I haven't been a beer drinker for very long, but as with all of my obsessions I went from novice to well-informed snob in only a matter of weeks. Oregon is a good place to feel elitist about your taste in beer. There are seemingly countless microbreweries in the Pacific Northwest and some of the best beer in the world is made here.
The Brew Fest is a small, unimposing event that takes place every year in downtown Eugene. It's not by any means the best celebration of beer in the area (Portland has a major brew fest every summer that probably holds that title). However, it makes up for its small size with its variety. The bulk of the better brewers in the area had at least one beer a piece representing for them and a few even brewed special batches just for the event. All of this took place on Broadway Plaza, which meant that the city of Eugene was just fine with cordoning off a city block right in the middle of downtown so that people could drink. That everything was set up around the commemorative Ken Kesey statue in the Plaza added that extra hometown touch.
I had friends working the taps at the festival, so I ended up with a number of solid recommendations. I started with a Red Hook Golden Ale that went down really smooth and then moved on to Willamette Brewery's IPA, which had a wonderful floral flavor. After that things started to get blurry, though I do remember having a really nice tri-tip sandwich from a booth being run by the Bates Steakhouse (I've got to try that place sometime). I remember having a solid imperial stout and a couple other good IPA's. The names all get a little fuzzy. Ninkasi's Tricerihops stands out though, and they have quickly become one of my favorite breweries. That they are local just makes them easier to like.
After I had drank about as much as I could handle (not much, as I'll cop to being a lightweight) I moseyed over to CD/Game Exchange and did some humorous CD shopping ("Def Leppard? Those guys are hilarious!") that I will probably come to regret later. Overall, a well-spent day.