By Matthew Meador
For the Oregon Beer Growler
I have a swimming pool. It’s not a temporary pool but an honest-to-goodness in-ground pool, complete with sparkling blue water, chaise lounges and a deep end — although it no longer has a diving board due to one careless swimmer who thought it was suitable for launching his 200-plus-pound adult body many feet into the air after running out the back door and down the stairs at full speed on his way to cooling off. Diving board or not, it’s the perfect place to kick back on lazy summer afternoons with a few friends and some cold beverages.
When it’s hot outside and cool waters beckon, Oregon summers demand refreshing brews — maybe not the “big” beers we enjoy the rest of the year. With a lower alcohol content than many of the brews we drink year-round, sessions are perfect for cloudless sunny days. But, like my pool in the springtime, the origins of the term “sessions” is murky. Most sources agree the term probably originated in wartime austerity and productivity, when the need to produce things simply was matched by the urgency to do so with a sober focus. Whatever the case, session has come to define brews of less than five percent alcohol content by volume. These lighter beers offer a particular appeal when the heat is a little overbearing. Whether you’re a fan of big beers or gentler pints, these sessions demonstrate the craftsmanship and attention to detail for which Oregon brewers are known — there’s a brew for every taste in August’s batch. And with all this beautiful Northwest sunshine, now is the perfect time to enjoy them.
BridgePort Brewing Company: Bullpen Session IPA
5.0% ABV; 47 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A smooth, lower alcohol ale, this beer gives a surprising burst of citrusy hop flavor in the finish. We make a malt base using our Two-Row Pale Malt then add Golden Oats and Honey Malt for a smooth, slightly sweet mouthfeel. Then we add hops. We use Northwest Nuggets, Meridians and Crystals. Then we finish the beer by dry hopping twice with a combination of Citra and Meridian hops for a burst of fresh citrus flavor.
Consumer Comments: With its seamless coalescence between nose and palate, Bullpen Session IPA is a beautifully balanced brew where hops and citrus are perfect partners — no competition here. The favorite of our tasting panel, the beer offers notes of crisp apple and lemon as it introduces a surprisingly robust body, which provides immensely satisfying hot-weather refreshment at the same time. Assertive without being overbearing, this brew is summer in a pint glass.
Coalition Brewing: Serendipity People’s Ale
4.5% ABV; 25 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Beer has the unique power to bring together individuals of all backgrounds. This is a true drink of the People. Highly approachable and sessionable, Serendipity People’s Ale presents as golden colored with orange hues. It has a light maltiness from Munich and Honey Malts that hit the front of the palate. The addition of flaked barley carries a subtle sweetness through the body. While hops are not the star of this show, they play an integral role in balancing the malt profile. Nobles offer a light and clean bitterness.
Consumer Comments: Hints of honey and a full head say howdy when Serendipity People’s Ale is poured. This session is exceptionally well-mannered — charming and polite, but with enough nuance to suggest a sharp underlying wit. Our panel described Serendipity as a “gentleman’s ale” and suggested pairing with spicy Asian dishes.
Crux Fermentation Project: Off Leash Session IPA (Available May through September)
4.5% ABV; 30 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Debuted at an event that crowned our hometown “Dog Town USA,” this light-hearted ale bounds with regional Citra, Centennial and Crystal hops for those citrusy notes beloved by Northwest hop hounds. We’ve nudged the malt bill in the other direction for a sessionable ale that’s easy to love.
Consumer Comments: Fresh peaches and a little citrus make for a tempting nose on the seasonal Off Leash Session IPA. A genuine session IPA, hops and lemon merge with malt to form a medium-bodied brew where zesty lemon tames residual bitterness. From its stone fruit start to its remarkably clean finish, Off Leash is an ideal IPA for August.
Elk Horn Brewery: SirBerlin
4.5% ABV; 10 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Light golden and highly effervescent, this twist on a traditional German Berliner weiss has bright flavor and a light, bubbly body perfect for summer refreshment. Its fresh, citrusy lemongrass note is complemented by lychee fruit and a subtle malt character provided by the combination of White Wheat and acidulated malt, which adds a crisp, tart flavor.
Consumer Comments: A bright nose of pear invites when the champagne-like SirBerlin is poured. Effervescent and consistent, floral notes and a bit of grass yield to light fruit and a crisp mouthfeel. SirBerlin is straightforward and honest, an easy-drinking, warm-weather brew.
GoodLife Brewing Company: Wildland Session Ale
4.5% ABV; 30 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This is a bright and clear beer that is a golden-orange straw color with a white head. Slightly dank aromas of citrus fruit mix with spicy background notes. Peach and other bright fruit flavors are at the forefront of a clean-finishing, medium-bodied beer. Overall, Wildland is a great summer beer that is dank and easy to drink.
Consumer Comments: If Bend can be captured in a bottle, GoodLife Brewing Company has done it with its outstanding Wildland Session Ale. My personal favorite of the sessions, this brew is honest from start to finish. Offering notes of high desert juniper, resinous pine and refreshing citrus, the ale is gentle and masterfully balanced, perfect for summer sipping but almost certainly just as enjoyable any other time of year. Well done, GoodLife!
Hop Haus Brewing: Sunny Bono Session IPA
4.5% ABV; 50 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A lower-alcohol, easy-drinking golden IPA perfect for warm days, this beer incorporates Pilsner, Vienna and Two-Row Malts along with low-alpha hops, making a very sessionable IPA that won’t fill you up.
Consumer Comments: The Beat Goes On with the rich amber hue of this earthy-but-refreshing summer IPA. Sunny Bono Session IPA is no Little Man, but it might be the perfect hot-temperature pint for IPA enthusiasts. With well-mannered hops and a laid-back bitterness, this amiable brew is So Fine — sure to please even those who find IPAs too much. Panelists agreed Sunny Bono would pair well with Summertime grilled burgers.
As a big fan of bright and hot Oregon summers, a pool isn’t optional for me. What better place to cool off and entertain guests during the long-awaited Oregon summer months? Well, most guests anyway. Those inclined to abuse innocent diving boards can find a public pool or a river. But for guests who are welcome, a pool and a refreshing Oregon session might just be the perfect way to pass a hot August afternoon!
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
I balked at doing this tasting as part of our annual salute to women in brewing issue, lest you think fruit beers are somehow “girl beers.” There was a time, and I’m not saying it’s entirely passed, when the ladies were served beer laced with fruit juice to save us from … what? Bad beer? Or the (ha ha) heavy alcohol in the Buds that were available to us then? Gurrl, please.
But despite the backhanded insult, I fell in love with fruit beers when my bestie’s mom served me and all of her guests — including the guys — cold shandies. This beer-lemonade combination, served on a hot summer day on her deck overlooking the Umpqua River, was refreshing. Suddenly, I was a fan of fruit beer, and it looked like I wasn’t a sissy for admitting it. Fast forward to 2016.
We’ve come a long way, babies. Evidence: Portland’s annual Fruit Beer Festival, June 10-12 this year in a new location in the North Park Blocks downtown. I dare you to stand amid those throngs of sweating men drinking fruit beers and yell, “Fruit beers are for girls!” If you make it out alive, you’ll have learned a valuable lesson: Fruit beers are for everyone.
Think you’re not a fruit beer drinker? You might think twice, because not all fruit beers are the same. It’s apples and oranges, literally. Our tasting last month featured fruit beers that ranged from sweet to tart, hot pink to tan, sessionable to heavy hitter. Didn’t like one? Try another. Fruit finds a friend in lambics, krieks, Belgian-style creations, wheats, stouts, blondes and even IPAs. I promise, you’ll find one that suits you and have a great time in the discovery phase.
Our volunteer tasters chose the following favorites from among the Oregon fruit beers sent to us last month:
Ambacht: Pie Cherry Pale, Hillsboro 7% ABV; 17 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: The farmhouse-style golden ale is infused with whole Montmorency pie cherries from Yamhill County during the secondary fermentation. Rosy gold in color, its aroma has hints of cherries as well as almonds. Not too sweet, and just a little bit tart, this ale's smooth, dry finish makes it light on the tongue.
Consumer Comments: A fruity drink with a wine-like bite. Summery and not too tart. Tart cherries from the farm with a little salt. Reminds me of apricot fruit leather! Nice balance of tart and sweet. I’d enjoy a pint of this on a warm day. Good grapefruity taste.
Silver Moon: Mango Daze Session Ale, Bend 4.9% ABV; 29 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A mouthful of summer, this enjoyable session ale is packed with traditional fruity Northwest hops and a perfect hint of tropical mango.
Consumer Comments: A perfect summer picnic drink on a beautiful sunset warm evening with puffy clouds turning orange and pink as we lay under a gently-swaying willow tree. Smooth and sweet. Hibiscus tea? Loveliness! Peachy flavor. Tastes like the sun! Light and pleasant.
Rusty Truck: Moonlight Ride Blackberry Ale, Lincoln City 5.3% ABV; 20 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: The aroma of ripened Oregon blackberries on a crisp moonlit September night is what inspired our blackberry ale. This ale was aged on 126 pounds of pureed blackberries per 10-barrel batch. Enjoy the ride!
Consumer Comments: Nice, dry, not too sweet, fun color! Soft on a summer day when you need something light. It’s like a raspberry-cherry saison. A great session beer. Raspberry Jolly Rancher! Light and effervescent.
Ordnance: Bloops!, Boardman 4.6% ABV; 21 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This blueberry wheat beer starts with a pleasant blueberry nose followed by a sip of blueberry flavor and mingled with hearty malt sweetness. Reminiscent of blueberry pie. Who cares if it started life as an accident? Bloops!
Consumer Comments: Great nose! Wonderful to enjoy on a warm spring or summer day. A mysteriously good fruit pie. Fields of blue, mild and soft. A smooth and silky fruit salad. A berry party — serve it with pie. Berry light, alcohol with a bite.
Mazama: Rasplendent, Corvallis 5% ABV; 13 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This is an award-winning American fruit ale. What could be more refreshing than crisp, juicy raspberries? Add hibiscus and it drinks like a glass of raspberry lemonade, but with a nice head of foam and a light touch of hops.
Consumer Comments: On the sweet side — serve it with whiskey? A mouth-puckering, sweet-tart experience. Easy drinking on a barbecue night. Not-quite-ripe strawberries. Raspberry kick. A good replacement for a blush wine on a hot summer day. Interesting! What is it? Really good.
10 Barrel: Raspberry Crush, Bend/Portland 5.5% ABV; 10 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Raspberry Crush is the beer that started the Crush series. It is conditioned with loads of raspberries. The tartness of the base beer acts to amplify the raspberry flavor. You can almost taste the seeds!
Consumer Comments: Delicious raspberry beer to serve on a hot summer day. I could have two or three. Raspberries, I get it! So good! Nice and fruity raspberries. Sweet berries. Tantalizing fruity tickle on the tongue. A fruity Popsicle. Nice fruit flavor and a little sweet.
Hop Haus: Tiki Caliente Chili Mango, Gresham 4.9% ABV; 38 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A well-balanced pale ale brewed with two-row, Munich, Golden Promise and Victory malts along with Willamette hops, toasted jalapeno and habanero peppers with pure mango juice.
Consumer Comments: Spicy! Ay, caramba! I have a jalapeno face! Habanero kick! Very nice pepper and a great summer beer. Habanero fruit salad! Great spicy peppers! Some tropical fruit with peppers. I would love it with some grilled halibut or prawns.
NEXT FREE TASTING: Oregon Beer Growler’s Pale Ale Tasting 3-7 p.m. Saturday, May 7 at the Seven Feathers Casino Hammer N’Ales Brewfest in Canyonville.
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.