R.I.P. – Portland Cheers To Belgian Beers Festival (2006-2018)

former Oregon Brewers Guild director Brian Butenschoen gestures to the crowd at Cheers to Belgian Beers

RIP Portland Cheers To Belgian Beers Festival, the 12 year old festival won’t return in 2019 for its 13th year, or probably ever. “Pour one out for CTBB” said a slide announcing that the Belgian yeast, local brewery festival is ending its run for good, another increasingly common beer festival casualty.

“We lost a significant amount of money on it last year” said Dan Engler, current President of the Oregon Brewers Guild at last night’s annual guild meeting. The popular festival has been in the red for many years, Engler said. I was not surprised, I have been privately speculating that it wouldn’t return in 2019 ever since Brian Butenschoen, Executive Director of the Oregon Brewers Guild suddenly left the job in early November. The annual event typically happens in May with a brewers dart toss held in advance that helps randomize the color and strength of the beers presented, but no news had emerged about this years fest.

One wonders about how a premiere festival such as Cheers To Belgian Beers could be unprofitable for so long and still continue, especially with the Oregon Brewers Guild behind it. Afterall, not only does the festival have the power and resources of the guild behind it, but all the beer is donated! I might speculate that events organization by former OBG director Butenschoen could be one of the reasons the guild board is bringing in new blood.  As an event organizer myself, how this event could continue to lose money is hard to fathom.

OBG president Engler does have a point though, “I think maybe the novelty is not there anymore.” Engler continued, noting that there has been declining interest in beer festivals but that they had some new ideas for events. “When Cheers to Belgian Beers was started that was a real trendy segment, things have changed.” I will look forward to what kind of new beer events the guild lines up under new leadership.

Samurai Artist
Samurai Artist

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: SamuraiArtist@NewSchoolBeer.com


  • david
    Sat Jan 12, 2019 3:39 PM

    When you lose money on DONATED beer, you’re doing something terribly, even suspiciously, wrong.

    • Al
      Sat Feb 9, 2019 1:36 AM

      I think that the beers suffered because of bad yeast strains the last several years. Prior to that the beers were universally good, if not great. Last few years there have been few good beers, regardless of brewery.

      • Jennifer
        Sun Jun 2, 2019 12:24 PM

        Most people I know had no idea this event had even been going on before I attended. I only knew because they had a deal on Mercperks. It had been going on for years before I even saw it. Sad. This was one of the best beer fests around. If they’re losing money using donated beer and volunteers for lots of positions there was some serious mismanagement. Not surprised then that advertising was scare. Unfortunate.