Imagine a situation in which lots and lots of vegan people came together to eat delicious food, drink vegan beer (or non-alcoholic beverages), and listen to great music on a breezy summer day. That’s exactly what Rob and I experienced last weekend when we went to the 2016 Vegan Beer and Food Festival in Portland, Oregon.
I wanted to go to this festival last year in September, but at that time I was in the middle of what turned out to be a failed attempt to train for a bikini competition (dieting and all-you-can-eat-and-drink scenario of the festival didn’t mix well). So as soon as I found out that this year it was scheduled for mid-June, I jumped on the opportunity. I asked Rob for a trip to this event as a birthday gift, and that’s exactly what he arranged. Thanks, sweetie!
This also happened to be our second trip to Portland – I wrote about our culinary experience during the first trip here – and once again we were completely smitten by the beauty and the unique character of this city. This time we stayed close to the downtown area and within walking distance of Zidell Yards, the location of the festival on Saturday. We took a ride on the fascinating aerial tram to see the area from up above:
The festival tents can be seen in the background by the river (both pictures were taken on the day of the event):
We arrived in Portland around lunchtime on Friday, and commemorated the occasion with a delicious lunch at the Vtopia Vegan Cheese Shop. I forgot my camera in the car though, so there’s no photo evidence of this, but you can trust my word that my Mozzarella Caprese sandwich and Rob’s vegan Club were quite spectacular.
Later that day, we went to the Bye & Bye restaurant for the festival kickoff party. The event was held as a fundraiser for One Tail at a Time, a local dog rescue nonprofit. The proceeds from Field Roast burgers, hotdogs and Double Mountain beer went directly to benefit the rescued dogs. Rob and I aren’t social butterflies per se, especially among lots of strangers, but we had a great time nonetheless. We met a vegan YouTuber Jill and her husband Zach, and I said hello my longtime vegan blogger crushes Julie Hasson and Kittee Berns.
The 2016 Portland Vegan Beer and Food Festival was scheduled for Saturday. The doors opened at 11 am for VIP tickets holders, and at 1 pm for everyone else. VIP tickets included 60 beer sample coupons per person (non-alcoholic drinks like kombucha or artisanal soda didn’t require tickets). The general admission tickets came with either 40 beer coupons or no coupons at all for non-drinkers. Beer samples were to be poured in a 4-ounce glass provided at the entrance. Rob and I immediately decided that there was no way that we would ever go through our 60 coupons, but some people were overheard complaining that 60 coupons weren’t enough.
The festival grounds at around 11:30 am
The benefit of showing up at 11 am was having much shorter lines to each of the dozens of the food vendors. The only serious line that formed this early was to check out the legendary Herbivorous Butcher. This vegan meat and cheese business by Kale and Aubry Walch, a brother and sister duo from Minneapolis, has been getting a lot of attention in the media lately, and even Guy Fieri stopped by their store in Minneapolis to film an episode of his Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives show. Both Kale and Aubry were present at the booth, handing out bowls of delicious chicken’n’waffles that consisted of two of their signature chicken tenders, mashed potatoes, and the most amazing sausage gravy in a crunchy waffle bowl.
Another comfort food masterpiece came from Southern Fried Vegan – the mac’n’cheese bowl topped with collard greens and vegan BBQ chicken strips (see below). The chicken was most likely by Beyond Meat (I didn’t ask to confirm). Its deep, smoky flavor with a touch of sweetness from the barbecue sauce was a hit!
Since the food was offered in meal-size servings (and priced accordingly), Rob and I decided to split single bowls from the same vendors so that to cover more ground. We still got full fairly quickly, so a couple hours into the festival we were seeking out smaller food servings. A slice of pizza from Sizzle Pie worked wonderfully!You just know that pizza from boxes that say ‘Death to False Pizza’ isn’t going to mess around. We had the veggie variety seen to the far right:
After the abundance of food and drink, it was dessert time. There were quite a few interesting-looking offerings, so our first stop was by the Charlie’s Brownies booth. There were six types of brownies to choose from, plus an option to create a decadent ice cream brownie plate. Our brownie arrived with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, and crushed almonds:
I was impressed at the artful presentation despite the fact that things were basically happening at a crowded food fair on a hot summer day!
The Festival Takeaways (a.k.a. My Honest Opinion)
- The opportunity to sample SO MUCH vegan food from some of the best vegan restaurants in the area, all gathered in one place, was awesome! We loved everything we tried, and wished that we didn’t get full so fast.
- There was definitely no shortage of beverages, both alcoholic and not. If you were not into beer, the festival offered ciders, wine, artisanal sodas, cold brew, lots of types of kombucha, etc. There was also a truck with tap water to rinse off your sampling glass and/or have a sip.
- A few non-food/beverage stands were set up by nonprofit organizations, local artisans, etc. with various merchandise for sale. If you’ve been wanting to support a vegan nonprofit or some small-scale artisans but haven’t gotten around it on the internet, the Vegan Beer and Food Festival offers you a chance to do so by buying t-shirts, some vegan bodycare, jewelry, etc.
- It was nice to have some musical entertainment too! I wasn’t into it at first, but after we sufficiently stuffed our stomachs and got tired of walking around the festival grounds, hearing a banjo version of Where Is My Mind by a band called the Junebugs was just what we needed 🙂
- My biggest disappointment was with the fact that all food was served in pretty large, almost dinner-sized and definitely dinner-priced servings. When you’ve already paid 45-65 dollars for a ticket, paying additional 15 bucks per plate seemed a bit steep. Plus, as much as I love having a generous amount of good food in front of me, how many dinners can I possibly eat at eleven in the morning? No bueno if I want to sample a lot of different dishes from all of the participating vendors.
- 60 beer coupons (with a VIP ticket, or 40 with general admission)? C’mon, how could I possibly fit 60 4-ounce glasses of beer into my system on top of all the food?! I think we would have been perfectly fine with cheaper entrance fees and fewer drink coupons. Or if some of the beer coupons were food coupons instead.
- The event does not allow reentry. Which means that if you forgot something in your car, or have an emergency outside, you won’t be allowed back in after leaving, even with a wrist band. I don’t understand the logic behind that.
- The festival was over by 7 pm. We actually left even earlier, at around 4 pm, to enjoy the city a bit more while we were there. In a perfect world, I would have loved to come back in the evening to listen to more music and eat dinner there, but that wasn’t going to happen because of the 7 pm closing and [see Nay #3 above].
The festival crowd gathered by the stage to enjoy the music
Once Rob and I made the decision to leave, we went on to explore the downtown Portland by such exotic (for us) means of transportation as an aerial tram and a streetcar. The latter took us into the concrete jungle and dropped us off in front of the famous Portland bookstore called Powell Books. It was legitimately the biggest privately owned book store we’ve ever visited! I could have easily spent a few hours there, but Rob was getting antsy, so we exited to look for adventures outside.
Since it was almost dinner time, we looked around and noticed a Sizzle Pie pizzeria located in the close proximity of the book store. The slice of their pizza we had earlier at the festival thoroughly impressed us, so we decided to give it another try.
Sizzle Pie is not 100% vegan, but a respectable portion of their menu is devoted to vegan pizza. Each location (of which there are a few in Portland, Eugene, and a recently opened one in Seattle – yay!) features at least 3 ready-to-go vegan pizzas by the slice, along with 3 vegetarian and 3 omnivore pizzas. They also make fresh pizzas to order, so Rob and I decided to try the Ripper from their menu.
I’m usually quite generous with praising vegan food, but I have to admit that, without exaggeration, this was THE BEST DAMN VEGAN PIZZA we’ve ever had! The crust was excellent – crisp and chewy at the same time, with perfect slightly charred bubbles on the edges. I was surprised how perfectly creamy this pizza was without the usual loads of cheese that I remember on pizzas from my pre-vegan days, thanks to their signature caramelized onion spread under the red pizza sauce. There was also some shredded vegan mozzarella by Follow Your Heart, but it wasn’t even necessary because of the onion spread.
All in all, our trip to the Portland Vegan Beer and Food Festival was successful. We ate, we drank, we explored, and left with lots of good memories and a wish to come back again in the near future to try out even more of what this gorgeous city has to offer.
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