesn’t always wind up being a huge crowd pleaser, and this is why I totally dig their steez.

Crannog Ales Back Hand of God Stout: Priding themself on styles that fuse Old World Irish and New World Cascadian brewing practices, brewer and co-owner Brian MacIsaac and company function to form what they refer to as a zero-waste operation. This involves reusing every ingredient involved in the brewing practice and it fits in perfectly with the tenure of the NAOBF. The BHOG Stout is a deliciously smooth mildly-hopped brew with rich coffee and chocolate notes. Crannog’s brews are draught-only and the NAOBF is a rare chance to experience them in Oregon. Evidence of the craftsmanship involved in this awesome brew is the keg blowing quickly despite it being a chewy brew served on a sunny day. Yum!

Thanks to the organizers of this event, especially Abram Goldman-Armstrong for their dedication to keep this festival a huge hit while annually growing it to new heights. “When I say organic…You say beer!”

Join the Organic beer fest for the rest of the weekend. (Open on June 26th & 27th from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. and 28th from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.)

For more info, go to