I roll out of the Uber with a gentle breeze running through my hair, lifting my shades down tenderly to greet the sunshine as I find myself at the entrance. It’s a great, big warehouse-like space, filled to the brim with jolly people smiling heartily and the sound of glasses gently clinking together, and so I quickly find my way in with my program in hand, feeling faintly flushed with excitement.
The event in question is Willamette Week’s almighty Beer Pro Am, a delightful event in which homebrewers are paired up with Oregon’s most mighty brewing companies to debut some seriously unique craft beers. And because a party isn’t quite a party without a burrito in hand (or maybe it’s just the Californian in me), the Pro Am is equipped with free burritos courtesy of Chipotle as well as boasting a virtual gaming lounge by Ground Kontrol and the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, too.
Aka my kind of party.
I’m greeted with a pint glass when I walk in, which is filled with a variety of items including useful things like my program (filled with very nifty information on each beer), my precious Chipotle ticket, a necklace of pretzels for minor munchies, and a couple of little beads at the bottom which I’m told are for voting purposes. O.K. Beer me, baby.
I figure the best way to make it through the day while still honoring my journalistic integrity would be to walk in a counter-clockwise circle, starting right up at the very front and making my way around, sampling each beer as I went along. I started off with the “Casper the Friendly Gose” (points for the name) from 10 Barrel with Tracy Hensley and quickly became acquainted with the notion of a “sour beer”, something I found interesting largely due to the fact I couldn’t taste any “hoppiness”, or alcoholic acridity, in it. Hm hm hm. Very interesting.
Next up was the OG Stout from 13 Virtues with Bill Schneller and I have to say, POW did that one really knock it out of me. It was a deep, velvety rich stout clocking in at a whopping 9.5% that tasted like it was brewed with some strong black coffee, and it was freaking delicious, son. A couple more samples of that and I’d have had my work really cut out for me.
As I went in turn from vendor to vendor, happily noshing on my pretzel necklace, I found several beers which delighted me to my very core: the Pelekaiko by Breakside, a delicious Farmhouse Ale with lime and habanero which cleaned up my palette with its citrusy freshness; the First Crack Coffee Pale Ale from Baerlic Brewing filled with coffee flavor without its overwhelming bitterness, and of course the Capsaison beer fermented with delectable chile peppers. It was a veritable symphony of sight and sound, of spicy, cool, refreshing, bubbly, wonderfully spirited good drinks and drinkers that delighted me to my very core—and that was before I even found my way over to the Chipotle station.
After some much needed rest by the game lounge, in which I lounged out on a sofa set straight from the 70’s with some Super Nintendo, I headed round to cast my votes for the People’s Choice Award, dropping my little beads in two different glasses and snatching up all the pickle and hot sauce samples I could get my hands on along the way. The Judges’ Choice for 1st place was the OG Stout—hardly surprising, considering how many people I chatted with about its richness—with most of my other favorites placing high up in the winner’s list. Muahaha.
At the end of the day, I emerged from the warehouse all the more victorious not only for having had my fill of wonderful, one-of-a-kind type of beers, but for having gotten my fill of video games, all things spicy, passionately drunken conversations with strangers and, of course, that delightful Portland life which I loved so much.