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Celebrate beer in downtown Medford

The organizers behind Medford Beer Week and the Southern Oregon Craft Brew Festival believe beer occupies a very special — and perhaps holy — place in the universe.

In fact, they think quality beer was delivered unto man through divine means.

"It is once again time for Southern Oregon to celebrate God's single greatest gift to mankind — beer," proclaims the festival's website.

The theology behind this statement is debatable, but one thing that isn't doubtful is Southern Oregon's growing influence in the state's craft-brew scene, according to Chris Dennett, who owns Beerworks in downtown Medford.

Dennett is the organizer behind Medford Beer Week, which kicks off Sunday morning with a "Kegs and Eggs" beer-and-breakfast summit at Beerworks, 323 E. Main St.

The week culminates Saturday, June 16, with the Southern Oregon Craft Brew Festival on Bartlett Street and Middleford Alley in downtown Medford, or Old Town, as Dennett prefers to call it.

This will be Medford Beer Week's second incarnation. Last year's event went well considering no one involved knew what to expect, Dennett says.

"We were happy by the number of places that hosted events last year," Dennett says, while nursing a pint inside Beerworks. "Last year we wanted to see if this kind of thing could gain traction in Medford. It clearly has. The event is growing."

Events are scheduled at numerous Old Town businesses throughout the week. Craft brewers from around the state and several from California will be on hand to host food-and-beer pairings at local restaurants.

On Sunday, one of Southern Oregon's most successful brewers, Walkabout Brewing, will unveil its new taproom at 921 Mason Way in Medford. Walkabout has conjured a special beer in honor of the celebration and will serve Medford Beer Week Imperial IPA during its open house.

"A lot of the brewers are bringing special beers down for the festival," Dennett says. "These are beers you can't find just anywhere."

The festival will feature a special tent that will showcase these hard-to-find brews, Dennett says.

Meanwhile, the Gypsy Blues Bar is planning to host a beer garden in the parking lot next to the bar on West Eighth Street in Medford.

The Gypsy also will host tastings and special events throughout the week, says owner Clay Bearnsen.

"Last year we had more than 400 people at our beer garden," Bearnsen said. "This shows that Medford can be a good beer town."

The Gypsy is asking for food donations as part of its entry fee. Anyone who brings three cans of food will receive a pint glass, which can be kept, and tickets for beer samples. The entry cost is $10 with the food, $12 without a donation. The Gypsy beer garden will open from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, June 16.

The food will go to the ACCESS food bank, Bearnsen says.

Dennett hopes Medford will continue to welcome festivals in the Old Town area.

"It is part of the revitalization of Old Town," he says. "We want people to get invested in this part of Medford."

This year's festivities will spill into Jacksonville for a few days. Frau Kemmling's Schoolhaus Brewhaus in Jacksonville will host a kickball tournament Thursday, June 14. The event is helmed by Deschutes Brewing, which will host beer tastings at home plate.

"We welcome Jacksonville getting involved, but we still want the primary focus to be Medford," Dennett said. "We want brewers to make it a point to come down here every year because our Beer Week is a success."

See www.medfordbeerweek.com for a schedule of events.

This lineup of beer taps is regular at The Gypsy Blues Bar in Medford. - Photo by Julia Moore