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Dan Writh from Migration Brewing orders a glass of Bougie Brunch from Sunriver Brewing Company at The Bier Stein’s 4th Annual Invitational Beer Fest on June 1, 2019. (Dana Sparks/Emerald)

Hundreds of people gathered in the Bier Stein parking lot to converse, listen to music and drink glasses of some seriously unusual beer on Saturday, June 1.

The Bier Stein’s 4th annual Invitational Beer Fest featured 36 breweries and their best and weirdest beer and cider. Bier Stein Event Manager Dre Borkowski and Beer Buyer Dave Stockhausen chose many beers that were brewed specifically for the festival, with a focus on barrel-aged, seasonal and altered beers. 

Stockhausen, who manages the Bier Stein’s 1,000+ beer options, said he loves the breadth of flavor possible in beer, which was showcased at the event.

Borkowski, on the other hand, appreciates the creative elements of brewing.

“You can literally put anything in beer — in an experimental way — and a lot of times it’s going come out really nicely,” Borkowski said.

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A complimentary goblet from The Bier Stein’s 4th Annual Invitational Beer Fest on June 1, 2019. (Dana Sparks/Emerald)

And she proved it with the festival’s beer selection. The following is a list of some of the highlights.

The beer

Bend Brewing Company poured “Money Melon Gose,” a briny, sour beer with hints of fruit. A gose is a sour German beer typically brewed with salt. This one was brewed with honey dew melon. The sourness came from lactobacillus bacteria added during fermentation, the same microorganisms that give cheese, yogurt and sourdough bread their tang. 

Hop Valley showed off a powerfully oaky, acidic beverage at the event: their “Blackberry Sour.” The beer, which tasted more like wine than anything else, was aged in King Estate pinot noir casks. It was soured with natural bacteria present on the blackberries.

Baerlic Brewing put a twist on their Oregon Beer Awards bronze medal-winning “Punk Rock Time IPA,” specifically for this event, infusing it with gin botanicals. The juniper in the botanicals amplified the piney notes in the hops. 

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Baerlic Brewing representative Nick Perry shows off the back of his a denim jacket at The Bier Stein’s 4th Annual Invitational Beer Fest on June 1, 2019. (Dana Sparks/Emerald)

Sunriver Brewing collaborated with Borkowski and other Bier Stein employees to craft “Bougie Brunch,” a hazy pale ale with melon notes reminiscent of a fancy fruit cup you might have at an elegant brunch. Although this beer wasn’t as crazy as some other options, it stood out as one of the most delicious beers at the event.

The music 

Besides the beer, the festival also had live music that was too good not to mention. 

The Pagan Jug Band from Portland launched the event into gear with twanging banjo and rhythmic washboard. They played bluegrass and Americana with obvious joy and threw in an upbeat version of Taj Mahal’s classic, “Fishin’ Blues” — a perfect song for mid-day beer drinking.

The Eugene-based band Inner Limits kept the festival rolling, playing faster paced blues, rock and funk tunes as people started sipping their third and fourth drinks. The tight band produced a thought-out sound, but guitarist Olem Alves’ chops were revealed at the climax of his solos, as his fingers flew across the fretboard and let out unfettered streams of sound.

Eugene Beer Week

If you have some serious Beer Fest FOMO by now, don’t worry. The event was the unofficial start of Eugene Beer Week, a week-long celebration of the city’s thriving craft beer scene; there will be enough events this week to keep any beer aficionado satisfied. 

Just at the Bier Stein this week, Fort Gorge, Ruse and Cloudburst brewing companies will release a collaborative three-way IPA on Tuesday. The Tower of Sour beer event Thursday will celebrate acid in beer. The Dungeon of Darkness event will explore the dark, roasty depths of the beer world on Friday.

“We believe that craft beer brings people together,” event manager Borkowski said. 

Find the people and the beer for you at one of these events this week.