KLCC Microbrew Festival Celebrates Craft Beer Industry
On another dismal and rainy Saturday afternoon in Eugene, hundreds of people gather at the 12th Annual KLCC Microbrew Festival where highly acclaimed microbreweries gather to showcase and sample their best brews to the community. As a broke college student with an acquired taste for cheap canned beer, I couldn’t feel more intimidated among a plethora of Eugene beer enthusiasts carefully sipping on finely crafted beers. However, I am not alone, as several groups of students, newly above the legal drinking age, are mixed in with an assortment of older generation Eugenians who are no strangers to carefully crafted microbrews.
The beer fest, hosted by KLCC-FM 89.7 as their largest fundraiser, is rich in diversity and flavor. There are 57 brewer stands to choose from, and over 100 different varieties. The festival attracts breweries from all over the west coast, including about 10 local breweries, and some as far as Delaware and Hawaii, all eager for the opportunity to showcase their beers to some of the world’s best enthusiasts for quality fermented beverages.
“This is our home turf, so we’re going to be here every year,” Matt VanWyk, who works with Eugene local Oakshire Brewery, says. “It makes it easier that [the attendees] already know our brand and our beer coming in, so we can just talk to them.”
Many of the festivalgoer’s appreciate the leisurely opportunity to interact with the brewers.
“I like when the brewers are willing to talk nerdy with you,” Greg Burr, a local Eugene resident, says. “It’s cool to make that connection and talk to them about their process.”
However, it is not just Eugene that has an interest in crafted brews. The Willamette Valley—and the entire Pacific Northwest—is known for complex brews made with quality ingredients. Portland, which has claimed the title of being the city with the most microbreweries in the world, is an enticing city for brewing companies around the country and has brought many aspiring brewers to the Valley.
Craft beer makes up around seven percent of total beer consumption in the United States, according to Henry Corelle, an employee at Lagunitas Brewery, located in Petaluma, Cal. However, what makes Oregon such a rare and valuable market for microbreweries is that here, it makes up closer to 35 percent, far surpassing any other state.
The eclectic mix of brewers at the beer fest gives the community the opportunity to sample a vast variety of beer, each uniquely crafted. However, one thing each brewery seems to have in common is their number one goal: quality.
“We really work hard to continue to maintain the quality of our beers,” Bec Williams of Ninkasi Brewery says. “As we grow, that quality is still remaining and that’s the top priority.”
The beer fest has a wide demographic of people ranging from college students (most of who are more versed in the canned beer variety) to a sometimes older and mostly wiser generation of beer drinkers more familiar with Eugene’s unique fermentation culture.
As for those broke, Pabst Blue Ribbon-drinking college students, Jason Grisham from 21st Amendment Brewery says, “It’s neat to see college kids actually drinking good craft beers.”
The craft beer industry is continuing to grow at about 15 percent per year, according to Corelle. Meanwhile, the overall beer industry is declining at 1 percent each year.
“It’s cool to see where the younger generation lays because they are absolutely going to take over the craft beer market,” Corelle says. “The market is going to explode, even more so than it already has.”
“We’re lucky we picked a thing that’s going to take off,” adds Gayle Chisholm, the KLCC Microbrew Festival Coordinator. “The craft beer industry really just keeps growing, and so does our reputation.”
The festival is a unique opportunity for local and national microbreweries to come together, and allows them to connect with potential consumers by showcasing their specialty brews, new styles, and different seasonals to a beer-oriented community.
“It’s amazing what this microbrew industry is doing for our communities,” says Robert Perrier, an attendee at the festival who spent his first two tickets on sampling at Corvallis’ Flat Tail Brewery stand. “They bring jobs, they bring entertainment, they bring community. They really do, so it’s a really good thing.”