By Matthew Meador
For the Oregon Beer Growler
I have a tough job. For several years, I wrote a wine column called “Cellar Dweller” which appeared in a Portland Metro-area market publication. Today, that column has moved to a magazine celebrating the increasingly world-class food and beverage options in Oregon’s storied wine country. As you might imagine, I like writing about food and drink — maybe I love it. At the very least, I get to enjoy outstanding cuisine and libations from chefs and winemakers of significant renown. If all that isn’t difficult enough, now I get to add beer to my menu. Are you feeling sorry for me yet? Like I said, it’s a tough job but, as they say, someone has to do it.
Beer was always an escape for me, a way to relax, something that wasn’t “work.” Bluntly put, with beer I didn’t have to pay attention. When I drink wine or whiskey — something else I’m known to write about — I am usually careful to note the appearance, the nose, the various stages of the palate. I could enjoy beer without stopping to think about it, parse it and put my thoughts into words for others to read. That’s all changed now.
I spent my 20s in Portland, back when Widmer was a small local joint and Buck Night was an eagerly-anticipated twice-weekly event. On Thursday and Saturday nights, well drinks were a dollar-and-a-half and we always followed our hours-long visits to Virginia Cafe with music and beer at Satyricon. Or something like that. You’ll forgive me if my memory is a little fuzzy.
Whatever the case, I’m now middle-aged, jaded and curmudgeonly. And I get to write about beer. Perhaps the most amiable and forgiving of adult beverages, beer might be the perfect cure for middle-agedness, cynicism and the accompanying urge to make one’s displeasure known. With that thought in mind, I joined with a panel of beer lovers to taste and discuss some great Oregon porters — and an outstanding stout. Maybe we’re onto something here.
Three Creeks: FivePine Chocolate Porter, Sisters
6.2% ABV; 55 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A robust porter that features 2 pounds per barrel of the finest Belgian chocolate, making a slightly roasty pint with underlying chocolate sweetness. Malts: Northwest pale, Munich, wheat, British chocolate malt, dark crystal malt, brown, special roast
Adjuncts: Imported dark Belgian chocolate, flaked barley, yeast: American Ale
Consumer Comments: With an inviting coloring of brown honey; FivePine Chocolate Porter features notes of malt, caramel and molasses on the nose and palate accompanied by a delightful char character throughout. Several panelists described this brew as “roasty” and all liked its innate sweetness. One panelist thought this beer would pair perfectly with a sweet marinated beef dish.
Santiam: Coal Porter, Salem
6.2% ABV; 29 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Medium-bodied porter with a moderate hop character that allows the roast malts to shine.
Consumer Comments: Demonstrating a grassy affability, panelists enjoyed this pint’s spicy fruitiness. With notes of anise, coffee and maybe even a little bourbon, Coal Porter was a refreshing favorite, well-balanced and medium-bodied.
Calapooia: ‘Pooya Porter, Albany
5.0% ABV; 32 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A dark, robust and balanced porter, [this brew is] medium-bodied and moderately-hopped, with a crisp chocolate finish. Willamette hops.
Consumer Comments: Panelists liked the easy approachability of this pint, suggesting ‘Pooya might be a great introductory porter for folks accustomed to lighter brews. With hints of leather and wood, this brew might be called masculine but you can be sure he’ll remain a perfect gentleman.
Rusty Truck: Taft Toffee Porter, Lincoln City
5.0% ABV; 20 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Named for the Rusty Truck’s home in the Historic Taft District, Taft Toffee Porter is a dark, velvety ale with significant toffee and chocolate notes. Slightly lighter in color than mass-produced porters, our version is a tasty twist on the dockworkers’ old favorite.
Consumer Comments: The coffee-like character of the Taft Toffee Porter had panelists suggesting this brew might also be a good candidate for people who want a friendly introduction to fuller-bodied beers. Panelists described this porter as straightforward and honest, a cold reward after a hard day’s work.
Three Mugs: Sinfully Yours Imperial Porter, Hillsboro
9.5% ABV; 38 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Go ahead, be bad ... you deserve it. Indulge yourself with this huge, chewy, malty, chocolatey brew, with nice residual sweetness and a hint of roastiness and hops to balance. A perfect ale to warm your soul on those cold, rainy Oregon days and nights.
Consumer Comments: Defined by clear notes of vanilla and coffee with a hint of burnt oak, the Sinfully Yours Imperial Porter was a clear favorite with panelists. Well-balanced and complex, this brew’s satisfying fig finish delighted our tasting panel. Closer to the holidays, we might say “now bring us a figgy porter” — a Sinfully Yours Imperial Porter, of course!
Migration: Terry’s Porter, Portland
6.7% ABV; 42 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Terry’s Porter is the perfect compilation of five different malts, including chocolate and caramel that create a deep brown smoky body coupled with a mild sweetness. Finished off with Nugget, Willamette and English Fuggle hops, making this one an instant Northwest classic!
Consumer Comments: With a darkly fruity character, the Terry’s Porter earned raves from panelists attesting to its fruit nose, sweet mid-palate and after-dinner coffee finish. More than one panelist suggested using the Terry’s Porter as the foundation for a round of beer floats or maybe even pairing it with treats like caramel corn.
Widmer: Steel Bridge Porter, Portland
5.6% ABV; 48 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Developed by homebrewer Noel Blake, [this porter] was a winner in the Widmer Brothers Collaborator Homebrew Competition with the Oregon Brew Crew. Like the Steel Bridge itself, this dark ale is a Portland original and carries more than its share of weight. Rich flavors of mocha, chocolate and toffee are well-balanced and complemented by a refreshing body, a hint of citrus and a dry finish.
Consumer Comments: Another porter popular with panelists, the Steel Bridge Porter’s deep hue, robust body and flavors of spice and smoke, along with the barest suggestion of thistle, make for a truly perfect pint. Innately layered, this brew was lauded for its complexity and spiciness. The Steel Bridge Porter might hit you in the face — but I promise you’ll be glad it did.
PINTS: Steel Bridge Stout, Portland
5.2% ABV; 22 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Rich and chewy, this robust stout is girdered together with Midnight Wheat, Blackprinz, roasted barley, Special B and chocolate malts. You can tell: it’s jet black with a thick brown head, loaded with espresso, coffee and rich malt flavors. Bittered with Columbus hops and finished with spicy Willamettes, it all holds together nicely.
Consumer Comments: The Steel Bridge Stout earned unanimous and enthusiastic approval from panelists. From comments like “This is why I drink stouts” to “This is better than wine,” tasters loved the brew’s luxuriant head and themes of malt, caramel, molasses and vanilla bean — followed by a lingeringly sweet finish.
StormBreaker: Fall of the Iron Curtain Baltic Porter, Portland
8.0% ABV; 24 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Flavor has a big upfront but balanced sweetness with prominent chocolate flavors and hints of caramel. No roasty coffee-ness in this one. Just a smooth and silky finish with a touch of alcohol warmth.
Consumer Comments: Panelists liked the initial palate of Fall of the Iron Curtain, calling it fruity and a little tangy with notes of caramel and the barest hint of tar. Several panelists suggested this brew might be best served to folks looking to enter the world of full-bodied beers.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I was being a little facetious before. I love my job. A friend asked me once why I was eager to share the box of then-illegal Cuban cigars I had stashed. I told him smoking a really good cigar is wasted if one does it by oneself — enjoying the pleasant things in life is inherently social. Likewise, beer is best enjoyed together, in the company of friends, with people who want to relax, unwind and maybe even celebrate a little. Beer brings out the enthusiasm we should all have for life, particularly life in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I’m pretty sure there’s no better place on the planet to knock back a cold one — especially since so many of the world’s best beers are crafted right here.
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Can you smell football in the air? Then it’s time for tailgaters, the best part of football season for some of us. The homemade snacks come out. The barbecues are lit, and relit, and lit again — never mind the rain! The jokes become ribald. In Oregon, the coats take on garish hues of orange and neon green. The true Oregon flag — a blue tarp — waves proudly in both Duck and Beaver parking lots. And best of all, craft beers reign at tailgaters.
For the past three years, we’ve delivered papers to Oregon’s Civil War tailgater events, and I’ve always been amazed at what great taste in beers Duck and Beaver fans have. They raise their glasses full of local craft beers, and like good cheerleaders, defend the practice. “My beer comes from my neighborhood,” says one Beaver who lives down the street from Flat Tail Brewing. “I wouldn’t drink anything but this,” said a Duck fan as he raises a glass of McMenamins beer. Then he adds: “Today.” And his crew laughs.
Because why choose just one when you live in Oregon? The world is your glass. Fill it up.
In honor of the Civil War between the Ducks and Beavers Nov. 27 this year at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, the Oregon Beer Growler has gathered seven beers from Eugene-Springfield breweries and seven from Corvallis-Albany breweries. We presented the beers this year at The Bier Stein in Eugene at a blind tasting and let consumers choose their favorites. Block 15’s Sticky Hands in Corvallis won the most votes, besting Eugene’s High Street McMenamins Grandma Betty’s Quilted IPA by one vote. Oakshire’s Line Dry Rye from Eugene was a solid third. The rest are listed in no particular order with comments from the tasters.
Block 15: Sticky Hands, Corvallis 8.1% ABV, 110 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This ale features ample additions of sticky, resinous, lupulin-packed hop buds grown in the Pacific Northwest. Aromatic blast of tropical fruits, citrus and dank herbs; luscious hop flavor with a balanced bitter finish, pale malted barley and fermented with our privately banked brewer’s yeast.
Consumer Comments: Yum! Ba da da da da, I’m lovin’ it. Great Taste. Best flavor. Hoppy beer for game day. Infused with leaves and footballs — in a good way. Hoppalicious.
High Street McMenamins: Grandma Betty’s Quilted IPA, Eugene 7.1% ABV, 80 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Mosaics, Mosaics, Mosaics. A patchwork blanket of Superior Pilsen, Pearl Pale and C-15 malts woven together with an insane amount of Mosaic hops.
Consumer Comments: Grapefruit. Great on a hot day. Great game day beer. Not too heavy tasting. Great IPA with great flavor. I’d drink more. A pretty decent beer. Citrusy, fruity and delicious.
Oakshire: Line Dry Rye, Eugene 6.3% ABV, 66 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A crisp, aromatic, honey-orange colored IPA is crafted with 15 percent rye for a complex malt profile that adds a touch of spice. Balanced by a generous portion of American hops for a snappy bitterness with a slight citrus grapefruit flavor and a piney aroma.
Consumer Comments: Love this one! Very mellow, but not too light. Perfect for drinking with tailgater snacks. Smooth and full-flavored. Very hoppy and delicious. Good flavor and a really good beer. Complex.
Ninkasi: Lux Helles Lager, Eugene 5.3% ABV, 20 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: The lightest of the European lagers, this Munich-style beer has a clean aroma with just a touch of grassy hops leading to a sweet, toasty malt flavor. This sustains to a crisp finish with just a hint of noble hop aroma.
Consumer Comments: Light and easy to drink. Yes. People would like this. Good lager. I could drink a lot of this. I really enjoyed this beer. Drink often!
Oregon Trail: Brown Ale, Corvallis 4.8% ABV, N/A IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A multiple award winner at the Great American Beer Festival in 1994 and 1995, this brown is medium-bodied, yet slightly dry, with a nice hoppy middle and roasted finish.
Consumer Comments: Coffee? Good for an early game. Breakfast beer. Nice light stout? I’d drink it — a lot of it. Sort of smoky or roasty. Enjoyable winter beer.
Flat Tail: Tailgater Kölsch, Corvallis 5.5% ABV, 25 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Our lightest brew. A bright straw-hued, crisp, lager-like ale with German Tettnanger hops adding a spicy bouquet and firm bitterness.
Consumer Comments: Seems like a good tailgate beer. I could drink this all day. I could drink 10 of these. I don’t like beer, but I do like this. Tastes like a complex lager. Good smooth flavor. I could run a 10K on this.
McMenamins on Monroe: Liberty Harvest, Corvallis 5.9% ABV, 23 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: An Oktoberfest beer made with German Kölsch yeast, a third of the grains are Vienna and Munich malts with Victory malts lending a light toasted flavor. Made to be quaffable!
Consumer Comments: Tasty. Pears. Nice Finish. Complex. Interesting. A lot going on. Easy to drink. Good flavor. Smooth.
Plank Town: Oktoberfest, Springfield 5% ABV, 22 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Our salute to the classic Oktoberfestbier. The spicy, sweet, herbal hop aroma draws your tastebuds deep into this malty beer.
Consumer Comments: Fruity and sweet. Easy-drinking and flavorful beer. Definitely something I could drink a lot of!
Elkhorn: DBR (Ducks Blue Ribbon) Kölsch, Eugene 5% ABV, 20 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This light refreshing ale is composed of entirely German-sourced ingredients. It has a classic pilsner-like profile of light grain, spicy hops and unsurpassed drinkability. Straw in color, light in body and light on bitterness, a perfect beer for any occasion.
Consumer Comments: Very light session beer, I like it. Smooth and drinkable. Light and fresh. Dry and crisp.
Mazama: Mosaic Eruption, Corvallis 6% ABV, 60 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This IPA showcases Mosaic hops that give it a bold grapefruit twist. This beer is triple-hopped with a blend featuring Mosaic, Amarillo, Citra and Centennial hops.
Consumer Comments: Great taste. This beer would go great with tailgate foods. Floral. Grows on you. I’d be the star of the tailgater with this one. I usually don’t like hoppy beers but this one is great. Delicious and fragrant.
Mancave: Exalted IPA, Eugene 8.2% ABV, 100 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Weyermann Pale and cara-type malts give this beer a uniquely sweet flavor — like the cheesecake of IPAs. GMO-free barley, Simcoe, Cascade, Citra, Amarillo and Columbus hops.
Consumer Comments: Fruity! Caramel and rich. Strong-tasting.
Deluxe: D-Lite, Albany 3% ABV, 19 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This German Leichtbier is under 100 calories, a truly bold craft light beer. It is bright and refreshing with light citrusy notes and a hop character that the “big” domestic light beers can’t match.
Consumer Comments: Buttery. Light. Very light and super easy to drink. Tasty for such a light beer.
Calapooia: Paddle Me IPA, Albany 6.8% ABV, 72 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Paddle Me IPA is a spicy brew with Maris Otter Pale imported malts and loads of high-alpha hops, including Summit and Simcoe for a pungent tickle of front-of-palate grapefruity flavor and aroma. An extra dose of Nugget and Centennial hops provide a playful slap of mid-range to back-end bitterness.
Consumer Comments: Tastes like fruit upfront. Delicious, hoppy and rich and pretty strong. Bitter or almost sour — I like it. Good bold flavor.
Claim 52: Claim House Weizenbier, Eugene 4.6% ABV, 10 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This hefeweizen-style beer is perfect for the pregame tailgater or anytime.
Consumer Comments: Love it! My favorite. Light but not watery. Is it hefeweizen? Full of flavor. Surprisingly good. Light with a good aftertaste.
NEXT FREE TASTING
Belgians: 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, at F.H. Steinbart Co., 234 SE 12th Ave., Portland
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.