Being a Portlander, I am spoiled. Every weekend there’s at least one beer festival or big release going on, if not every day of the week now. Just as Portland’s growing population has spilled north over the banks of the Columbia River, so too has the city’s artisan brewing culture.
When people think “Vancouver” they often think British Columbia and when they think Northwest Craft Beer, they usually think Seattle or Portland, not Vancouver. Yet the tide is beginning to turn. Demonstrating the growth of Southwest Washington’s brewing culture was last weekend’s Vancouver Brewfest, a testament to how smaller craft beer markets are growing at a phenomenal rate.
Situated right on the Columbia River, literally a 10 minute drive from Portland, was a not only a craft beer festival featuring 80 beers on tap, but also 16 varieties of whiskey, 18 ciders, 3 meads and 3 excellent food vendors.
But, aside from all the surprisingly impressive suds, what really set the event apart was the atmosphere and diversity of the venue’s settings. Whether in the tent getting a beer, shooting hoops in their March Madness bracket competition, out at the tables noshing or enjoying the picturesque view from the amphitheater, they succeeded in keeping our interest and our feet moving.
Just as impressive are which charities the event organizers chose to support, with proceeds from the event going to Disabled American Veterans, NW Battle Buddies (service dogs for PTSD veterans) and Second Chance Companions. Adding to the festival atmosphere were caricature artists, silk-screen shirts being made on site and various other local businesses on hand supporting the event.
While there was definitely representation from brewers in Portland and Seattle, the vast majority were from SW and Central Washington, with not only a great variety of styles on hand but some unexpectedly amazing new things I’d never tried. I was especially impressed with the big 9% CDA from Ashtown Brewing of Longview, the chocolaty Imperial Stout Cocoa-Fied from Fortside Brewing in Vancouver, Beerded Brothers (Vancouver) and their Agave Amber Ale, plus the delightful Project Mayhem Raspberry Berliner Weisse from Doomsday Brewing of Washougal.
To have this much to choose from and so much to do on site, there’s no doubt that other festivals I’ve been to could learn what’s being accomplished at the Vancouver Brewfest. We can’t wait for their next event, the Summer Edition, in August, not to mention their first Fresh Hop festival next October. It all goes to show that Vancouver is finally starting to put themselves on the map as a serious craft beer town.