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Highlights from beer festivals and cocktail celebrations.

Highlights from the 2012 Oregon Brewers Festival

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A volunteer pours Sierra Nevada 'Knock on Wood' at the 2012 OBF. [Photographs: Jim Bonomo]

On the last full weekend of every July, the Oregon Brewers Festival and its devotees descend upon the Portland waterfront like a swarm of thirsty insects. Now in its 25th year, the OBF presented an astounding 82 breweries and their wares over the four day event. Here's are a few of the most delicious and unusual beers we sampled during the four day event.

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Sculpin IPA, Ballast Point Brewing Company. First beer, first day, at approximately 12:02 p.m. What better for lunch than a Grade A palate destroyer? This appropriately pale IPA brought a punch of pineapple and finished bitter with notes of fresh-cut grass. When people say 'West coast IPA', this is what they are referring to.

Raspberry Crush, 10 Barrel Brewing Company. This "American-Style Sour Ale" managed to balance sweet, fresh raspberry flavor with a brilliant tartness achieved through an innoculation of lactobacillus. Its bright red hue and refreshment level made it a perfect summer quaffer for the beer drinker with an adventurous palate for something funky. Larger sips brought to mind raspberry lemonade with an extra kick of acidity.

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Knock on Wood, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. Sierra Nevada took an imperial chocolate chili stout ('Hellraiser') and aged it in bourbon barrels. Doesn't sound like the perfect beverage for a 90 degree day with pants on, but damn, was it tasty. Spicy oak and rich vanilla jumped forward on the palate. The chili heat wasn't as present as I'd have liked, but the strong flavors packaged together with the finesse of a big brewery made for a pleasurable drinking experience. Revisiting this again on a cold, winter night would be ideal.

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Summer Gose, Cascade Brewing Company. This was one of two festival beers, poured free from a barrel while supplies lasted. This poundable wheat beer with salt and coriander had just enough savory tartness to encourage thirst while also quenching it. Thankfully the pours were free, or I would have spent all of my tokens on the vicious Gose cycle of drink/get thirsty again/repeat. The beer's creator, Ron Gansberg, was also the lively ringleader of the OBF's opening ceremony.

25, Oakshire Brewing. This brew was created to commemorate the 25th year of this mammoth festival, and included some special Oregon-produced ingredients. Oregon honey was the most pronounced, adding a smooth sweetness and floral notes. Local cranberries and herbs were present, but not necessarily accounted for. The toasted Oregon hazelnuts, however, played harmoniously off of the honey and added a unique dessertlike flavor base in place of the usual roasted malt profile. Classified only as an "Imperial Oregon Ale", 25 was one of the more unique offerings at this year's festival.

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The beer festival continues to grow every year, and is even a significant part of Oregon's economy. According to a 2011 study by a local professor, the roughly-calculated economic impact of the festival is in the realm of $23.2 million. It's also a fun weekend to meet beer fans from all over the world. If you've never been to Portland for the OBF, it's certainly worth the trip.

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