By Matthew Meador
For the Oregon Beer Growler
I was never the type of person to embrace New Year’s resolutions. Mostly, this was because I was too busy enjoying life to worry about pesky concerns like being healthy or living to a ripe old age. But part of it owed to me realizing that whatever I swore off would undoubtedly tempt me within a week of giving it up — and I’m not exactly known for saying no. Exercise was out simply due to the number of bars (where I enjoyed “regular” status) which lay between my house and the gym. Further, every time I joined a gym, I just paid the membership dues and rarely worked out — if I was going to spend my time celebrating, I might as well spend my money in the same manner, right?
Whatever my excuses, it was a long time ago and it’s too late now, anyway. There comes a point in paunchy middle age where you just say screw it and order another round. (Wait a minute — that happens in exuberant youth, too.)
Perhaps it’s fitting we examine six great Belgian-style brews this month. After all, most beers from the Low Countries have their roots in the cloistered discipline of centuries-old monastic communities. If you’re not going to commit to a life of respectable moderation, at least you can hoist a pint made by those who chose rigid restraint over hedonistic abandon. What better way to start a new year than by enjoying brews originally created by workers who’d taken vows of silence, poverty or chastity? While I’m pretty sure the Northwest brewmasters who produced January’s selections aren’t operating under any such restrictive oaths, they’ve nevertheless crafted some disciplined Belgians for our enthusiastic enjoyment.
Alesong Brewing & Blending: Dubbel, Eugene
7.1% ABV; 24 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Let the quiet calm of abbey life envelope you as you contemplate this deep amber-colored, Belgian-style dubbel in front of a crackling fire. Malty notes of dark fruit, caramel and cocoa punctuate the aroma while flavors of fruity and spicy Belgian yeast give way to a clean, medium-bodied finish.
Consumer Comments: Monastic roots notwithstanding, this month’s favorite might be described as a study in contrasts. With a low, but dense, head topping a mysterious amber murk, Alesong’s Dubbel presents an invitingly light nose of red fruit. Beautifully balanced, this brew is weighty enough to claim substance but light enough to seduce. Dubbel could be the archetype of Belgian brewing: clean, easy and sublimely beguiling. This is a gorgeous beer, but treat it with respect.
Evasion Brewing: Belgian Dark Strong, McMinnville
8.5% ABV; [Unavailable] IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This is our take on a traditional Belgian dark strong. It has lots of Belgian yeast characteristics such as clove, baking spice and dried fruit. The combination of darker crystal malts and traditional Belgian candi syrup provide a strong dark fruit profile that is classic Belgian. This beer comes off as a spiced banana bread. It’s also made with gluten-free ingredients; the base malt being millet, rice, oats and candi syrup. It’s unfiltered so as to not take out the flavors and aromas of the yeast.
Consumer Comments: Yes, yeast and clove mark its initial palate, but Evasion’s Belgian Dark Strong is perhaps more approachable than its name implies. Still, approachability doesn’t diminish character, and this brew manages to hold its own. With notes of seasonal fruit and spice, our panelists enjoyed this pint’s bitter strength and gentle assertiveness.
Ghostfish Brewing Company: Shrouded Summit Belgian White, Seattle (and sold throughout Oregon)
4.8% ABV; 20 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Tart and complex, yet smooth and thirst-quenching, this funky brew has a lot to offer. It’s a session beer at heart, designed for drinkability, but it’s built on an artful balancing act of some very unique ingredients: malted millet and buckwheat, orange peel, juniper berry, coriander seed and a fruity Belgian yeast. It makes an excellent crossover beer for cider fans!
Consumer Comments: Gluten-free doesn’t mean taste-free, as this beer deftly illustrates. Although a Washington-state brew, the Shrouded Summit Belgian White appeals to many Oregonians’ dietary needs while adhering to the Northwest standard for superior beer — plus the brewery’s ties to Oregon ensure it’s available statewide. This brew’s upbeat citrus fruit body defines its expressive character, making for a highly enjoyable regional Belgian.
Ordnance Brewing: 16 Quadruple Ale, Boardman
14.75% ABV; [Unavailable] IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This quadruple ale called 16 pays homage to our Belgian cousins who number their beers rather than naming them. Brewed on a leap year, 16 was aged in whiskey barrels for 16 months. The whiskey notes blended pleasantly with dark malt aromas to create a caramelized raisin flavor. Enjoy now … or in another 16 months.
Consumer Comments: A mahogany hue and gentle head usher in the wood-focused character of the 16 Quadruple Ale. This robust beer leads with whiskey and molasses — maybe pairing perfectly with flavorful partners like smoked meats or cheeses. Not for the weak-spirited, this brew commands measured deference. Be careful, chest-thumping may ensue!
Scout Beer: Syruptitious, Portland
10.0% ABV; 28 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This is a big, delicious Belgian waffle quad. Brewed with aromatic and CaraVienna malt, Syruptitious is the toasty, maple syrup-filled cornerstone of every balanced breakfast. We chose B45 Gnome yeast and finished the beer on toasted oak. What better way to start your day?
Consumer Comments: Hints of banana and warm cinnamon yield to the maple forests of Vermont as Syruptitious introduces itself. Yes, the maple character is palpable, but this pint also celebrates fruit and spice with aplomb. A well-balanced brew as quirky as it is affable, the Syruptitious perfectly captures the one-of-a-kind Oregon spirit.
Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery: Sebastian Cherry, Newberg
6.4% ABV; 19 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Tart and lush with mellow, pie spice-like notes, our Sebastian Cherry is a blend of several oak-aged Sebastian saisons refermented in the cask with local Montmorency cherries. Try it with any rich pork dish or even a ripe and aromatic blue cheese. Cheers!
Consumer Comments: Tart and lush is right! With its ruddy hue and fruit-bomb nose, Sebastian Cherry lives up to its name and then some. Exhibiting the expected boldness of a fruity sour beer, the ale demonstrates sour fruit and spice, our panelists stating it would pair well with the dense sweetness of cheesecake.
As we start 2018, ponder one observation: Oregonians tend to be mindful of moderation and healthy habits, but nothing illustrates our equal commitment to proper relaxation like our storied brewing scene. Curmudgeonly middle-aged beer columnists aside, most of us love where we live and we want to live responsibly enough to enjoy it. Fortunately, our regional breweries make it easy to celebrate everything that makes the Northwest so special!
By Matthew Meador
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Oregon is a quirky place. Long-established agrarian roots ensure plenty of rural charm, but the state is also home to one of the most laid-back urban areas in the nation. Framed by a breathtaking natural topography, Oregon is a land of great beauty, diverse people, geographic contrasts and even the occasional controversy. But Oregonians are known to discuss differences in an amiable manner, usually over a friendly pint. At least that’s the way I’ve always experienced it. Throughout the years, I’ve built a lot of good friendships from debates conducted over tables laden with empty pint glasses.
One matter of debate among brewers and beer aficionados alike is the International Bitterness Unit (IBU). Developed over a period of decades by a number of disparate parties, the American Society of Brewing Chemists collated and codified everything into the IBU scale, which has been adopted internationally. Simply put, the scale measures a brew’s iso-alpha acid isohumulone, assigning it a bitterness score ranging from zero to 100. Commonly accepted as the most accurate measure of a beer’s bitterness, the IBU scale is a good starting point for consumers, where a low IBU score indicates minimal bitterness and a high score the opposite. But that’s all it is: a place to start. Numerous other characteristics will affect a brew’s bitterness — flavors like malt, for example, serve to significantly diminish overall bitterness. Similarly, a “well-balanced” beer with high IBUs might taste less bitter than its score would suggest.
As we present eight excellent Oregon IPAs this month, keep in mind that IBU-rated bitterness can be relative. While all of these brews earned high IBU ratings, many are affected by other factors which alter the taster’s perceptions of bitterness. That’s why brewers are sometimes hesitant to publish IBU ratings — consumers can be over-reliant on the scale when selecting a six-pack. So grab a pint and have a look at its IBUs. But remember: the contents of your glass might not match your expectations if IBUs are your only consideration.
GoodLife Brewing: Descender IPA, Bend
7.0% ABV; 70 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Descender IPA is a big, true Northwest IPA mixed with some West Coast style. We balance the bitterness with the aromatics of the hops to make this a downright enjoyable IPA. Bottoms up!
Consumer Comments: Offering an inviting hue of natural clover honey, Descender IPA earned our tasting panel’s top marks. A classic IPA, the Descender’s soft-but-gently-assertive character is hoppy without being overbearing — an upbeat and ebullient beer! The Descender’s hop character introduces itself confidently before subsiding on the mid-palate only to return for a clean and lingering finish. Panelists described this refreshing brew as soft and well-balanced — a “take me anywhere” beer.
Burnside Brewing Company: Isomer IPA, Portland
8.0% ABV; 86 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: We converged in our lab and concocted a new IPA with the help of two of our very favorite subjects: Meridian and Ekuanot Hops. This substantial IPA drinks deceptively smooth while featuring flavors of ripe berries, bubblegum and melon.
Consumer Comments: With a fresh nose evoking a stroll through an apple orchard, the appropriately-named Isomer IPA is a complex brew with enthusiastic carbonation and earthy notes of apple and citrus. Hops are immediately evident, building to a crescendo before a long and clean finish. Our tasters suggested the Isomer is a perfect companion for watching a local baseball game.
Elk Horn Brewery: The Flying Hawaiian IPA, Eugene
6.2% ABV; 80 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: The Flying Hawaiian IPA is golden in color with a hoppy, fruity aroma. There’s big hop flavor up front complemented with a medium body and full hoppy-ness mid-palate. It finishes with a characteristic IPA lingering bitterness.
Consumer Comments: Offering a florally tropical nose, The Flying Hawaiian IPA tempts with its lively foam before hitting the taster upside the head with hop-happy enthusiasm. IPA aficionados will love this bright brew and may agree The Flying Hawaiian is built for summer celebrations on the patio.
Long Brewing: American-Style IPA, Newberg
6.2% ABV; [Unavailable] IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Six different whole hops and a complex malt base result in multiple layers of aroma and flavor that are well integrated and balanced in this beer. It’s dry hopped to bring out the freshest whole hop aromas and flavors. There are layers of citrusy, floral, perfume-like, resinous, piney, spicy and fruity character including grapefruit and passion fruit supported by the rich malt base. A long finish that is balanced with a firm, but restrained, bitterness.
Consumer Comments: The copper-tinted American-Style IPA leads with unashamed hops and spice, the brew’s bitter character skillfully overlaid with pine and grapefruit. Panelists decided this spirited brew would pair perfectly with summer’s favorite big meat dishes like grilled burgers or steaks. For a good time, call Long’s American-Style IPA!
Ordnance Brewing: FMJ IPA, Boardman
6.6% ABV; 53 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This fusion of New World hops and Old World malt create a Northwest/English IPA, and one of the highest caliber. We call it Full Metal Jacket. What does FMJ stand for to you?
Consumer Comments: A mahogany color and notes of tea on the nose — think kombucha — offer the first clues that FMJ IPA isn’t your typical pint. A bit of caramel, malt and rye coupled with a pleasant sour character confirm that the FMJ marches to the beat of its own drummer. This complex brew offers a delightful contrast between the boldness of an IPA and mellowness of a mead. Roundly favored by our panel, several labeled the FMJ a “creme brulee of beer.”
Rusty Truck Brewing Co.: Road Wrecker IPA, Lincoln City
7.0% ABV; 70 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Proceed with caution: Road Wrecker is a giant of an ale, with major bitter and aromatic hops, topping out in the vicinity of 7% ABV. A coppery malt body and plentiful hop character make for a classic Pacific Northwest-style IPA to satisfy the Hopmonger in all of us. Seatbelts recommended!
Consumer Comments: A beautifully balanced brew, Road Wrecker IPA is hoppy enough to please IPA lovers but easygoing enough to lure newbies. The Road Wrecker’s light amber color hints at a freshly confident body that’s as full as it is smooth. Panelists declared this the perfect pint for summer picnic fare.
Three Creeks Brewing: Crowdpleaser IPA, Sisters
7.3% ABV; 75 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Our New Wave IPA uses a simple malt bill in order to showcase the newest and trendiest hop varieties. This beer is golden hued and medium bodied with a huge pine and citrus aroma, courtesy of late kettle additions and a double dose of dry hops. Sometimes you just have to give the people what they want!
Consumer Comments: An assertive and classic IPA, Crowdpleaser exhibits traits IPA-lovers crave: citrus, pine and hops. But for a hop-foundational brew, the Crowdpleaser manages to be both assertive and well-mannered. Nicely balanced and smooth, this pint’s medium body tapers to a long and pleasing IPA finish.
Widmer Brothers Brewing: Upheaval IPA, Portland
7.0% ABV; 85 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: With more than 2 pounds of hops per barrel, Upheaval IPA unleashes a huge hop flavor and aroma with serious bitterness and balanced finish. Brewed with wheat, the result is a hazy, bold IPA that’s unfiltered. Unexpected. Unapologetic. Uncompromised.
Consumer Comments: Cheerful hops and a hint of apple blossoms say howdy when the Upheaval IPA is poured. This golden-hued brew offers up a frothy head, hinting at a full and lively hop-built body to follow. Panelists suggested pairing with pizza or pasta dishes, great for summer social gatherings. One taster described this brew as “A party in your mouth!”
If you live in Oregon, you know the state is beautiful and quirky, its people laid-back and friendly. Fittingly, Oregon’s craft brew industry and its fans are perfectly suited to engage in spirited debate over the pros and cons of using the IBU scale — all over a friendly pint or two, of course. And while we may never arrive at an ideal solution, at least we’ll have a little fun, maybe make a few friends and enjoy some outstanding brews while we try!
By Matthew Meador
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Oregon is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Having lived in two of the most populous metropolitan areas in the U.S., I am acutely aware of the stunning features found all around us. Multiple times I’ve returned from Southern California or Chicago to the gorgeous Oregon landscape, framed by picturesque mountains, lush forests, spring-fed lakes and a breathtaking ocean. Like any Oregonian, I realize all this beauty is hugely dependent on our famously unending rain. Still, after a particularly vengeful winter, I’m ready for a long and bright Oregon summer.
Like the landscapes of Oregon, pale ales span a broad spectrum, exhibiting many personalities and characteristics. Our panel enthusiastically embraced this month’s brews and experienced difficulty selecting a single winner. While Elk Horn Brewery snagged the top spot, several others were close behind — and all this month’s entries were enjoyable. The best way to savor an Oregon summer might be with an Oregon pale ale in hand!
Elk Horn Brewery Powder Horn Pale Ale, Eugene
6.9% ABV; 50 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Elk Horn’s Powder Horn Pale Ale uses a variety of caramel malts to impart a rich flavor and amber color, while liberal use of Cascade hops delivers a hoppy nose and assertive-but-balanced flavor from start to finish.
Consumer Comments: Powder Horn earned our panel’s highest marks and just barely edged out several others. This amber-hued ale with its frothy head is a lively brew, almost champagne-like in its enthusiasm. Powder Horn exhibits a floral fruitiness led by moderate hops. Just in time for summer, this brew might be the perfect pint for longer evenings spent outside. One panelist described it as a perfect “lake beer,” best enjoyed at your favorite getaway spot.
Hop Haus Brewing Dr. Bob’s Periodic Pale Ale, Gresham
5.8% ABV; 40 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A tribute beer to the late Dr. Bob, this American pale ale is true to the style, easy-drinking with a subtle malt backbone and smooth, balanced hop finish. It’s made with two-row, Crystal 40, aromatic and Victory malts as well as Chinook and Cascade hops. A perfect easy-drinking beer as we head into summer.
Consumer Comments: With a nose and appearance evocative of apple cider, Dr. Bob’s Periodic Pale Ale might be a bit heavier than its companions in this month’s tasting. Sure to please IPA lovers, this brew’s initial apple character gives way to a malt-and-hops theme on the mid-palate. Panelists liked this brew’s tartness and cleanly bitter finish. One taster exclaimed that the pint tastes better with each sip!
Mazama Brewing Tilikum Pale Ale, Corvallis
5.0% ABV; [Unavailable] IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This pale ale is light amber in color and has a moderate and caramel malt character. It has a smooth, yet firm, hop bitterness with pine, citrus and earthy characters coming forward.
Consumer Comments: Panelists loved the seductive floral nose of Tilikum. Along with its early floral theme, this bright amber brew offered hints of caramel and lemon on the palate before introducing hops. As the hops took the lead, Tilikum built to a quiet crescendo, like its IPA cousin, before subsiding.
McMenamins Edgefield Ekuanot Single-Hop Pale Ale, Troutdale
5.93% ABV; 38 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: We brewed this single hop pale ale to showcase Ekuanot hops in all their glory. A fairly new variety, you’ll notice hints of melon, orange, berry, pine and even fresh green pepper. We used most of these hops late in the boil and as dry hops in the fermenter, so while the aroma is all hops, hops and more hops, the flavor is only mildly bitter. Enjoy!
Consumer Comments: Hops and a hint of pineapple say hello when Ekuanot Single-Hop Pale Ale is pulled. Herbal, earthy and a little smoky, this pint resembles a Hefeweizen, but it’s all ale in the glass. Our tasters noted pine and a little nuttiness on the palate, all shepherded by surprisingly gentle hops. Panelists like the Ekuanot’s frothy head and declared it a perfect match for steaks or burgers right off the barbecue.
Ninkasi Brewing Company Pacific Rain Northwest Pale, Eugene
5.4% ABV; 50 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This flavorful Northwest pale ale starts with a balanced, malty sweetness that lays the groundwork for profiling some of the most alluring hops around. Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe and Nugget hop varieties offer a captivating experience with notes that are citrusy, tropical, floral and piney. A residual sweetness rounds out the hop, making each sip as smooth and refreshing as the last.
Consumer Comments: Like a roller coaster ride, the crisp Pacific Rain Northwest Pale starts out easy and offers a smooth finish — but in the center, this brew will give you a little excitement. Roasted hops and a bit of coffee present on the nose, followed by moderate hops and a brisk carbonation. Panelists suggested pairing with pasta dishes.
Ordnance Brewing RX Pale Ale, Boardman
5.6% ABV; 34 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Pouring a light straw color, this ale gets its spicy flavor from a healthy dose of rye malt. The rye spice combines nicely with a Citra and Mosaic aroma and presents a beer that is perfect for day’s end — be it after work or a long day of outdoor recreation.
Consumer Comments: Brassy and a little sassy, RX Pale Ale earned high marks for its inviting golden hue and lively carbonation. Panelists described this brew as the love child of an IPA and a lager, remarking on its hemp-like nose and hoppy personality. With no lingering bitterness beyond a clean finish, this blond brew is a great summer sipper!
pFriem Family Brewers Spring Pale Ale, Hood River
5.0% ABV; 40 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: If you’ve got spring fever, here’s a perfect way to cool off. pFriem’s Spring Pale Ale is rife with aromas of powdered sugar-covered strawberries and flavors of fresh-cut citrus and melon, with a gentle, spicy body that finishes dry and crisp. Embrace the season and the beer that goes with it!
Consumer Comments: Hoppy without being overbearing, Spring Pale Ale is — as its name implies — airy and refreshing. With a gentle citrus nose, this brew might be described as an IPA-lite. Using terms like easy-drinking and smooth, our tasters unanimously enjoyed this well-balanced brew. One panelist said the Spring Pale Ale tickled her tongue and all agreed this pint will pair well with almost any lighter summer fare.
Stickmen Brewing Company Paddle Board Pale Ale, Lake Oswego
5.2% ABV; 46 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A pungent pale ale brewed with Cascade, Centennial and Mosaic hops. Big aromas of citrus and tropical fruit with a piney finish.
Consumer Comments: A thick honey-tinged head and a hop-forward nose introduce Paddle Board. Panelists liked this brew’s bold nose, which gave way to surprisingly easy hops and spice on the palate. Our tasters suggested this pint will pair well with summer seafood like shrimp skewers or even sushi.
Two-Shy Brewing Everything is Awesome, Roseburg
5.0% ABV; 22 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Everything is Awesome is an easy-drinking, well-balanced rye pale ale — slightly sweet with a hint of rye and hop flavor. Great for those new to craft beer, very refreshing. “Tastes like sunshine.” Our top-selling beer for 2016.
Consumer Comments: With a gentle nose of hops, rye and oats, Everything is Awesome is a laid-back grain-themed brew with well-mannered hops along for the ride. Panelists noted suggestions of banana and nuts on the nose and early palate, but don’t worry — this is not a tropical beer. Our tasters enjoyed this brew’s gentle bitterness and easy finish.
If you’re like me, you’re eager for summer to arrive after an unpleasant winter. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the state, it’s fitting that so many excellent pale ales are produced right here, ready to help us get the most out of the warmer months. Here’s to a great summer — and some great Oregon brews!
By Matthew Meador
For the Oregon Beer Growler
I’m old enough to be a little jaded, maybe, but I’m fortunate to have grown up in a time when women were being welcomed into careers previously held mostly by men. Going to doctors’ appointments as a kid, my first physician was a woman. I worked for a woman who held flag rank in the U.S. Navy — a woman who’d earned the distinction of a flag flying from buildings, ships or cars she occupied, denoting the admiral’s shoulder boards she wore. Heck, even the two most effective nightclub bouncers I ever met were both fearless women! In a nod to this edition’s female focus, we raised our glasses to the confident and successful women of Oregon!
Ambacht Brewing: Golden Rose Farmhouse Ale, Hillsboro
6.5% ABV; 17 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Ambacht Golden Rose Farmhouse Ale is a fruit beer made with rose hips. The rose hips give the beer a unique tangy flavor that goes well with complex earthy dishes, such as barbecue or those made with beans.
Consumer Comments: Tied for first place with Ordnance’s offering, Ambacht’s Golden Rose is beautifully balanced and inviting. With a bit of rose hips on the nose, this brew presents a good head, a little citrus on the mid-palate along with the barest hints of nutmeg and anise. Panelists enjoyed Golden Rose’s easy drinkability and floral themes. Two tasters even described this brew “like a pleasant walk through a rose garden.”
Ordnance Brewing: Bloops Blueberry Wheat, Boardman
4.6% ABV; 21 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Brewed with blueberries from our local farms, Bloops is a balanced wheat beer with just enough blueberry aroma and flavor to provide something delicious without being sweet and overly fruity.
Consumer Comments: Along with Ambacht’s entry, Ordnance’s Bloops earned our panel’s top honors this month. A heady brew, the Bloops tempts with — surprise! — hints of candied blueberry on the nose and immediate palate, introducing a bit of honey before a clean, mineral finish. Well-balanced and affable, panelists described this entry as an ideal all-occasion beer, perfect for summer sun.
Hop Haus: Fruit Fly Triple Berry Wheat, Gresham
5.0% ABV; 28 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This is an amber to red colored slightly malty wheat ale with a smooth and mildly sweet berry finish. The triple blend of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries is added at the end of the boil, which provides some pectin haze. Willamette hops are added to balance out and complement the wheat.
Consumer Comments: Hops and berry announce Fruit Fly Triple Berry Wheat — and the hoppy character won’t overstay its welcome. A notable citrus element takes charge on the mid-palate and panelists agreed — we tried it! — this brew works well served with a small orange wedge. Our tasters thought this beer would be a perfect companion on a summer evening, relaxing by the pool.
Mazama Brewing: Rasplendent, Corvallis
5.0% ABV; [Unavailable] IBUs
Brewer’s Description: What could be more refreshing for a summer beer 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. Rasplendent has also racked up several awards, including Silver Medal at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival, Gold Medal at 2016 Best of Craft Beer Awards and Silver Medal at 2017 Best of Craft Beer Awards.
Consumer Comments: With its color of rose wine and a lively carbonation, Rasplendent might be called a wine-lover’s brew. With notes of raspberry, cranberry and pie cherries, the beer’s bold fruit character is both inviting and refreshing. Panelists agreed this brew has surprising appeal for both beer lovers and those who might prefer wine.
McMenamins: Never Surrender Cherry Chocolate Stout, Portland
6.4% ABV; 17 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Inspired by two Yorkshire institutions: Samuel Smith’s Brewery and heavy metal legends Saxon. Comprised of mostly British malts, this beer boasts dark, blissful flavors from 42 pounds of Oregon Fruit Products’ cherry puree and 10 pounds of cocoa nibs from Meridian Cacao.
Consumer Comments: Probably my personal favorite of the fruit brews, Never Surrender Cherry Chocolate Stout features broad coffee appeal along with chocolate, cherry and maybe a shred of chicory. With tongue-in-cheek good humor, our panel labeled the Never Surrender a perfect “breakfast brew.”
Ninkasi Brewing Company: Hop Cooler Citrus IPA, Eugene
7.2% ABV; 74 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Bright and tropical, this IPA brilliantly layers a citrusy blend of orange and tangerine with a robust hop profile. Crafted with real citrus and packed with as much flavor as a hop cooler, you won’t be able to stop at just one sip of this fresh and fruity beer.
Consumer Comments: Presenting the inviting hue of honey, Hop Cooler offers a very fresh nose of hops — distinct without being overpowering. Pineapple gives way to citrus on the mid-palate before a satisfyingly long finish. Like its name suggests, the Hop Cooler is a perfect fruit IPA.
Two Shy Brewing: Not-So Peache, Roseburg
6.2% ABV; 30 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This is a natural sour brewed with 100 pounds of local peaches and aged in barrels. Peach, complex Brett, sour, clean finish.
Consumer Comments: A spritely effervescence introduces the sparkling peach saison/sour from Two Shy. With notes of apple and a hint of cinnamon, panelists described this brew as invitingly “sour, like a cider but bright, like a champagne.” Easy on the palate without sacrificing flavor, this upbeat brew is a great one to enjoy while celebrating!
By sheer coincidence, this month’s panel consisted of twice the number of women than men. While I recognize the equality of palates, I will say the input I get from female panelists is far more expressive than that from male. So, here’s to you, beer-loving women! We couldn’t print Super Brews without you!
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Here’s the conundrum I offered as conversation to a handful of party stragglers sipping the last of their brews around a solstice campfire: This will be the fourth, maybe fifth year I’ve written up the results of our Oregon IPA tastings. Surely by now, I say, everyone knows the India story — that English colonizers living in that faraway place, thirsty for their ales, packed their barrels with preservative hops to get the beer to India so it wouldn’t spoil along the way.
Or, do they? One person tells the tale of a beer server in Portland who suggested that IPAs were actually invented there. We all snickered, arrogant in our superior knowledge of beer. Did the fool not notice the name refers to India pale ales?
Someone suggested: “Why didn’t they name it Portland pale ale if this hoppy beverage were actually invented in Portland?”
“Because nobody wanted to order a “Pee-Pee A,” delivered Kate, ever the one-line queen.
Ba-dum-bum. Cheers all around.
Here are some of our consumer tasters’ favorite Oregon IPAs:
Ordnance Full Metal Jacket, Boardman 6.6% ABV; 53 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Western Europe meets West Coast in this quaffable IPA. A fusion of New-World hops are held up with a malty backbone reminiscent of a maltier English-style pale.
Consumer Comments: Floral, malty and thick. Citrusy, floral, nice smell, slightly piney. Strong bitterness but not too much, with a nice balance. Molasses. Easy drinking. Flavorage! Flowery smooth flavor. Sunny hop delight! Lightly floral and malty.
StormBreaker Handful of Hops V. 3.0, Portland 6.8 % ABV; 78 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: V. 3.0 of this experimental IPA series has aromas of mango, citrus and pine. Hoppy finish blends nicely as the slightly sweet fruitiness and characteristics of orange
citrus and pine find their way across the palate.
Consumer Comments: Hop in the sun for some of this fun! Fruity and sweet and a little bitter. A light citrus flavor and a smooth ending. Floral with a nice balance of bitter and sweet. Nice head. A bit tart. I love the citrus notes. Easy drinking. Crisp backbone.
Widmer Upheaval IPA, Portland 7% ABV; 55 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This IPA has more than two pounds of hops per barrel, unleashing a huge hop flavor and aroma with serious bitterness and a balanced finish. Brewed with wheat, the result is a hazy, bold IPA that’s unfiltered. Hops: Alchemy, Simcoe, Chinook, Willamette, Brewers Gold, Nelson Sauvin.
Consumer Comments: Piney, citrus, hoppy goodness. Sweet and smooth. Lemony hints. Spicy aftertaste with a little bite. Malty, sweet, easy drinking. Sticks to your tongue! Pleasant drink. Refreshing. Mowing the lawn IPA.
Full Sail Classic IPA, Hood River 6% ABV; 60 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This Northwest-style IPA is generously hopped with Centennials from the Yakima Valley and brewed in the classic style with two-row Pale and Crystal malt. It has a full, malty body and a hint of fresh citrus. Perfect after your favorite water sport, even if that happens to be the grueling drag-the-poolside-lounge-chair-into-the-sun event.
Consumer Comments: Light and refreshing. Bubbly fun. Flavorful, nice crisp taste. Very good, balanced and good summer fun. Smooth drinking and easy flavor to savor. Citrusy and herbal, quaffable and simple. A good go-to beer.
Hop Haus Genie In A Bottle, Gresham 5.7% ABV; 70 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A well-respected Northwest-style IPA. It’s smooth drinking with a late hop addition. This medium-bodied, palate-pleasing beer is definitely something you’d ask for in
one of your three wishes!
Consumer Comments: Well-rounded, balanced, enjoyable. Zippy. Some pine and citrus. Nice! My favorite! Very easy drinking. Great beer. Very simple, which is nice. Pool party beer. Summertime fun beer.
Big Horse Paragon, Hood River 6.4% ABV; 65 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: The Paragon is a light and bright summer IPA. Made with a blend of Amarillo, Centennial and Azacca hops, the Paragon pops with fresh citrus flavors of candied mandarin orange and subtle flavors of star anise.
Consumer Comments: Subdued flavor and not too intense. Sweeter with a floral aftertaste. A food one for a spring day when the sun is out, but still cold. Nutty. Licorice? Nice level of bitterness. Great color, light, dandelion notes, good spring beer.
Hopworks Pig War, Portland 6% ABV; 60 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Organic Hard Red Spring Wheat grown on Twin Oaks Farm on San Juan Island imparts tart flavors, medium body and signature wheat cloudiness. Pig War refers to the 1859 standoff between American and British authorities over San Juan Island. The only casualty of this 15-year standoff was one wayward pig.
Consumer Comments: Refreshing. Great for a summer picnic. I wouldn’t hate myself for drinking too much of this. Flavor on the palate jumps like a kangaroo with hops in its pouch. The hops are very unique. Wonderful flavor. Would be nice with a burger. Real citrus flavor. A very pleasant beer.
Silver Moon IPA 97, Bend 7% ABV; 75 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Packs a punch with bold tropical fruit and citrus zest flavors, creating a light pine aroma.
Consumer Comments: Sound sipping with a Sitka spruce. Fruity body with a warm, hoppy after flavor. Perfect for a hot day on the river. Good and fresh tasting. Floral and slightly sweet. Would go great with Chinese food. Fantastic. The hop notes are spot on. Roasty, but light.
McMenamins Hillsdale IPA, Portland 7% ABV; 100 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: The Hillsdale IPA greets your nose with the pungent, grassy aromas of Mosaic and Citra hops. A simple grain bill keeps the beer light in color and body, as sweet malts were excluded to avoid overshadowing any hop flavors. The name pays homage to the very first McMenamins brewery, opened more than 30 years ago.
Consumer Comments: Is it rude to ask for the recipe? Good basic IPA. Keep this one around for guests who love IPAs. Light and delicious.
pFriem IPA, Hood River 7.2% ABV; 65 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: When the first pale ales arrived in India in the early 18th century, outcries of “Zounds!” “Jolly good!” and “Huzzah!” were heard across the East Indian subcontinent. Expect the same exclamations when sniffing the piney aroma and tasting the big hops, huge citrus and candy-like malt.
Consumer Comments: The champagne of IPAs. Very good. Get me some curry. Great flavor. Smells like tropical fruit. Golden delicious. Candy with a bitter back. Long-lasting hoppy taste, coats my tongue.
Sunriver Vicious Mosquito, Sunriver 7% ABV; 70 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: The Sunriver Brewing Company’s flagship uses heavy handfuls of the finest Northwest hops (Warrior, Cascade, Centennial, Columbus and Simcoe), which define this pungent, resinous brew. This hop attack comes at you like the vicious mosquitos at our nearby Cascade Mountains.
Consumer Comments: Bitter like my sister-in-law after the divorce, but in a good way. Classic IPA with a nice balance. Easy drinking. Good taste with no lingering aftertaste. Yes! Light and refreshing. Great smell.
Portland Brewing and Double Mountain Subcontinental IPA, Portland/Hood River 7% ABV
Brewer’s Description: Brewed for Portland Beer Week, these two brewing giants collaborated on an IPA with pepper, cardamom, clove, cumin and saffron.
Consumer Comments: No way. Anise? This is Christmas on my tongue! It’s like running through a clover field on a beautiful summer day. Very good. Hint of cloves or some other spice. Low bitterness. Santa’s workshop IPA.
Wild Ride Electri-Fly, Redmond 6.3% ABV; 65 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Prepare to lift off and experience an IPA that showcases a blend of premium two-row and honey malts, which lay a perfect perch for the addition of hops. Flown in from the Southern Hemisphere, the unique hops give this beer a pleasant flavor and the aroma of
Consumer Comments: Floral aroma. Pine cones. Slight butterscotch. Good and smooth. Smooth and fruity and not too bitter.
NEXT FREE TASTING: Oregon Beer Growler’s Canned Beer Tasting 2 p.m. Saturday, July 9 at F.H. Steinbart Co., 234 SE 12th Ave., Portland
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
On a recent day when the mercury hit the 80s, I was standing in my booth serving tastes of Oregon’s pale ales to thirsty visitors at the Hammer N’Ales Brewfest fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity in Canyonville. Pale ales are the perfect beer for a hot day — a great Oregon refresher.
In addition to fests, how about a pale ale on a lake after the cast, on the bank of a river after floating the rapids, behind a lawnmower, after weeding the garden or on your shady porch watching the neighbors sweat it out in their yards. They’re not too strong (official range is from 4.5 to 6.0 percent ABV), so you can drink them for a happy session. Also, pale ales tend to be less hoppy than the India pale ale, so your tongue may be less tarred after a few beers. Pale ale hoppiness usually ranges from 30-45 IBUs, according Beer Judge Certification Program standards. Oregon pales are a bit hoppier, but mildly fragrant and fresh. This popular English style landed in the New World with a hearty “huzzah,” and is ours now.
Here are the Oregon pale ales chosen as favorites in the blind tasting by visitors to the festival:
Vertigo: Closer Pale Ale, Hillsboro 5.3% ABV; 55 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This ale gets its light copper color from 120 and 60L caramel malts. Magnum and Amarillo hops added for bittering, flavor and aroma give this beer a balanced profile.
Consumer Comments: Smooth, crisp and slightly hoppy. I could be happy with this one because I don’t like overly hopped beers. Great floral flavor. Made my mouth feel like a velvet slipper dipped in rosewater and lemon rind. Crisp, dry, firm bitterness. A beer for beer drinkers. Great for a long afternoon barbecue. Light, nice and bright. Nice summer beer.
Ordnance: RX Pale Ale, Boardman 5.6% ABV; 32 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Pouring a light straw color, this ale gets its spicy flavor from a healthy dose of rye malt. The rye spice combines nicely with Citra and Mosaic hop aromas to create a beer that is perfect for day's end, be it after work or a long day of outdoor pursuits.
Consumer Comments: Light, interesting, mild fruity hop flavor. Hoppy! Nose outstanding. Taste is OMG. Drama in my mouth. Well done! Very nice and exceptionally smooth, and not bitter. Clean and refreshing. Dry. I need to figure out how to get a keg of this into my RV. Light and crisp.
Rogue: Pendleton Pale Ale, Newport 5.2% ABV; 30 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A light, refreshing pale ale brewed with hops and malts grown on Rogue Farms, including Rogue Farms Risk, 2-Row, Sacchra 50 and Dextra Pils Malts; Delta and Rogue Farms Alluvial and Rebel hops.
Consumer Comments: Malty highlights. Crisp and clean taste. Easy drinking. Get out the fried chicken, we’re taking this one on a picnic. Better than most. Light hop and clean taste. Refreshing! Fruity!
Laurelwood: Piston Pale Ale, Portland 5.8% ABV; 37 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Our seasonal pale is the Northwest interpretation of a classic British style, which essentially means — yup, you guessed it — more hops! We have updated our recipe to please the palates of our current crowd of beer drinkers. Expect refreshing citrus hop flavors and aromas.
Consumer Comments: My perfect pale ale. Drinkable and refreshing. Love the floral notes. Hoppier and hoppier! Dude! Smells like killer bud. Hint of sugar and spice. Eat it with simple carbs and cheese. Piney. Nice hop notes. Great aroma — a real winner. Fruit. A drink for a sunny day. Take it to the cabin and drink it in front of the fire.
Big Horse; Badfish, Hood River 5.5% ABV; 45 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Blond-colored pale with intense hop flavors of tropical citrus and pine. Finishes dry without a harsh lingering bitterness.
Consumer Comments: Well-balanced hops and malt, great drinkability. Not as hoppy as the others. Burst of flowers. Put me in the rose garden. Subtle almost lager-ish mellowness with a satisfying bitter accent. Clean and fresh. Crisp and dry. Best one so far. Nice blend of bitter flavors. Pale ale, as it should be. Not too hoppy, not too light. I loved this beer.
Arch Rock: Pistol River Pale, Gold Beach 6.0% ABV; N/A IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This recent gold medal winner is robustly dry-hopped, giving way to the intense hoppy aroma and flavor. Subtle bitterness and drinkability set this beer apart. Its resinous, citrusy and fruity character comes from CTZ, Chinook, Nugget and Centennial hops. Even with the hop-forward flavor of this beer, it’s well balanced with medium bitterness.
Consumer Comments: Intense flavor for a pale. All about the hops. Bold and strong flavor. Beautiful nose, almost Donald Trump arrogant bitterness presentation. Well played! Sweet up front — hop party in the back. Solid and easy drinking. Good flavor.
Hop Haus: Dr. Bob's Periodic Pale Ale, Gresham 5.8 % ABV; 40 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A tribute beer to the late Dr. Bob, this pale ale is true to the style — easy drinking with a subtle malt backbone and smooth balanced hop finish. Made with 2-row, C40, aromatic and Victory malts; Chinook and Cascade hops.
Consumer Comments: Perfect amount of hoppiness. Yes! I’d share this one with my friends. I like this like sunshine. Subtle nose. I would date this beer! Goes down well with a little bitterness on the aftertaste. Tasty! A good all-around beer that could be a staple for the ‘fridge.
NEXT FREE TASTING: Oregon Beer Growler’s IPA Tasting 2 p.m. Saturday, June 18 at F.H. Steinbart Co., 234 SE 12th, Portland.
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.
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Defining an Oregon stout is like trying to define art. Both are defined in the eyes, or tongue, of the beholder. As a result, the variety of art and stouts in Oregon is endless. Therefore, it is fitting that the Oregon Beer Growler’s annual stout blind tasting was at an art center, Frame Central Macadam in Portland, and that the tasters were interspersed with those who came to see artist Ron Pomeroy’s “BeerColors” show of art that uses beer and paint.
Although stouts were traditionally the term for the stoutest or strongest porters beginning in the 1700s, the written references to “stout” actually preceded porters by nearly 50 years to indicate a strong beer, no matter the color. According to 1700s criteria, most Oregon beers are “stouts.” But I digress.
Eventually, as porters lost favor and pale ales and lagers rose in popularity, stouts took over as a catchall name for dark beers made with roasted malts and barleys, usually weighing in stronger than most lagers and ales. Today, stouts have returned, bringing with them the international varieties that have been made for hundreds of years. Russian imperial stouts, dry Irish stouts, English and Belgian stouts, even oyster, milk and oatmeal stouts have found their way into Oregon craft breweries.
You wouldn’t have guessed from the crowd that gathered last month to taste stouts, but less than 50 years ago, there weren’t many breweries left making stouts in the world. Now, it’s a rare brewery here that doesn’t have one on tap year-round.
And in case you try all of the stouts below and still can’t find one you like, keep trying! Stouts can range from bitter to sweet, tan to black, dry to milky. There’s one out there for you!
Our tasters, who sampled each stout “blind,” chose the following Oregon stouts as their favorites.
Stickmen: Does A Body Good, Lake Oswego 6.7% ABV, 19 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This milk stout is brimming with big notes of bittersweet chocolate and mild roastiness. On the dry side for the style — keeps it far from cloyingly sweet.
Consumer Comments: Light and tasty. Nutty, smoky and a hint of beef jerky. Very smooth, great flavor with a mild aftertaste. Slight sharp finish. Mildly pleasant. Coffee, tobacco and chocolate.
Ordnance: Blackfisk Imperial Stout, Boardman 9.5% ABV, 58 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This imperial octopus ink stout is not one to be taken lightly. This stout boasts a full body that coats your mouth with every sip. Malt sweetness counters the heavy roasted grains perfectly, making this imperial stout surprisingly drinkable.
Consumer Comments: Slow-sipping after dinner beer. This beer was fantastic for me. A good beer to finish on. An after-dinner, bittersweet chocolate fix.
Pelican: Tsunami Stout, Tillamook 7% ABV, 45 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Midnight dark color and rich dark-roasted aroma created by Magnum and Willamette hops combined with unmalted barley and roasted malts. Full-bodied, dense, creamy head and espresso-like finish.
Consumer Comments: Mellow and dark with a smooth finish. Notes of chocolate. Smooth at the front. Tangy, citrusy, light and minty. Coffee flavor. I can taste the hops!
Elk Horn: Nutella Stout, Eugene 6% ABV, 30 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This stout includes flavors that occur in Nutella, a popular spread made from hazelnuts and chocolate.
Consumer Comments: Would be a great dessert beer, like a float. First thing I thought was ‘Cookie!’ Dark with a hazelnut, nutty flavor. Yum. Order it for dessert. Smooth chocolate and hazelnut. After-dinner drink. Great! My favorite!
Baerlic: Noble Oatmeal Stout, Portland 6.2% ABV, 60 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A dense, chestnut head floats atop rich aromas of cocoa and shortbread that unfold into a full body of milk chocolate and coffee. Brewed with Bob's Red Mill rolled oats for a luxurious texture.
Consumer Comments: Sweet, but balanced. Rich and loaded with flavor. Dark, bittersweet and chocolaty. Breakfast beer! Wakes you up, but not too alcoholic.
Natian: Cease & Desist Imperial Milk Stout, Portland 9.2% ABV, N/A IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Formerly named McGuinness (after the owner), but asked to cease and desist by the similarly-named brewery, this stout now has a different name, but maintains the same great flavor. Aged on Kahlua-soaked oak.
Consumer Comments: Dark chocolate with slight bitterness, cherry undertones. Dry. Very good. A real stout! Smooth and perfect lingering flavor. I would definitely order a pint and sit by the fire with this. This would go great with bacon. Smooth and smoky.
Worthy: Lights Out Stout, Bend 7.7% ABV, 30 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A vanilla cream extra stout with vanilla beans and milk sugar added. When coffee and chocolate cravings call, this is your answer. Smooth, creamy, rich, sinful and sip-worthy.
Consumer Comments: Sweet and caramel. I’m thinking vanilla latte with a splash of something-something. Lighter-bodied stout with a sweet finish. This would be good with ice cream.
Hopworks: Motherland Russian Imperial Stout, Portland 9.8% ABV, 60 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Rich and smooth, black as a Siberian winter night, but warming enough to weather it. Anise and cherry aromas mingle with bittersweet chocolate flavors. Warming, spicy finish.
Consumer Comments: Very strong. I think I could only drink one! Big, bold brew brightens bad days! Nibbles at your cheeks. Oh, yeah that’s lighting my fire all the way down.
Fort George: Bourbon Barrel Cavatica Stout, Astoria 9.9% ABV, N/A IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Aged in Kentucky’s Willett Distillery bourbon barrels. The brewers dutifully filled each one with rich, dark Cavatica Stout and aged them until the brewers determined it was time. Pours jet black with a lacy caramel head. Strong, welcoming aroma of bourbon and roasted barley and a lingering warmness.
Consumer Comments: Layers upon layers! Delicious flavor in this stout. Would be my go-to on any night I’m looking to make my mouth happy.
The next consumer tasting will feature Oregon Double IPAs (IIPAs) at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6, at F.H. Steinbart Co., 234 SE 12th Ave., Portland.
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Porter is a complicated beer, but drinking it is really easy. Porter was one of England’s first beers blended in the 1700s to please consumer tastes, first in pubs and later in breweries. Although accounts vary, publicans blended various amounts of the regular brown ale, young beers and stronger aged ales or sour beers according to consumer tastes. The blends became so popular that breweries began producing aging and then pre-mixing them before sending them off to the pubs as “porters.” Before porters, beer aging had been done in the pubs.
For more than a century, porters were the drink of choice in England in the 1700s and 1800s, finding fans in Russia and the Baltic countries and eventually in America. Wherever they went, brewers adapted the style to regional tastes. Stouts, by the way, began as shortened monikers for “porter stouts,” the stronger version of porters.
In America, porters and stouts enjoyed a popular following, with the name “porter” falling off in the early 1900s in favor of stouts, and then completely disappearing during and after Prohibition.
But obviously, that’s not the end of the story.
A few experimental Western U.S. breweries began brewing porters again as early as the 1970s and several British breweries also revived the style. Today, dozens of Oregon breweries produce porters seasonally.
Is there any difference between porters and stouts? Yes, and no.
According to BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program), there are three kinds of porters: brown porter, robust porter and Baltic porter. Porters are described as more malty and full-bodied than stouts, but alcohol content, top or bottom fermentation and color can be the same for both a porter or a stout.
In Oregon, the dark palette of the porter invites as much experimentation as pale ales, prompting vanilla, chocolate, coffee, coconut and, of course, hop additions to the mix.
My advice? Forget the complicated history that brings this delicious style to our shores and enjoy your porter for what it is.
Following are a few Oregon porters recommended by the participants in our monthly blind tasting:
Deschutes: Black Butte Porter, Bend 5.2 percent ABV, 30 IBUs
Brewery Description: An extremely smooth and drinkable porter with notes of rich chocolate and coffee, a luscious creaminess and a roasted finish. Cascade, Bravo and Tettnang hops with chocolate malt.
Consumer Comments: Complex flavors; best of the bunch. Multiple flavors, you just gotta love it. Bright and refreshing. Is there such a thing as a lawnmower porter? It’s this one. This is the best! Could drink this anytime. Malty without overt sweetness. Tastes the way a porter should taste. Outstanding. Bananas, cola, smooth and creamy.
Hop Haus: Cocos Nucifera Porter, Gresham 5.5 percent ABV, 34 IBUs
Brewery Description: Creamy mocha head. Coconut flavor doesn’t overpower. Hints of cocoa and coffee with a creamy finish.
Consumer Comments: Intense, great with Indian food. Nice and sweet. Rich and creamy; a night by the fire. Nutty, smooth. A comfort on a rainy evening. Interesting taste: sweet but not chocolate. Sweet notes. Simple and tasty. A delicious breakfast beer.
Rogue: Mocha Porter, Newport 5.3 percent ABV, 54 IBUs
Brewery Description: Ruddy brown in color, a bittersweet balance of malt and hops with a light cream finish.
Consumer Comments: Lively, sparkling. I’m waking up with this one! The perfect afternoon delight. Crisp and smooth. I could drink five of these. Refreshing. Crisp and good.
Ordnance: Of Chimpanzees Porter, Boardman 5.3 percent ABV, 27 IBUs
Brewery Description: This full-bodied porter showcases locally roasted coffee from Home Town Coffee Roasters. Tasty any time of day.
Consumer Comments: Well-crafted coffee notes. Bitter in the best ways possible — not like writing my alimony check each month. Light coffee and malt flavors. Good coffee flavor.
Silver Moon: Snake Bite Porter, Bend 5.5 percent ABV, 40 IBUs
Brewery Description: A robust porter, Snake Bite continues to win awards with its rich and creamy body, English hops to blend with the toasted malt bitterness and a deep chocolate finish.
Consumer Comments: Light and bright. A little flowery effect. This one would be good with a meal. Nice and balanced. A winner: smooth, crisp and complex. Unique. Enjoying this — toasted marshmallows.
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Saying you love pale ales is like saying you love beer. But of course you love at least one rendition of this versatile style. An American pale ale might be a blond, a red or amber, an India pale ale or even a farmhouse ale. Almost anything made predominantly with grains that have been dry roasted to a pale-colored malt is a pale ale, even if added grains make it dark.
Most pale ales have British roots, but Oregon brewers graft those roots with delicious oddities. Where British pale ales might feature European malts, hops and yeasts, American pale ales feature American-grown hops, two-row malt and fewer yeasty flavors. In the Oregon favorites listed below, rye malt, orange peel and a variety of hops are featured on the smooth canvas of the pale ale.
This month’s consumer tasting was staged during the annual Big Brew Day at F.H. Steinbart Co. homebrew supply shop. While their beers brewed in the sunny Portland parking lot, homebrewers dropped by to sample Oregon pale ales donated by commercial brewers.
Ordnance: RX Pale Ale, Boardman 5.6 percent ABV, 34 IBUs
Brewer Description: Pouring a light straw color, this extra pale ale gets its spicy flavor from a healthy dose of rye malt. The rye spice combines nicely with Citra and Mosaic hops to bring you a beer that is just what the doctor ordered.
Consumer Comments: How good is that? Lingering hoppiness. Happiness. Spicy and light. Balanced backbones. Solid. Slight Nelson. Earthy and piney. Drinking this on a hike through Forest Park. Juniper?
Elk Horn: Protestant Pale Ale, Eugene 6 percent ABV, 40 IBUs
Brewer Description: A light-bodied pale for the warm summer daze. Brewed with Summit, Cascade and Amarillo hops.
Consumer Comments: The perfect summer beer. Floral and hoppy. Strong. Smooth, light and easy summer beer. Fruity and floral. Mango sweet and not too bitter. A great beer for people who don’t like IPA. Full Nelson. Nice sweetness. Dry finish. Less bitter.
Hopworks: IPX Mt. Hood Single Hop Ale, Portland 6 percent ABV, 60 IBUs
Brewer Description: This single-hop ale series highlights signature aromas and flavors of specific hop varieties that are further multiplied through our unique dry hop process. Geek out on the signature nuances. Known for clean bittering and mild aromas, the Salmon-Safe Certified Mt. Hood hop was used in this IPX beer.
Consumer Comments: Nutty! Nutty, smoky good. Refreshing! Fruity! Is that a noble hop flavor? Balanced and clean. A super session beer. Fruit -- are those oranges? Way too easy to drink -- can I have more?
Columbia River: CRB Pale Ale, Portland 6.5 percent ABV, 52 IBUs
Brewer Description: A very well-balanced strong Northwest-style pale ale with refreshing and hoppy characteristics all supported by the correct amount of malt. Light in color -- big in taste!
Consumer Comments: Fruity and smooth. I liked how it went down, from my tongue to my belly. Spicy, herbal, light and hoppy. Good head! Grapefruit. Nicely rounded. Best so far. A bouquet of hoppy goodness. Great hop nose and wonderful balance. Zesty. English?
13 Virtues: You Down With OPP?, Portland 5.0% ABV, 40 IBUs
Brewer Description: Are YOU down with our orange peel pale ale? The name says it all -- we've combined the zest of sweet orange peel in a hoppy Pacific Northwest pale ale. This beer is easy drinking, finishes dry and has great orange-citrus flavor.
Consumer Comments: Sweeter. Very smooth. Sweet and slightly hoppy. Good balance. Fruit and pine. I can taste the hops, too. Really good. Light hops and solid flavor. Light as a summer day.
Stormbreaker: Right as Rain Pale Ale, Portland 5.6 percent ABV, 36 IBUs
Brewer Description: We set out to make our pale ale a pale ale, and not a baby IPA. It’s crisp and easy drinking with mild herbal, floral and citrus notes. The wort is hopped with U.S. Goldings, Centennial and Summer hops, which lends a smoother, less harsh bitterness for a clean finish that is indeed “right as rain.”
Consumer Comments: Lager-y finish. Skunky, in a good way. Hoppiest by far. Great pine bitterness. Run me up a pine tree and call me “beer.” Is it saison or farmhouse beer or is it just good? I like this taste. This is my favorite.
Ninkasi: Spring Reign, Eugene 6 percent ABV, 38 IBUs
Brewer Description: A lightly toasted British-style malt flavor balanced by bright Northwest-style hops. Spring forward with this refreshing seasonal ale. Notes of toasted malt up front, with a bright and crisp Northwest hop finish. It’s a session beer that everyone can enjoy!
Consumer Comments: Hoppy! Smooth, light and very nice. Malty. Good, sharp hop finish. Very nice balance. Sessionable, great beer. Second flavor wave, good! Simple and delicious. Pleasant fruit aroma. Smooth finish. Golden flowers and ocean spray.
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.