Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
BEER DRINKERS will pack Hood River this weekend for the 12 Annual Hood River Hops Fest. Above, beer lines at a previous Hops Fest.
As of Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Smell, taste, and touch the hops at Saturday’s 12th annual Hood River Hops Fest, celebrating the ales enhanced by the flavors and aromas of the thumb-sized conical plant known to scientists as humulus.
This year’s festival should offer a more comfortable environment to sample ales, dine, and hear music, according to Ashley Huckaby May, events coordinator for the festival, which is organized by Hood River Chamber of Commerce.
A total of 40 breweries from the Northwest (and one from California) will bring out samples of their fresh-hopped beers. All seven Hood River breweries will be present – see page A3 for details, and a full list of breweries and musical acts.
“The last few years we have been working at having a better flow, as it got a little crowded, and we wanted to make it a little more comfortable. We’re really excited for this year’s event, and taking steps to make it as enjoyable a festival as we can,” May said.
At the same time, the schedule — now noon to 8 p.m. — was cut back so the festival ends one hour earlier. “We decided to nix that last hour because we’re interested in people tasting beer but not providing a party; that leaves people plenty of time to go get dinner at the many nearby restaurants,” May said.
Other big changes are planned:
- The beer tent will run along the south side of the venue, rather than the former L shape.
- This allows for a more cohesive arrangement and is intended to enhance the flow of people and ease of movement.
- More covered seating is added for families and patrons.
- Three festival entrances instead of two.
- An improved, expanded trailer stage with better lighting – moved to the west end of the venue.
- The kids’ area will be located on the east end, where the stage used to be.
Amenities will include wine from Hood River’s Naked Winery and hopped cider from members of the Gorge Cider Society (formerly Cidermasters); kids’ games and bouncy house; numerous food and arts and crafts vendors.
Presenting information at the event will be the Oregon Hops Commission and Hood River Prevention Department.
The beer tent layout will allow more room for breweries and servers to move, as well as attendees. Based on the size of the venue, the Hops Fest is not likely to grow much beyond its 40-45-brewery limit.
“That’s two beers per jockey box (cooler-dispenser) and a lot of breweries can only provide one fresh hop beer, as it’s pretty early in the growing season,” said May.
“I know people are pressing to get these beers made, and a few who have dropped out, and a couple who had to pull out. We have to consider moving it back a date, and we will be talking about that,” May said. The festival started 11 years ago in the first weekend of October and was moved ahead to the final full weekend of September a few years ago.
“The goal is as many beers as we can,” May said.
May said the festival this week added a new laurel to go with the hops: Fox News named it the sixth best beer festival in the country. Willamette Week gave it the second-place award for Oregon festivals, in 2014.
“We’re small but we’re mighty, and we feel like we’re making quite an impression on the Northwest beer scene,” May said.
PLAN TO GO:
Festival hours (revised): Noon to 8 p.m.
Venue is 21-and-over from 5-8 p.m.
Location: Columbia Parking Lot (between 5th and 7th Streets and Cascade Avenue and Columbia Street). NO DOGS.
Tickets: entry only ticket, $5; beer garden ticket, $15 includes entry, commemorative glass mug and five 3.5 oz. taste tokens; under 21, free admission.