By Pechluck Laskey
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Joseph Sundberg has been dreaming about establishing a beer festival since 1999. As a long-standing friend of Rick Carpenter, founder of the Portland and Seattle International Beerfests, Joseph was enthused to contribute ideas. But with his roles of father by day and porter captain at the Hotel Monaco by night, he did not have the time or capital to become a part of the festival. His wife Rebecca said with it just wasn’t realistic when their daughter was younger.
Still, the fire inside him continued to burn.
Working in the hospitality industry, he dug into all the aspects of beer. As he continued to endeavor to his standing now as a 30-year Portland hotel veteran, Joseph had to be Google before Google existed. He tracked down all of the brewing culture the city had to offer so that he could expertly guide hotel guests.
Meanwhile, he was a consistent attendee at the Oregon Brewers Festival. He watched as other festivals grew, such as the Portland International Beerfest and the Holiday Ale Festival, and he traveled to other beer events.
"I just see how happy they make people," Joseph describes. "They can bring a lot of beer people to one place."
On Friday, July 3 through Sunday, July 5, his dream of holding his own event finally comes true with the debut of the Portland Craft Beer Festival (PCBF) at The Fields Neighborhood Park. At least 45 breweries are participating and, remarkably, all of them are within Portland city limits.
Joseph expresses some astonishment there was not already a festival featuring Portland-only beers. While there are other beer festivals in Portland, all of them include beers from outside the city. There was no festival yet that exclusively showcased the quantity, quality and variety that Portland alone can offer. There are 58 brewery locations in the city limits. "If you are really adventurous, you can easily visit five breweries in one day, all in walking distance," Joseph says. Most people see less than a handful during a multiple-day visit — something Joseph sees as a missed opportunity.
PCBF offers a chance for festival patrons to taste beer from almost every Portland brewery in one venue. And Joseph really takes the Portland part of the title to heart.
"We are going to celebrate what no other city in the world can do," Joseph explains. He wants people to be able to sample from breweries scattered across the city to compare and contrast beer. The new fest gives residents a chance to discover a new or small brewery they may never have heard of.
The event has been getting a lot of positive response from visitors to Portland. Rebecca, Joseph’s biggest cheerleader who helps in any way possible — including handing the PCBF website — says many ticket buyers have mentioned they are coming to Portland for the first time to attend PCBF. Several visitors are traveling to PCBF from out of state. Joseph is excited that the festival is promoting Portland.
"I didn't want to do just another festival," Joseph explains. He worked with the event’s other founders to brainstorm ideas to differentiate PCBF and showcase the flavors of the city beyond the beer. For example, festival founding partner Rodney Woodley helped select a variety of local food carts that will be present and he’s presenting artisan cheesemakers who make their product in the city. The ciders featured are also crafted in Portland, as is the wine.
Another unique element of this festival is the creation of a Portland Beer Hall of Fame. On Saturday, July 4, the first five members will be inducted. Both Friday and Saturday only offer admittance to those who are 21 and older. But Sunday is family day and attendees can take advantage of yoga classes for both adults and children as well as a children’s craft market. Joseph says he wants to emulate some of the success he sees at family friendly brewpubs like Laurelwood. "We want the parents to have great beer, but also the whole family is able to enjoy being together."
Another founding partner, Christopher Rhodes, has more than a decade of experience with beer festivals. He’ll be keeping the operational side running smoothly even though that might prove challenging as this is the event’s inaugural year. When the gates open, Joseph is looking forward to "knowing we have put our best foot forward, and that people are enjoying themselves and drinking Portland beers."
Joseph has a history of celebrating beer variety in his personal life. While trying to recall when he crossed over from macro beer to craft beer, he can't choose one brewery that led him to the tipping point. McMenamins, Widmer, Full Sail, Portland Brewing, Bridgeport and Deschutes all are mentioned within a few minutes.
Rebecca adds that when they married in 1994, Joseph suggested they travel in order to taste all of the beers of the Northwest. And so, in their Volkswagen bus, they drove through Washington, Oregon and northern California, visiting every craft brewery during their honeymoon. "We still have all the glasses from every brewery," she mentions.
"We should do that again..." Joseph notes.
Joseph has bold hopes for PCBF. Besides holding PCBF annually, he dreams of taking the festival on the road. He knows that Portland has many visitors from Vancouver, B.C., and New York City. He also mentions other potential cities he’d like to expand to, such as Boise, Idaho, Spokane, Wash., San Jose, Calif., and Austin, Texas. Ideally, he would partner with each city to bring beer from Portland to showcase along with beers from breweries in that region.
In other words, PCBF is Joseph's way to express his love for Portland and show Portland to anyone -- be it residents or visitors. He says the goal of PCBF is to create "a great way to celebrate Portland."
Steve Jones, Portland’s best-known cheesemonger, stands near one of his cheeseboards, available at The Commons Brewery at Southeast 7th Avenue and Belmont Street. Jones recently opened his third cheese tasting eatery here, Cheese Annex. One of the cheese boards available at Cheese Annex is shown here paired with The Commons Urban Farmhouse Ale and Walnut, a Belgian dark ale. Photo by Patty Mamula
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Beer and cheese were made for each other. Steve Jones, Portland’s best-known cheesemonger, always felt that beer was the winning beverage to pair with cheese. He put this idea to the test five years ago when he opened Cheese Bar in Southeast Portland. It was an immediate success.
“Beer has so many winning components that wine doesn’t have,” he said.
“It’s effervescent, grain-based and the terroir in beer and cheese shares grain as the common denominator. With its bubbles, beer keeps the mouth refreshed and there are so many different styles.”
Steve Jones and Janet Fletcher, the author of “Cheese and Beer” and “The Cheese Course” along with a host of other food books and articles, presented “Suds and Curds: Using Cheese to Sell More Beer” in April for the Craft Brewers Conference in Portland.
Fletcher discussed several different beer and cheese eateries, including a brewpub, a specialty grocery/hybrid pub, a bottle shop with cheese boards and another specialty grocery, presenting detailed information about cheese offerings, costs, total revenue of the establishment and pairing components.
Jones discussed his three establishments. The Cheese Bar was the first and largest with more than 200 varieties of cheese, a full kitchen, six taps with five beers and one cider, 50 to 75 different bottled beers, five or six bottled ciders and 25 or 30 wines.
In March, he opened two new eateries. Downtown at Southwest 11th Avenue and Alder Street is Chizu, an intimate 18-seat, Japanese-inspired bar with a sushi-type format for cheese tasting. Jones carefully chose a variety of 30 cheeses, bottled beers that lean heavier towards Belgians and a few ciders and wines.
He also collaborated with his friend Mike Wright at The Commons Brewery’s new location at Southeast 7th Avenue and Belmont Street, to open the Cheese Annex, a walk-up window cheese bar within the brewery. “We’re a lessee,” said Jones. “I pay a base rent and 5 percent gross. This Commons beer is so cheese friendly.”
Jones combined his artistic talent -- his undergraduate degree is in studio arts and painting -- with his experience as a professional chef when he flipped into retail food about 20 years ago in St. Louis, Mo. He started at a small beer store, opening a deli there that he built from the ground up. “With my art background, my cheese board displays were pretty enticing,” he said.
After that he was hooked on cheese, opening up three shops with a partner that featured American artisan farmstead cheese, before moving back to Portland and managing the cheese department for Provvista Specialty Foods, where he bought on a multimillion-dollar scale. Before the Cheese Bar, there was Steve’s — his first shop in Northwest Portland — in the corner of a wine shop.
Jones said, “We work hard to have a number of avenues to move our cheese. We turn over 200 cheeses at the Cheese Bar in two weeks. We may buy an 80-pound wheel and sell one-fourth of it right away. We wholesale the 20 pounds, selling it in 2-pound blocks to restaurants. The chefs are very excited — even though ours cost more, its fresh and high quality.”
Regarding specific cheese recommendations, a question from the audience was: What cheeses are recommended when starting out?
Fletcher suggested manchego cheese. “Spanish cheese is very affordable,” she said. She also mentioned comte, a French cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk in eastern France and pecorino from Italy. “Most of the European cheeses are affordable because they are subsidized,” she said. Locally, she likes a Beehive Cheese from northern Utah that’s a Cheddar style coated with coffee bean.
Another question asked: If you could only manage one option, what would it be?
Jones said, “Raclette. If you’re very constrained, you might have a cheesemonger come in a couple times.”
Fletcher said, “I like the idea of having only one option each night. That way you could get known for something special.”
Jones likes to work with small cheese producers, ones that might be a little under the radar. “We like naturally organic and work hard to find the special ones. The ones with a story.” On the receiving end, his team inspects the cheese thoroughly. “My team is well trained for that,” he said.
Proper storage is very important and there were questions about how to wrap the cheese. Jones said they use patty paper and microporous paper to keep the cheese from touching plastic containers. “We do everything cut to order in 1-ounce portions. It makes such a difference. “
Questions abounded about pairings. Jones talked about a recent pairing with a donated cheese. He met with The Commons brewer and they paired the cheese with a brown ale. “The chocolaty, malt-forward taste blended well with the cheddar sweetness.” Usually in pairings he prefers tastes that contrast rather than harmonize.
In regard to a question about recommended books, the natural answer was to look at Fletcher’s. For information, visit: www.planetcheese.org
For information about the fourth annual Beer and Cheese Fest on June 21 at The Commons, visit: www.facebook.com/PortlandBeerAndCheeseFest
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