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
As a non-native Pacific Northwesterner, I am aware we live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet and I am usually attuned to others’ reasons for loving life here. One of the most colorful aspects of life in the Pacific Northwest is the changing of the seasons. Almost universally, the region’s residents mention the four distinct annual quarters that make up a calendar year. Never a fan of the rain — although I recognize the critical contribution of precipitation to our breathtaking landscape — seasonal change means something different for me than it does for people like my wife, who’s immensely fond of the autumn colors and the departure of summer. Where she enjoys the falling of the leaves, the return of the rain and the onset of winter, I’m already missing summer and looking forward to spring.
But fall brings with it other attractions, notably the start of football season. And when you’re talking about football in Oregon, the conversation never fails to touch on the endless Oregon or Oregon State debate and the epic tailgating gatherings which have come to define football in this area. So we thought a friendly little brews-made-for-tailgating competition between certain breweries located in the totally random towns of Corvallis and Eugene would be perfect. Totally random? OK, maybe not. But both of these Oregon football towns know how to turn out some great games — and champion brews!
Flat Tail Tailgater Kolsch, Corvallis
5.0% ABV; 25 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Mashed with Weyermann Malt from Bamberg, Germany, and hopped with German Tettnangers, this crushable brew is fermented cold with a traditional yeast strain to keep it light, crisp and perfect for an afternoon tailgate.
Consumer Comments: With the invitingly clean hue of fresh apple juice, the Tailgater Kolsch presents itself as a friendly, easy-drinking beer — exactly what it is. Panelists liked this brew’s easy-going nature, noting its mild malt and crisp finish. This one’s best served chilled — maybe a bit more than usual — in the company of friends.
Oregon Trail Wit, Corvallis
4.7% ABV; 20 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Oregon Trail Wit is a zesty spiced wheat ale, brewed since 1992. Crafted with Oregon pioneer spirit, Mount Hood hops, coriander and orange peel for a citrusy finish, this naturally hazy beer is supremely refreshing.
Consumer Comments: With the barest hint of clove on the nose and palate, the Oregon Trail Wit starts out paradoxically light and earthy. It’s a great autumn beer, with hints of spice and a bit of nip without the stereotypical “pumpkin spice” attitude. Panelists thought this pint might be a great introduction to those who’d like to try a beer for the first time. Serve with brats or sausages.
Block 15 Gloria!, Corvallis
5.0% ABV; Unavailable IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Blending delicate malt character and zesty hops, Gloria! is our vision of the crisp, unfiltered pilsner. Brewed with floor-malted pilsner malts, Gloria! pours a hazy, straw-colored pint. European- and Oregon-grown hops impart citrus and floral spice, while select lager yeast finishes clean and refreshing. This immensely drinkable lager is our brewers’ choice after a long day in the brewhouse. Gloria!
Consumer Comments: Panelists pegged this pint a pilsner without hesitation. Gloria! is light, crisp and easy-drinking, exhibiting notes of lemon peel framed by a sweet-but-friendly bitter body. With its refreshing character, this brew will accompany game day treats like wings, onion rings or teriyaki skewers perfectly.
Ninkasi Helles Belles, Eugene
5.3% ABV; 28 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Helles Belles is a headliner for the masses. Light and flavorful, this drinkable Lager strikes a chord between satisfyingly crisp and deliciously crafted. It’s time to rock — all night long.
Consumer Comments: Characterized by malt with a hint of spice, panelists loved the affable nature of Helles Belles Lager. With comments like “sure to please everyone” and “crisp, easy to drink,” tasters thought this brew would go well with chicken or barbecue sliders. This pint is well-balanced and lively, a great addition to any tailgate party.
Elk Horn Oktoberfest, Eugene
5.0% ABV; 20 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This brilliantly clear and orange-colored lager was brewed for our Oktobeerfest on Oct. 22. It showcases the delicate flavors of German Pilsner, Munich and Vienna malts that provide freshly baked bread and nutty flavors that are complemented by the subtle spicy flavor and bitterness from German Tettnang hops. This beer was cold conditioned during the summer and is undeniably crisp and refreshing. Cheers!
Consumer Comments: The easy smoothness of this brew was noted by panelists, more than one remarking on its “drinkability.” The Oktoberfest Lager sports a medium body, an unobtrusive spiciness and panelists imagined it a perfect companion for tailgating fare like burgers, dogs or even cheesesteaks. The brew’s honey hue and very subtle woodsy char make for a refreshing brew.
Hop Valley Citrus Mistress IPA, Eugene
6.5% ABV; 80 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This IPA features four different hops with the addition of grapefruit peel for a citrus, peach and tropical bouquet. Plus there’s enough Munich malt to give it a classic burnt-orange color.
Consumer Comments: The hands-down favorite of panelists, Citrus Mistress IPA is an aptly-named brew, weighty and maybe a little opinionated without being overbearing. With a bold color just shy of blood oranges, this brew has a body of delicate citrus blossom, framed by robust hops. Like its name implies, the Citrus Mistress will keep you warmly entertained on a chilly fall afternoon, but she won’t overstay her welcome. It’s worth noting that, among the tailgating beers, this brew was the odd man — or woman — out. While the others were amiable easy beers, the Citrus Mistress’ forward IPA character set it apart from the rest.
The good-natured rivalry between our two teams is undoubtedly underscored by a shared love of our beautiful state. After all, Northwesterners are known for their love of the land and sense of fair play. Regardless of whether you’re a Beaver or a Duck fan, I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy the tailgating beers crafted by the talented brewmasters at any of these Oregon breweries. Here’s to football in Oregon — and the beers which help us cheer on our teams!
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.