The Big Woody is a quintessential Portland scene with lots of great beers, an emerging distillery culture, and a roomful of people who look like they just showed up from central casting for Portlandia. Pretty challenging not to have fun when the alcohol content of the beers hovers around ten percent! At those heights, the brown liquor becomes the chaser. The party for 2014 was held in the Left Bank Annex, a concrete, steel, and glass warehouse that's been transformed into one of Portland's premiere event spaces. Hosting this inaugural installment of the festival was well-executed, with limits on attendance and short lines at the pouring stations. No shortage of time traveling to when beer was lagered/stored/aged in cooperage. Barrels repurposed from distilleries and wineries add another layer of complexity to the beer taste.
The styles of beer range from Belgian ales to NW IPAs. There are sours and farmhouse brews to push the tastebuds around. The volunteer staff do a good job talking about the beers they pour, with some brewers providing additional expertise from their organizations. Food items to purchase are paired with festival offerings.
The Big Woody attracts Western breweries with a heavy emphasis on the local NW brewing scene. The barrel-aged whiskey business is well represented with a focus on small-batch distillers of bourbons and ryes, many local. I found it impossible to taste a beverage at this year's inaugural that I didn't like in one way or another.