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Learn about craft brews this weekend

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If you don't know your pilsner from your porter you have an educational opportunity in your backyard this weekend. The 24th annual Oregon Brewers Festival will be held at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland today through Sunday.

Always held the last weekend in July the OBF is one of the nation's longest running craft beer festivals. Its purpose is to provide the public an opportunity to sample and learn about a variety of craft beer styles from across the nation. Eighty-four breweries will offer 86 handcrafted beers. There will be 33 different styles to sample - pales, pilsners and porters and everything in between.

All beer can be categorized as either ale or lager, depending on how the yeast flocculates, or clumps together, during fermentation.

The yeasts in ales, the oldest kind of beer, flocculate at the top of the fermentation tank, thriving at higher temperatures, beween 60 and 72º F.

Lager was developed by German brewers who discovered that aging beer in natural caves after the initial fermentation produced a cleaner beer and made their brews less susceptible to contamination. Eventually, this aging, called lagering, led to the isolation of yeasts that thrived at lower temperatures. This bottom fermenting yeast is more aggressive than ale yeast, yielding a drier beer with almost no flavor or aroma contributed by the yeast itself. The method produces a simple, clean beer.

Beers are categorized by:

* Appearance - color, clarity and the nature of the head. Color is usually imparted by the malts used. Clarity can be transparent (like in a pale ale), translucent (cloudy, like a hefeweizen) or opaque (as in stouts and porters). The thickness and retention of the head and the lace left on the glass also factor into the appearance.

* Aroma - as derived from the malt and other fermentables, the strength and type of hops, alcohol, esters and other aromatic components of the water and brewing process.

* Flavor - the taste characteristics may come from the type and amount of malt used, flavors imparted by the yeast and strength of bitterness from the hops.

* Water - considered by many brewers to be the most important ingredient in beer. Many advertising campaigns for beers over the years has credited water for making their beer taste refreshing.

Remember ads for Hamm's with the cartoon bear paddling the canoe?

'From the land of sky blue waters

Comes the beer refreshing'

Or Olympia Brewing in Tumwater, Wash.'s slogan 'It's the Water.' The cans and bottle labels depicted Tumwater Falls cascading down.

No wonder Oregon's microbrewing industry has been so successful - it's the water!

The festival is about much more than sampling beer. There will be live music, beer related vendors, and beer memorabilia displays, beer writers and publishers, home brewing demonstrations and foods from many regions. The Crater Lake Root Beer Garden with complimentary root beer for minors and designated drivers is also part of the festivities.

Admission to the festival is free, so you can go visit with the brewers and glean their knowledge at no charge. In order to drink beer you must purchase a 2011 souvenir mug at $6. Beer is purchased with wooden tokens, which cost a $1 apiece. Patrons pay four tokens for a full mug of beer or one token for a taste.

Gluten free beer will also be available.

One of the highlights of the festival is the Buzz Tent in which a collection of highly prized, expensive specialty beers will be poured. These are limited in quantity and will include old favorites, new creations, experimental beers and those off the beaten path.

The names of some of these Buzz Tent pours are intriguing:

* 10 Barrel Brewing's Monkey Juice

* Ale Industries' Dry Hogged Bacon Brown

* Bear Republic Brewing's Old Baba Yaga

* Maui Brewing's Imperial CoCoNuT Porter

* Ninkasi Brewing's Gin Barrel Aged Collaboration Ale

* Seven Brides Brewing's Port Barrel Aged Weezinator

Tastes at the Buzz Tent cost two tokens.

If you go to the festival, please drink responsibly. Either take a designated driver or be a real maverick and take public transportation. It is easy, fast and cheap! You'll be down at the fun in less time that it takes to drive, park and walk to the venue.

The recipe offered today is for a Caribbean inspired dish of Shrimp in Spicy Chili and Beer Sauce. It is suggested that you use a Jamaican lager, but feel free to use your favorite microbrew instead.

Bon Appetit! Eat something wonderful!

Shrimp with Spicy Chili and Beer Sauce

I am always looking for ways to get more vegetables into my diet, so I might add chopped onion and bell peppers to the pan after the garlic, and allow them to cook until soft before adding the shrimp.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 large cloves garlic, chopped

2 teaspoons finely ground black pepper

2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 ½ teaspoons cayenne pepper

30 uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 cups Jamaican lager or other lager

6 cups low salt chicken broth

½ cup Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon honey

Freshly cooked white rice

Melt the butter in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped garlic, black pepper, dried thyme and cayenne pepper and stir 1 minute. Add shrimp and sauté 1 minute. Stir in beer. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to large bowl. Add chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, and honey to skillet and boil until sauce is reduced to 1 ¼ cups and coats spoon thinly, about 45 minutes. Return shrimp to sauce and simmer until shrimp are just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Serve with rice.

Adapted from Cha Cha Cha, Encino, California

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-635-8811 ext 101 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .