By Matthew Meador
For the Oregon Beer Growler
As I write this column, it’s late and I just returned from a fundraising dinner for a local nonprofit organization. Held in a ballroom, this formal event featured all the hallmarks of a well-staged banquet: live entertainment, good food, beer and wine, auction items. But since this all took place in Oregon, maybe it was a bit smoother than it might have been elsewhere.
In Oregon, we’re laid-back and we do things a little differently — including how we attend formal banquets. While some guests wore tailored suits and evening gowns, an equal number were clad in khakis and flannel shirts. I saw elected officials, business owners, physicians and lawyers who belonged in both dress camps. And the great thing? It was totally fine. Nobody cared. It struck me that, in addition to all the unique and quirky characteristics Oregon is known for, the best might be our ability to just chill. In other places, people may have felt over- or under-dressed, but not here. I love that about Oregon.
Every fall, when football season comes around, the storied rivalry between Oregon and Oregon State highlights our chill-ability like almost nothing else. Since I count friends of both the Beaver and Duck varieties, each year the good-natured ribbing and pranking that accompanies the Civil War game causes me to marvel. Duels of this sort occur all over the country, but not with the grace and good humor we exhibit here.
So here’s to Oregon (the state at large, not the school — wouldn’t want to show bias, after all). And here are four great Oregon tailgating brews to fill your raised glass!
Elk Horn Brewery: Vindeglas, Eugene
6.4% ABV; 65 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Fresh-squeezed Mosaic hops, picked right from the bines and tossed into the kettle, provide a juicy citrus and grapefruit flavor profile for this seasonal fresh-hopped IPA.
Consumer Comments: Notes of sweet, citrusy grapefruit and a little pineapple introduce the immensely refreshing Vindeglas from Elk Horn. While Vindeglas won the title from our tasting panel this month, we’re not sure it’s a predictor of the game. But it’s a well-balanced and clean brew, from start to finish. True to its nose, the easy-drinking Vindeglas is hop-focused without being obnoxious. Well done, Elkhorn!
Burnside Brewing Company: Couch Select Lager, Portland
5.0% ABV; 18 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This is a helles-style lager brewed with quality pilsner malt, German Tettnanger hops and fermented with the Bohemian Lager yeast strain. Cold fermentation produces a nice crispy snap to a beautiful malt flavor and subtle hop presence. It’s best drank in large quantities accompanied by a cheeseburger. Helles yeah! Burnside Lager, unlike other Burnside Beers, is filtered. Our new high-tech filter allows us to polish this traditional style to create a bright brew with a crisp finish to style. Prost!
Consumer Comments: If you’re tailgating, Couch Select Lager might be the perfect brew to take along. Honest and straightforward, this lively brew’s notes of green apple and easy hops are respectful to the palate. Our tasters uniformly stated this beer took them right back to their college days. Beer pong anyone?
Climate City Brewing Company: Hot Shot Smoked Helles, Grants Pass
5.1% ABV; 28 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This is a very pale, light lager hailing from Germany — but with a twist. There’s just enough cherry wood-smoked malt and hand-toasted cherry wood chips to impart gentle, intriguing smoky notes — perfect for quaffing next to the campfire!
Consumer Comments: What the helles? Climate City has an outstanding beer in its Hot Shot. Our panelists loved this affable lager’s easy palate and — yes, you can really taste it — smoky character. With robust carbonation, a bit of acidity and bright hops emerging on the mid-palate, this brew is masterfully balanced. Hot Shot finishes cleanly with a pleasant, lingering bitterness.
Flat Tail Brewing: Tailgater Kolsch, Corvallis
5.5% ABV; 25 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Our authentically brewed kolsch starts with Weyermann Pilsner Malt and German Tettnanger hops and is lagered for four weeks after fermentation. Crisp, clean and easy drinking with just enough complexity to get your beer geek on.
Consumer Comments: Another collegiate classic, our tasters enjoyed Tailgater Kolsch, remarking on its fruity aroma, easygoing sweetness and well-balanced, medium body. Notes of wheat evolve to light hops and a crisp finish — altogether an honest and laid-back brew. Anyone up for a game of quarters?
Even though I’ve been known to gripe about a few things commonly found in Oregon — the rain and the slow driving might be my favorites — I recognize we live in a special place. I like to expound on Oregon’s natural beauty, but the state’s people are an even bigger part of why living here is so extraordinary. We’ve got it good, no matter who wins Nov. 25. Either way, we’re chill. That’s how we do things in Oregon.
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
The afternoon my newly purchased PC arrived at my home, I cracked open a beer in celebration. Before I was finished opening the box, I’m pretty sure I was on my second bottle.
I was excited because my new PC is a high-performance machine with a massive hard drive, ridiculous RAM and the ability to operate four monitors at once. Now, I’m pretty literate — digitally speaking. And while I may have been easy going in my younger years, my grouchy outlook now demands things be like I want; I expect items I order to arrive precisely as I specified. So when I noticed the crooked screws on the back of the machine, I frowned and took a long pull off my brew. Oh well, I thought, the factory was in a hurry. Crooked screws are no big deal. I methodically attached the components and monitors and fired it up. Only two of the monitors worked. Another frown, probably a mild expletive and definitely a new bottle. OK, I thought, I’ve got a bad connection. Another quick swig and I was ready to figure it out.
Two hours and five bottles later, I realized the third and fourth monitors wouldn’t work, no matter what I did, so I contacted support. This called for another bottle, just to get through hundreds of lines of text with a support person. By this time, my mood was far less celebratory than exasperated, so I’m pretty sure I opened yet another beer. At the end of the evening, I was grateful for the beer, at least. Like no other adult beverage, beer is amiable and forgiving — a good companion for moments of celebration or moments of frustration. This month, we bring you a selection of wheat beers to help you celebrate — or commiserate.
GoodLife Brewing: Sweet As! Pacific Ale, Bend
6.0% ABV; 18 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Sweet As! is a bright beer in appearance as well as flavor. This beer, which is 50 percent wheat and 50 percent pale malt, has a golden color complemented by a bright white head. Pineapple, cream and other soft tropical aromas dominate, creating a perfect transition to the playful finish. Southern Hemisphere hops paired with white wheat make this a light and very drinkable wheat pale.
Consumer Comments: The clear choice of tasting panelists, Good Life’s Sweet As! tempts with an upbeat nose of citrus and tropical fruits and presents a lively mouthfeel. Supremely mellow hops on the mid-palate yield to citrus on the homestretch before a very clean finish. A nuanced brew, Sweet As! is as friendly as it is complex and will disappear quickly at parties. One taster even described this beer as opulent. To that, I would add well-mannered and engaging.
Burnside Brewing Company: Thundarr the Bavarian, Bavarian-Style Imperial Wheat Ale, Portland
7.4% ABV; 11.6 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Unfiltered imperial German wheat ale brewed with the classic Weihenstephan yeast strain. Expect signature banana and clove aromas and flavor.
Consumer Comments: A frothy head says “guten Tag” when Thundarr the Bavarian emerges from his bottle. Defined by notes of citrus, pineapple and a little clove, this medium-bodied brew is affable and well-balanced. Panelists described Thundarr as tangy, complex and lively.
Old Town Brewing: Orange Grove Wit, Portland
5.0% ABV; 12 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Exciting as the first sunny day of spring, this orange wit is met with anticipation. The familiar characteristics of orange and wheat are complemented by the undertones of the sweet coriander and peppery grains of paradise utilized in the beer.
Consumer Comments: Orange Grove is characterized by a tart start followed by a medium body of roasted grains. Described as an easy-sipping brew, it’s built on wheat with notes of citrus and spice. If you’re having a casual Easter dinner, one panelist thought the Orange Grove would be great accompaniment to a baked ham!
Rusty Truck Brewing Co.: Strawberry Wheat Tonic, Lincoln City
4.5% ABV; 15 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: What says spring better than fresh strawberry shortcake? Made with white wheat and Northwest pale malt and aged on 168 pounds of Oregon strawberries, this brew is sure to put you in a springtime mood.
Consumer Comments: The lively carbonation of the Strawberry Wheat Tonic will tickle your taste buds, enhancing its fruity and friendly character. With notes of pear and strawberry, this medium-bodied brew is tart without being rude, finishing very cleanly. Panelists liked the Strawberry Wheat Tonic’s smoothness but don’t expect a strawberry sundae — this one’s beer through and through.
Three Mugs Brewing Company: Mein Schatz German-Style Hefeweizen, Hillsboro
6.0% ABV; 9 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This beer was crafted to represent the best of the hefs we enjoyed while living in Germany. It’s a light, slightly malty brew with a distinctive wheat backbone and characteristic banana and clove flavors and aromas from the yeast.
Consumer Comments: The fresh-looking color of apple juice invites you to sample the Mein Schatz. Built on a mineral foundation with hints of grapefruit zest and roasted plantains, this brew thumps its chest with masculine potency. If you’re not careful, the Mein Schatz will have you hollering for bloodlust at a NASCAR race.
Two-Shy Brewing: Treble Clef Hefeweizen, Roseburg
5.2% ABV; 29 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: An American hefeweizen brewed with Wakatu hops lead to an exotic lemon flavor with a slight bite.
Consumer Comments: With a delicate nose of vanilla and a little citrus, the Treble Clef Hefeweizen practically sings spring sunshine. Easy and approachable, panelists liked the honesty of this brew with its honey hue and lightly tart finish. Tasters suggested serving it with spaghetti or pizza, describing it as clean and easy-drinking.
One of my favorite things about beer is its universal suitability for any circumstance. We pop the cap off a brew during times of celebration, after moments of stress or just to relax. In case you’re wondering, I fixed my new PC myself — completely voiding my warranty, which was worthless anyway. And I did so with the warm comfort of a cold bottle — or seven — in hand.
By Matthew Meador
For the Oregon Beer Growler
I used to hate the holidays. Well, maybe “hate” is a strong word. At best, the holiday season offered a reason for an extended period of revelry along with invitations to some great parties. Altogether, though, the sense of harried chaos that has come to define this holiest of all shopping seasons was a pretty strong turn-off. From traffic and crowded malls to artificially cheery canned music and incessant bells outside the doors of every drugstore, I had decided the whole season was something I could do without. But, hey, even though I may have experienced some inconvenience and irritation from all the commercial rush, attending parties is a pretty good way to take the edge off, right?
I spent the holiday seasons of my twenties grumbling. Then I had kids. If one single event can wipe out a Scrooge’s Christmas crankiness, it’s having children. Something about the wide-eyed wonder of a little one discovering the season is truly magical. I think my transformation was complete when I took my preschool-aged daughter to see Santaland in a helicopter. Santa climbed out of the aircraft, dozens of excited kids looking on. The big red jolly fellow walked right up to me and said, “Hi, Matt!” My daughter, awestruck, looked up at me with giant eyes and asked, “You know Santa, Dad?” It turns out — unknown to me — one of my friends was playing Santa at that event. I am forever grateful to him for that moment.
So my seasonal outlook got considerably brighter when my daughters came along. I now tolerate the hectic holiday madness maybe better than most parents. Okay, let’s be honest: I actually enjoy the holiday season now — there’s no “tolerate” about it. But even though “party season” has become “parent season,” I still manage to celebrate the old-fashioned way with festive seasonal brews like the ones we feature in this month’s blind tasting evaluation.
Widmer: Brrr, Portland
7.15% ABV; 50 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Brrr is a moderately strong dark red ale. The generous use of citrusy hops provides a tangible, but not excessive, bitterness that ultimately erodes into a candy-like malty sweetness and quick finish. Caramel and chocolate malts provide complexity, an enticing color and subtle dark malt flavors.
Consumer Comments: Of all the packages under the tree, this brew was our panelists’ favorite. Widmer hits the winter mark with Brrr, a bright, amber-colored brew with a sultry nose of florals and grains. Well-balanced and bold, this brew is defined by hops without being overwhelmed. Tasters noted its smoothness and up-front flavor, agreeing it could earn a place on any holiday beverage menu.
Full Sail: Wassail Winter Ale, Hood River
7.2% ABV; 56 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Wassail is brewed with a range of caramel and dark chocolate malts giving it a deep mahogany color and full malty body. We used a blend of Pacific Northwest hops for a pleasant hoppy aroma and finish, creating a deliciously balanced beer that appeals to both hop and malt lovers alike.
Consumer Comments: As winter approaches and night falls early, Full Sail’s Wassail Winter Ale provides an inviting warmth to ward off the chill. A favorite among tasting panelists, this brew exhibits notes of cocoa and toffee with a bit of nutty toast. Tasters described this brew as “full of flavor” and “very drinkable.”
Burnside: Permafrost, Portland
8.3% ABV; 77 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Our original winter elixir is a big strong ale brewed with seven different malts and copious amounts of Columbia and Amarillo hops. It’s designed to give this warming brew a chewy, complex malt body and a unique fruity, juicy hoppiness throughout. You won’t want to just sip this dangerously strong and tasty beer … but you should.
Consumer Comments: With an autumn hue of unfiltered apple juice, the Permafrost from Burnside sports exuberant carbonation, balanced hops and a clean finish. Tasters liked this brew’s sweet character, noting its balance, hints of honey and palate-cleansing acidity. All agreed this beer would be a great holiday party pleaser.
Golden Valley: Tannen Bomb, McMinnville
8.0% ABV; 50 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Tannen Bomb is brewed annually to help take the chill off the Pacific Northwest winter clime. Our brewers use an enormous malt bill of primarily Northwest-grown two-row barley as well as Vienna, Monastique, Victory, crystal and chocolate malts. To balance the huge malt presence, Tannen Bomb is generously hopped with Apollo, Golding, Cascade and Willamette hops. Cheers!
Consumer Comments: McMinnville’s Golden Valley crafts this eagerly awaited holiday favorite every year. With a bold introduction, complete with notes of wheat, chocolate and even a little almond, this brew softens mid-palate, but returns for a strong finish. An altogether amiable brew, you might want to be careful — the Tannen Bomb will get the better of you if you don’t respect it.
Zoiglhaus: Nikolaus, Portland
5.1% ABV; 36 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Do you really think St. Nick wants to eat chocolate chip cookies and drink milk after busting his ass all night? Hell, no! He wants to pound lagers and eat gingerbread. With that image in mind, we thought we would save him some trouble and just put the two things together: German Pilsner, Wheat, Munich, Caramel, Carapils and CARAFA malts were selected to work their magic with a secret blend of gingerbread spices and a splash of German Magnum and Hersbrucker hops. Nikolaus is spicy, delicate, nuanced and plain fun. Enjoy our celebration of the seasons!
Consumer Comments: Everybody loves a visit from St. Nick and Zoiglhaus’ Nikolaus was no exception. This brew captures the holiday spirit up front with aromas of cinnamon and clove. The gentle spices yield to ginger and citrus, never letting the taster forget its spicy foundation. Panelists thought this brew might accompany a spiced holiday ham or act as a perfect stand-alone beverage to boost your guests’ holiday spirit.
Cascade Brewing Barrel House: Sang Noir, Portland
9.9% ABV; 10 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Sang Noir is a blend of sour imperial red ales aged in bourbon and wine barrels for up to two years with Bing cherries. It features flavors of dark roast malts, bourbon, cherries and port.
Consumer Comments: Cascade’s Sang Noir is a great holiday treat, perfect for the fall and winter. Presenting a uniquely seductive fruit nose, the brew’s fruit character merges effortlessly with its mid-level carbonation. Sang Noir’s bold notes of apple and cherry delighted our panelists, drawing comparisons to ciders and wines.
As an all-year-long rule, the exceptional creativity of our regional brewers manages to capture the independent spirit of the Pacific Northwest magnificently. But at no other time of year is this talent as evident as it is during the holidays, when their efforts produce some of the best seasonal brews around. And whether you have children or not, you can hoist a pint and toast the good cheer the season offers.
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
It happens every year when I serve this style at our monthly blind tasting. Someone asks: What are amber and red ales? And as usual, I talk about toasted malt flavors that lend robust, sweet, caramel or fruity flavors, with emphasis on balance, even though in Oregon you may find this style hopped to the hilt.
And as usual, all of my so-called expert opinions fall apart as my tasters move through Oregon amber and red ales’ variety of flavors, colors and textures — from high-alcohol imperials to Flanders-style sours and all variations between. I’m not alone in my confusion. Even the biggest contests in the U.S. put reds and ambers into categories together. The caramel and medium-toast malts give the ales their distinct amber to red colors and full bodies, but after that, especially in Oregon, anything goes.
So, with all this fuzzy variety, how do you know what you’re getting when you buy an ale named “red” or “amber?” You could spend your time reading the description on the label or bar menu – that might help. Sometimes, breweries name their hoppier reds and amber “IRAs” or India red ales. The higher alcohol ales might have an “imperial” designation. Or, you might skip the reading and go straight to the tasting. The combinations of flavors in this style are sometimes genius, sometimes edgy, sometimes weird. You decide. And take your time.
To get you started, here are the favorite reds and ambers chosen by visitors to our blind tasting:
Rusty Truck Fender Bender Amber Ale, Lincoln City 6.2% ABV; 35 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Not your Mama’s amber ale, Fender Bender has notes of chocolate barley and an assertive hop character.
Consumer Comments: I’ve been on the road awhile and wasn’t sure where I was until I tried this – Oregon – hoppy, laid back. A nice red with a medium-hop character. Good malty flavor. Nice bitter finish. Dark beer taste with center of the Earth power.
Fearless Loki Red Ale, Estacada 7.5% ABV; 45 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This big, bold red ale has a slightly spicy sprinkle of rye malt. Roasty malt flavors are accentuated by massive helpings of Galena and CTZ hops. Just like its namesake, it can be a little sneaky!
Consumer Comments: Unlike me, this beer has a backbone. I like it! Well-balanced, medium and delicious. Amber taste with a kick. Great beer with a perfect amount of bitterness. This could be dangerous, but I don’t care. Sweet aftertaste.
Full Sail Amber Ale, Hood River 6% ABV; 31 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This amber is a sweet, malty, medium-bodied ale with a spicy, floral hop finish. It’s brewed with 2-Row Pale, Crystal and Chocolate malts and hopped with Mt. Hoods and Cascades.
Consumer Comments: Nice and malty amber. Good and sweet malty flavor without the bitter aftertaste. Very refreshing with a hint of roses and chocolate. Romantic! Valentine beer. Dark, but not heavy. Love it.
Elk Horn Viva La Rouge, Eugene 8% ABV; 20 IBU
Brewer’s Description: This sour red saison was aged on plums in a red wine barrel for 14 months with lactobacillus, pediococcus and brettanomyces.
Consumer Comments: Love this sour. Cherries? A sour beer! This seems like a higher-gravity ale, but it’s still well-balanced and level. I don’t like sours — well, I used to not like sours, but this one is tart and refreshing.
Leikam Grateful Red, Portland 7.1% ABV; 70 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Chinook, Columbus and Willamette hops take this into IRA territory, but the specialty malts offset any overwhelming hoppiness.
Consumer Comments: Refreshing on a hot, summer day. Woodsy. This is odd, but good. I’d want to drink it with split pea soup. Very good. Enough hops to be an IPA. Roses?
GoodLife Redside IRA, Bend 6% ABV; 50 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Named for the unique subspecies of rainbow trout found only in Oregon’s Deschutes River, Redside India Red Ale is one of a kind. Bright hops and a red malt base create a flavorful, aromatic and balanced ale with notes of guava nectar and a fresh floral hop bite.
Consumer Comments: Very balanced, unlike me. I can, and will, drink this all night! Light and tasty, and pretty hoppy for a red — just the way I like it! Oregon-style.
Royale The Visitor Red Ale, Portland 6% ABV; 42 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This is a rich, malty, flavorful red ale with a lush red color and a subtle tropical fruit and berry hop aroma. Medium-bodied, this ale has toffee, caramel and baked bread flavors that are malty, but not too sweet.
Consumer Comments: I like the malt. I’d like some more of this, please. Pretty beer! Perfect malty taste with just the right hopping. Another glass, please. Great!
Stickmen Red Kit Northwest Red Ale, Lake Oswego 7.1% ABV; 75 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This Northwest red beautifully balances four different malts with four fruit and citrus-forward hops for a harmonious drinking experience. The ale is dry-hopped with Amarillo, Citra, Pacifica, and Simcoe hops.
Consumer Comments: Nice hop nose and aftertaste, almost like a red or amber IPA. It’s been a long day, but with this beer, the night will finish nicely. Long live the night! Love this one! Excellent bitterness.
Plank Town FURTHR Ambr, Springfield 5.8% ABV; 32 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A smooth, malty, English-style ale with seven U.K. malts balanced by a variety of noble hops, leading to a clean, dry finish.
Consumer Comments: Smooth! It’s sweltering out, but this beer makes it worth it. My mouth feels wonders. Is this a brown? I like it. Take it to the park, forget your troubles and watch the river go by. This one goes down easy.
Worthy Eruption Imperial Red Ale, Bend 8% ABV; 100 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: The numbers say it all. This brew is bursting with flavor. There are six pounds of hops per barrel, including Cascade, Centennial, Crystal, Meridian and Mandarina Bavaria. Despite all of that volcanic bigness, Eruption is incredibly smooth.
Consumer Comments: Two Exclams!! Oh my king, as in, King Louis IV. Sweet, malty and good. Pretty hoppy for a red, but nice citrus flavor. The malt balances the hops, making it very drinkable.
Burnside Too Sticky to Roll IRA, Portland 6.2% ABV; 72 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This is a Northwest-style red ale with medium bitterness accented by chocolate malt and candy-like sweetness from caramel malt. It is brewed with Centennial and Millennium hops for both bitterness and hop aroma.
Consumer Comments: Well-balanced with depth. Smooth between sweet notes and bitterness. That’s real good. Malty enough for a 95-degree day. I could drink this with a nice steak dinner. Mommy just took me to the candy shop and bought me a drink.
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Ah, the can. Its history began when Napoleon in 1795 offered a prize to anyone who could invent a method of preserving food for his soldiers. According to the Can Manufacturers Institute, by 1809, Nicolas Appert had invented food preservation by sterilization in bottles, and the following year, Englishman Peter Durand developed iron cans coated with tin to prevent rusting. Cans, easy to transport and less likely to break than glass, soon became the cure to scurvy-plagued sailors and soldiers, not to mention countryside pillagers.
The process for packaging carbonated beverages in cans didn’t come to the fore until about 1930 when researchers developed coatings that wouldn’t dissolve under pressure. The first soft drink cans appeared in 1938, because it took a few years to work out the bugs. But beer wasn’t afraid of sissy glitches. In 1935 there were steel cans of Krueger in Virginia. The new packaging was so popular that by 1950, a quarter of all beer sales were canned. The lightweight aluminum can and the pull-ring bumped up can’s popularity in the 1960s. Today, the Brewers Association estimates that about 55 percent of all beer sales are in cans.
In Oregon, canned craft beers had a short hurdle to jump: Discerning drinkers often associated cans with macro-breweries. But that misconception is quickly passing in a state where craft beers accompany us everywhere we go, from hikes in the Three Sisters Wilderness to biking the mean streets of Portland.
Last month, our tasters chose these favorite summer beers, all available in cans:
McMenamins Ruby, Statewide 4% ABV; 5 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A popular standard since 1986. Ruby is a light, crisp and refreshingly fruity ale made with Great Western Premium 2-Row, 42 pounds of Oregon-grown and processed raspberries, and a touch of Chinook hops in every colorful batch. Simple, but delicious.
Consumer Comments: Unusual flavor. I could drink this when I want something out of the ordinary. Fruity! Almost a fruit Belgian, but not sour. Nice fruity flavor. Rootin’ tooty. Fruity and yet citrusy too. Lambic? Belgian? Raspberry flavor!
Burnside Couch Select Lager, Portland 5% ABV; 14 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This is a helles-style lager brewed with quality pilsner malt, German Tettnang hops and fermented with a Bohemian Lager yeast strain. Cold fermentation produces a nice, crispy snap to a beautiful hop flavor and subtle hop presence.
Consumer Comments: Good beer for sitting on the deck after work. Easy drinker. Good for all-day drinking. Fresh, slightly tangy, great balance. Refreshing! Crisp!
Silver Moon Get Sum Pale Ale, Bend 5.6% ABV; 45 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Redefine your love of pale ales. Get Sum has a light and clean golden body backed by a refreshing citrus hop flavor.
Consumer Comments: An IPA I could drink and drink and drink … Very good. Super. Tickles my nose and my tongue. This was my favorite. Hoppy, but easy to drink. Light and tasty.
Rogue Pendleton Pale Ale, Newport 5.2% ABV; 30 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A light, refreshing pale ale brewed with Delta and Rogue Farms Alluvial and Rebel hops grown on Rogue Farms in Oregon, Rogue Farms Risk, Sacchra 50 and Dextra Pils malts.
Consumer Comments: Great grilling beer. Nice long hoppy aftertaste. Beautiful amber color. Nice hop flavor for a thirst-quenching beer. I could wash down a few tacos and burritos with this beer.
Boneyard Skin N Bones ISA, Bend 4% ABV; 20 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This India session ale is a single-hop beer showcasing Mosaic hops. Brewed with pale and pilsner malts, it’s light-bodied and golden in color. Perfect to quench your summer thirst!
Consumer Comments: Good chilling beer. Great lawnmower beer. Good bite, hoppy and citrusy, my favorite so far! Good balance. Bike ride beer. A great, light IPA. Drink and run then drink again.
Laurelwood Mother Lode Golden Ale, Portland 5.1% ABV; 25 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Our lightest ale is crisp, dry and refreshing, making it a great introduction to craft beer. This recipe has earned gold at the World Beer Cup as well as silver and bronze at the Great American Beer Festival.
Consumer Comments: Good after-dinner beer. Rich flavor. Oregon’s snappy answer to Bud: “Drink this, big beer.” This was the best. Beautiful beer.
Oregon City Brewing 8-Bit Blonde, Oregon City 4.8% ABV, 25 IBU
Brewer’s Description: Plug in your controllers and hit that power button - it's time to go up a level! This blonde ale sits atop a crisp pilsner malt backbone, and Sterling hops give it a grassy, herbal note that takes down that final boss in one fell swoop.
Consumer Comments: Good summer-break beer. Very good for the style. Tastes light, like a lager. Oh, yeah. All day long. Floral and euro herbs.
NEXT FREE TASTING: Oregon Beer Growler’s Reds and Ambers Tasting 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13 at F.H. Steinbart Co., 234 SE 12th Ave., Portland
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Red ales are a beloved style in Oregon and in the Northwest, so you would think it would be easy to find an official description. But alas, no. Even the almighty Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), the oft-cited, standard-bearer of beer styles lumps red ales in with ambers, classifying them together in one broad category.
Part of this confusion is rooted right here in the Northwest, where we traditionally call our red-hued ales “red ales,” as opposed to American ambers. Our great region has restarted the red ale madness, and we expect BJCP to follow our lead. Whether they do or not, red ales prevail here.
Let’s agree with BJCP that Oregon reds, like ambers, can vary in color from dark orange to a brownish-red. And like many Oregon ales, they can have a range of hoppiness — both bitter and aromatic — depending on the hops used. But where reds differ from pale ales, aside from the color, is in the malty, sometimes caramel flavors that can add sweetness, fruitiness and froth to the beer. This malty goodness in reds can be surprisingly bold or a subtle balance to a hop-forward beer. In Oregon, reds just can’t be pinned down. Every brewer seems to take on the style with a fresh hand.
So here’s the challenge: You can’t pick up a red ale in Oregon and know exactly what you’re going to get, just from the style. You have to try them all and then decide. So get busy.
Here’s a good place to start. Our consumer tasters, a different group each month, chose and commented on the following eight Oregon red ales in a blind tasting at F.H. Steinbart Co. in Portland:
13 Virtues: Rip City Red, Portland 6.0 percent ABV, 50 IBUs
Brewery Description: This beer is for people who love IPAs but like a little more malt sweetness. Malts include American two-row, Munich, Carapils, Crystal 15 and Crystal 120, with a little chocolate malt to add some oomph. We then throw in Palisade, Amarillo and Centennial hops for a balanced, drinkable beer.
Consumer Comments: Malty oatmeal, crisp and pleasant. Good clean beer. I would drink this again. Full-bodied. Very good. That’s a hoppy taste I can handle. Slightly hoppy -- not too bad!
Lompoc: Proletariat Red, Portland 6.2 percent ABV, 32 IBUs
Brewery Description: Deep chestnut in color, this beer has a toasted malt quality with biscuit undertones leading to notes of caramelized pear and cinnamon. This complex brew ends with sweet malt flavors that mellow into a mild finish.
Consumer Comments: Solid! Sessionable red. Malty nose, great esters, smooth! Hoppy and strong. Very good! Hoppy with a honey taste that helps cut the hops. Candy, yum. After-dinner drink. Girls?
Boneyard: Diablo Rojo American Red, Bend 5.5 percent ABV, 30 IBUs
Brewery Description: This deep amber ale is extremely well-balanced and very drinkable. It appeals both to the hop lover and non-hop lover. This beer is double-hopped with Cascade and Delta hops.
Consumer Comments: Good refreshing beer for a hot summer. Light and well-blended with the hops. Nice, not too hoppy and a good red beer. Very pleasant. Could drink all day. Dark fruit, jam and hops. Mild and drinkable. Hot day, good beer. Gets me in the nether regions.
Wild Ride: 3 Sisters American Red Ale, Redmond 6.5 percent ABV, 45 IBUs
Brewery Description: Faith, Hope and Charity. The backdrop of Central Oregon features these lovely sisters which are three of the highest peaks in Oregon. We use three main types of malt and hops to represent these landmarks. This beautiful beer has a sunset red appearance to remind us of their presence at the end of the day. Like many peaks you might aspire to climb, these sisters can be both bitter and sweet, as the select hops represent the Northwest in every way possible.
Consumer Comments: Good refreshing beer for an Oregon hot summer. Good beer, clean finish, nice hops. Bright clean citrus flavors without bitter. A-OK. The best so far. Great!
Hop Haus Brewing: Route 66 NW Red Ale, Gresham 6.3 percent ABV, 48 IBUs
Brewery Description: A slightly malty, somewhat sweet finish with good hop flavor and subtle bitterness. This is a lighter version of the style with the signature red hue provided by the melanoidin malt. It’s balanced and drinkable for all food pairings and occasions.
Consumer Comments: Beautiful, light and refreshing. Smooth, malty and refreshing. Great for a hot afternoon on the back porch. Fruity, light raspberry. Complex flavors. Smooth and delightful. One of my favorites.
McMenamins: Red Rhino, Portland Crystal Brewery 6.32 percent ABV, 82 IBUs
Brewery Description: Brewed by Stephen Harper and Drew Phillips, Red Rhino is a red ale, rich in color and flavor, with just the right combination and amount of crystal malt to give this ale its signature, deep red hue. It’s hopped with pungent Centennials and Cascade hops.
Consumer Comments: Clean, very classic light red ale. Drink this one cold. Creamy and hoppy. Kind of milky smooth texture. Good.
Burnside: Too Sticky to Roll, Portland 6.2 percent ABV, 78 IBUs
Brewery Description: Quaffable yet chewy India red ale (IRA).
Consumer Comments: My name is smooth. Nice summer ale. Peppery and dry. Would go great with barbecue. Hop-forward with a smoky finish. Hops, hops.
Ninkasi: Dawn of the Red IRA, Eugene 7.0 percent ABV, 75 IBUs
Brewery Description: An IRA bursting with tropical notes, this beer finishes with a subtle malt backbone.
Consumer Comments: Light, floral, refreshing. Hoppy and fresh. Nice. Fruity but not too sweet. This beer takes me to paradise.
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?
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Fruit has flavored beers for centuries worldwide, in styles from Belgians to hefeweizens. Internationally loved, fruit beers can be found flavored with extracts, purees or whole fruit — fresh or dried.
Oregon brewers have a particular advantage: they have quick access to fresh fruits grown in the Northwest that range from rhubarb to pumpkins. This month’s Perfect Pints features, for example, include raspberries, cherries, prunes and blackberries grown in Oregon.
This region’s connection with fruit also makes its annual Portland Fruit Beer Fest, set for June 12-14 this year at Burnside Brewing, a natural. Dozens of breweries will feature fruit beers, some made specially for this event. Watch for updates and ticket sales at the website, www.fruitbeerfest.com.
Meanwhile, the following fruit beers are available now. The beers were chosen by our consumer judges at our monthly blind tasting at F.H. Steinbart homebrew shop in Portland.
Twisted Snout: Raspberry Squeal, Toledo 4.6 percent ABV, N/A IBUs
Brewery Description: It's a crisp golden ale brewed with real raspberries.
Consumer Comments: Like jam and beer … awesome. Raspberry! Oh, there’s a party in my mouth and every-berry’s invited. Makes my lips smack. Fruit pie from grandma’s secret recipe. Love to share this with grandma as we sit on the porch and watch the river flow by. Would serve this to my wife on Valentine’s Day and hope to get lucky. I might need to try a whole glass of this...
Coalition: Space Fruit Citrus IPA, Portland 7.0 percent ABV, 50 IBUs
Brewery Description: Space Fruit is a West Coast IPA with a citrus twist. Coalition uses five different citrus fruits to create unique flavors and aromatics that mingle with the hop character.
Consumer Comments: Carmen Miranda with her tropical fruit hat! Juniper fireworks: Gets you ready for the 4th. Love this beer -- yum, yum. Call me a cab, I would like to overindulge in this one. Rosemary? Pineapple? Yeah, this is a good beer. I tend to like the hops.
Golden Valley: Italian Prune Bomb, McMinnville 8.5 percent ABV, 54 IBUs
Brewery Description: Golden Valley’s Tannen Bomb was aged in pinot noir barrels with 75 pounds of fresh Italian prunes harvested from the brewmaster’s family orchard. Two fermentations later, this pink-colored beer has a lively floral, fruit blossom nose.
Consumer Comments: Boozy, vanilla. For a high-alcohol beer, it’s tasty. It’s got a brandy feel. Sugarplum fairies dance in my head! Ready to chill out with the peeps. The sun coming out after a sudden rainstorm. To quote Justin: “I can drink the shit out of this beer!” Delicious and less beer-like with an interesting aftertaste. This is my favorite so far. I’d love to get hammered on this one and see how I feel the next day.
Rusty Truck: Moonlight Ride Blackberry Ale, Lincoln City 5.3 percent ABV, 20 IBUs
Brewery Description: The aroma of ripened Oregon blackberries on a crisp moonlit September night is what inspired this blackberry ale. This ale is aged on 126 pounds of pureed blackberries per 10-barrel batch.
Consumer Comments: I’d be interested in finding out how much is too much of this beer. Pink lemonade city. Berry fruit cocktail with farmhouse essence. Nice flavor. Grapefruit? Raspberry?
Stickmen: Dark Cherry Wheat, Lake Oswego 6.0 percent ABV, 23 IBUs
Brewery Description: This American wheat beer with cherry is a simple wheat recipe with a secondary fermentation on 168 pounds of Oregon dark cherries. It finishes dry with a hint of tartness.
Consumer Comments: Wow. I would drink this on my lunch break and then deny it to my boss! Strawberry jam on crack. Strawberry jam slathered on pepperoni. Refreshing! A lot of Brett, like a farmyard in a good way. Unripe melons.
McMenamins: Ruby Ale, Oregon 4.39 percent ABV, N/A IBUs
Brewery Description: One of McMenamins’ standards since 1986, it is still a light, crisp and refreshingly fruity ale. Great Western Premium 2-row and 42 pounds of Oregon-grown and processed raspberry puree are used to craft every colorful batch.
Consumer Comments: Delicious! Yum, raspberry soda. Light and wheaty summer day beer with mixed berries. Perfect summer sipper (or slammer!). Berry heaven. Strawberry shortcake — no whipped cream. Berry goodness as you are wandering the fields. Refreshing, light, deep and pretty. Would like to fill my CamelBak with this and suck it down while cutting the grass.
Widmer: Hefe Shandy, Portland 4.2 percent ABV, 12 IBUs
Brewery Description: The original American hefeweizen gets a bold, new citrusy aroma and flavor from lemon drop hops and natural lemonade flavor.
Consumer Comments: Super citrus, smells like lemonade. It’s a radler and it’s delicious. Key lime pie eaten on a veranda at sunset. Get out the bikini and spray tan. I’m replacing my after-dinner cup of lemon ginger tea with this. Awesome summer taste. Lemonhead! I love how dry. Would love to listen to country music while drinking this. Okay we have a winner. This is my favorite.
NEXT FREE TASTING:
Oregon Beer Growler’s IPA Tastings:
Friday, June 12 at 5 p.m.
Three Legged Dog, Independence
Saturday, June 13 at 1 p.m.
F.H. Steinbart Co., Portland
By Andi Prewitt and Will Oberst-Cairns
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
The Northwest is full of hop heads, which means IPAs are all the rage and pushing the boundaries when it comes to IBUs is now the norm. Enter the double or imperial IPA, where increased bitterness is expected and a stronger alcohol flavor usually comes through. According to Beer Advocate, the term “imperial” is borrowed from the Russian imperial stout that was originally brewed in England for the Russian Imperial Court of the late 1700s. The double IPA was the focus of a blind and random tasting competition held in February at homebrewing supply store F.H. Steinbart Co. in Portland. Only consumers are allowed to participate, no one who works for any participating brewery is allowed to vote. The top seven beers are listed below. The following descriptions and comments come from the participating breweries and consumer tasters who attended the event:
Lompoc: C-Note Imperial Pale Ale, Portland 6.9% ABV, 100 IBUs
Brewery Description: This highly-hopped ale has a deep copper to orange hue with a bold aroma of pine and herbal spice. Hints of toffee and caramel are followed by a citrus finish that is dry and refreshingly bitter.
Consumer Comments: Things that make you go hmmm. Rich and luxurious, this should be served in a fine wine glass. Would be perfect for Thanksgiving or even just with a turkey sandwich. Subtle, sneaky delicious. Beautifully red like an Irish minx. Great aroma and flavor. Like the flavor. A bit too bitter, but I would order more than one. Smooth, relaxing, light, refreshing.
McMenamins: Major Threat (Edgefield Brewery) Double IPA, Troutdale 9.29% ABV, 100+ IBUs
Brewery Description: The latest installment in our double IPA series is a true West Coast double IPA. Hops were incorporated in every step of the brewing process, from mash to keg. Nuggets were used for bittering and provide a smooth, mellow bitterness. Cascade, Centennial and Santiams were added during the boil to deliver a piney and citrusy burst of hop flavor. Simcoe and Chinook hops were added late in the boil to give a nice citrusy hop aroma. Finally, a mighty dose of Centennial hops were added during fermentation for a blast of hop aroma. Malts: 2-Row, Dextra Pils. Hops: Nugget, Cascade, Centennial, Santiam, Simcoe, Chinook.
Consumer Comments: You’ve got to hop me up. Great to drink while watching the home team play, even if they don’t win. Best so far, strong hops. Slightly syrupy like your grandma’s down-home pancakes. Balanced. I like mouthfeel for a slower-drinking beer. Like the fruitiness, but too bitter for my taste.
Wild Ride: Brain Bucket Imperial IPA, Redmond 8.5% ABV, 90 IBUs
Brewery Description: Buckle up your chin strap and enjoy the ride! This beer breaks free from the pack and cranks it up a notch. We give IPA lovers more malt and hops, ascending Brain Bucket to imperial status. Classic Northwest hops, pine and citrus tones will knock your senses senseless! It wouldn't be a bad idea to wear a helmet while drinking this big, bold delight.
Consumer Comments: Smooth and balanced. East Coast-style, but fits in perfect on the West Coast. Perfect rainy-day beer. Sweet on palate, tasteful. I’d pair this with fruit and cheese, maybe make mussels with this as the base. Dry finish, full flavor. Finish is very pleasant. More please, more please. I need some beer for an expedition to watch the aurora borealis. Smooth. Refreshingly hoppy. It’s like a unicorn prancing on your mouth. Good aroma, crisp clean taste.
Pelican: Imperial Pelican Ale, Pacific City 8% ABV, 85 IBUs
Brewery Description: Pelican’s mascot, Phil the Pelican, has recreated the flavor of the British Empire with his own American twist. Enjoy the huge Cascade and Centennial hop aroma, the subtle malty sweetness, and the floral, citrusy flavor of this robust, gold-colored ale. This brew began life as a seasonal beer during our first year and was so popular while we had it, and so frequently requested when it was gone, that we turned it into our fifth regular beer style our second year.
Consumer Comments: Summer here in Portland. Really pleasant ride. Love the hops. The hops never stop, brings the flavor to the top. Lots of floral and not too bitter. I’d order another. Light and refreshing, second favorite.
Laurelwood: Megafauna, Portland 9.5% ABV, 140 IBUs
Brewery Description: This beer takes its name from the oversized animals of the Pleistocene Epoch or Ice Age. Large saber-toothed cats, hairy elephants and sloths the size of buses roamed the frozen tundras. Everything was big and/or hairy, with extra horns, tusks, teeth, etc. Like those massive animals, this beer is huge with hop aroma and flavor. We used several new aromatic hop varieties to get a layered and hop oil-soaked beer which, unlike the frozen tundra, isn’t bitter and finishes dry. The aroma and flavor are layers of pine, citrus and tropical fruit and the beer is a pale gold. We hope you drink it in good health and keep warm. **2013 National IIPA Champion**
Consumer Comments: Was my favorite by far. Interesting pine flavors. Not gulpable, but fun to drink. Great flavor, great aroma, would drink this all day. Put on your spacesuit and prepare to blast off with flavor. Excellent flavor hops. Finally, a nice piney sticky (in a good way) IIPA. After a 60-hour week, this is perfect to start the weekend with.
Burnside: Project Ale, Portland 8% ABV, 99.5 IBUs
Brewery Description: An Imperial IPA with a clean, silky malt presence that is loaded with hop flavor and aroma. It’s extremely well balanced, thus maintains its ability to pair with food. Project Ale is not your average hop bomb!
Consumer Comments: Great color. Great aroma. Loved the fruit notes. Crisp and peppy. Want to pair this with chiles. You’ve got to be hopping me.
Coalition: Double Dog Dare Double IPA, Portland 8.2% ABV, 80 IBUs
Brewery Description: The imperial version of our popular IPA, Double Dog Dare, comes in at a very drinkable 8.2 percent ABV. Notes of caramel and biscuit make up the malt profile, while a distinctive Northwest hop profile round out this beer. Bittered with Nugget hops; Sterling, Cascade, and Simcoe provide flavors of citrus, flowers and tropical fruit. A dry hop of Chinook brings the aromatics together in this deliciously big, but balanced IPA. Try some. We dare you. We Double Dog Dare you.
Consumer Comments: Lots of floral which I like, but a bit too bitter. Don’t know if I’d order more than one, very drinkable. I’d have six on a summer day, nice smooth bitterness, great rich flavor. Nondescript, decent.
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.