Friday, June 10, 2011

Zoo Brew 2011 at The Oregon Zoo

Last Friday was Zoo Brew at the Oregon Zoo and let me start off by saying that this was the most enjoyable experience I've ever had at a beer festival. The weather was perfect, the logistics were incredible, breweries pleasantly surprised by bringing out plenty of their non-standard fare, and I totally saw a mountain goat!

After walking down a short, winding path, we approached a sea of tents and bright orange feather banners. Music hadn't quite started yet, but the party had certainly begun. Alyssa and I decided to start from the top and walked through the first of approximately four rows of tents.

In tent one, we immediately spotted the Southern Oregon Brewing Company and exchanged our first tasting token for their authentic Czech pilsner. Alyssa has done some extensive traveling of Europe and affirmed that this was indeed fairly authentic. Good enough of an endorsement for me! While I'm not usually a huge fan of pilsners, this was an an incredibly refreshing brew for what had become a fairly warm day. I don't think they're bottling it, so you may need to hit up their taproom if you want some for yourself.

With a tasting or two down, it was time to do some exploring. As alums of Oregon State University, it was pretty neat seeing our alumni association representing in full force. While we didn't partake in their beer education sessions, we did stop by their tent to see what's up. Aside from handing out OSU swag, they were also pouring student-made root beer. My knowledge of quality non-alcoholic beverages is limited at best, but I think their students are onto something good. Go Beavs!

Because we're at a beer festival, it was time to drink some more beer. All of the more established brewers were representing in full force and while I can't say enough about how great Rogue, Deschutes, Bridgeport, Ninkasi, Laurelwood, etc are, none of them ended up being the stars of the event. The real winners weren't even breweries! Instead, Spire Mountain Cider and Blue Mountain Cider seemed to be the talk of the festival. Evident by the longest lines of any booth, ciders seemed to intrigue those not familiar with cider and excite those wanting something a little different than beer. To say including cider in the mix was a good idea is an understatement. Blue Mountain's cherry cider seemed to be the drink of choice and Spire completely ran out with two hours to go. Congratulations go to both companies.

While we typically refuse to do this, I'm going to break with WestToast standard procedures and also point out what could be considered the loser of the event. They tried really hard and I appreciate the effort, but the folks manning Mike's Hard Lemonade were having a rough time convincing people to exchange tokens for their hard cranberry malt beverage. Rumor has it their three tokens for a full pint promotion helped somewhat. I will, however, say that their recent NASCAR-mocking commercial ranks amongst one of my favorites.

In the end, we had an amazing night with great beer, better friends, and an experience I'm already excited to repeat next year. A huge thank you goes out to everybody at the Oregon Zoo, the breweries who graced us with excellent beer and cider, and everybody who came out. For those of you wondering, no, we didn't drink with the monkeys.

This didn't happen.


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