Another dry summer in Portland: Oregon Brewers Festival canceled with no clear return

By Rob Manning (OPB)
Jan. 14, 2023 12:54 a.m.

In its heyday, the festival was an annual event that drew 80,000 people to Portland’s waterfront. It is off for 2023, after returning last summer from a two-year hiatus.

For the third time in four years, there will be no big beer festival at Portland’s Waterfront Park this summer.

The Oregon Brewers Festival returned last year, after COVID-19 forced organizers to cancel the annual event in 2020 and 2021. In a statement, organizers cite several reasons for canceling this summer’s festival, including low attendance, higher costs and extreme weather.

A jogger runs along the waterfront in Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland, Ore., on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. The park, named after Oregon's famous environmentalist former governor, sits where a highway once ran.

A jogger runs along the waterfront in Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland, Ore., in this 2020 file photo. The Oregon Brewers Festival, once a summertime staple in the park, will not return in 2023.

Bryan M. Vance / OPB


“[B]ut that’s far from an exhaustive list,” said the statement posted to the festival’s website and signed by festival organizers, including founder Art Larrance.

The festival statement said organizers “recognize that the hospitality industry, which is at the core of our festival, is still working to recover from the effects of the pandemic.”

The Oregon Brewers Festival bubbled up from the state’s culture of microbreweries and pubs, as the brainchild of Larrance, the former owner of Portland Brewing. It was started with the cooperation of three other microbreweries — Widmer, Bridgeport and McMenamins — according to the festival’s website. Portland, Widmer and Bridgeport would be the founding organizers.

In its heyday, the brewers festival drew as many as 80,000 people to Tom McCall Waterfront Park across several days, with visitors sampling beers from all over the world including some brewed specifically for the festival. According to the festival website, around 50,000 visitors would travel to Portland for the event, contributing $20 million to the local economy.

It’s unclear when the event might return. Organizers said that, after more than 30 years of throwing the festival, they’ve learned what it takes to be successful. For the immediate term, they plan to shift focus to supporting smaller festivals and partnerships.

As for the big summer festival on the waterfront, organizers say it will come back “when the time is right.”