It was a balmy Sunday at Overlook Park, and the final-day crowd at the North American Organic Brewers Festival was still a modest one. With the sun baking our brows, drinking buddy Lucy and myself mingled with the multitudes and sought sudsy relief among the taps. Sadly, we were informed some of the samples had been consumed with gusto on the first two days, so we missed out on beers from Laurelwood and new kid on the block, Logsdon Farmhouse Ales.
A small, orderly beer fest is a lovely thing, and NAOBF fit the bill. Lines were short to non-existent, the beer was still fresh and foamy, and the drinking water was free, which is not always the case. Seriously, if you can’t periodically rinse your palate and cup without paying a king’s ransom for a bottle of agua, the beers take on an unwelcome monochromatic quality as the inside of your mouth turns to gummy flannel.
I didn’t get a chance to try everything available (What am I? A machine?) but I did recognize greatness when I tasted it. The Reggae Junkie Gruit from Alex Ganum and Upright Brewing was an epiphany. Here at last, was proof positive that hops are not always a vital brew component. Instead, Ganum cleverly utilized Sichuan peppercorns, hyssop, lemongrass, and orange peels, a battery that delivered oodles of herbal flair. For all that, it still had that balanced and buttery mouth feel that characterizes Upright beers.
The Galactic Imperial Red from Hopworks was another worthy entry, and at 9.5 percent ABV was the biggest-tasting and richest sip I encountered, which necessitated the purchase of an absolutely smashing white cheddar cheeseburger from the Violetta wagon. I missed out on the elephant ears, deep-fried Twinkies, and bacon-fortified Snickers bar, for which I can only blame a stubborn streak of common sense lodged somewhere on my person.
In no particular order, I also gave "thumbs-up" to the Ft George Quick Wit, McMenamins Organic Kerfuffle kolsch, and the Golden Spiced Ale from Ambacht Brewing in Hillsboro. I finished the day by spilling a beer on myself while trying to take a picture. All in all, a highly pleasant afternoon, and I applaud the efforts of brewers that are willing to step up to the environmental plate and create wonderful, tasty beers without hops and grains that have been treated with pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Good on you!