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Portland Beer Week - I don't get it.

Discussion in 'US - Northwest' started by John_M, May 30, 2012.

  1. John_M

    John_M Moderator (1,100) Oregon Oct 25, 2003 Staff Member

    As it turns out, I'll be in town for the final two days of PBW, so I thought I'd take a look at what's going on that final weekend. I might as well not have bothered, it would appear.

    "Beer weeks" seem to be all the rage these days, and I've attended several here on the East Coast (DC, Baltimore, Philly). To say that the Portland version pales by comparison would be a HUGE understatement. I saw a coupe of interesting dinners at Wildwood, and there were a few other events that I might attend if I happened to be in town, but otherwise, there really doesn't seem to be anything to get too excited about.

    I realize that quantity doesn't necessarily equal quality, but still... I'll be attending some upcoming events during Philly beer week next week, and there is not one day during the entire week where I can't find more events and more to do than what's on offer for the entire week of PBW!

    I also realize that July is coming soon, and with it all the fantastic events surrounding PIB and OBF. So maybe it's understandable that there would be less interest in PBW, but still... I'm just amazed that there isn't more on offer for the week.

    Is there just not very much interest in PBW? Will there likely even continue to be a PBW in the future, given what appears to be a fairly low level of interest/involvement by the local brewing community?
     
  2. boMD

    boMD Savant (315) Oregon Feb 8, 2009

    What events does everyone plan to attend during Portland Beer Year?
     
  3. John_M

    John_M Moderator (1,100) Oregon Oct 25, 2003 Staff Member

    That's actually kind of my point. Is there really any need for there to be a beer week in Portland? Judging from the event calendar this year, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that the answer is no.
     
  4. Sarlacc83

    Sarlacc83 Advocate (620) Oregon Mar 2, 2008

    Portland Beer Week strikes me as a me-too type set up - haphazard in its execution because PDX breweries (probably) won't plan for something when, in 3 weeks, they need to do a month's worth of festivals and activities. OCBM dominates summer, and we need the breweries to go all in with the best of the best.
     
  5. Philadelphia population: 1,526,006

    Portland population: 583,776
     
  6. John_M

    John_M Moderator (1,100) Oregon Oct 25, 2003 Staff Member

    I'm not getting your point. Portland also has far more breweries and brewpubs, and just as many quality beer venues (and that's giving Philly it's due).

    The population comparison strikes me as meaningless, as both cities draw many out of town and out of the area participants and consumers. Also, as the OBF and PIB events show, Portland has no problem drawing throngs of participants for a quality event. So I can't see any reason why PBW couldn't potentially support many more outstanding events than are currently on offer.

    The post by WriterLBerg, I suspect, is the most reasonable explanation. Frankly, it makes no sense to me that the organizers would want to schedule PBW so close to OCBM. Making this an Octoberfest event would seem to make a lot more sense, as the weather is still nice and you're several months out from OBF and the Holiday Ale fest. Regardless, in it's current incarnation, PBW seems kind of pointless.
     
  7. dirtylou

    dirtylou Champion (785) Washington May 12, 2005

    I haven't perused the PDX beer week schedule but the Seattle beer week just wrapped up, and that was a pretty fantastic 10 day stretch of events.
     
    jpbebeau likes this.
  8. Just a stab in the dark really. Don't mind being wrong about it. I've never been to Philly so can't comment on its beer scene.

    There are probably a number of reasons why PBW is not the event it is other cities. I would think that WriterLBerg hit the nail on the head. Another reason is that it quickly follows on the heels of Seattle Beer Week and all of the PNW BA's are still hung over.
     
  9. John_M

    John_M Moderator (1,100) Oregon Oct 25, 2003 Staff Member

    Agreed. No big deal, but given that Portland is one of the best beer cities in the country, I was kind of shocked when I saw the event calendar. On most days, there's no more than one or two events listed. During Philly beer week, it's not unusual for there to be as many as 75 or 80 different events on any given day. During the week, it's typical to see Vinnie C, David Walker, the Cigar City folks, possibly Gary Fish, and a host of other brewers and brewery reps in town. Even Baltimore and DC beer weeks have a lot more events than what I see on the PBW calendar.

    Given what I'm accustomed to seeing out this way, in cities that don't have anything like the beer culture you find in Portland... it's kind of a shock to pull up the PBW calendar and see a wopping 20 events for the entire week.
     
  10. kscaldef

    kscaldef Advocate (690) Oregon Jun 11, 2010

    I think a couple things are in play. First, many portlanders (and Portland brewers) don't really see the point, particularly as Oregon Beer Month is more-or-less de facto Portland Beer Month already. And, as boMD jokes, an average week in Portland is already pretty great. Then we have the fact that this is only the second year that this event has existed, so maybe people are still unsure if it will really take off.
     
  11. dirtylou

    dirtylou Champion (785) Washington May 12, 2005

    Well - there's your answer. It's only the 2nd year of existence...
     
  12. John_M

    John_M Moderator (1,100) Oregon Oct 25, 2003 Staff Member

    Shrug. Maybe. However, Philly beer week 2012 will be only the 5th year for them, while DC and Baltimore beer weeks will be celebrating their 4th anniversary in 2012.

    If this was the first year for PBW, then the underwhelming event calendar would make a bit more sense to me. All of the "beer weeks" I mentioned experienced some problems in their first year, most of which were ironed out by year two. I don't know... only 20 events over the course of week? At least to me, that sounds like a lack of interest.

    "many portlanders (and Portland brewers) don't really see the point, particularly as Oregon Beer Month is more-or-less de facto Portland Beer Month already"

    Completely agree. I suspect poor timing may have a lot to do with the underwhelming event calendar for PBW.
     
  13. Actually, the timing is better this year than last, John. Whereas last summer PBW was scheduled in the 'dog days' of August (during that post-OCBM hangover) this year is mid-June and coincides with events like the Fruit Beer Festival and, on a larger scale, the Rose Festival.

    'Underwhelming'? Perhaps. I suppose when it's compared with some other major cities' "beer weeks" Portland's kinda seems mediocre, but it is only Year #2 and (as was alluded to before) the week sorta represents what we locals have come to expect as year-round Portland beer activity.

    I see PDX Beer Week as a KICK-OFF for the entire summer's-worth of beer fests and events. Whether it'll get bigger and better in the years to come is TBD, but I'm hopeful...
     
  14. John_M

    John_M Moderator (1,100) Oregon Oct 25, 2003 Staff Member

    I'm willing to concede that perhaps my expectations were a bit unrealistic. :)

    I'm also willing to admit that I was a bit annoyed/disappointed when I didn't see any kick-ass event I could attend that final weekend. It's conceivable that could have colored my impression as well.
     
  15. Mahlik

    Mahlik Aficionado (245) Oregon Aug 21, 2010

    Exactly this. It's hard to get extra pumped for a "special" week of beer when it seems every week has something going on. There's always a meet the brewer/beer release/beer dinner/anniversary party going on somewhere in Portland.

    Agree here too. With the lineup of festivals and events starting up shortly after PDX Beer Week, it's no surprise to see a lack of events. The breweries have to prepare for the beer madness that is Oregon Beer Month. Like writerLJBerg says, the breweries have to save their biggest and best for July.

    To address this point, the three cities you mention are all major metropolitian areas that are relatively close to each other. So it's easier to attract more people. And with more people, you need more events. Someone in any of the aforementioned cities could go to all three beer weeks rather easily.

    With Portland, the closest major city is Seattle (3 hour drive from PDX) and they just wrapped their beer week up last week. I can't imagine too many people from Seattle rushing down to PDX Beer Week a week right after their own. The next closest major metro area is San Francisco, which is 9-10 hours away. Most people aren't going to make the trip to Portland for PDX Beer Week and Oregon Beer Month. And if I had to bet, I'd say almost everyone would choose OBM over PBW. Especially since PBW is only in its 2nd year.
     
  16. maltmaster420

    maltmaster420 Savant (450) Oregon Aug 17, 2005

    It was thrown together at the last minute (in the grand scheme of things), and we didn't even know they had shifted PBW from august to early June until about 6-8 weeks ago, so it left very little time to plan events. For example, we're doing a Rocky Mtn brewery night, but we're having a hard time pulling in kegs and brewery reps due to the logistics of trucking and getting special kegs here in time. If we had had a couple more months to work on this we could have arranged with the breweries to send stuff, and could have had time to reach out to breweries that don't normally distribute here and get them to send things along with another breweries load. For example, there are a ton of breweries in Denver that could have dropped off a keg at Great Divide and have them send it out to us, but that kind of stuff takes a fair bit of advance planning because they only send a truck every 3-4 weeks.

    Contrast that to some of the more established beer weeks where organizers and bars know a year in advance when the "City beer week" will occur, and have plenty of time to prepare something special.

    Add in all the points mentioned above about tourists already planning vacations here in July (again, because people had no notice), the relative lack of population compared to the bigger cities (Philly may only have 1.5million people, but there's 10 million more living within a 3 hour drive), and the fact that many of the bars are already busy gearing up for the madness of July, and it's not hard to see why this is shaping up to be a lackluster week compared to places like Philly or San Fran.

    Lastly, what can we really do to differentiate this week in a city that is essentially a year round beer event? There are brewers dinners and whatnot on a monthly basis, and damn near every idea/theme for a festival already covered at some point in the year (fresh hop fests, OBF, PIB, organic beer, smoked beer, belgian beer, sour beer, holiday beer, fruit beer, etc), so it doesn't leave a lot of room to come up with something without looking like you're stealing ideas or stepping on someone else's toes.
     
    NWer, msubulldog25 and guajolote like this.
  17. While I can't defend the obvious lack of events on the PDX Beer Week calendar, I would point out one thing. A few years ago PIB was roundly criticized for scheduling their event during Oregon Beer Month. The feeling was that having a fest focused on imports was inappropriate. Events focused on non-Oregon breweries would likely be given the same criticism.

    My understanding is that PDX Beer Week is meant to be focused on Portland's beer culture rather than the abundance of breweries that are located here. That is why when you look at the calendar you see events featuring New Belgium, Stone, Firestone Walker, Hollister, Almanac, Elysian, etc. These tastings, dinners and seminars would seem out of place during OBM. Maybe the week should be called PDX Non-Oregon Beer Week?
     
    msubulldog25 likes this.
  18. John_M

    John_M Moderator (1,100) Oregon Oct 25, 2003 Staff Member

    IMHO, this pretty much explains a lot of the problem (the first couple of paragraphs). I get it that Portland doesn't have as large a population as DC or Philly, and I understand that this is only the second year for PBW. The comment about Portland being a year round beer event, if anything, sounds like an even better reason why the organizers would have wanted to ramp things up, so the events would really stand out. As for upcoming July events, I can only really see that affecting local breweries and brewpubs. No reason at all why it should have any impact on local beer bar venues and most out of state breweries.

    Until the post from Chris, none of this really explained the lack of events on the calendar. Portland being Portland, it just made no sense that there wouldn't be more events... a lot more events. Now, however, it all makes a lot more sense.
     
  19. dirtylou

    dirtylou Champion (785) Washington May 12, 2005

    Yeah - it appears to be primarily organization.

    I don't buy the sentiments that suggest PDX beer week isnt important because there are so many beer-related events throughout the year. The same is true for Seattle, Chicago, Phili, etc which all have very successful and well organized festivities.
     
  20. boMD

    boMD Savant (315) Oregon Feb 8, 2009

  21. PDXBeerWeek

    PDXBeerWeek Disciple (65) Oregon Aug 25, 2011

    Hi Beer Advocate friends,

    we are sure you will all make up your own minds about Portland Beer Week, hopefully after attending some events but we thought we would clear up a few misconceptions.

    The biggest complaints we had last year were too many events and too late in the year. When we suggested June brewers and supporters jumped at the idea. Any suggestions that supporters have not been behind Portland Beer Week are simply not true. The biggest request by both beer fans and breweries was to not fill the calendar with a million events. While it is true you can find 30 beer events a day on the calendar for say SF Beer Week many of those events are everyday events like in-store tastings and samplings no different than go on everyday in Portland. Instead we have tried to manage a more manageable amount of 40+ with a hands on approach. In reality we have more submissions than we can deal with and the community has been all too enthusiastic and supportive.
    Of course launching another beer week it invites comparison to other cities beer weeks and we have been inspired by many of them but at the same time have chosen our own path. As pointed out here Portland has a 'Beer Year' so instead of trying to fill up the calendar with a gazillion events and taking anything submitted to us we actually curate the calendar to more unique events. It is clear now we cannot please everyone, while one group complains we have too many brewers from out of state another group complains it's all the same brewers we see all the time in the state.

    True we have many things to improve upon and are still figuring many things out. However with the support of brewers and bars we exceeded our fundraising goals in just 2 days this year. We are currently working without profit unlike other beer weeks but with the huge success of last year and more than 10X the fundraising of last year PDXBW will continue to grow.

    It is a testament to how great Portland beer culture is that these brand new and unique events like: Portland Fruit Beer Fest, Rye Beer Fest, Sour Beer Symposium, Coffee & Beer Seminar, Beer & Food pairing seminar, California and WA brewers nights featuring brewers not distributed in the state, the first Beer & Cheese fest, brewers summer games and many more be considered not special enough. Regardless we are confident in the events we have set up and based on the success of last year and growing support this year that Portland Beer Week will continue to grow and improve. We hope you give it a chance and remember bigger is not better.
     
    guajolote, msubulldog25 and NWer like this.
  22. NWer

    NWer Advocate (660) Washington Mar 10, 2009

    "As pointed out here Portland has a 'Beer Year'"
    What he said. I have no problem being entertained every time I go to Portland.
     
  23. John_M

    John_M Moderator (1,100) Oregon Oct 25, 2003 Staff Member

    Nor do I, but you know how it is.... No matter how good things are, you always hope you might stumble upon something incredible while you're in town. Given that it was the tail end of PBW while I was going to be in town, I was hoping see something comparable to the mindblowing Alpine event Apex had a while back. I realize that's a bit unrealistic on my part, but I've lucked into so many fantastic tastings while out in Portland... after a while, you start to expect it will happen all the time (especially when one is out during PBW).
     
    NWer likes this.
  24. NWer

    NWer Advocate (660) Washington Mar 10, 2009

    Kindred spirits my friend. I too have stumbled into some incredible events totally by accident. It's easy to come to expect it.
     
  25. litheum94

    litheum94 Initiate (0) California Dec 29, 2008

    I kind of like the fact that they don't have a million events. One of the main reasons I haven't gone to SF beer week yet is because it is a major pain in the ass to sift through the calander of events. Like mentioned before, 80% of these "events" aren't really events, just small tastings or tapping of a single keg. I think the idea of having a concentrated list of events gives the whole thing more focus and makes those events more special.
     
  26. dirtylou

    dirtylou Champion (785) Washington May 12, 2005

    The responses seem to support not having a PDX beer week at all...

    All of the other cities listed have beer scenes that are in a similar class as PDX and have amazing beer weeks. If the organizers don't want hundreds of events, then right on, but I'm not following how you can look at the PDX list, compare it to the Seattle/SF/Phili list, and come to the conclusion that its preferrable?

    I wanted to come down for it, because I expected it would be a grand event, but as the OP mentioned, not so much.
     
  27. bosco123

    bosco123 Aficionado (130) Oregon May 26, 2008

    Looking for a diamond in the rough? Belmont Station on the 15th for a Block 15 release and pour. Not gigantic scale wise, just on taste. Shhhhhhhh.
     
    hopsbreath likes this.
  28. John_M

    John_M Moderator (1,100) Oregon Oct 25, 2003 Staff Member

    Yeah, I get their email newsletter, and saw they are doing their anniversary release that day. Unfortunately, I won't actually get into town till the 16th, but Belmont Station will be my first stop when I get into town. Hopefully there'll be something left over from Friday night!

    Thanks!
     

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