Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Now THIS is a Festival

I had decided this year to change my routine of beer festivals. No more KLCC Microbrew Festival this year. Let's do Sasquatch instead. No Firkin Fest at the Green Dragon (and I won't go into why here). How about meeting some new brewers and brewery staff and plying the trade outside of the usual Portland area. Portland gets too much attention these days anyway.

On a whim I decided to go to the Fort George Brewery in Astoria for a festival of stouts. We had done a cask swap once before with them, and so I wanted to be there to handle the casks and to schmooze - that sort of thing. I had my portable cask pub kit with me, so, in addition to the new beer engine that they had mounted in the new Lovell Tasting Room, we were able to pull an additional two casks. As usual I had to show up the day before the festival and set up in the lonely new space which used to be a car showroom.

The new brewery addition is immense. I was particularly impressed with the enormous beams, the smell of old carpentry and the piggy hot liquor tank.

Now a lot of these American beer festivals are all the same. It's just a big room with volunteers pouring products that they have no knowledge of into pitifully small bits of glassware. While this festival did employ the ticket-for-a-taste template, there was more going on here than just, well, a big room with volunteers pouring products that they have no knowledge of into pitifully small bits of glassware. For starters, how about this wonderful female voice wielding a banjo? And when was the last time you were regaled by singing pirates sporting leather tankards and what looked like disemboweling cutlasses? How often do you go to a festival that employs a live blacksmith? And belly dancing?

Needless to say, I had a good time. I got to work my own taps for a while, and found it unusual to not have to figure out what style of beer the customer wanted. 100% chance it was going to be a stout. We were serving our 8-grain winter stout called "Frost on the Bumpkin". I was only asked three times whether it had pumpkin in it.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Not a Grumpy Publican Post

Well, I suppose I should plunge back into this. I've been in a state of blog silence for a bit, related to that depressing time of year that we call the off-season. I was trying to avoid the possibility of "grumpy publican" posts that sometimes surface during this time of year.

We had hopes of another killer Winter like last year, which brings us a thing called "Ski Season". Willamette Pass Resort is just 25 miles up the road. It brings us the Winter trade that small businesses up the HWY 58 corridor depend upon. Winter's good. We need Winter. Without it we lose money, get grumpy, and write grumpy publican posts.

Winter came 8 weeks late. This is a Bad Thing™. I started and deleted a couple of grumpy publican posts and then thought better of it. But happy happy joy joy it snowed a bit and the Pass opened and some wallets trickled through the door. So what did I do? I bought some grain.

We needed grain. Can't brew without it. Trouble is, the local brewery supply warehouses require me to buy it. Can you imagine? So I scraped together some boring green paper that passes for currency and drove to Vancouver, Washington in order to secure a couple sacks of the good stuff. Enough for a brew or three. I just considered the drive to be a shipping cost, as well as a break from being at the pub every day which carries a value all its own. Nine sacks makes up almost 500 lbs. of burden. I think I could cram in a few more next time. As I was driving home, I was wondering how many other breweries in this country have to snag a few bags by personal transport.

We have now brewed three batches of scrummy cask ales, including an Ordinary and a Best Bitter that were high on my wish list. I think that with the slightly elevated trade I can maybe sneak back up for another grain run.