Editor’s note: This is a re-publication of the The Oregonian/OregonLive’s weekly beer and cider newsletter, written by Oregonian/OregonLive’s Andre Meunier. To subscribe to have the newsletter delivered every Thursday at noon to your email inbox, go to oregonlive.com/newsletters and sign up for Oregon Brews and News.
I had lunch a couple of weeks ago with a friend who has lived in Northeast Portland for quite a while. Our third party suggested Grains of Wrath Brewing (sorry to do this, pal), and when we got there my friend admitted to never having been to Camas. I was like, what?? Another lifelong Portlander friend told me he had been into Vancouver MAAAAAYBE nine or 10 times in his life but couldn’t really remember being there except passing through on I-5.
I said to them, you guys realize Clark County is literally like a quarter mile across a river from Portland, right? So if you’re one of those people who still sees Vancouver as Vantucky, come on, head across the river. I get the traffic deterrent, but it’s 20 extra minutes out of your life, and despite what you’ve heard about the bridge, it hasn’t fallen in over 100 years of use. I speak from personal experience that you’ll be amazed at what you discover. For starters, there’s the region’s coolest new gathering spot, The Vancouver Waterfront, full up with winery tasting rooms, Ruse Brewing’s Crust Collective, the Waterfront Taproom, some sweet restaurants (including a new El Gaucho), hotels and boutiques (OK, admittedly the $16 milkshake is a bit much). And then there’s the breweries.
With all deserved respect to Portland breweries, Clark County’s brewers are doing some amazing work. In a blind test, you won’t be able to discern what side of the river you’re on when drinking the likes of Brothers Cascadia, Vice Beer, Fortside, Trap Door, the aforementioned GOW, 54-40 and Victor-23, plus OGs like Heathen and Loowit. These breweries are among the more than 25 celebrated at the seventh annual Northbank Beer Week, which starts today at 3Peaks Public House & Taproom in Ridgefield, just off Interstate 5. The breweries range from North Jetty Brewing on the Washington coast to Backwoods in the gorge, Everybody’s in White Salmon, and Dick’s Beer in Centralia to the north.
You’ll be able to try many of them at the Kickoff patio party tonight at 3Peaks, 24415 N.E. 10th Ave., Ridgefield, along with merch and food. Other events include the Brewing Bridges Collaboration Fest, Attack of the Killer Heirloom Tomatoes & Lager Invitational, Paper Airplane Races and Pinewood Beer Can Derby Races. Find all of the events, which run through Saturday, Sept. 15, and tickets at northbankbeer.com or at its Facebook page, though tonight’s opening event is free and starts at 5 p.m.
Rev. Nat’s Hard Cider closing with a celebration
Another closure. This one of the gut punch variety.
Founder Nat West this week said he is shutting down his Rev. Nat’s Hard Cider at the end of September. If Portland has an iconic cidermaker and cider, they’re West and Rev. Nat’s, which has been around for 12 years and has been a pioneer and innovator in the cider community not just in this city, but in the nation.
It’s even harder to swallow because just six months ago, West opened a new taproom in Southeast Portland off of Division Street and was ready to come back from the beating the pandemic put on Rev. Nat’s and its expansion plans. That taproom was doing OK, he said, but not OK enough, and the future looked like things could get tight. He decided to pull the plug before it got too rough.
But he’s not in mourning — publicly, anyway. He’s asking the public to come out and celebrate with him at a closing-down party on Saturday, Sept. 23, the penultimate day of operations. He implored fans of the brand to celebrate the company with him.
“Please don’t be sad!” he wrote announcing the closure on Instagram. “We’ve had an incredible run and I met so many amazing people and shared so many wonderful experiences. It’s been the best job I’ve ever had.”
He said the going-away event would be a way to “celebrate all the amazing ciders and great people who have contributed to our incredible successes.”
After the announcement, I was in touch with Portland-based beverage author Jeff Alworth, who a decade ago wrote the book Cider Made Simple as cider began to grow in popularity in the U.S. He wrote about the closure in his Beervana blog on Tuesday, saying Rev. Nat’s was “on the leading edge of experimentation” among today’s cider-makers. And he called Rev. Nat’s “one of a handful of companies that helped shape the way modern cider is made and consumed in the United States.”
Alworth gave me some good insight about West’s role in the development of modern cider, saying, “A decade ago cider was getting pulled in one direction by industrial cider makers who wanted to make it very bland, and in another by traditionalists who felt you needed to have orchards full of apples with funny names like frequin rouge. Nat injected the spirit of fun and whimsy into cider. And, because behind all that experimentation was a damn good cider maker, the results earned him a very passionate following.”
High praise from someone who would know. And another hard-to-swallow loss for the Portland-area fermentation community, coming on the heels of Laurelwood Brewing’s only remaining pub, Hammer & Stitch Brewing, Pono Brewing’s Brew Labs pub, Grains of Wrath Brewing’s North Portland pub, Ordnance Brewing of Boardman, Unicorn Brewing/Portland U-Brew, Ambacht Brewing of Hillsboro and Conspirator Beverage contract brewing in Clackamas. Add to that Brewery 26 being up for sale and Culmination Brewing having its troubles. Brutal.
What to do (fun with freshies edition)
Here is a lineup of some upcoming fresh-hop beer festivals and events, ordered by date:
Function PDX: The Northwest Portland beer pop-up events space this month features Single Hill Brewing of Yakima, in the heart of hop country. The pop-up, “Harvest Away From the Hill,” is featured for Function’s Fresh Hop September and features more than 12 fresh hop beers in cans and on draft throughout the month. Events include the Brew Happy Podcast with Ty Paxton, owner of Single Hill, at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 11, a live set by DJ Vinnie Toma at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15, and a fresh-hop takeover from Sept. 22-24. Here is the current draft list, but Looking Fresh Frozen Fresh Hop IPA and Fresh Luck FH IPA will both be on by the weekend:
- Gratitud Harvest Lager
- Air Support WC IPA
- Groundswell Hazy IPA
- Beach Cowboy Sour
- Sightglass Hazy Pale Ale
- Softly Falls Barrel Aged Stout
Function PDX is at 919 N.W. 23rd Ave.
Fresh Hop Pop-Up Beer Festival: The North Portland fresh-hop fest is returning for a 17-day season run at Prost! Marketplace on North Mississippi Avenue. This concept is an extended “pop-up” with free admission, no tickets, no wristbands and no special cups required. It features 10 daily rotating fresh-hop beers from the outdoor Bloodbuzz bar, under a covered and heated beer garden deck, surrounded by 10 food trucks. The festival hosts tap takeovers from top fresh-hop breweries plus themed nights celebrating regions, hop varieties and different beer styles. 8 a.m.-10 p.m. all 17 days, Sept. 15-Oct. 1; 4233 N. Mississippi Ave. More info at fresh-hops.com.
Level Beer Fresh Hop American Summer, Volume 2: The Northeast Portland brewery throws a fresh hop festival of its own, with lawn games and merchandise packages, plus barbecue, vendors and live music. Level and 10 guest breweries will pour their beers out in the back bar area, and you can get all the details and tickets here. Noon-5 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 16, 5211 N.E. 148th Ave.
Fresh Hopped Fest, McMenamins Wilsonville Pub. The second annual festival returns from noon-7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 23. Tickets to the fest are $20 and include six tokens and a tasting glass; live music from MEEEB from 4-6 p.m.; all ages, over 21 to drink. Taps offer 10 McMenamins fresh-hop beers, including:
- Thundercone Fresh Hop Pale Ale: From the fields of Oregon’s Sodbuster Farms that the brewery describes as having a “slight maltiness and an earthy, raw hop decadence.”
- Fresh Hop Hammerhead: With only one batch made this year, the brewery says “this delicate mixture of malted barley and fresh Cascade hops creates a familiar yet distinct flavor and aroma that its predecessor would be proud of.”
Oregon Brewers Guild’s Portland Fresh Hops Festival: The gathering celebrates its 19th anniversary at Southeast Portland’s Oaks Amusement Park at the end of September. The guild will release the next fresh-hop iteration of its State of Excitement Collaboration Series at the festival, which will be available on tap and to go. This year’s collaboration, brewed by Von Ebert Brewing, includes 24 participating guild member breweries. “Early Bird” tickets are available online until Sept. 10. You can find more information, plus prices and the list of participating breweries, at the guild website. Proceeds from the event benefit the nonprofit guild’s efforts to promote and protect the Oregon craft beer industry. 4-8 p.m. Sept. 29, noon-8 p.m. Sept. 30; Oaks Amusement Park, 7805 S.E. Oaks Park Way.
Hood River Hops Fest: The festival in Hood River returns for its 19th year, celebrating the fresh-hopped beers of the region. The family-friendly event features more than 30 breweries with more than 40 fresh-hop beers, plus food vendors, live music, and a collectible tasting glass. Held 11 a.m.-7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 7, at the Columbia Lot between Fifth and Seventh streets in Hood River, you can get various ticket packages here (under 21 free admission, no alcohol).
Octoberfests ready to oompah
Here are some of your Oktoberfest options, also by date:
Chuckanut Oktoberfest 2023: Held at P. Nut Beer Hall in Southeast Portland from noon to close on Saturday, Sept. 9, this family friendly fall celebration includes lots of Chuckanut beer, food, games and contests. Get your arm muscles in shape for the liter holding and Hammerschlagen contests. Make sure your Bavarian gear still fits so you can enter the costume contest and get your vocal chords warmed up for the Yodeling contest. Chuckanut beer will include Fest Bier 2023, plus Kolsch, Dunkel Lager, Helles Lager, Bavarian IPA and Chuck Light Lager. 920 S.E. Caruthers St., Portland, and 11937 Higgins Airport Way, Burlington, Washington.
Steeplejack Brewing’s Oktoberfest weekend: The festival will be held all day Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 9-10, at the brewery’s original location, 2400 N.E. Broadway. Five festive German beers on tap, including the Vienna Style Oktoberfest, Helles, Kolsch, Altbier and Berliner Weisse. They will have food specials all weekend, a costume contest and stein holding competition on Saturday, with family friendly events on Sunday. Steeplejackbeer.com. (Also, Steeplejack this week began offering its Plumeria Cocktail, with $2 of each purchase being donated to the Maui Strong Fund. It is also hosting a school supply drive at all three of its pubs. Supplies collected at its Portland-based pubs will support the Schoolhouse Supplies, and supplies collected in Hillsboro will go to the Hillsboro School District.)
Johnstoberfest: Held at all three John’s Marketplace locations, with stein-holding contests, ceremonial keg tapping, music and general festivities. 2-7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9, 3535 S.W. Multnomah Blvd., 3560 S.E. Powell Blvd., 3700 S.W. Hall Blvd., Beaverton. Tickets: johnsmarketplace.com; admission includes a custom glass mug, six 8-ounce drink tickets, a Zenner’s brat and a giant pretzel.
Mount Angel Oktoberfest: The big, long-running fest, which dubs itself “The Largest Folk Festival in the Northwest,” is held from Sept. 14-17 in the streets of Mount Angel. Featuring over 40 beers, multiple sodas, about 30 wines, several ciders and a couple of seltzers, plus more entertainment and food options than I could list here, but you can find all the details at oktoberfest.org.
Octoberfest at Loyal Legion: Every year Loyal Legion brings out 25-ounce steins to really “lean into the big German beer energy,” and all Oktoberfest beers will be available in a stein for $8. They’ll also offer Octoberfest food specials. Saturday, Sept. 16, through Sunday, Oct. 3 at both the Southeast Portland and Beaverton locations. Get all the details at the Facebook event page.
Deadtoberfest, Montavilla Brew Works. The brewery plans this music, beer and food festival to be an annual event, starting with this year. Founder Michael Kora says he’s been wanting to hold an Oktoberfest event for several years, and now that the pandemic has waned considerably, the brewery is ready to throw another party. They’ve invited “The Weir Dose” to play a Grateful Dead tribute show, along MBW beers and German-style Bratwurst. All ages, 3-9 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 23.
Oktoberfest by Buoy Beer: This one-day event is full of beers, music, food and the Stein-ly Cup stein-holding competition. Included will be new and favorites from Buoy Beer, collaborations with Obelisk Beer Co. and Ecliptic Brewing, and fresh-hopped beers flowing from taps into half- and full-liter steins. Plus water-pong and corn-hole tournaments, a costume contest, and activities for the kids. Details on Facebook. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 23, Astoria Armory, 1636 Exchange St., Astoria.
Forest Grove: The third annual Oktoberfest Celebration will be held from 1-7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, on downtown Main Street in Forest Grove. This free family-friendly event offers live music on two stages with nine bands and performers, wiener dog races, stein races, a bounce house, hot-dog eating contest, costume contest and dunk tanks, plus more, including over 90 vendors. Visit oktoberfestfg.com for details.
Occidental Brewing: The North Portland brewery brings back its Oktoberfest for the first time since 2019. The all ages event will be held from noon-9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23, at the brewery, 6635 N. Baltimore Ave. For beer drinkers, the cost is $12 for an Oktoberfest mug and one beer, with additional beers costing $6. Wine, cider and non-alcoholic drinks will be available as well. Live music all day, plus food from Urban German. The star of the show is Occidental’s Festbier, plus a full lineup of Occidental beers also available, including Fresh Hop Pilsner and three brews from the new Further Beer brand.
The Littlest, Teeny-Weeniest, Itsy-Bitsy, Tiniest, Oktoberfest in the World: Little Hop Brewing calls itself “the tiniest brewery with the tiniest tap house in Portland, Oregon,” and it’s holding its very own brand of Oktoberfest on Saturday, Sept. 23. They will debut a special beer and will have a very limited amount of custom stoneware steins. Noon-7:30 p.m.; 4400 S.W. Garden Home Road. More details @littlehopbrewing.
Widmer Brothers Oktofest: Welcome Widmer back to the craft beer fold by attending the 19th annual Oktofest in the Rose Quarter outside the Moda Center. Food, live music and Widmer beers offered. 11 a.m-8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30. Open to all ages, 21+ for beer. Advance mug and beer token package is available for purchase online and includes one Oktofest commemorative mug (required for beer service) and three beer tokens. Food and non-alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase on site.
Beer of the Week
Sodbusted XI: The Book of Simcoe Fett – Fresh Hop IPA, Gigantic Brewing. Gigantic says its brewhouse was specifically designed to use whole hop flowers, and as a result its fresh-hop beers are made with hops at the peak of their ripeness, with less than 75 minutes passing from the field to the brewery. “These fresh beauties go straight into our hop back — 200 to 300 lbs for 15 barrels of beer,” the brewery says. “There are faster ways to release a fresh hop beer, but we think this method, and the subsequent wait, results in the best fresh hop beers we can make.” Sodbusted XI is being released today at Gigantic’s three locations, then you can find it distributed in the Portland area next week. Then Gigantic releases Strata Fresh Hop Hazy IPA aka “So Fresh” tomorrow, Fresh Hop Pilsner on Sept. 11 and Freshtoberfresh – Fresh Hop Oktoberfest Lager on Sept. 25.
New Releases of Note
Barrel-aged Rindless Watermelon Gose, Hopworks Brewery. This limited-run brew has spent six months aging in tequila barrels, resulting in a complex but refreshing sour. Brewery notes: “The tequila-derived earthiness and the oaky notes balance cleanly with the watermelon, lime and saltiness of the Gose.” Available while supplies last in 16-ounce 4-packs at retailers in Oregon and at Hopworks’ two pubs, Southeast 29th and Powell Boulevard in Portland and Southeast 177th Mill Plain Boulevard in Vancouver.
Blueberry POM Imperial Cider, Avid Cider. The Bend cidery says its non-imperial version of Blueberry Pomegranate Cider has been a long time favorite among Pacific Northwest cider enjoyers, so to meet the growing demand for Imperial cider options, they’ve made an imperial version for fall. Cidery notes: “A whirlpool of juicy blueberry flavor with just the right amount of refreshing pomegranate on the finish.” Find it and other Avid ciders at avidcider.com/cider-finder.
Imperial Abbey Apple Cider, Portland Cider Co. This imperial upgrade, which joins the company’s year-round imperial lineup, is made with 100% Northwest apples fermented with Belgian ale yeast. Cidery notes: “A uniquely smooth cider with tropical notes and a bright, juicy finish.” Available on tap and in 12-ounce 6-pack cans at Portland Cider’s three locations and at retailers throughout Oregon, California and Colorado.
Fresh Hop Piwo and Electric Fields: Amarillo, Threshold Brewing & Blending. Fresh Hop Piwo is a Polish Pilsner brewed with fresh Simcoe hops, and it was tapped yesterday. Brewery notes: “Lemon citrus, floral, green.” Electric Fields: Amarillo will be tapped tomorrow at the brewery and is a fresh hop hazy IPA. Brewery notes: “Grapefruit, tropical, green.” They join Electric Fields: Centennial and Electric Fields: Strata, both West Coast IPAs that were tapped earlier and will be available at Threshold’s Fresh Hop Release Party tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 8, on tap and in cans. 403 S.E. 79th Ave.
Stratamacue IPA, Montavilla Brew Works. Using 100 pounds of fresh Strata hops, this IPA went on tap yesterday at the Southeast Portland brewery, 7805 S.E. Stark St., with cans coming next week. Brewery notes: “Big hits of grapefruit, mango, pineapple and some dank herbal notes. The bitterness is a bit more restrained, allowing the fresh-hop component to really shine.”
Fresh IPA, Fort George Brewery. This West Coast Single Hop IPA is brewed with fresh Centennial from Crosby Hop Farm and is being released tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 8, at the brewery, 1483 Duane St., Astoria, then distributed throughout the Pacific Northwest shortly after. It is the first of six fresh-hop beers the brewery is releasing for the start of fall, and you can sign up for Fort George’s weekly email for updates to the release schedule.