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Rogue Valley beer geeks

Do you, dear reader, know how absolutely spoiled you are living in the Pacific Northwest? I can tell you, it isn't lost on me.

I'm referring, of course, to the abundance of mind-blowingly amazing beers brewed in our corner of the country.

I don't know where my beer snobbery came from. My dad would have a beer only once in every three blue moons, and when he did, it was usually a Heineken or a Corona or something equally as massively mass produced.

One of the ideas I have developed as to why I am such a beer snob is my geek mindset. Geeks are passionate people. We don't really do casual when it comes to our interests, and neither do craft brewers.

Now, I'm sure there are people who work at the major breweries who are passionate about what they do, but outside of country music, no one is waxing poetic about their Coors.

I think the best way I can illustrate craft brewers is to take the words of Kyle Stevens, singer and guitarist for one of my favorite bands — Seattle nerd rockers Kirby Krackle — and founder and brewer of Charging Hippo Brewing Company, from his company's website.

"My goal is to approach my brewing like I do my music; keep it punk in spirit (charging ahead with new flavors and ideas) while being aware that everything came from the blues (the vast wealth of knowledge handed down by the brewers before us)."

This past week was Medford Beer Week, and it all culminates this weekend at the Southern Oregon Craft Brew Festival. I've been only once before, when I was 21. This year, wild horses couldn't keep me away from the festival — unless they are standing next to the entrance and eyeing me menacingly. In that case I'd probably slink away because, while the heart is willing, the flesh is squishy and easily bruised.

Barring roving gangs of mean horses in downtown Medford, these are some of the breweries I am most excited to sample at this weekend's festival.

Obviously, I'll have to say hello to our local breweries. I developed a bit of an affinity for the brews made by Medford's Opposition Brewing (especially their Devastated Sky stout) when I visited during Zwicklemania. Because I live in Ashland, I don't stop by their tap house very often and, darn it, I miss them (apologies for my harsh language). However, in the grand scheme of things, I can get local beers whenever I wish to put in a modicum of effort. So this weekend is about discovery. I want to try something I've never had the pleasure of tasting before, which will make the lone Washington brewery, Georgetown, a priority for me.

I grew up in Tacoma, so I feel a sense of pride for things that come from the Puget Sound (by which I mean the area, not things coming out of the Sound itself). While I peruse the beer aisles around my home, I gravitate toward Oregon beers due to their sheer dominance of shelf space (unless I spot one of my favorite English exports). The Tacoma boy will have to sample the Seattle beer.

Another beverage I'm looking forward to sampling is from Atlas Cider Co. out of Bend.

A friend of mine recently had to go gluten-free. Out of solidarity for her plight, I rarely drink beer when I drink with her, and we usually default to cider (which is naturally gluten-free). While I love my Strongbow (what can I say, I love the English exports), I'm always on the lookout for a good Northwest cider.

Looking through Atlas' offerings, I'm more than intrigued by their various fruit combinations, especially Oregon Berry. Owner and cidermaker Dan McCoy nominates it for our state cider, and that kind of confidence is hard to ignore.

Naturally, I'll try to hit as many booths as I can within reason. As much as I love beer, I love not walking around Medford as a drunken wreck even more. If you're at Brew Fest this Saturday, come say hello if you A) vaguely recognize me from my picture on this page (my hair has grown a lot since that was taken) and B) want to. I'd love to know that people actually care about what I have to say.

Ian Hand is assistant editor for Tempo and an enormous geek. Follow him on Twitter @IanHand_MT.