Sunday, April 8, 2012

Volunteer for Beer!

This weekend we attended our first beer festival since moving to Portland. When we were here in 2010, we enjoyed participating in several festivals and even volunteered at one of them, Cheers to Belgian Beers. Based on that experience, we decided to get our OLCC (alcohol servers) and food handlers licenses this year so we are fully eligible to serve adult beverages & food, not only at festivals, but in all Oregon bars & restaurants.
post-volunteer beers at the 2010 Cheers to Belgian Beers
The Spring Beer & Wine Fest is an annual event which raises money for charity. This year's fundraiser was for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The festival takes place over two days and features many Oregon breweries, wineries, cideries and distilleries as well as cheeses, chocolate, and other local food & services vendors. Since we had volunteered to work the closing shift (7:30-11pm) on the final night of the festival, we decided to go on opening day to use the eight free tokens we each received for our services.
The Convention Center is just 2.5 miles from our apartment but there is no direct way to get there via public transportation (it requires either 1 bus + light rail or 2 buses) for a cost of $2.10 per person and about 45 minutes of transit time each way. We recently signed up for free membership in a new local car-sharing program, car2go, where you pay by the minute ($0.35) and there is no penalty for ending the rental in a different location (in the Portland metro area) than where you started it. Since we each received 30 promotional minutes when we joined, we decided this was an excellent opportunity to try out the program.
We only had to walk a few blocks to the nearest car and then simply used our membership card to start the rental. It took 13 minutes to drive to the convention center and find free parking (you can park a car2go vehicle in metered spaces without paying as long as they're designated one hour or more). Thus the total cost of the rental would have been $4.55 but was free with our bonus minutes. Compared to the $4.20 bus fare for two people plus much greater overall travel time, this was a win-win!
We ended up spending over three hours sampling as much of the delicious food & drink as we could manage. A 3oz sample of beer "cost" one token so we had a total of eight samples each but also got a lot of extras because some of our friends were participating as vendors and introduced us to their friends who then generously offered us free samples of their products. I particularly want to mention Cindy Anderson who publishes the fantastic Portland Happy Hour Guidebook and the Oregon Wine Country Guidebook. It was also great to catch up with Bertony Faustin, a tasting room supervisor at SakeOne in Forest Grove, whom we met in 2010 when we went there for a tour & tasting. Bertony is also a partner in Abbey Creek Vineyard. And we had fun chatting and posing for photos with Don Bourassa, the community director for Portland Yelp.


after sampling these items at the festival, we just HAD to buy them!
After all of that drinking we needed to eat some heavier food. Greg & I had previously wagered on this year's NCAA basketball tournament. If his bracket did better than mine, he would "win" the right to use a free coupon for 12 wings at Buffalo Wild Wings at Lloyd Center that we received in the mail. If I won, I would get a 22oz bottle of Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale. Since I picked Duke to go all the way and they were eliminated in the first round, my odds of winning were pretty low. Thus we ended up using Greg's coupon to eat dinner at BW3 on Friday night!
Since the car2go experience was so easy, we opted to drive one home and then ended up using the same car, which we had parked on the street in front of our apartment, to get back to the convention center to work our shift on Saturday. We checked in at 7pm to collect our volunteer t-shirts and attend a mandatory briefing, then went to our assigned stations. I served beer for Goodlife Brewing and Greg served beer for Shock Top & Belgium Beers (Stella Artois, Leffe, Hoegaarden).
The 3.5 hour shift flew by! I was lucky in that the owners of the brewery, which is located in Bend, OR, were present almost the entire time and thus could chat with anyone who had more detailed questions about the beer or their business. They also had informational placards about both beers (Descender IPA & 29'er India Brown Ale) we were serving which were very helpful. Best of all, their beer is fantastic so no one ever walked away disappointed. In fact, many people said they were the best beers at the festival! The owners also generously gave me a Goodlife t-shirt as well as a 22oz bottle of their Mountain Rescue Pale Ale. Plus they introduced me to the producer of Bottless which specializes in custom printed reusable/refillable bottles for the craft beer industry. Thus I also got a free growlette (a 32oz amber glass growler).
At the end of the night, we all filled our serving pitchers full of whatever beer we had remaining then gathered in the volunteer room to partake. Most of us brought a total of two pitchers per person so there was more than enough beer to go around! The volunteer coordinators had indicated we might get some free food as well, but, as it turned out, the pickings were pretty slim. The food came in waves (first some chicken & grilled sausages, followed by a couple of pizzas, then 10 minutes later some meat on skewers...). As there was never enough for everyone, people learned to make a mad dash for the serving tables as soon as they saw someone coming into the room with food. This video I shot doesn't do the scene justice, but gives you a little idea of the craziness!
We had to clear out by midnight and, since there was still a lot of beer left, I filled up my growlette from the pitcher of Leffe that Greg had brought from his booth. I think we did quite well for a few hours of "work"! It's a good thing that we enjoyed the experience because we are already confirmed volunteers for Cheers to Belgian Beers, the North American Organic Brewers Festival, Portland International Beerfest, and Oregon Brewers Festival! And, yes, we will also receive tokens good for free beer at those festivals. :)


Here's a list of the beers we sampled:
Calapooia Brewing - Chili Beer
Collaborator - Steel Bridge Porter
Eel River Brewing - Organic Porter
Falling Sky Brewery - Pouring Porter
Fire Mountain Brewery - Steam Fire Stout
Flyers Brewery - Pacemaker Porter
Gilgamesh Brewing - Vader
Goodlife Brewing - Descender IPA & 29'er India Brown Ale
Harvester Brewing - Gluten Free Pale Ale
Pelican Brewing - Kiwanda Cream Ale
Portland U-Brew - Last Unicorn IPA
Rusty Truck Brewing - Taft Draft Toffee Porter
Seven Brides Brewing - Becky's Black Cat Porter
Widmer Brothers Brewing - W'12

Here are some of the wines we sampled:
Barefoot Bubbly Moscato Spumante, Pinot Grigio
Tesoaria Bella Bianca, Mistral, Sangiovese
Zerba Cellars Malbec

And some of the food we sampled:
A&S Jerky
Brazi Bites Cheese Bread
Cosmo Corn
Crazy Good Snacks
Cypress Grove Chevre
Duker's Dills
Exotic Chocolates
Fatdog Mustard & Pretzels

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