MagoGuide tramped over to North Warehouse at 723 N. Tillamook St. on an unseasonably hot spring day to sample some of the best non-Belgium Belgian beers in the country. The 10th Annual Cheers to Belgian Beers Festival boasted around 70 offerings, as well as wurst of all stripes from Urban German Grill and other suds-friendly food from Monk’s Deli. The locale was quite Spartan, a huge warehouse (duh) with a few inside stand-up tables and a DJ blasting out an eclectic mélange of vinyl. There was significantly more covered seating outside at the food carts, which was nice since the sun was rather intense for Rip City. The $20 cost of a real beer glass and 10 tickets did not seem all that steep once we began sampling what was on offer.
Team Mago managed to taste (very generous pours by the way) and rank some 18 different beers before making our way back in a squiffy weave across the newly repainted Broadway Bridge. So let me explain first about our rostra rankings. Anything 3 or above means we would gladly drink this beer again, 4 is an exceptional beer, and 5 is reserved for a proper 1420 from the Green Dragon (in Bywater, not Portland) or the ale at Bree’s Prancing Pony following a blessing by Gandalf himself. The large number of three and up rostra is an indication of just how much good beer got brewed for this festival.
Our rostra ranking for the beers:
The clear winner with 4 rostra …
- Pfriem Family Brewers’ Flanders Red (Belgian Style Flanders Red)
The Team Mago fave was Pfriem Family Brewers’ Flanders Red and we were not too surprised. Pfriem seems to do well no matter what their master brewers put their talents to, but their Belgian style beers are some of the best brewed outside of a Flemish monastery.
Those that received 3.5 rostra included…
- Burnside Brewing’s Immaculate Decoction (Belgian Style Strong Ale)
- Culmination Brewing Compnay’s Pinot Evil (Belgian Style Tripple)
- Golden Valley Brewery’s Rode Distel (Belgian Style Flanders Red)
Next came the 3 rostra…
- Pelican Brewery’s: Pelican Saison (Belgian Style Saison)
- Breakside Brewery’s Biere de Garde (French Style Farmhouse Ale)
- Craft Kitchen and Brewery’s Red Dawn Saison (Belgian Style Barrel Aged Soured)
- Ecliptic Brewing’s Hyades Belgian Golden Ale (Belgian Style Golden Ale)
- Migration Brewing Co.’s Azaca Kahn IPA (Belgian Syle IPA)
- Montavilla Brew Work’s Jerry Runs the Voodoo Down (Belgian Style Extra Pale Ale)
- Solera Brewery’s The Five Foot Assassin (Belgian Style Sour Brown)
- Sun River Brewing Co.’s Willie the Red (Belgian Style Strong Red Ale)
- Widmer Brothers Brewing’s Sansho no Sezon (Belgium Style Saison with Sansho Peppercorns)
Down towards the bottom were the 2.5 rostra…
- Lompoc Brewing’s Mystical Apricorn (Belgian Style Pale)
- Old Market Brewing’s The ICW (Belgian Style IPA)
- Upright Brewing’s Sunset Saison (Belgian Style Saison)
- Uptown Brewing’s Tammy Sais (Belgian Style Black Saison)
And at the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, with 1 rostra…
- Pints Brewing Co.’s Belgian Breakfast (Belgian Style Breakfast Beer)
The only massive clunker was Pints Brewing Co.’s Belgian Breakfast, which boiled down to using smoked malt and lots of maple syrup. What a waste of good syrup.
The biggest surprise was Lompoc Brewing’s Mystical Apricorn, evidently an effort to brew a sessionable pale ale with peppercorns and apricots. It was an unusual effort worthy of a Belgian beer fest, and it may well be a case of simply not being to our tastes. However, Lompoc could have crushed every farmhouse ale at the festival by simply driving a keg of their Saison d’Evolution over to North Warehouse. In fact, amongst all the categories, saison seemed to us to be one of the weakest represented. This was a shame given that the hot weather cried out for the refreshing bitterness of a classic saison.
In the end, our critiques of the suds were mere quibbles. It was a wonderful way to spend a bright spring day. If there is an 11th Cheers for Belgian Beers Festival, MagoGuide will do our best to be there.
Mago Tip: When planning your visit to the Cheers to Belgian BeersFestival, go during the week rather than the weekend if that’s an option. We were there on a Friday afternoon and it was wonderfully uncrowded. We can’t imagine what it must have been like on Saturday.