Portland has become quite the hot spot for micro-distilleries, and TOAST is the event that brings many of Oregon's amazing distillers together, as well as some of the top crafters of artisan spirits in the nation and the world. Save the weekend of March 22nd and 23rd to wow your taste buds, make new discoveries and talk to the distillers themselves about their passion and craft. Whether your tastes tend towards the traditional or the more exotic, the more than 50 distilleries serving up several offerings a piece will provide something for everyone.
This year marks the third edition of TOAST, and its promoters tout it as the largest public tasting of artisan spirits in North America -- and, as far as they know -- the world. In 2012, 50 distilleries poured samples of over 170 spirits, and the event continues to grow. Over 1,000 are expected to attend.
The standard spirits will be in abundance -- such as vodkas, various whiskeys and bourbons, rums, gins, brandies -- but in addition to well-crafted artisan versions of these classics, there will also be dozens of interesting takes on each, with various infusions, barreling techniques, aging processes, filtering techniques and other nuances only made possible with small-batch distilling. The Oregon distillers almost universally source as many of their ingredients locally as possible -- from the botanicals in gin to Hood River pears for brandy to the hot peppers in infused vodkas.
Artisan distillers have the rare opportunity to experiment with small batches of spirits, and as a group, they clearly relish that chance. That lends itself well to working with lesser known -- or less commonly available -- liquors. Raki, ouzo, absinthe, aquavit and grappa will all be in the mix, Of course there will also be liqueurs aplenty as well as cocktails to inspire your own new creations and mixers.
These local, national and international craft distillers will take you and your palate on a journey -- be ready to be surprised and educated along the way.
Food... and Spirited Chocolate! Truffles from Moonstruck
"The largest craft spirits revival in America," as dubbed by the American Distilling Institute, adds food vendors for the first time this year. True to Portland spirit, several food carts will be onsite to serve up everything from vegan yummies to sliders to Hawaiian cuisine.
Speaking of food, what perhaps marks the Oregon artisan distillers scene's coming of age more than anything is that other products that utilize these spirits. Of course many bars and restaurants in Oregon -- as well as across the country -- now proudly mix drinks using spirits crafted in and around Portland. Even ice cream purveyors, such as Salt & Straw, has used various spirits in some of their concoctions. Now Moonstruck Chocolates is getting in on the fun -- chocolatier Julian Rose is launching his line of amazing truffles dubbed the Oregon Distillers collection at the TOAST event. Rose utilizes different spirits and pairs various complementary flavors to craft exquisite truffles that pack a bit of a boozy punch.
In fact the truffles are strong enough that the OLCC only allows their sale at distilleries and in liquor stores in Oregon -- but attendees of TOAST will be among the first to sample them.
TOAST also represents a great opportunity to stock up on your new favorites -- bottles will be available for purchase directly from the show, and the prices for these artisan spirits are often comparable to medium-grade bigger labels' offerings.
When: Friday, March 22nd, 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday, March 23rd, 1 p.m.-10 p.m.
Where: Two World Trade Center, 121 SW Salmon Street
Cost: $20 by pre-purchase online; $25 day of event. Includes single-day admission, sampling of over 170 spirits and a tasting glass (while supplies last). Age 21+ only
Onsite Parking: $4.00 per day
More info: oregondistillersguild.org