Foreign VS Domestic Festivals

from theweeklybrew

For those who read Beervana you may have noticed there’s a little anti Doc Wort thing going on. Jeff posted a positive article about a new festival sponsored by Rogue. The festival will supposedly feature something like 30 “indie” breweries from around Oregon, with the beers being available at the Green Dragon pre festival. Wort weighed in stating (as he usually does) that this festival idea, the beers, and Oregon centric beer festivals in general are overplayed. This sparked an anti Dr Wort tirade on Jeff’s blog.

So the question still remains, does the good Doc have a valid point?

In Oregon there really isn’t much in the way of true “indie” breweries, especially within Portland. Northwest culture is obsessed with liking things that they view as unique. It doesn’t matter if other bigger breweries make better beers, if you are small, unknown, and produce some IPA’s then you have a shot in P-Town, and Oregon in general. Dr Wort also points out that many of these small breweries produce “the standard” set of beers (something dark, light, IPA, something old, new, borrowed, blue). Now as far as I know the list is unknown still, so how would anyone know what’s being served? They don’t. But it fits that if these breweries offer only standard styles then that’s what will be served. A good side effect if this happens is that it will allow better side by side comparison of the beers. The bad part is it lacks appeal to most beer geeks. We can get an IPA at any store around Oregon.

One thing Doc suggested is a “indie” brews from around the world fest. So now we come to the crux of the matter. What benifits are there of a foreign festival compared to a domestic one? Very little in my opinion. Many Oregon breweries experiment with styles from around the world, and manage to do it well. The problem is they tend to just be occasional one off batches that tend to be kegged, and for the most part see limited release. What I suggest is the same thing I always have. Instead of featuring commercial beers have brewers make a one off batch based on a theme. Festivals though are for the most part about featuring brewers products, not skill. This is good for brewers because it generates interest in the beers a brewery offers and creates a potential for a sales boost. The problem for me, and I think the Doc also, is that it doesn’t tell me anything about the brewer. Call me dispassionate again, but for me it isn’t about the beer. When we taste beers at Capitol Brewer meetings I’m not looking for an amazing beer, I’m looking for interesting beer with a unique spin. Something that tells me about the brewer. Not just a great example of a beer I can just pick up at the supermarket.

The problem is that there’s no real great way to bring a truly unique flair to Oregon’s festivals. It just doesn’t pencil out for breweries to put time, money, and effort into making unique one off festival beers aimed at beer geeks. Most people at Oregon festivals wouldn’t “get” a nice sour ale, let alone most Belgians or other less common (in Oregon) styles. After all, our regional beer here is the Northwest IPA. I’m sure it would be a commercial no no to hold a British ale fest in the middle of German wheat country. The Northwest sadly will continue to cater to the IPA fans and offer the “basic lineup” beers because it makes sense to, and that’s how they will succeed. As Carol Stoudt of Stoudt’s brewery supposedly once said, “it’s easier to make beer than to sell beer.”

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6 Responses to “Foreign VS Domestic Festivals”

  1. dr wort says:

    I like your style! You probe the situation rather than just instantly blurt out a bullshit thoughtless opinion. Very much enjoyed your post! This is what the Doctor would like to promote…. Intelligent debate and conversation on some of these subjects. You have taken the time to THINK about it!

    It appears you know where the Doctor is coming from. Individualism and creativity. It’s time to stretch those brewers arms and minds into some new directions. Even if those new directions means looking to the past…. Classic English ales, Classic lagers or Classic Belgians or whatever. Something to call their own. The standard ales have been done, tweeked and re-tweeked. OK…. lets’ move on! Lets’ not look from within (that’s stagnant), lets’ look outside our boundaries… Outside the NW, outside the US and maybe even outside the box. The anchor in the NW brewing, Sitting on their laurels. We need to look beyond and into new directions. There is room for beers for the masses and beers for beer geeks. Although, that could depend on the greed factor.

    I think the phrase, “No man is an island. – John Donne (1572-1631),” should be hanging in every NW brewery.

  2. Dr Wort says:

    Oh… In regard to Foreign vs Domestic fests. Once again, “No man is an island.”

    So why do we need all these ISLAND Beer Festivals? PIB mixes it up and exposes locals to classic and new beer styles from around the world. This exposes locals to NEW BEERS. Ergo, NW brewers will be more likely or interested in brewing different styles or be adventurous if the public shows interest in something beyond a Blonde, Pale, IPA, Porter and Stout…. or the dreaded American HefeWEINER.

    It’s all about the public beer acuity. WE look at it as being a painter! You can paint with a child’s seven water color paint set or you can learn to paint with the endless variety and combinations of oils. Right now locals are drinking beers that are in water colors, some are looking in the OIL isle, but not to sure about blending colors.

    B.F. Skinner said, we are all a bland slate at birth and we are conditioned through life. We absorb what is around us and make it our own experiences. If you live on an island all you may ever eat is coconuts and fish. Go to the mother land and you’ll experience a wealth gastronomic pleasures. In other words, NW beer drinkers and brewers need to get a boat and get off this frickin island!

  3. Jeff Alworth says:

    I don’t know that I agree with some of the assumptions here.

    The problem is that there’s no real great way to bring a truly unique flair to Oregon’s festivals. It just doesn’t pencil out for breweries to put time, money, and effort into making unique one off festival beers aimed at beer geeks.

    Unique flair? How about the fresh-hop fests? Those are wholly unique to the NW (a Yakima version beat us to the punch, but how many beer geeks are driving to Yakima?). There’s the cask fest, Cheers to Belgian Beers (which Doc slags, too), PIB, and the holiday ale fest.

    And while some may pre-emptively dismiss the beers of Oregon’s small breweries, I don’t. If it turns out that all the beer comes from familiar breweries or the familiar beers of relatively obscure breweries, have at it. But it’s disingenuous to argue that the bulk of Portlanders are familiar with the offerings of most far-flung wee Oregon breweries. Don’t like it? Don’t come. My guess is that at least half the beers will be new to me.

    As to the Doc backlash, I think it’s worth noting that what infuriates people is that he always wants it both ways. He wants “individualism and creativity,” but then he rolls out the same tired arguments. My post wasn’t even about this fest (about which we know nothing), but about the good behavior of Rogue, who promised not to Rogify the Green Dragon when they bought it. But instead of a creative response, Doc recycled the same old talking points. As he has here.

    It’s just a bit tiring and I think the schtick may be wearing thin.

  4. Jared says:


    I think I might have missed the point of the article then. Maybe as a home brewer I’m spoiled. I get to experiment with whatever I want whenever I want, and I get to try beers from people who do that also. When I do get to festivals or new breweries though I just don’t get that same sense I get when I try homebrew. I always leave underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had great beers, but I just am bored with beers from some Oregons breweries. Cask aged beers and fresh hop ales just don’t do it for me. Like I said though, we do have a regional style, and I don’t expect breweries to ignore that. I don’t expect Belgium breweries to ignore their regionals and start brewing our IPA’s 🙂

    Now if I lived in Portland, or within a shorter distance of some of Oregon’s great breweries and festivals I might feel differently about the beer scene since I would be able to try more unique beers. As it is I don’t get to go as often, and when I do I don’t usually find a beer I’m crazy enough about to even get a growler. I just can’t find the time to visit many of these festival since I work weekends, and taking several days off a month for beer festivals would be weird. Couple that with the fact I don’t drive and it helps make it so I just dont get to experience Portlands beer culture as much. My perspective is also skewed by bottle selection since I don’t get out to many of Oregons breweries often. Many times the bottled seasonals from Oregon breweries are just meh. I often hear people rail about Pelican, Ninkasi, and others, but many of their beers just don’t float my boat. The problem is the beers that don’t float my boat seem to be the gold standard at times for Oregon beers.

    Also I don’t often find myself agreeing with Dr. Wort, and I don’t agree with him %100 on this issue, but he does raise some interesting points.

  5. dr wort says:

    Oh Jeffery…. You saw that little play reversal on the Green Dragon. At least we know you’re paying attention. Once again, you take everything so seriously….. even repetious beer styles. Green Dragon did take a dive, but there was nothing anybody could do about it…. Rogue is still a money grubbing corporate cow…. All is normal in the NW Universe.

    The Wort Crew thinks there is plenty of room for all types of beer festivals. festivals for the easily amused and fests for beer geeks. Fresh Hop fest?? Bleh! It’s a media farce to us.

    Holiday Ale fest! Now that’s a festival of innovative beers! You won’t find just your run of the mill IPA’s or Watermelon Wheat showing up fot the 8th year in a row.

    We could produce some great examples of new and possible exciting fests, but we’d be talking to deaf ears.

  6. dr wort says:

    @ jared.

    You don’t need to agree with the Doctor at all… but you’re singing the same tune. Underwhelmed and bored with the averge local breweries.

    I asked Jeff (got a scattered response), so I’ll ask you… Please define, “we do have a regional style.” What exactly is that style or styles of beer? It would have to be unique to the brewing world. Remember, many regions around the country can and do make big hoppy beers, so that can’t be it. ;-}

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