By Matthew Meador
For the Oregon Beer Growler
I used to hate the holidays. Well, maybe “hate” is a strong word. At best, the holiday season offered a reason for an extended period of revelry along with invitations to some great parties. Altogether, though, the sense of harried chaos that has come to define this holiest of all shopping seasons was a pretty strong turn-off. From traffic and crowded malls to artificially cheery canned music and incessant bells outside the doors of every drugstore, I had decided the whole season was something I could do without. But, hey, even though I may have experienced some inconvenience and irritation from all the commercial rush, attending parties is a pretty good way to take the edge off, right?
I spent the holiday seasons of my twenties grumbling. Then I had kids. If one single event can wipe out a Scrooge’s Christmas crankiness, it’s having children. Something about the wide-eyed wonder of a little one discovering the season is truly magical. I think my transformation was complete when I took my preschool-aged daughter to see Santaland in a helicopter. Santa climbed out of the aircraft, dozens of excited kids looking on. The big red jolly fellow walked right up to me and said, “Hi, Matt!” My daughter, awestruck, looked up at me with giant eyes and asked, “You know Santa, Dad?” It turns out — unknown to me — one of my friends was playing Santa at that event. I am forever grateful to him for that moment.
So my seasonal outlook got considerably brighter when my daughters came along. I now tolerate the hectic holiday madness maybe better than most parents. Okay, let’s be honest: I actually enjoy the holiday season now — there’s no “tolerate” about it. But even though “party season” has become “parent season,” I still manage to celebrate the old-fashioned way with festive seasonal brews like the ones we feature in this month’s blind tasting evaluation.
Widmer: Brrr, Portland
7.15% ABV; 50 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Brrr is a moderately strong dark red ale. The generous use of citrusy hops provides a tangible, but not excessive, bitterness that ultimately erodes into a candy-like malty sweetness and quick finish. Caramel and chocolate malts provide complexity, an enticing color and subtle dark malt flavors.
Consumer Comments: Of all the packages under the tree, this brew was our panelists’ favorite. Widmer hits the winter mark with Brrr, a bright, amber-colored brew with a sultry nose of florals and grains. Well-balanced and bold, this brew is defined by hops without being overwhelmed. Tasters noted its smoothness and up-front flavor, agreeing it could earn a place on any holiday beverage menu.
Full Sail: Wassail Winter Ale, Hood River
7.2% ABV; 56 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Wassail is brewed with a range of caramel and dark chocolate malts giving it a deep mahogany color and full malty body. We used a blend of Pacific Northwest hops for a pleasant hoppy aroma and finish, creating a deliciously balanced beer that appeals to both hop and malt lovers alike.
Consumer Comments: As winter approaches and night falls early, Full Sail’s Wassail Winter Ale provides an inviting warmth to ward off the chill. A favorite among tasting panelists, this brew exhibits notes of cocoa and toffee with a bit of nutty toast. Tasters described this brew as “full of flavor” and “very drinkable.”
Burnside: Permafrost, Portland
8.3% ABV; 77 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Our original winter elixir is a big strong ale brewed with seven different malts and copious amounts of Columbia and Amarillo hops. It’s designed to give this warming brew a chewy, complex malt body and a unique fruity, juicy hoppiness throughout. You won’t want to just sip this dangerously strong and tasty beer … but you should.
Consumer Comments: With an autumn hue of unfiltered apple juice, the Permafrost from Burnside sports exuberant carbonation, balanced hops and a clean finish. Tasters liked this brew’s sweet character, noting its balance, hints of honey and palate-cleansing acidity. All agreed this beer would be a great holiday party pleaser.
Golden Valley: Tannen Bomb, McMinnville
8.0% ABV; 50 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Tannen Bomb is brewed annually to help take the chill off the Pacific Northwest winter clime. Our brewers use an enormous malt bill of primarily Northwest-grown two-row barley as well as Vienna, Monastique, Victory, crystal and chocolate malts. To balance the huge malt presence, Tannen Bomb is generously hopped with Apollo, Golding, Cascade and Willamette hops. Cheers!
Consumer Comments: McMinnville’s Golden Valley crafts this eagerly awaited holiday favorite every year. With a bold introduction, complete with notes of wheat, chocolate and even a little almond, this brew softens mid-palate, but returns for a strong finish. An altogether amiable brew, you might want to be careful — the Tannen Bomb will get the better of you if you don’t respect it.
Zoiglhaus: Nikolaus, Portland
5.1% ABV; 36 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Do you really think St. Nick wants to eat chocolate chip cookies and drink milk after busting his ass all night? Hell, no! He wants to pound lagers and eat gingerbread. With that image in mind, we thought we would save him some trouble and just put the two things together: German Pilsner, Wheat, Munich, Caramel, Carapils and CARAFA malts were selected to work their magic with a secret blend of gingerbread spices and a splash of German Magnum and Hersbrucker hops. Nikolaus is spicy, delicate, nuanced and plain fun. Enjoy our celebration of the seasons!
Consumer Comments: Everybody loves a visit from St. Nick and Zoiglhaus’ Nikolaus was no exception. This brew captures the holiday spirit up front with aromas of cinnamon and clove. The gentle spices yield to ginger and citrus, never letting the taster forget its spicy foundation. Panelists thought this brew might accompany a spiced holiday ham or act as a perfect stand-alone beverage to boost your guests’ holiday spirit.
Cascade Brewing Barrel House: Sang Noir, Portland
9.9% ABV; 10 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Sang Noir is a blend of sour imperial red ales aged in bourbon and wine barrels for up to two years with Bing cherries. It features flavors of dark roast malts, bourbon, cherries and port.
Consumer Comments: Cascade’s Sang Noir is a great holiday treat, perfect for the fall and winter. Presenting a uniquely seductive fruit nose, the brew’s fruit character merges effortlessly with its mid-level carbonation. Sang Noir’s bold notes of apple and cherry delighted our panelists, drawing comparisons to ciders and wines.
As an all-year-long rule, the exceptional creativity of our regional brewers manages to capture the independent spirit of the Pacific Northwest magnificently. But at no other time of year is this talent as evident as it is during the holidays, when their efforts produce some of the best seasonal brews around. And whether you have children or not, you can hoist a pint and toast the good cheer the season offers.
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
It happens every year when I serve this style at our monthly blind tasting. Someone asks: What are amber and red ales? And as usual, I talk about toasted malt flavors that lend robust, sweet, caramel or fruity flavors, with emphasis on balance, even though in Oregon you may find this style hopped to the hilt.
And as usual, all of my so-called expert opinions fall apart as my tasters move through Oregon amber and red ales’ variety of flavors, colors and textures — from high-alcohol imperials to Flanders-style sours and all variations between. I’m not alone in my confusion. Even the biggest contests in the U.S. put reds and ambers into categories together. The caramel and medium-toast malts give the ales their distinct amber to red colors and full bodies, but after that, especially in Oregon, anything goes.
So, with all this fuzzy variety, how do you know what you’re getting when you buy an ale named “red” or “amber?” You could spend your time reading the description on the label or bar menu – that might help. Sometimes, breweries name their hoppier reds and amber “IRAs” or India red ales. The higher alcohol ales might have an “imperial” designation. Or, you might skip the reading and go straight to the tasting. The combinations of flavors in this style are sometimes genius, sometimes edgy, sometimes weird. You decide. And take your time.
To get you started, here are the favorite reds and ambers chosen by visitors to our blind tasting:
Rusty Truck Fender Bender Amber Ale, Lincoln City 6.2% ABV; 35 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Not your Mama’s amber ale, Fender Bender has notes of chocolate barley and an assertive hop character.
Consumer Comments: I’ve been on the road awhile and wasn’t sure where I was until I tried this – Oregon – hoppy, laid back. A nice red with a medium-hop character. Good malty flavor. Nice bitter finish. Dark beer taste with center of the Earth power.
Fearless Loki Red Ale, Estacada 7.5% ABV; 45 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This big, bold red ale has a slightly spicy sprinkle of rye malt. Roasty malt flavors are accentuated by massive helpings of Galena and CTZ hops. Just like its namesake, it can be a little sneaky!
Consumer Comments: Unlike me, this beer has a backbone. I like it! Well-balanced, medium and delicious. Amber taste with a kick. Great beer with a perfect amount of bitterness. This could be dangerous, but I don’t care. Sweet aftertaste.
Full Sail Amber Ale, Hood River 6% ABV; 31 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This amber is a sweet, malty, medium-bodied ale with a spicy, floral hop finish. It’s brewed with 2-Row Pale, Crystal and Chocolate malts and hopped with Mt. Hoods and Cascades.
Consumer Comments: Nice and malty amber. Good and sweet malty flavor without the bitter aftertaste. Very refreshing with a hint of roses and chocolate. Romantic! Valentine beer. Dark, but not heavy. Love it.
Elk Horn Viva La Rouge, Eugene 8% ABV; 20 IBU
Brewer’s Description: This sour red saison was aged on plums in a red wine barrel for 14 months with lactobacillus, pediococcus and brettanomyces.
Consumer Comments: Love this sour. Cherries? A sour beer! This seems like a higher-gravity ale, but it’s still well-balanced and level. I don’t like sours — well, I used to not like sours, but this one is tart and refreshing.
Leikam Grateful Red, Portland 7.1% ABV; 70 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Chinook, Columbus and Willamette hops take this into IRA territory, but the specialty malts offset any overwhelming hoppiness.
Consumer Comments: Refreshing on a hot, summer day. Woodsy. This is odd, but good. I’d want to drink it with split pea soup. Very good. Enough hops to be an IPA. Roses?
GoodLife Redside IRA, Bend 6% ABV; 50 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Named for the unique subspecies of rainbow trout found only in Oregon’s Deschutes River, Redside India Red Ale is one of a kind. Bright hops and a red malt base create a flavorful, aromatic and balanced ale with notes of guava nectar and a fresh floral hop bite.
Consumer Comments: Very balanced, unlike me. I can, and will, drink this all night! Light and tasty, and pretty hoppy for a red — just the way I like it! Oregon-style.
Royale The Visitor Red Ale, Portland 6% ABV; 42 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This is a rich, malty, flavorful red ale with a lush red color and a subtle tropical fruit and berry hop aroma. Medium-bodied, this ale has toffee, caramel and baked bread flavors that are malty, but not too sweet.
Consumer Comments: I like the malt. I’d like some more of this, please. Pretty beer! Perfect malty taste with just the right hopping. Another glass, please. Great!
Stickmen Red Kit Northwest Red Ale, Lake Oswego 7.1% ABV; 75 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This Northwest red beautifully balances four different malts with four fruit and citrus-forward hops for a harmonious drinking experience. The ale is dry-hopped with Amarillo, Citra, Pacifica, and Simcoe hops.
Consumer Comments: Nice hop nose and aftertaste, almost like a red or amber IPA. It’s been a long day, but with this beer, the night will finish nicely. Long live the night! Love this one! Excellent bitterness.
Plank Town FURTHR Ambr, Springfield 5.8% ABV; 32 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A smooth, malty, English-style ale with seven U.K. malts balanced by a variety of noble hops, leading to a clean, dry finish.
Consumer Comments: Smooth! It’s sweltering out, but this beer makes it worth it. My mouth feels wonders. Is this a brown? I like it. Take it to the park, forget your troubles and watch the river go by. This one goes down easy.
Worthy Eruption Imperial Red Ale, Bend 8% ABV; 100 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: The numbers say it all. This brew is bursting with flavor. There are six pounds of hops per barrel, including Cascade, Centennial, Crystal, Meridian and Mandarina Bavaria. Despite all of that volcanic bigness, Eruption is incredibly smooth.
Consumer Comments: Two Exclams!! Oh my king, as in, King Louis IV. Sweet, malty and good. Pretty hoppy for a red, but nice citrus flavor. The malt balances the hops, making it very drinkable.
Burnside Too Sticky to Roll IRA, Portland 6.2% ABV; 72 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This is a Northwest-style red ale with medium bitterness accented by chocolate malt and candy-like sweetness from caramel malt. It is brewed with Centennial and Millennium hops for both bitterness and hop aroma.
Consumer Comments: Well-balanced with depth. Smooth between sweet notes and bitterness. That’s real good. Malty enough for a 95-degree day. I could drink this with a nice steak dinner. Mommy just took me to the candy shop and bought me a drink.
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Here’s the conundrum I offered as conversation to a handful of party stragglers sipping the last of their brews around a solstice campfire: This will be the fourth, maybe fifth year I’ve written up the results of our Oregon IPA tastings. Surely by now, I say, everyone knows the India story — that English colonizers living in that faraway place, thirsty for their ales, packed their barrels with preservative hops to get the beer to India so it wouldn’t spoil along the way.
Or, do they? One person tells the tale of a beer server in Portland who suggested that IPAs were actually invented there. We all snickered, arrogant in our superior knowledge of beer. Did the fool not notice the name refers to India pale ales?
Someone suggested: “Why didn’t they name it Portland pale ale if this hoppy beverage were actually invented in Portland?”
“Because nobody wanted to order a “Pee-Pee A,” delivered Kate, ever the one-line queen.
Ba-dum-bum. Cheers all around.
Here are some of our consumer tasters’ favorite Oregon IPAs:
Ordnance Full Metal Jacket, Boardman 6.6% ABV; 53 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Western Europe meets West Coast in this quaffable IPA. A fusion of New-World hops are held up with a malty backbone reminiscent of a maltier English-style pale.
Consumer Comments: Floral, malty and thick. Citrusy, floral, nice smell, slightly piney. Strong bitterness but not too much, with a nice balance. Molasses. Easy drinking. Flavorage! Flowery smooth flavor. Sunny hop delight! Lightly floral and malty.
StormBreaker Handful of Hops V. 3.0, Portland 6.8 % ABV; 78 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: V. 3.0 of this experimental IPA series has aromas of mango, citrus and pine. Hoppy finish blends nicely as the slightly sweet fruitiness and characteristics of orange
citrus and pine find their way across the palate.
Consumer Comments: Hop in the sun for some of this fun! Fruity and sweet and a little bitter. A light citrus flavor and a smooth ending. Floral with a nice balance of bitter and sweet. Nice head. A bit tart. I love the citrus notes. Easy drinking. Crisp backbone.
Widmer Upheaval IPA, Portland 7% ABV; 55 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This IPA has more than two pounds of hops per barrel, unleashing a huge hop flavor and aroma with serious bitterness and a balanced finish. Brewed with wheat, the result is a hazy, bold IPA that’s unfiltered. Hops: Alchemy, Simcoe, Chinook, Willamette, Brewers Gold, Nelson Sauvin.
Consumer Comments: Piney, citrus, hoppy goodness. Sweet and smooth. Lemony hints. Spicy aftertaste with a little bite. Malty, sweet, easy drinking. Sticks to your tongue! Pleasant drink. Refreshing. Mowing the lawn IPA.
Full Sail Classic IPA, Hood River 6% ABV; 60 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This Northwest-style IPA is generously hopped with Centennials from the Yakima Valley and brewed in the classic style with two-row Pale and Crystal malt. It has a full, malty body and a hint of fresh citrus. Perfect after your favorite water sport, even if that happens to be the grueling drag-the-poolside-lounge-chair-into-the-sun event.
Consumer Comments: Light and refreshing. Bubbly fun. Flavorful, nice crisp taste. Very good, balanced and good summer fun. Smooth drinking and easy flavor to savor. Citrusy and herbal, quaffable and simple. A good go-to beer.
Hop Haus Genie In A Bottle, Gresham 5.7% ABV; 70 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A well-respected Northwest-style IPA. It’s smooth drinking with a late hop addition. This medium-bodied, palate-pleasing beer is definitely something you’d ask for in
one of your three wishes!
Consumer Comments: Well-rounded, balanced, enjoyable. Zippy. Some pine and citrus. Nice! My favorite! Very easy drinking. Great beer. Very simple, which is nice. Pool party beer. Summertime fun beer.
Big Horse Paragon, Hood River 6.4% ABV; 65 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: The Paragon is a light and bright summer IPA. Made with a blend of Amarillo, Centennial and Azacca hops, the Paragon pops with fresh citrus flavors of candied mandarin orange and subtle flavors of star anise.
Consumer Comments: Subdued flavor and not too intense. Sweeter with a floral aftertaste. A food one for a spring day when the sun is out, but still cold. Nutty. Licorice? Nice level of bitterness. Great color, light, dandelion notes, good spring beer.
Hopworks Pig War, Portland 6% ABV; 60 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Organic Hard Red Spring Wheat grown on Twin Oaks Farm on San Juan Island imparts tart flavors, medium body and signature wheat cloudiness. Pig War refers to the 1859 standoff between American and British authorities over San Juan Island. The only casualty of this 15-year standoff was one wayward pig.
Consumer Comments: Refreshing. Great for a summer picnic. I wouldn’t hate myself for drinking too much of this. Flavor on the palate jumps like a kangaroo with hops in its pouch. The hops are very unique. Wonderful flavor. Would be nice with a burger. Real citrus flavor. A very pleasant beer.
Silver Moon IPA 97, Bend 7% ABV; 75 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Packs a punch with bold tropical fruit and citrus zest flavors, creating a light pine aroma.
Consumer Comments: Sound sipping with a Sitka spruce. Fruity body with a warm, hoppy after flavor. Perfect for a hot day on the river. Good and fresh tasting. Floral and slightly sweet. Would go great with Chinese food. Fantastic. The hop notes are spot on. Roasty, but light.
McMenamins Hillsdale IPA, Portland 7% ABV; 100 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: The Hillsdale IPA greets your nose with the pungent, grassy aromas of Mosaic and Citra hops. A simple grain bill keeps the beer light in color and body, as sweet malts were excluded to avoid overshadowing any hop flavors. The name pays homage to the very first McMenamins brewery, opened more than 30 years ago.
Consumer Comments: Is it rude to ask for the recipe? Good basic IPA. Keep this one around for guests who love IPAs. Light and delicious.
pFriem IPA, Hood River 7.2% ABV; 65 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: When the first pale ales arrived in India in the early 18th century, outcries of “Zounds!” “Jolly good!” and “Huzzah!” were heard across the East Indian subcontinent. Expect the same exclamations when sniffing the piney aroma and tasting the big hops, huge citrus and candy-like malt.
Consumer Comments: The champagne of IPAs. Very good. Get me some curry. Great flavor. Smells like tropical fruit. Golden delicious. Candy with a bitter back. Long-lasting hoppy taste, coats my tongue.
Sunriver Vicious Mosquito, Sunriver 7% ABV; 70 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: The Sunriver Brewing Company’s flagship uses heavy handfuls of the finest Northwest hops (Warrior, Cascade, Centennial, Columbus and Simcoe), which define this pungent, resinous brew. This hop attack comes at you like the vicious mosquitos at our nearby Cascade Mountains.
Consumer Comments: Bitter like my sister-in-law after the divorce, but in a good way. Classic IPA with a nice balance. Easy drinking. Good taste with no lingering aftertaste. Yes! Light and refreshing. Great smell.
Portland Brewing and Double Mountain Subcontinental IPA, Portland/Hood River 7% ABV
Brewer’s Description: Brewed for Portland Beer Week, these two brewing giants collaborated on an IPA with pepper, cardamom, clove, cumin and saffron.
Consumer Comments: No way. Anise? This is Christmas on my tongue! It’s like running through a clover field on a beautiful summer day. Very good. Hint of cloves or some other spice. Low bitterness. Santa’s workshop IPA.
Wild Ride Electri-Fly, Redmond 6.3% ABV; 65 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Prepare to lift off and experience an IPA that showcases a blend of premium two-row and honey malts, which lay a perfect perch for the addition of hops. Flown in from the Southern Hemisphere, the unique hops give this beer a pleasant flavor and the aroma of
Consumer Comments: Floral aroma. Pine cones. Slight butterscotch. Good and smooth. Smooth and fruity and not too bitter.
NEXT FREE TASTING: Oregon Beer Growler’s Canned Beer Tasting 2 p.m. Saturday, July 9 at F.H. Steinbart Co., 234 SE 12th Ave., Portland
By Gail Oberst
For Oregon Beer Growler
During the European wars and famines that marked the mid-1800s and early 1900s, Germans came to Oregon in droves — seeking farmland and rural life that mimicked their once-healthy homes. With them came beer recipes — most of which contained varying amounts of wheat. Witbiers, weissbiers, weizenbocks and hefeweizens were, and are still, a German mainstay.
In 1914, Prohibition in Oregon put a stop to that until the 18th Amendment was repealed in 1933. Unfortunately, Prohibition knocked the ale sense out of an entire generation of beer drinkers, a bleakness that continued for almost a half-century beyond the repeal. The craft beer revival here began in the mid-1980s, closely followed by a revival in wheat beers, thanks to Widmer. The brothers found a welcoming trade in their Hefeweizen, a flocculent golden brew that has pleased ancestral palates for centuries. Other breweries followed. Today, wheat beers are as common in Oregon breweries as daffodils in the spring.
Hefeweizen is literally translated as “yeast wheat” beer. Beyond those two ingredients, brewers in Oregon are likely to use the mild flavors of wheat as a stage on which to exhibit too many other delicious additions: Lemons, oranges, grapefruit and other fruits; rye, barley and pilsner malts, roasted grains, honey — the list goes on.
Our tasters gave a thumbs up to seven Oregon wheat beers during our monthly tasting. As it is each month, the Perfect Pints tasting is blind. Here are their choices:
Full Sail: Session Wheat, Hood River 5.7% ABV, 24 IBUs
Brewery Description: This premium, American-style hefeweizen is medium-bodied with aromas of malted wheat and a citrusy hop finish. As with all great hefeweizens, there’s just enough residual yeast to give it a hazy, golden pour.
Consumer Comments: This beer was put together well. This might make a good radler beer. A nice hop aftertaste. Light. I could drink a lot of these. Like having sex in a canoe. Lawnmower beer. I smell fresh grass! Crisp!
Fat Head’s: Grapefruit Goggle Fogger, Portland 5.4% ABV, 12 IBUs
Brewery Description: This hefeweizen has light aromas of wheat, bubblegum, clove and spice. Infused with fresh grapefruit zest.
Consumer Comments: Refreshing, especially on a warm day. Very tasty. Butterscotch! Great for summer! Eat it with fresh or dried fruit. Yummy and light. Bring on those hot days — this is the beer for it.
13 Virtues: Woozy Weizenbock, Portland 8% ABV, 25 IBUs
Brewery Description: This German-style wheat beer is the darkest and strongest in the “hefe” family. Half wheat and half specialty malts are fermented with classic hefeweizen yeast to produce chocolate and banana flavors. A Great American Beer Festival medal winner!
Consumer Comments: Nice caramel color. Malty, but not too heavy. Sweet and different. You wouldn’t guess this is a wheat beer. Nice and crisp — for a darker beer. Not like most darks. A little taste of smoke or roasted grains.
Deschutes: Chainbreaker White IPA, Bend 5.6% ABV, 55 IBUs
Brewery Description: Brewed with wheat and pilsner malts, this white IPA displays beautiful citrus aromas from Cascade and Centennial hops that meld with the esters of Belgian yeast. A thirst-quenching, hopped-up wit that deserves the IPA name.
Consumer Comments: Mild beer with hops. Spicy! Long-lasting hops in a great basic beer. The spice adds great flavor. Peppery! Nice rainbow of flavors, just perfect for St. Patrick’s Day. Traditional weissbier. A golden cloud with hops floating on it.
Golden Valley: Third Street Wheat, McMinnville 5.1% ABV, 18 IBUs
Brewery Description: This American-style wheat ale contains more than 50 percent malted wheat in the mash for a fresh wheat aroma. Crystal and Willamette hops contribute floral and citrus notes.
Consumer Comments: Spicy. Nice. Peppery hops. Maybe good with smoked salmon? Bright, light flavor. Mild. I could drink too many of these.
Hop Haus: Fruit Fly Triple Berry Wheat, Gresham 5% ABV, 28 IBUs
Brewery Description: An amber to red-colored, very refreshing, easy-drinking, slightly malty wheat ale with a smooth and mildly sweet berry finish. The triple berry blend of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries is added at the end of the boil, which provides some pectin haze. Willamette hops are added to complement the wheat.
Consumer Comments: Great color and nice body. Summer pickings. Nice and sweet wheat. Very nice blend, perfectly rich. Hop berries! Hoppy sweet — eat it with a bowl of fresh raspberries … if you can wait that long! Tastes good with raisins and spicy sausage.
Hopworks: Nonstop Hef Hop, Portland 3.9% ABV, 20 IBUs
Brewery Description: This new, year-round beer is a low-alcohol, dry-hopped American wheat beer created for drinkers with active lifestyles. The beer has the taste and feel of a Northwest pale ale without the extra weight of high alcohol. Contains Northwest hops and red spring wheat grown on the Hopworks estate on the San Juan Islands, Wash.
Consumer Comments: Nice citrus flavor. Nice and bright, gentle hoppy flavor. Floral? This is growing on me — I think I’ll have another. Easy drinking. Fruity hops. Pretty beer! Refreshing. Take a run, take a hike, sweat a bit, then kick a couple back … heaven.
NEXT FREE TASTING: Oregon Beer Growler’s Fruit Beer Tasting, 2 p.m. Saturday, April 9 at F.H. Steinbart Co., 234 SE 12th Ave., Portland
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Tasked with organizing a session beer tasting, I dutifully looked up the definition of a session beer in my online dictionary, and found this: “Session Beer: A beer that has a relatively low alcohol content and is therefore suitable for drinking over an extended period.” The dictionary suggested that a “session beer” weighs in at about 4 percent.
Guess these folks aren’t from Oregon, where “relatively low” is, um, relative. Here, session beers are as various as its residents: Low alcohol content, to some here, is around 5 percent; to others, 3 percent. Styles run the gamut. There are radlers/shandies, wheat beers, IPAs, lagers and ales, Belgian styles — all fall into the giant keg of “session beers.”
But why quibble about a few percentage points? Your session beer will be the one you love to drink on a boat, on the shore, while swimming, while hiking, while biking, while mowing the lawn, while barbecuing, while sitting in the shade, while doing all those things you’re going to do in this long, hot, thirsty summer in Oregon.
Our volunteer consumers gathered last month to choose and comment on the following favorite session beers in a blind tasting.
Next month, to mark the coming of the fall colors, the Oregon Beer Growler tasting will feature Oregon’s red ales.
Burnside: Skyline Extra Pale Ale, Portland 4.8 percent ABV, 38 IBUs
Brewery Description: Smooth, crisp pale featuring Horizon and Amarillo hops.
Consumer Comments: Tastes like beer I’d drink on a pontoon boat. Not bad, in fact, really good! Fishing beer! Would be great at a baseball game with some peanuts. Light and refreshing with a hit of sour. Happy and hoppy. Great taste with sumpin’ sumpin’.
HUB: Organic Totally Radler, Portland 2.6 percent ABV, 15 IBUs
Brewery Description: A 50-50 blend of Hopworks’ award-winning Organic HUB Lager and organic lemon soda. The lemon soda complements the lager’s honey flavors and herbal hop aroma while maintaining its crisp malt backbone.
Consumer Comments: Malty and pure. Refreshing! Better than Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Good tasting. Is it a shandy? Get me a tree, a hammock and a case of these, and I’m good for the day. Lemons! Citrusy. Juicy good.
McMenamins: Quatrophenia, Troutdale 4.9 percent ABV, 44 IBUs
Brewery Description: An inscrutable, mystic liquid imbued with power beyond knowing. Quatrophenia is a satisfyingly sessionable ale that gets the most out of the Simcoe, Galaxy and Meridian hops used throughout the brew and for dry hopping. It is compact, bold and drinkable.
Consumer Comments: Clean and hoppy. Yay, more hops! Refreshing, light and crisp! Good and smooth. Goody yum yum.
Base Camp: Lost Meridian Wit, Portland 5 percent ABV, 20 IBUs
Brewery Description: Our twist on a wheaty Belgian witbier. Meridian hops deliver bright citrus and mimosa-like character, creating flavors of orange and dry champagne.
Consumer Comments: Bright! Lemon chicken. Right all night. Fresh and clean. Lightness. Refreshing! Very solid, easy drinking and tasty. A crisp easy drinker.
Full Sail: Session Premium Lager, Hood River 5.1 percent ABV, 18 IBUs
Brewery Description: This is an import-style lager, like the kind of beer made back in the pre-Prohibition days. American and European hops offer a wonderful noble hop aroma, and the two-row barley malt and a touch of wheat malt give a pleasant, refreshing finish.
Consumer Comments: Light and lagerly. I could really knock back a sixer of these, right now! Very good. Thumbs up. Ooo ooo that smell. Smooth and silky!
Rusty Truck: Cruiser Session IPA, Lincoln City 4.9 percent ABV, 50 IBUs
Brewery Description: This IPA is dry hopped with Mosaic hops for a refreshing complex array of tropical fruit, citrus, berry, herbal and pine flavors. The lower alcohol helps the hop lover in you responsibly enjoy more beer.
Consumer Comments: Cool. Ooof. Oh, yeah! Tasty! Hella tight. Hops! Take me to the islands and feed me mangos chased back with this beer.
Wild Ride: Whoopty Whoop, Redmond 5.5 percent ABV, 20 IBUs
Brewery Description: This beer is an American hefeweizen brewed to help you get through the obstacles of life. The late addition of lemon peel during fermentation gives this traditional wheat beer a pleasant citrus aroma with a slightly tart finish.
Consumer Comments: ‘Tis good and citrusy. Solid: I could drink a lot of these. Nicely sweet and hoppy. Nice and easy. Put a lemon in this one. German lemon trees growing in a hop field?
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.