February has been Stout Month ever since Fort George opened its doors in 2007. Every year new stouts are released throughout the month. In the middle of the darkest month of the year, in the darkest, uppermost corner of Oregon, The Festival of Dark Arts descends on the Fort George Block, transforming the heart of Astoria into a stout-drinker’s paradise.
It’s the darkest stout festival the world has ever tasted.
In 2023, after a two year absence, the Festival of Dark Arts returned better, bolder, louder, bigger, and more delicious than ever before. Stout lovers gathered on the Fort George block to enjoy the carnival atmosphere of the world’s darkest Stout Beer Festival among a host of stilt-walkers, magicians, tarot readings, feats of strength, fire dancers and ice sculptors. Staying warm by the numerous bonfires, they satiated their hunger with thick-cut, glazed bacon on a stick, epic PNW soul food, crab fries, duck pizza, and countless oysters on the half shell. Live music from 19 different bands rang throughout the day across three stages, and dark artisans displayed their craft all over the block from noon until 10PM.
The 2023 Festival of Dark Arts showcased a world-class list of over 80 rare and unique stouts from 54 breweries across the country – all packed into one and a half blocks in downtown Astoria.
The first Festival of Dark Arts was held in Astoria in February 2002 but the inspiration behind the festival is even older. Jack Harris, Fort George Co-Founder, celebrated the first Stout Month in 1992 while working at the McMenamin’s Cornelius Pass Roadhouse. Everywhere he moved and everywhere he brewed, he took Stout Month with him. You can read more about the history of Stout Month here. After leaving McMenamin’s, Jack wasn’t ready to leave behind the darkness.
“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,” says Jack, who has gradually handed over the reins of the fest to the rest of the Fort’s leadership team. Pulling off the fest after a two year absence was a massive feat of cooperation and coordination across the whole company.
Festival of Dark Arts 2023 was the biggest party Fort George has ever put on. In the end, every one of the nearly 3,000 attendees drank some of the best stouts in the world, everyone saw bands, everyone bought dark merch and ate delicious food and everyone said something like: “heck yeah!” at least one time. (The median rate of positive exclamation was actually much higher than 1/1 which is a point of tremendous pride for us).
3,ooo stout drinkers descended upon the dark streets of downtown Astoria for a 10 hour celebration of stout.
All hands on deck – the entire staff (everyone from dishwashers to distribution drivers) worked on the day of the festival. Erin (shipping & merch program coordinator) and Sash (Head of HR) manned the merch table.
Maita electrified the Ruins of the Astor Hotel across the street from the Pub. One of 26 performers featured across the fest’s 3 stages throughout the day.
Performers, volunteers, and staff are all encouraged to sample the offerings (while off-duty of course).
Fire dancers have been a feature of the fest since its inception in 2002, performing the perfect marriage of darkness to light in the cold February night.
Iconic Fast-Food themed Metal Band Mac Sabbath brought the Ruins venue across Duane Street to capacity, with folks on the street outside and in the Lovell Building across the street enjoying the performance through the windows.
Festivals are for friends. There’s no way we could have thrown this party without the tremendous efforts of friends, fans, staff, and volunteers. Cheers. See you in 2024.