Mar 4 2014

Recently, we celebrated the 21st Annual Hillsdale Brewfest. But did you know the first Hillsdale brewfest actually happened nearly 30 years ago? Nobody ever said we were good at math.

In July 1985, a group of microbrewers gathered in a hot, sunny parking lot of a year-old tavern in SW Portland, a joint then known as the Hillsdale Pub. (The official name changed to the Hillsdale Brewery & Public House sometime in 1986.)  

According to the Oregon Brewers Guild, in 1985, there were 21 craft breweries in America, including microbreweries, contract brewers and brewpubs. (Today there are more than 1,400.) Although we don't like to trumpet this fact, the Hillsdale was the first brewpub to open in Oregon after prohibition. So holding the first Oregon brewfest in this spot was significant. However, it is also significant to note that when the July '85 festival took place, McMenamins hadn't even started brewing yet! We had no horse in the race that day. Our first batch debuted in October 1985, several months after this first gathering in a parking lot beneath striped Heineken umbrellas.

Here is some commentary on that original festival's guest brews from none other than Fred Eckhardt, American beer legend/writer, from an article published in The Oregonian in August 1985. [Note: The current production capacities given are very general, based on information taken off the interwebs, so no need to check the numbers.]

Columbia River Brewery (which became BridgePort Brewing Co.)
Portland, OR

"BridgePort ale is a nutbrown ale with a luscious rounded malty taste, with a rich bittersweet palate from 13 percent fermentables, 3.5 percent alcohol (by weight), and 26 bitterness."
1985 Production: About 3,000 gallons/month
Current Production: More than 50,000 kegs/year

Hales Ales Ltd.
Colville, WA

"Hales pale American is clean and dry, but somewhat thin, brewed from 9 percent fermentables, with a low 2.9 percent alcohol, it is an eminently quaffable beer for these hot days."
1985 Production: About 5,000 gallons/month
Current Production: More than 40,000 kegs/year

Hart Brewing (which became Pyramid Brewing, Inc.)
Kalama, WA

"Pyramid Ale, a copper-colored pale ale, is delicious and wonderfully hoppy, dry and eminently drinkable. A hop-head's delight, brewed from 11 percent fermentables, with 4 percent alcohol and 46 bitterness."
1985 Production: About 2,500 gallons/month
Current Production: More than 670,000 kegs/year (in combined sales with Magic Hat Brewing)

Independent Ale Brewery (which became Redhook Brewing)
Seattle, WA

"Red Hook ale, the brewery's flagship brand, is a copper-colored ale with an excessively 'distinctive,' almost Belgian, taste; some call it banana flavored. It is sweet and, to some aficionados, a marvelously delicious beer while to others, a dreadful and misbegotten beverage. ... Red Hook is not to be ignored."
1985 Production: About 13,000 gallons/month
Current Production: More than 340,000 kegs/year

Sierra Nevada
Chico, CA

"Sierra Nevada pale ale is one of the finest beers made in the country."
1985 Production: More than 10,000 gallons/month
Current Production: Nearly 2 million kegs/year

Widmer Brewing Co. (now part of the Craft Brew Alliance)
Portland, OR

"This brewery specializes in alt-bier (old beer), German-style top fermented ales. Widmer alt is dry, incredibly full-bodied and pleasantly bitter, without being offensively so."
1985 Production: About 2,500 gallons/month
Current Production: Somewhere around 1 million kegs/year

Yakima Brewing Co.
Yakima, WA

"[Bert] Grant's imperial stout is a truly great world-class beer, thick and black, with a fine, sturdy head that clings to the glass as it is consumed. This beer makes Guinness seem tasteless."
1985 Production: About 7,800 gallons/month
Current Production: No longer in business; a new brewery with this name opened in 2007, using Bert's original boil kettle


In comparison to the current production volumes above, McMenamins brewed more than 45,000 kegs in 2013. So there you have it. Cheers.

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