KLCC Brew Fest Puts "Fun" in Fundraiser

This weekend, the Lane County Events Center of Eugene, Oregon is host to the annual KLCC Brew Fest.  In addition to being a fun filled event featuring the beers of more than 50 breweries from the Pacific Northwest and beyond, the festival is the fundraiser for KLCC Public Radio of Eugene.

We arrived Friday at 5PM as the event opened its doors to anxious festival goers in line out front.  Upon entering we received our commemorative sample glass and tokens as well as a guide to the featured brews.  Many of the beers on hand were the usual suspects found around Oregon specialty brew shops, however, there were some noteworthy rarities including five different versions of Sasquatch Strong Ale, a collaborative, commemorative brew originally brewed by Eugene’s Wild Duck Brewery.  The brewery ended when a fatal accident took the life of Oregon beer icon and friend Glen Hay Falconer.

Ashleigh Flynn band
Ashleigh Flynn band

Since Glen’s passing, much work has done to preserve his memory and help aspiring brewers through a scholarship fund designed to assist worthy candidates with an education in fermentation sciences at Siebels Institute of Technology.  This year’s five collaboration Sasquatches were produced the handfull of Eugene breweries: Rogue Eugene City Brewing, Steelhead, Oakshire, McMenamins High Street, and Ninkasi.  In addition to the several enticing beers, the festival also featured a homebrewing competition and live music from Ashleigh Flynn as well as The Essentials.

Brewpublic was on hand for Friday evening’s festivities and had a wonderful time catching up with old friends and making new ones.  Typical of the beer geeks we are, we made our way through the listings on the program guide opting firstly for the beers that we had experienced before and those we needed to revisit.

KLCC beer list
KLCC beer list

Brewers Union Local 180 Cumbrian Moor: This particular brew was not on hand upon our last visit to the attractive Oakridge brewpub.  Pouring a deep, dark brown color with a chocolaty mouthfeel, this beer was quite grubbin’ and easy drinking.  Cask conditioned as are all of brewer Ted Sobel’s English-styled ales, this was a suitable and sessionable start to our night.

Stone Brewing Collaboration Tripel: Brewed in 2007 with Alesmith and Mikkeller, this rarity on tap was thought to disappear quickly, so we had to jump on it.  Pouring a sharp golden hue with a soapy white head, this Belgian-American hybrid possessed a fragrant, gratuitous hops presence with a bubblegummy herbaceous funkiness.  From my memory, this tripel was quite similar to Stone’s 08/08/08 Vertical Epic.

Jason Schoneman

Pelican Bridal Ale:  A pricy beer in bottles, this Biere de Garde is a treasure on tap.  Golden colored with a soft white effervescence, the Bridal is quite easy to put away as it caresses your mouth with each sip.  When it comes to the opportunity to walk down the aisle to this pour, I will say “I do” every time.

Pelican Bruin: A yeasty Belgian nose precedes the taste.  Deep, chocolate gusto and grit couple with phelonic tang that demands the attention of event the most high faluten of palates.  Is there not a beer that Pelican can’t make superbly?  If so, I challenge you to inform us.

Oakshire Sasquatch: The first of the five collaborators we encountered.  The nose of this hearty chestnut-amber ale jumped right out with a hot hoppy ka-ching, and sweet, sticky malty ba-bam.

Tracktown Sasquatch: Also a rich chestnut color, this rendition of Falconer’s beast held a maple syrup and brown sugar-like nose.  The hops were very grassy and fresh smelling.  It is hard to remember olfactory and taste from the original WD days, but these newer ones appear to be a bit more unbalanced and ingredient heavy on the tongue.

Ninkasi Imperial Sasquatch: Of the five collaborators, this was the only imperial version.  According to the face of Ninkasi, Jamie Floyd, this one was closest to Falconers original recipe.  Sugary dark Sienna-Bronze bodied with a soapy beige head, this Imp was quite grassy and green in the nose.  Quite bitter on the tongue, it appeared less assaulting than the others thus far despite the warming alcohol bite that cut through as more sips were taken.  A soft, mild biscuitiness developed into a little bit of cloying malt oomph as drinking progressed.

Ninkasi Spring Reign: This is the beer that Ninkasi will release for the everyday micro brew lover who appreciates a spicy hop floralness (38 IBU featuring delectable Simcoes) over a medium-bodied biscuit spine (6% ABV). A golden-copper bodied ale with a small wispy white head and worthy to fill a Victorian pint glass.

Oakshire Ill Tempered Gnome:  This brew wins as best name at the fest, and bolstered our opinion of the already sturdy Eugene brewery.  Our friend Joe Jasper, who formerly brewed with McTarnahans and Deschutes had a hand in filling out this delicious recipe. A foggy dark copper body and thick beige head undoored a big hoppy bite and robust auld body.  With lots of draping curtains and muscular legs, this puppy was like a doppelbock on ‘roids.

Oakshire Brewing's Chris Althouse and Joe Jasper
Oakshire Brewing's Chris Althouse (left) and Joe Jasper (right)

Rock Bottom Black Peter: Remember how delish this beer was a the Holiday Ale Festival, we had to get on this wonderful Belgian.  A deep chestnut-brown body with rolling tan head, the snap of added liquorish root and anise star was subtler than you’d think.  Still, it did jump out in the finish with some residual piquancy and bitterness.  Kudos to brewers Van Havig and Vesili Gletsos for another tremendous brew.

Cascade Lakes Skookum Creek Strong Ale: Redmond, Oregon’s only brewery has been doing some interesting beers of late including an imperial IPA and this brew.  Here, in Skookum Creek, we have a totally different Strong Ale from this nights Collaborator series.  A pillowing off-white head that capped a clear deep copper body with a bubbly, sweet, malty and creamy, biscuity bite.  This brew was somewhere between an imperial cream ale and a European strong lager.

High Street Sasquatch: This McMenamins beer takes the cake as being the most undrinkable beer at the festival.  In fact, it was the only brew I tried that I dumped out.  There was some kind of gnarley yeast mess going on in this beer.  It also had the flavor of sucking on a mouthful of dirty coins.  Utterly awful.  It was suggested by some that it might be insulting to take this beer off since it was a tribute beer.  However, we felt it was an insult to associate the Sasquatch with this nasty swill. Sorry, just being honest. High Street makes a variety of flavorsome ales.  Unfortunately, this was not one of them.

Silver Moon Brown Eyes Brown: Bend’s Silver Moon Brewing reared its head from a small homebrew supply show to become tasty for real brewery. Lead brewer Tyler Reichert brought an assortment of his bottle treats to the festival and this limited brown was one we didn’t want to miss.  Described as “an American brown ale with black strap molasses, and New Zealand and American hops” this was perhaps a costly chance taking brew.  The payoff was well worth it.  Deep chestnut in color, Brown Eyes held a chocolaty, nutty, and mildly tart appeal.  The sweet, sticky molasses came through subtly across the grassy hop spice.  A sharp bitter finish stamped this beer with an assertive uniqueness that we only wish was available on tap.

Wakonda Black Elk Imperial Stout: To be honest, I had my reservations about this small costal brewery, but after a sip of this bold black bad boy, my woes were gone.  Reminiscent of Beer Valley’s Black Flag Imperial Stout, this large, dark, florally hopped beast finished with a sticky astringency.  Quite hoppy for a deep mega-stout, this beer is one I hope to revisit in the near future.

Wakonda Timber Beast IPA: Maltier than your average IPA, and kicking at a near Imperial 7.8% ABV, the Beast has a fragrant soapy lemon-citrus nose.  A nice hazy copper body and a faintly creamy malt underpinning, this floral, bright and refreshing brew was both smooth and refreshing.

Pelican Tsunami Stout:  No surprises here.  This is one of the great beers of Oregon and another credit to Pelican’s stellar list of world class brews.  Deep, dark, roasty, toasty, chocolaty, and with a nice hop balance.  This is what the kind of malted dream that the Pacific City, Oregon brewers bring to life one pour at a time.

Hopworks Sasquatch: One thing about Hopworks beers is they are unmistakable their own.  Crisp, clean malt and hops pairing with a similar chestnut body to the other collaborators.  Brewers Ettinger, Love, and Rodriguez did a great job honoring the late Falconer with this Wild Duck-worthy walloping warmer that came on tap near the end of Friday’s event.

KLCC volunteers
KLCC volunteers

Steelhead Sasquatch: Strong, dark copper bodied with a creamy beige head and a sweet, clean finish.  Fresh and floral all the way through.  Some elements of these Sasquatch collaborators seems a little unfinished, but this beer was a noble, fresh addition to the vibrant Eugene brewing community. Brewer Ted Fagan is one hell of a brewer and this beer showcases his distinct skills.

People's Choice Ballot
People's Choice Ballot

So, there you have it.  A number of delicious and interesting brews from 2009’s KLCC Brew Fest.  People were incouraged to vote for their favorite brewer and beer at the fest (we’ll keep you posted on this year’s winners)  If you didn’t make it out this year, be certain to participate in 2010’s festivities.  Not only is the event an excuse to try beers from all over the Northwest and beyond, it is for a good cause…public radio!