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.
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!
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?