Tips for OBF (Oregon Brewers Festival) in Portland Oregon
OBF is a craft beer festival held in Portland Oregon from Thursday through to Sunday during the last full weekend in July. Based on attendance, it’s also supposed to the largest beer festival in North America and brings together local, state, and international craft breweries and beer lovers to share and taste beers for a few days. We’ve been to OBF about 6 times and have loved it each time. Here are some tips to help you plan for the festival.
- Beer/Cider/Wine: Each year is different but attendees will have access to about 80 beers from 80 different breweries. In the past, a full paper program was available but in 2018, they really encouraged people to download the app, which worked but had some glitches. We had done our research prior to the event and had the list of beers we wanted to try in advance and just marked them on the one-page map when we arrived. This year, they also had cider and wine for those who aren’t into beer.
- Budget: The great thing about OBF is that you don’t need to buy an expensive admission ticket and even those who don’t drink can come in for free because; those who want to sample beer purchase a mug and tokens which makes it a very affordable craft beer event. In 2017, tokens were $1 each the mug was $7. Tokens don’t expire so if you don’t use them all, you can keep them and use them at future festivals. As it gets very busy in Portland in the summer, especially on OBF weekend, your accommodation might be very expensive and you should try to book as far in advance as possible. We usually stay at a hotel but Air BnB is an option as are other types of accomodation like the Tiny House Hotel. We booked the Hi-Lo Hotel for the weekend to secure a room (booked in December 2017). As for transportation, drinking and driving are a no-no: plan to take transit, use a bike through Nike’s BIKETOWN, walk, or gran an Uber/Lift/taxi.
- Facilities: The event has a lot of outhouses and in most cases, they are very clean and well serviced. They also have potable running water throughout the grounds to rinse your cup/hands, and to fill up your water bottle. There also chairs, tables, and stools in covered and uncovered areas for those who want shade or sun. According to the OBF website, you are welcome to bring your own small lawn chairs but that could be inconvenient.
- Food: While you can bring your own food, they do have food stalls on site. Most years we have seen Gustav’s which has pretzels, hot dogs and chips; Horn of Africa that has wraps and plate meals, and this year we were pleasantly surprised that Boke Bowl was onsite serving up steamed buns and other items. If none of these options are appealing, it is also easy to leave the festival and come back if you want to eat at some of Portland’s restaurants nearby. It is also very common to wear pretzel necklaces to cleanse their palates and snack in between beers and in some cases, people will share them with you.
- Attire: It’s pretty casual and many people wear shirts, hat and other attire from their favorite breweries. As a female who’s been 6 times, a skirt or dress is recommended because it makes things easier in the outhouse. While there is shade, a hat and clothing that covers areas that burn easily (shoulders and chest) are recommend. I’d also bring some sunscreen to re-apply during the day as well as the shady spots get full fast.
- Timing: Saturday gets very busy so we go at opening and leave by 14:00 to explore other sites in Portland. Now, we go on Sunday too and tend to enjoy ourselves even more because it’s so much less crowded. By the end of the day and by Sunday, they sometimes run out of some beers so make sure to try your top beers sooner than later.
- Groups: OBF is popular with small groups and large groups. The best way to organize yourself with a group is to find a spot and always make sure somewhere is there to keep it but it is easy to move around if you want to access other parts of the festival. I would also say that since Sunday is a lot quieter, it would be better for groups to enjoy themselves and find a nice spot to sit in the shade. Jason and I like to go just the two of us because it’s something we’ve been doing together for years now and find it easier to navigate on the busy Saturday of the festival this way.
- Overall: The Oregon Brewers Festival is a fun, affordable, and well organized event for beer lovers and non-beer lovers in Portland. While it does get busy at times and peeing in an outhouse is not always fun, overall it’s our favorite beer festival to attend. Beer festivals can get rowdy but overall, it’s a good and tame crows. Throughout the years, we’ve enjoyed chatting with other attendees, saw a guy on a unicycle wearing a kilt and a Darth Vader mask play the bag pipes and even accidentally joined in on a mermaid parade as we left the festival, which is very Portland, if you know what we mean…Keep Portland Weird! For more information, visit: http://www.oregonbrewfest.com/
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Have you ever been to OBF? If so, did you enjoy it?