10 Barrel Apricot Crush
At a very sessionable 4.2% ABV, 10 Barrel Brewing Company’s Apricot Crush was the most fruit-forward of all the beers we tried at the festival. Jumping off a Berliner Weisse base, the ale was fermented with apricots and soured with Lactobacillus. Apricots play as strongly in the scent of the beer as they do on the palate, the fruit's idiosyncrasies melding impeccably with the mouth-puckering tartness. This unexpected addition to the festival was one of our favorites of the entire event.
Pfriem Black Saison
The 7% ABV Black Saison from Pfriem Family Brewers featured a powerful, roasty bitterness and peppery overtones. The dark malts and Styrian Golding hops colluded to form a well-rounded profile that offered a definitively different drinking experience from the many standard saisons at the festival.
Single File, Everyone!
Eager beer fans lined up in advance of the festival to get their tickets and glassware. “I drove all the way from Woodinville [Washington] for this,” said festival goer Kevin Friedman.
Block 15 2011 Ferme de la Ville Provision
The Ferme de la Ville Provision from Block 15 Brewing Company was perhaps the richest and most full-bodied ale at the festival. No surprise given this beer’s pedigree: a barrel-aged version of Block 15’s farmhouse ale was fermented with Belgian yeast and blended with a younger ale brewed with wheat, malted rye, golden naked oats, and honey. This mouth-coating brew was hard to put down, as tart as it was sweet, with hints of stone fruits at the back of the palate.
Solera Brewery’s head brewer Jason Kahler with Solera Lapin Lover kriek
The sole kriek at the festival, Solera Brewing’s Lapin Lover stood out among all the blonde saisons at the festival not only for its immediately recognizable bright red hue, but for its classic tart, cherry profile. The beer has been sitting on Oregon-grown cherries since last summer, and no yeast was added—only the wild yeast and bacteria found on the cherries themselves initiated fermentation. At 4.5% ABV, it’s lighter than you might expect for a kriek, and easily sessionable.
Breakside French Fennel Farmhouse
The award for the most unconventional ale at the festival has to go Breakside Brewery’s golden saison brewed with heirloom spelt and fennel bulb, seed, and pollen. Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon fame designed the beer with Breakside’s head brewer Ben Edmunds, one of many such collaborations the brewery embraces with local chefs. The anise flavor of the fennel was unmistakable and thoroughly refreshing, though fennel-haters (and there were a vocal few present at the event) will want to steer far away from this one (leaving more for the rest of us).
Pabst Blue Ribbon, Budweiser...Wait, What?
Because many of these beers were one-offs, there were no brewery-specific tap handles to be seen at the festival. The pure shock on people's faces when they first saw the lineup of macro brewery logos was priceless.
Selecting newish The Commons Brewery for this festival was a no-brainer, given that farmhouse ales are just about all this brewery does. Myrtle is The Commons' newest creation, a zippy, refreshing 5.1% ABV ale designed to show off locally grown Meridian hops. The Meridians' characteristic lemon overtones are a superb pairing for the bracing tartness of Lactobacillus. This one’s going to absolutely kill it come summer.
Logsdon Far West Vlaming
To say that Far West Vlaming might be the least impressive of all the Logsdon Farmhouse Ales we’ve tried isn’t an insult to this particular beer so much as it is an indication of the high quality of Dave Logsdon’s beers across the board. The base of this 8% ABV Flemish-style red ale, funked up with Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Saccharomyces, began life as the brewery’s Cerasus (the People’s Choice winner from last year’s Cheers to Belgian Beers festival) before receiving further aging in oak barrels. Notes of cola and a lingering bitterness characterize the flavor profile, along with mild tartness and barnyard hay.
Agrarian Ales Coalescence Spring Saison
Agrarian Ales’ newest seasonal saison features locally grown raw unmalted oats and rye. The brewers utilized a cereal step mash to convert the grains before they were added to the barley malt mash and fermented with a yeast strain from Belgium’s Scheldt River Valley. The 6% ABV ale delivers a strong, sweet scent of Belgian yeast in the nose that belies its bitterness and mild rye spiciness.
Those who enjoyed the Portland Farmhouse and Wild Ales Festival, the first of its kind in Portland, can thank Ezra Johnson-Greenough for organizing and curating the event. Johnson-Greenough also organizes Portland’s popular Fruit Beer Fest and Portland Beer Week while contributing to the beer blog he founded, The New School.