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
I was a mall Santa. Not my proudest moment, I was a 20-something who needed an additional gig to support my holiday celebration fund — more commonly called “drinking money.” I was young and slim, but my habitual chain-smoking had given me a gravelly “ho-ho-ho” at an unnaturally young age — probably not the best choice to play Santa but, hey, I’m pretty sure the mall people were as desperate as I was. Plus, I’ve always maintained a short list of jobs everyone should do once like driving a taxi, tending bar and, yes, playing a mall Santa. In my current portly, non-smoking, white-haired state, I definitely see the irony.
Mall Santas are subject to all sorts of abuse such as screaming toddlers, deluded parents and adolescents who, when they sit on Santa’s lap, laugh so hard they fart. Santa also hears the yuletide requests of a few full-sized adults who, for whatever reason, still believe in the magic of St. Nick. But altogether, the hundreds of children, awestruck and excited, eagerly whispering their Christmas wishes into Santa’s ear is a memorable and touching event — even for a young and self-absorbed Santa. Having occupied both the jolly red fellow’s seat and the place of the harried parent, these days I’m pretty understanding. Maybe that’s why I once told the long-suffering Meier & Frank Santaland Santa, whose lap my young daughter had just vacated, that I should’ve brought him a pint of whiskey as a tip.
No matter your take on the holiday season, it’s a good time for celebrating with family and friends. Even if you dislike the yearly display of crass commercialism, you must admit the chill of a dark Northwest December is best remedied with a pint. In celebration of the season, we bring you a selection of winter warmers — Oregon brews created to take the bite out of the long nights.
Three Mugs Brewing Company: Death Czar Russian Imperial Stout, Hillsboro
9.7% ABV; 40 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This huge brew has complex aromas and flavors that will explode in your mouth. It’s black as a winter night in Russia, with a perfect melding of malty, chocolaty and roasty notes that will kill your desire for any other stout.
Consumer Comments: Beer may be a Northwest hallmark, but the Death Czar Russian Imperial Stout comes complete with another regional trademark: coffee! December’s favorite, this darkly ruddy cold-weather brew is built on notes of robust java, a fleeting sweetness and a gently astringent oak-barrel finish, which makes for a very clean mouthfeel. Our panelists declared the Death Czar the quintessential winter warmer!
10 Barrel Brewing Co.: Beer Nog, Spiced Winter Ale Aged in Rum Barrels, Bend and Portland
11.9% ABV; [Unavailable] IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This full-bodied spiced winter warmer is just what you need to get out of the cold. A blend of spices and nuances of raisins, toasted oats, cocoa nibs along with the use of five different malts pack this beer with a ton of flavor. Take off your coat and enjoy this annual favorite.
Consumer Comments: What they said. (I love it when the brewer’s notes and the tasting panel’s are in agreement!) Beer Nog is indeed a spiced winter ale, which reflects its rum barrel aging. This brew’s mulled warmth is enhanced by its sour character, its creators deftly hitting a solid sour-hop balance. Seasonal spices underscore this brew’s fall/winter theme, offering a perfect companion for cold nights in front of a crackling fire.
Falling Sky Brewing: Wet Earth Winter Ale, Eugene
6.5% ABV; 58 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: It’s time to accept it, doom and gloom: the rain is here. Aromas of wet earth and spicy hops sink into roasted nuts and a hint of dark fruit welcoming a hearty winter offering. This mahogany brew has rich malt depth with a touch of alcohol warmth while being dangerously drinkable for an internal sweater when it’s pouring outside. Cheers to the season!
Consumer Comments: IPA lovers, take heed! Wet Earth Winter Ale exhibits all the characteristics you’d expect in a winter beer but with a little something extra: hops. This affable brew leads with moderate hops and malt along with bits of nut and fruit — even reminding several of our panelists of a well-balanced rye porter. This beer easily blends the comfort of a winter warmer with the refreshment of a brisk IPA.
Golden Valley Brewery: Tannen Bomb, McMinnville
8.0% ABV; 50 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Fall is here and it’s time for the release of Tannen Bomb, our winter warmer ale. This strong, tawny amber features a complex malt character derived from the generous use of assorted specialty malts and adjuncts, including flaked barley, wheat, crystal, crystal rye and pale chocolate malt. The robust malt presence is countered by the judicious application of Cascade, Golding and Willamette hops.
Consumer Comments: With the husky hue of raw honey and an invitingly frothy head, Tannen Bomb is a decidedly Northwest seasonal choice. Less weighty than many winter warmers, this amber ale is true to its hop heritage while offering layered malts with just a bit of juniper before a very clean finish. Our tasting panel labeled the Tannen Bomb a guaranteed crowd-pleaser for holiday gatherings!
pFriem Family Brewers: Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, Hood River
11.5% ABV; 70 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: The first imperial stouts were high-alcohol concoctions brewed for Czar Peter the Great of Russia. Our own Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout absorbs the tannins of OOLA Distillery’s bourbon barrels for a full year, resulting in huge roasted malt, chocolate mousse, coconut and ripe cherry flavors that may leave you feeling like a bit of a monarch yourself!
Consumer Comments: A distinct nose of molasses introduces the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout. Notes of sorghum, coffee and a hint of raspberry shape the character of this full-bodied brew — several panelists even detected a little teriyaki. Almost Eastern European in its fortitude, this imperial stout isn’t for the faint-of-heart. Serve this meaty pint steakside and follow it with a generous slice of double-chocolate torte.
As you experience the holiday season this year, kick back, grab an Oregon brew and reflect on the connections you have with those close to you. If you’re like me, you’ll take some time to feel gratitude for the people you love, the things you have and for this beautiful state we call home. Even if your life isn’t perfect — whose is? — at least you’re not a mall Santa.
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
I have a swimming pool. It’s not a temporary pool but an honest-to-goodness in-ground pool, complete with sparkling blue water, chaise lounges and a deep end — although it no longer has a diving board due to one careless swimmer who thought it was suitable for launching his 200-plus-pound adult body many feet into the air after running out the back door and down the stairs at full speed on his way to cooling off. Diving board or not, it’s the perfect place to kick back on lazy summer afternoons with a few friends and some cold beverages.
When it’s hot outside and cool waters beckon, Oregon summers demand refreshing brews — maybe not the “big” beers we enjoy the rest of the year. With a lower alcohol content than many of the brews we drink year-round, sessions are perfect for cloudless sunny days. But, like my pool in the springtime, the origins of the term “sessions” is murky. Most sources agree the term probably originated in wartime austerity and productivity, when the need to produce things simply was matched by the urgency to do so with a sober focus. Whatever the case, session has come to define brews of less than five percent alcohol content by volume. These lighter beers offer a particular appeal when the heat is a little overbearing. Whether you’re a fan of big beers or gentler pints, these sessions demonstrate the craftsmanship and attention to detail for which Oregon brewers are known — there’s a brew for every taste in August’s batch. And with all this beautiful Northwest sunshine, now is the perfect time to enjoy them.
BridgePort Brewing Company: Bullpen Session IPA
5.0% ABV; 47 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A smooth, lower alcohol ale, this beer gives a surprising burst of citrusy hop flavor in the finish. We make a malt base using our Two-Row Pale Malt then add Golden Oats and Honey Malt for a smooth, slightly sweet mouthfeel. Then we add hops. We use Northwest Nuggets, Meridians and Crystals. Then we finish the beer by dry hopping twice with a combination of Citra and Meridian hops for a burst of fresh citrus flavor.
Consumer Comments: With its seamless coalescence between nose and palate, Bullpen Session IPA is a beautifully balanced brew where hops and citrus are perfect partners — no competition here. The favorite of our tasting panel, the beer offers notes of crisp apple and lemon as it introduces a surprisingly robust body, which provides immensely satisfying hot-weather refreshment at the same time. Assertive without being overbearing, this brew is summer in a pint glass.
Coalition Brewing: Serendipity People’s Ale
4.5% ABV; 25 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Beer has the unique power to bring together individuals of all backgrounds. This is a true drink of the People. Highly approachable and sessionable, Serendipity People’s Ale presents as golden colored with orange hues. It has a light maltiness from Munich and Honey Malts that hit the front of the palate. The addition of flaked barley carries a subtle sweetness through the body. While hops are not the star of this show, they play an integral role in balancing the malt profile. Nobles offer a light and clean bitterness.
Consumer Comments: Hints of honey and a full head say howdy when Serendipity People’s Ale is poured. This session is exceptionally well-mannered — charming and polite, but with enough nuance to suggest a sharp underlying wit. Our panel described Serendipity as a “gentleman’s ale” and suggested pairing with spicy Asian dishes.
Crux Fermentation Project: Off Leash Session IPA (Available May through September)
4.5% ABV; 30 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Debuted at an event that crowned our hometown “Dog Town USA,” this light-hearted ale bounds with regional Citra, Centennial and Crystal hops for those citrusy notes beloved by Northwest hop hounds. We’ve nudged the malt bill in the other direction for a sessionable ale that’s easy to love.
Consumer Comments: Fresh peaches and a little citrus make for a tempting nose on the seasonal Off Leash Session IPA. A genuine session IPA, hops and lemon merge with malt to form a medium-bodied brew where zesty lemon tames residual bitterness. From its stone fruit start to its remarkably clean finish, Off Leash is an ideal IPA for August.
Elk Horn Brewery: SirBerlin
4.5% ABV; 10 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Light golden and highly effervescent, this twist on a traditional German Berliner weiss has bright flavor and a light, bubbly body perfect for summer refreshment. Its fresh, citrusy lemongrass note is complemented by lychee fruit and a subtle malt character provided by the combination of White Wheat and acidulated malt, which adds a crisp, tart flavor.
Consumer Comments: A bright nose of pear invites when the champagne-like SirBerlin is poured. Effervescent and consistent, floral notes and a bit of grass yield to light fruit and a crisp mouthfeel. SirBerlin is straightforward and honest, an easy-drinking, warm-weather brew.
GoodLife Brewing Company: Wildland Session Ale
4.5% ABV; 30 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This is a bright and clear beer that is a golden-orange straw color with a white head. Slightly dank aromas of citrus fruit mix with spicy background notes. Peach and other bright fruit flavors are at the forefront of a clean-finishing, medium-bodied beer. Overall, Wildland is a great summer beer that is dank and easy to drink.
Consumer Comments: If Bend can be captured in a bottle, GoodLife Brewing Company has done it with its outstanding Wildland Session Ale. My personal favorite of the sessions, this brew is honest from start to finish. Offering notes of high desert juniper, resinous pine and refreshing citrus, the ale is gentle and masterfully balanced, perfect for summer sipping but almost certainly just as enjoyable any other time of year. Well done, GoodLife!
Hop Haus Brewing: Sunny Bono Session IPA
4.5% ABV; 50 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A lower-alcohol, easy-drinking golden IPA perfect for warm days, this beer incorporates Pilsner, Vienna and Two-Row Malts along with low-alpha hops, making a very sessionable IPA that won’t fill you up.
Consumer Comments: The Beat Goes On with the rich amber hue of this earthy-but-refreshing summer IPA. Sunny Bono Session IPA is no Little Man, but it might be the perfect hot-temperature pint for IPA enthusiasts. With well-mannered hops and a laid-back bitterness, this amiable brew is So Fine — sure to please even those who find IPAs too much. Panelists agreed Sunny Bono would pair well with Summertime grilled burgers.
As a big fan of bright and hot Oregon summers, a pool isn’t optional for me. What better place to cool off and entertain guests during the long-awaited Oregon summer months? Well, most guests anyway. Those inclined to abuse innocent diving boards can find a public pool or a river. But for guests who are welcome, a pool and a refreshing Oregon session might just be the perfect way to pass a hot August afternoon!
By 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 Matthew Meador
For the Oregon Beer Growler
I’ve become everything I ever made fun of. When you’re young, you think nothing’ll never catch up with you — older readers should know this. You younger readers already know everything, anyway, like I did when I wore your hipster ankle-boots. But the epiphany of grasping your own mortality can be jarring and, when you realize you’ve become everything you ever laughed at, you either find religion or double-down and order a round for everyone.
Naturally irreverent, few topics, people or afflictions were off-limits for my forward (and possibly sometimes offensive) humor. This means my conservative friends all think I’m a Pinko Commie and my progressive friends are certain I voted for Trump. Whatever. They’re all wrong: the funny parts of this life pretty much span the full spectrum. In fact, I sometimes think the most hilarious moments are spawned by the least humorous people. But that’s okay because they don’t need to be in on the joke for me to get my belly laugh.
The hazards from a willingness to find humor almost anywhere are numerous, especially when all that stuff you mocked stares back at you from the bathroom mirror. But my own life has been indescribably enriched by sharing these laughs with good friends as we sit ‘round the table at the neighborhood pub, swapping stories, sharing jokes and keeping the taps flowing. In celebration of friendship and laughter, we offer five Oregon double IPAs, guaranteed to take the edge off and help you find the funny.
pFriem Family Brewers: pFriem Double IPA, Hood River
9.0% ABV; 95 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Just like the name implies, brewing a batch of pFriem Double IPA takes twice the regular amount of malt and hops. That means each pint is brimming with doubly-rich aromas of fresh berries, notes of papaya and malty sweetness. Just make sure to raise your glass twice because a beer like this deserves a double cheers!
Consumer Comments: The favorite of this month’s tasting panel, the pFriem Double IPA from pFriem Family Brewers has a fresh and fruity character which is beautifully balanced on its requisite hop-crafted foundation. This pint says howdy with an enthusiastic head, tempting the taster with almost as much citrus as hops. The pFriem Double IPA is every inch a robust hoppy ale but its deft balance and amiable bitterness wins wide approval. If the bottle’s elegant labels have anything to say about the brew inside, a great deal of care and skill went into its creation — this Hood River brewery justifiably takes pride in its product.
Hop Valley Brewing Company: Alpha Centauri, Springfield
9.0% ABV; 100 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Big flavor. Intense pine and citrus aroma. We keep the malt profile clean in this Imperial IPA to let the love lights shine on the fine Northwest hops.
Consumer Comments: Bring on the hops! A classic double IPA if ever there was, Hop Valley Brewing Company’s Alpha Centauri epitomizes everything you love about IPAs — then double it! Alpha’s nose starts softly with a bit of floral and citrus but quickly brings on the hops, grabbing the taster firmly by the tongue. From start to finish, this brew builds to a crescendo, its big bitter finish belying its more subtle lemony handshake. If you’re looking for hop-forward and in-your-face, this bold brew’s for you!
Coalition Brewing Co.: Dropping Science Double IPA, Portland
8.0% ABV; 85 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Brewing epitomizes the intersection of science and art. In this spirit, Coalition is proud to present our newest year-round creation, Dropping Science. This uniquely delicious and balanced double IPA provides the best of the art and science of brewing. Deep copper in color, aromatics of pine, spice, and citrus from northwest grown Chinook hops entice your nose, while a mellow sweetness from caramel malt and malted oats balances the 85 IBUs. Hop flavors of citrus, pine and spice from Cascade and Sterling hops intermingle beautifully in this supremely drinkable double IPA.
Consumer Comments: The earthy-hued amiability of Coalition Brewing Co.’s Dropping Science Double IPA might be the initial clue that this brew is laid-back and mellow — a great choice when you prefer less brass and more nuance in your glass. Not as hoppily insistent as its brothers, this brew’s medium malt body and subtle hops are framed with gentle citrus, a bit of butterscotch along with nutty smokiness. Panelists unanimously attested to the easy drinkability of this unpretentious pint.
Claim 52 Brewing: Fluffier, Eugene
8.0% ABV; 75 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Double Fluffy IPA with lactose is brewed with wheat and oats and hopped with Citra and Mosaic. This beer was made to honor the first anniversary of Willamette Valley’s original Fluffy IPA. There are notes of passion fruit, pine, grapefruit and sticky green.
Consumer Comments: I don’t know about fluff, but Fluffier from Claim 52 Brewing infuses a lot of personality into your glass! More exotic than classic, Fluffier’s tropical nose seduces with notes of pineapple and papaya with an underlying floral tease. On the palate, the island fruit yields to citrus but expresses as an extremely drinkable brew — don’t worry, you won’t mistake it for Malibu. Panelists were nearly unanimously delighted with this pint, more than one suggesting a teriyaki pairing.
Stickmen Brewing Company: Iron Mountain IIPA, Lake Oswego / Tualatin
9.5% ABV; 80 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A citrusy and bright Double IPA with heaps of Summit, Centennial and Cascade hops for bold aromatics and flavor.
Consumer Comments: Robust but evenly-tempered, Stickmen Brewing Company’s Iron Mountain IIPA has a bite but is marked by good manners. A medium-to-full-bodied brew, the Iron Mountain is well-balanced and not too heavy. Panelists noted its creamy head, moderate hops, and traces of wheat and rye, all leading to a clean finish. If you’re trying to please guests with a range of tastes, this brew should do the trick — IPA enthusiasts and virgins alike will agree.
When I think about it, maybe I haven’t quite become everything I ever made fun of yet — but I’m pretty sure it’s only a matter of time until the dementia, bad driving and incontinence set in. Until then, I intend to keep finding the funny stuff and celebrating this wacky, unpredictable journey. I know that doing so in decent company will pay off in unexpected ways. Like me, one day you may look back and realize these ordinary moments with good friends and great beer are more special than you thought.
By Matthew Meador
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Now that the holidays are behind us, it’s time for that truly most wonderful time of the year, “awards season.” It’s that special period when those put-upon celebrities throw giant parties to honor themselves. After all, when you only make $10 million per film, you deserve a bunch of lavish ceremonies where people like you can shower you with shiny statues, gushing praise and gift bags worth more than my car. Who cares about scientific achievements, humanitarian efforts, world-changing vision or boring stuff like that?
So what do carefully-crafted Belgian-style ales from Oregon have to do with spoiled people demanding over-the-top public acknowledgement for their possibly-exceptional-but-generally-overrated-and-certainly-not-Einstein-or-Curie talents? Nothing, except the rest of us need refreshment and sustenance to get us through the doldrums of winter marked by this wastefully pointless “awards season.” With centuries of tradition behind them, brewers from the Low Countries have long been some of my favorites — far more deserving of recognition than, well, almost anyone in Southern California. Evidently, many Oregon brewers agree as they’re producing some outstanding Belgian-style brews right here in our state. Even better, the pints featured below go one step further than following Flemish methods alone: these brewers firmly place the stamp of the Pacific Northwest on their beers and all are better for it.
Elk Horn: Tussle in Brussels, Eugene
9% ABV; 22 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Straw in color, this Belgian tripel is bright and crisp. It’s brewed with German pilsner malt, Vienna malt, Tettnanger hops, coriander seed, caraway and cumin. This beer is full of subtle spice character. Cheers!
Consumer Comments: It was a tough decision, but Elk Horn’s Tussle in Brussels earned the panel’s vote for the best brew of the bunch. The exuberant tripel exhibits an upbeat apple theme from start to finish — although tasters argued about which variety of apple. Distinctly beer, Tussle in Brussels nonetheless exhibits some of the finer traits of cider, too. A slightly sweet champagne-like introduction gives way to moderate hops and spices, finishing cleanly — crisp and dry. One taster said he loved the beer from his first sip, declaring it a perfect campfire beer. Panelists suggested pairing this pint with pork chops or sharp cheeses.
Golden Valley: Golden Spurs Belgian IPA, McMinnville
7% ABV; 65 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Golden Valley’s newest release is an IPA fermented with Belgian Abbey Ale Yeast, fortified with Belgian candi sugar, and hopped with Citra, Centennial, Hull Melon, and Mount Hood hops. Bright and fruity hop notes play well with the soft esters produced by the yeast, which is believed to be related to that of the Trappist ale producer Chimay.
Consumer Comments: A masterful example of blending old Low Country tradition with the modern character of the Northwest, Golden Valley’s Golden Spurs Belgian IPA is a hop-forward brew with firm notes of citrus. Boasting an easy balance between bitterness and astringency, this beer’s hop-themed body yields to its citrus character and flashes a little yeast before finishing with a white pepper crispness. Panelists suggested pairing this pint with lighter fare like salads, fruits and seafood — one taster even suggested grilled bratwursts. Our panel loved the affable character of this brew.
Mazama: Belgian-Style Blonde, Corvallis
7.7% ABV; 20 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Mazama’s Belgian-Style Blonde is handmade in the ecclesiastic brewing style of the great Belgian abbeys. This golden ale is light-bodied, drinkable and full of complex, fermentation-derived flavors such as fruit, spices and honey. The mix of fruity esters, light spiciness and smooth alcohol builds a complex but easy drinking beer. This ale is so full of delicate aromas, you might just swear it came from the Old Country. Cheers!
Consumer Comments: With a clean hue of pure clover honey, the Belgian-Style Blonde from Mazama is an easy-drinking beer with notes of melon, honey and even a little pear. This pint finishes with a lingering tartness, leaving the palate refreshed and thirsty for more. Several panelists remarked on this beer’s approachability and easy mouthfeel, drawing comparisons to both classic Belgian blondes and pilsners. The Belgian-Style Blonde is an undeniably amiable brew, likely to please guests who have widely diverse tastes.
Three Mugs: Belgian from the ‘Burbs, Hillsboro
10% ABV; 45 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This is a huge, malty Belgian-style dark strong ale with hints of biscuit and dried fruit. It’s infused after fermentation with Sumatran dark roast coffee beans for a hint of coffee aroma and flavor.
Consumer Comments: With discreet notes of root beer and cocoa on the nose, this multi-layered, complex beer is a subtle evolution from start to finish. Built on a solid body of coffee, Three Mugs’ Belgian from the ‘Burbs expands to include notes of mocha, brown sugar and oats. Tobacco and spice are also apparent, but this pint’s melange of flavors is marvelous — the multiple facets of this beer’s character overlap easily and gracefully. Our tasting panel agreed this brew would serve as a great accompaniment for dessert in front of a crackling fire.
While I take my food and beverages seriously, I also enjoy real music and good movies. But I’m not above mocking the excess practiced by those who live in the public eye and earn their livings from folks like you and me. My mockery doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge talent — on the contrary, I see talent every day. I just wish we put a little more value in those who actually contribute to the betterment of humankind. I’m also told I just like to gripe, too, though. Whatever the case, maybe the best place to start appreciating homegrown contributions is at your neighborhood brewery. At the very least, you’ll have a good time looking for local talent!
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.