By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Tasked with organizing a session beer tasting, I dutifully looked up the definition of a session beer in my online dictionary, and found this: “Session Beer: A beer that has a relatively low alcohol content and is therefore suitable for drinking over an extended period.” The dictionary suggested that a “session beer” weighs in at about 4 percent.
Guess these folks aren’t from Oregon, where “relatively low” is, um, relative. Here, session beers are as various as its residents: Low alcohol content, to some here, is around 5 percent; to others, 3 percent. Styles run the gamut. There are radlers/shandies, wheat beers, IPAs, lagers and ales, Belgian styles — all fall into the giant keg of “session beers.”
But why quibble about a few percentage points? Your session beer will be the one you love to drink on a boat, on the shore, while swimming, while hiking, while biking, while mowing the lawn, while barbecuing, while sitting in the shade, while doing all those things you’re going to do in this long, hot, thirsty summer in Oregon.
Our volunteer consumers gathered last month to choose and comment on the following favorite session beers in a blind tasting.
Next month, to mark the coming of the fall colors, the Oregon Beer Growler tasting will feature Oregon’s red ales.
Burnside: Skyline Extra Pale Ale, Portland 4.8 percent ABV, 38 IBUs
Brewery Description: Smooth, crisp pale featuring Horizon and Amarillo hops.
Consumer Comments: Tastes like beer I’d drink on a pontoon boat. Not bad, in fact, really good! Fishing beer! Would be great at a baseball game with some peanuts. Light and refreshing with a hit of sour. Happy and hoppy. Great taste with sumpin’ sumpin’.
HUB: Organic Totally Radler, Portland 2.6 percent ABV, 15 IBUs
Brewery Description: A 50-50 blend of Hopworks’ award-winning Organic HUB Lager and organic lemon soda. The lemon soda complements the lager’s honey flavors and herbal hop aroma while maintaining its crisp malt backbone.
Consumer Comments: Malty and pure. Refreshing! Better than Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Good tasting. Is it a shandy? Get me a tree, a hammock and a case of these, and I’m good for the day. Lemons! Citrusy. Juicy good.
McMenamins: Quatrophenia, Troutdale 4.9 percent ABV, 44 IBUs
Brewery Description: An inscrutable, mystic liquid imbued with power beyond knowing. Quatrophenia is a satisfyingly sessionable ale that gets the most out of the Simcoe, Galaxy and Meridian hops used throughout the brew and for dry hopping. It is compact, bold and drinkable.
Consumer Comments: Clean and hoppy. Yay, more hops! Refreshing, light and crisp! Good and smooth. Goody yum yum.
Base Camp: Lost Meridian Wit, Portland 5 percent ABV, 20 IBUs
Brewery Description: Our twist on a wheaty Belgian witbier. Meridian hops deliver bright citrus and mimosa-like character, creating flavors of orange and dry champagne.
Consumer Comments: Bright! Lemon chicken. Right all night. Fresh and clean. Lightness. Refreshing! Very solid, easy drinking and tasty. A crisp easy drinker.
Full Sail: Session Premium Lager, Hood River 5.1 percent ABV, 18 IBUs
Brewery Description: This is an import-style lager, like the kind of beer made back in the pre-Prohibition days. American and European hops offer a wonderful noble hop aroma, and the two-row barley malt and a touch of wheat malt give a pleasant, refreshing finish.
Consumer Comments: Light and lagerly. I could really knock back a sixer of these, right now! Very good. Thumbs up. Ooo ooo that smell. Smooth and silky!
Rusty Truck: Cruiser Session IPA, Lincoln City 4.9 percent ABV, 50 IBUs
Brewery Description: This IPA is dry hopped with Mosaic hops for a refreshing complex array of tropical fruit, citrus, berry, herbal and pine flavors. The lower alcohol helps the hop lover in you responsibly enjoy more beer.
Consumer Comments: Cool. Ooof. Oh, yeah! Tasty! Hella tight. Hops! Take me to the islands and feed me mangos chased back with this beer.
Wild Ride: Whoopty Whoop, Redmond 5.5 percent ABV, 20 IBUs
Brewery Description: This beer is an American hefeweizen brewed to help you get through the obstacles of life. The late addition of lemon peel during fermentation gives this traditional wheat beer a pleasant citrus aroma with a slightly tart finish.
Consumer Comments: ‘Tis good and citrusy. Solid: I could drink a lot of these. Nicely sweet and hoppy. Nice and easy. Put a lemon in this one. German lemon trees growing in a hop field?
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.