February has been Stout Month ever since Fort George opened its doors in 2007. Every year new stouts are released throughout the month, including the annual release of the Matryoshka series. Aside from being the darkest month of the year, Stout Month is the yearly signal that Festival of Dark Arts will soon descend upon the Fort George block.
It’s the darkest stout festival the world has ever tasted.
At the 2020 Festival of Dark Arts, stout lovers gathered on the Fort George block to revel in tattoo artistry, contortionists, ice sculpting, and a multitude of performers. Staying warm by the fire dancers and glass blowers, they satiated their hunger with thick-cut, glazed bacon on a stick, foot-long corn dogs, and countless oysters on the half shell. Live music from 16 bands rang throughout the day across three locations, and dark artisans showcased their crafts all over the block. The 2020 Festival of Dark Arts showcased over 70 rare and unique stouts from over 50 breweries across the country – and it was all packed into one block in downtown Astoria.
The first Festival of Dark Arts was held in February 2002 but the inspiration behind the festival goes back much farther. Jack Harris, Fort George Co-Founder, created Stout Month in 1992 while working at the McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse. Everywhere he moved and everywhere he brewed, he took Stout Month with him. After leaving McMenamins, Jack wasn’t ready to leave his idea behind. “I carried Stout Month with me to The Lighthouse Brewpub in Lincoln City and on to Boulder, Colorado. I also imposed Stout Month on Bill’s Tavern in Cannon Beach for nine years before bringing it up here to Astoria.”
In 2002, Jessica Schleif – Astoria artist and master gardener who now oversees the Fort George campus – was working with Astoria Visual Arts (AVA) when Jack approached her about setting up an event in downtown Astoria. “Jack had this idea to hold a stout tasting in February,” Jessica remembers. “We talked about making it a fundraiser for local artists and holding the event at the AVA. The thought was to have a stout tasting with all sorts of dark-themed art. It was a big deal for us. We even got the street closed down for it.” The first Festival of Dark Arts was held in mid-February of 2002 and again in 2004. After running into some snags along the way, the festival was shelved until Fort George eventually opened in March of 2007.
After a few years in business and the purchase of the adjacent Lovell Building, Jack and Fort George Co-Owner Chris Nemlowill discussed the possibility of bringing the festival back to life. Now, Festival of Dark Arts is one of the biggest, most anticipated beer festivals in the entire Northwest. You can learn more about Stout Month and Festival of Dark Arts deep and dark history here.
2020 Festival of Dark Arts tickets sold out record-fast and around 2,500 smiling faces eventually joined us on the Fort George block to help celebrate the darkest month of the year. Festival-goers had their choice of over 70 unique stouts and more entertainment, craftspeople and specialty festival fare than ever. Iron, glass, ice and tattoo artistry, performances by the likes of Blackwater Holylight (an all-female HeavyPsych band from Portland) and fire dancers are among just some of the year’s highlights. You can check out the entire lineup of entertainment, food, and stouts from the 2020 festival here, or check out our photo recap below.
•Event Grimore, tasting token & tasting glass•
•Festival Goers Warm-Up By Dave Gonzo’s Fire Pit Masterpieces••SORIAH (Throat Singer) Performs in The Showroom• •Blackwater Holylight Performs in The Ruins••Shanghaied Tattoo of Astoria Give Tattoos in The Lovell Brewery••Down North Performs in The Ruins••Straight Jacket Escape in The Showroom••The Moondoggies Perform in The Ruins••Metal Art••Adam Torres Performs in The Showroom••Hill Stomp Performing in The Upstairs Pizzeria••Ice Sculpture••Fire Dancing – A FoDA Staple Since The Beginning!• •Festival Attire• •Festival Sustainability Guru, Logan, Helped Make FoDA 2020 a No Waste (except latex) Festival•