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Impressions of Portland International Beerfest

I’ve regularly attended the Oregon Brewers Festival  (OBF) for a number of years but have never been to the Portland International Beerfest (PIB).  There are a number of reasons for this, including:

  • Higher entry price and expensive pours
  • Reports that most beers aren’t actually international
  • The fact that many international beers at IBF are not exotic at all
  • PIB generally happens right up against OBF
  • Reports of it being shoulder-to-shoulder crowded, worse than OBF at its peak

Allow me to convey my general impression via cartoonishly stereotypical exaggeration: IBF equals “brewfest light” — a snootier event “in the Pearl district”, where one might see buzzed yuppies absently sipping Stella.  Something like that, anyway.

That being said, a beer enthusiast friend encouraged my wife and I to check it out this year, and we were really glad we went.  I was pleasantly surprised.

(There were also draft tents)

IBF Bottle Tents

First off, there were 160 beers there (OBF has 84 beers by comparison).  I’m too lazy to parse it out, but at a glance I would say that clearly more than half were international.  Furthermore, even though the only Polish beer was Black Boss and some less-than-rare beers like Bitburger Pils were among the offerings, most of the internationals were indeed interesting.  US beer offerings also seemed pretty good from what I saw, but I stuck to internationals since I was at Portland INTERNATIONAL Beerfest. 

Also, it was a very nice atmosphere.  The North Park Blocks where it is held provided a nice shady, green area.  IBF was less of the dirt and hot tents and “WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” of OBF.  I went from about 12:30 to 5:00 on a Satuday, so to be fair I can’t compare it to my usual Friday evening and later Saturday OBF visits (though even Saturday afternoon can get crazy at OBF).  It was not jam-packed and super-noisy, but it was very busy.  Still, though, the lines were almost always short.

Yes, there are some expensive pours, but there are some damn expensive beers there!  I had no idea how many beers on offer were off-the-shelf bottles that they just buy in mass quantity and keep on ice.  And there are a large number of 1-ticket pours. I stuck with interesting 1- and 2-ticket pours first, but then moved on to a few 3-ticket and maybe even one or two 4-ticket beers, just because there were some really interesting and unique ones I wanted to try.  It’s nice, for example, to be able to compare and contrast a number of good Belgian beers without having to commit to buying all those expensive bottles!

Courtesy portland-beerfest.com

One final note on the price: PIB “is a fundraiser for PET CROSS”, so part of those ticket prices goes to a good cause.  What’s better than drinking beer?  Drinking beer… FOR PUPPIES AND KITTIES!!

So all-in-all, if you’re like me and have not bothered to try IBF “just because”, I encourage you to give it a shot next year.  Is attending YET ANOTHER good beer event in the Portland area going to kill you?


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