The Oregon Beer Festival, which returned to Portland’s waterfront last summer after missing two years due to the pandemic, will be canceled again this summer, organizers said earlier Friday.
The organization told The Oregonian/OregonLive that rising costs to put on the event, combined with oppressive heat that has led to lower attendance at the festival in recent years, has created a difficult scenario for success.
“After thirty years of producing OBF, we have developed a solid understanding of what it takes to give our attendees a great festival,” the organizers said in a statement. “And it becomes clear when these factors do not come together.
“Higher costs, lower attendance and extreme weather are just a few of the challenges we’ve discussed, but it’s far from an exhaustive list,” the statement said.
The festival returned in 2022 with a significantly smaller venue, taking up less space at Tom McCall Waterfront Park and featuring fewer breweries and beers. The gathering, which drew up to 85,000 people at its peak a decade ago, drew around 23,500 through the gates over the three-day festival – shorter than previous years and five days.
Organizers said attendance at the 2022 festival was slightly lower than expected due to the smaller scale of the July 28-30 event. Portland saw the third-longest heat wave on record, with eight consecutive days of 90 degrees or higher from July 24 to 31.
The statement also said that organizers understand that participating in such a large festival can be difficult for breweries and vendors in today’s business environment.
“We recognize that the hospitality industry, which is the backbone of our festival, is still working to recover from the effects of the pandemic,” he said. “From local breweries to the suppliers of our festival infrastructure, many people work to keep their doors open and pay their staff. OBF will return when the time comes.”
Art Larrance, who founded the festival in 1988, said that in the early days, he and fellow organizer Teddy Peetz agreed that they would run the festival until they were 75 years old. and they are now 78 years old.
“We’re getting older and things have changed,” he said, also at Portland Brewing Co. and Larrance, co-founder of Cascade Brewing. “We’ll just wait for the right time to come back – we’re just taking a break.”
The number of visitors to the festival has decreased even in the years before the pandemic. Another layer of struggle was piled on by COVID, which forced cancellations in 2020 and 2021.
Larrance said it was a difficult decision because the festival is very personal to her. Larrance said it was a family affair — three generations were involved in the organization, including her daughter, Alyssa Larrance, who played a key role for years.
“But there’s more relief at this point,” he said. “It’s a risky, risky adventure, especially in this day and age. The hospitality side is difficult right now.”
Organizers are still “considering creative ways to support our local breweries and breweries through smaller festivals and partnerships,” the statement said, adding that they still plan to hold the Hillsbrew beer festival in Hillsboro from Feb. 24-26.
Organizers thanked brewers, vendors and festival attendees for their years of loyalty.
“Great beer has never been a problem,” the statement reads. “We want to express our thanks to the brewers, cider makers, volunteers, staff members and vendors who have been vital to OBF over the years… for joining us for the first time in 2022 — we can’t wait to see you again.”
Larrance also thanked other organizations that have helped the festival over the decades.
“The city, the mayor’s office, the Parks Department, they’ve been great to work with,” he said. He highlighted the achievements of the festival in more than three decades.
“When we started this, we were one of the first to come out with a beer festival, and we created a lot of other festivals,” he said in a phone interview. “We are proud of it. It brought awareness to local beer, which was the goal. Not to make money, but to show people good beer and what’s happening in Portland.
“We’re proud to be a part of the craft beer explosion around the world,” he said. “In our heyday, we were listed as one of the top 10 beer festivals in the world, and I’m proud of that. … Sometimes up to 2,000 volunteers were needed to manage this event. I want to thank all of them.”
– Andre Meunier; Sign up for my weekly newsletter Oregon Brews and Newsand follow me Instagram where I am @oregonianbeerguy.
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