Southwest Washington brewers struggled with COVID-19 regulations, staffing shortages and supply-chain problems for the past couple of years. The cruel wrath of the pandemic has subdued this typically jovial group that enjoys get-togethers.
The Brewing Bridges Collaboration Festival gives local brewers a well-deserved celebration after a difficult time. This yearly event teams Southwest Washington brewers with their Portland cohorts to create specially crafted collaboration beer.
The festival is 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Pearson Air Museum. A $49 ticket buys a taste of each collaboration beer, special surprise tappings and pours from various participating breweries, as well as a keepsake glass.
The Northbank Brewers Alliance, a nonprofit organization that represents Southwest Washington brewers from Seaview to Goldendale, started the event several years ago to shine the spotlight on Southwest Washington beer and allow brewers to get together with their colleagues in Portland to learn more about their craft and running a brewery.
Great Western Malt and Country Malt Group are sponsoring the event again this year. The company has processed and distributed malt throughout the world from its Vancouver location for decades. Great Western also has a history of supporting Southwest Washington craft brewers by sponsoring their events.
“Supporting customers is huge,” said Justine Johnson, marketing specialist at Country Malt Group, Great Western Malting and Canada Malting Co. “One of our biggest things is supporting community. We want to support the people who support us. Everyone knows that Portland is a big beer-making place, but Vancouver is our home.”
The event takes place on federal land, so Washington state beer event regulations don’t apply. This means that festgoers pay for one ticket, get a glass, and then enjoy whatever they like without having to buy tokens for each drink.
Sampling all this beer makes driving home an unsafe option. The organizers recommend using a ride-hailing app or taxi service. In addition, alcohol monitors and security will be onsite to cut off drinks for anyone who appears intoxicated.
The festival will follow Washington’s COVID-19 regulations by encouraging distancing and frequent hand-washing, as well as requiring everyone to wear masks when they’re not eating or drinking.
“Brewing Bridges is like prom for brewers,” said Michael Perozzo of the marketing firm ZZeppelin. “When it’s announced, everyone is looking to see if they can get the hottest date possible.”
As this event enters its third year, Southwest Washington brewers and Portland brewers have grown closer. Many of these collaborations form naturally, with one brewer reaching out to another.
Perozzo does some matchmaking for brewers who are new or are too busy to get to know their Portland colleagues. He takes into account the personalities of the brewers, the size of their businesses and the beer they like to make.
For instance, Heathen Brewing is a large, well-established brewery that makes great sours, so it makes sense for Heathen to work with Great Notion, another large brewery known for great sours.
For this fest, Perozzo matched 2-year-old Wild Man Brewing with 1-year-old Integrity. The new businesses began sharing equipment and ended up brewing something they’ve never done — a porter.
Some of the more anticipated pairings are Great Notion Brewing and Heathen Brewing, Trap Door Brewing and Threshold Brewing & Blending, and Fortside Brewing Co. and Ruse Brewing.
Paul Thurston, head brewer at Fortside Brewing Co., knew Shaun Kalis and Devin Benware of Ruse Brewing in Portland. Thurston approached the Portland brewers to collaborate on a hazy IPA using grape skins to provide flavor and aroma the way hops are normally used. Ruse agreed to team up, and the group sourced Washington-grown Gewurztraminer skins to create grapefruit and passionfruit aromas and flavors for their fest beer called Endless Loop.
In addition to the collaborations, a number of brewers will offer special tappings and pours. Other highlights include tacos ($6), pulled-pork sandwiches ($9) and nachos ($6, $9 with meat) from Truck to Farm; classic rock from Hop Creep, a band made up of Brothers Cascadia brewers and staff; and the requisite game of cornhole.
Rachel Pinsky: firstname.lastname@example.org