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
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
The afternoon my newly purchased PC arrived at my home, I cracked open a beer in celebration. Before I was finished opening the box, I’m pretty sure I was on my second bottle.
I was excited because my new PC is a high-performance machine with a massive hard drive, ridiculous RAM and the ability to operate four monitors at once. Now, I’m pretty literate — digitally speaking. And while I may have been easy going in my younger years, my grouchy outlook now demands things be like I want; I expect items I order to arrive precisely as I specified. So when I noticed the crooked screws on the back of the machine, I frowned and took a long pull off my brew. Oh well, I thought, the factory was in a hurry. Crooked screws are no big deal. I methodically attached the components and monitors and fired it up. Only two of the monitors worked. Another frown, probably a mild expletive and definitely a new bottle. OK, I thought, I’ve got a bad connection. Another quick swig and I was ready to figure it out.
Two hours and five bottles later, I realized the third and fourth monitors wouldn’t work, no matter what I did, so I contacted support. This called for another bottle, just to get through hundreds of lines of text with a support person. By this time, my mood was far less celebratory than exasperated, so I’m pretty sure I opened yet another beer. At the end of the evening, I was grateful for the beer, at least. Like no other adult beverage, beer is amiable and forgiving — a good companion for moments of celebration or moments of frustration. This month, we bring you a selection of wheat beers to help you celebrate — or commiserate.
GoodLife Brewing: Sweet As! Pacific Ale, Bend
6.0% ABV; 18 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Sweet As! is a bright beer in appearance as well as flavor. This beer, which is 50 percent wheat and 50 percent pale malt, has a golden color complemented by a bright white head. Pineapple, cream and other soft tropical aromas dominate, creating a perfect transition to the playful finish. Southern Hemisphere hops paired with white wheat make this a light and very drinkable wheat pale.
Consumer Comments: The clear choice of tasting panelists, Good Life’s Sweet As! tempts with an upbeat nose of citrus and tropical fruits and presents a lively mouthfeel. Supremely mellow hops on the mid-palate yield to citrus on the homestretch before a very clean finish. A nuanced brew, Sweet As! is as friendly as it is complex and will disappear quickly at parties. One taster even described this beer as opulent. To that, I would add well-mannered and engaging.
Burnside Brewing Company: Thundarr the Bavarian, Bavarian-Style Imperial Wheat Ale, Portland
7.4% ABV; 11.6 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Unfiltered imperial German wheat ale brewed with the classic Weihenstephan yeast strain. Expect signature banana and clove aromas and flavor.
Consumer Comments: A frothy head says “guten Tag” when Thundarr the Bavarian emerges from his bottle. Defined by notes of citrus, pineapple and a little clove, this medium-bodied brew is affable and well-balanced. Panelists described Thundarr as tangy, complex and lively.
Old Town Brewing: Orange Grove Wit, Portland
5.0% ABV; 12 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Exciting as the first sunny day of spring, this orange wit is met with anticipation. The familiar characteristics of orange and wheat are complemented by the undertones of the sweet coriander and peppery grains of paradise utilized in the beer.
Consumer Comments: Orange Grove is characterized by a tart start followed by a medium body of roasted grains. Described as an easy-sipping brew, it’s built on wheat with notes of citrus and spice. If you’re having a casual Easter dinner, one panelist thought the Orange Grove would be great accompaniment to a baked ham!
Rusty Truck Brewing Co.: Strawberry Wheat Tonic, Lincoln City
4.5% ABV; 15 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: What says spring better than fresh strawberry shortcake? Made with white wheat and Northwest pale malt and aged on 168 pounds of Oregon strawberries, this brew is sure to put you in a springtime mood.
Consumer Comments: The lively carbonation of the Strawberry Wheat Tonic will tickle your taste buds, enhancing its fruity and friendly character. With notes of pear and strawberry, this medium-bodied brew is tart without being rude, finishing very cleanly. Panelists liked the Strawberry Wheat Tonic’s smoothness but don’t expect a strawberry sundae — this one’s beer through and through.
Three Mugs Brewing Company: Mein Schatz German-Style Hefeweizen, Hillsboro
6.0% ABV; 9 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This beer was crafted to represent the best of the hefs we enjoyed while living in Germany. It’s a light, slightly malty brew with a distinctive wheat backbone and characteristic banana and clove flavors and aromas from the yeast.
Consumer Comments: The fresh-looking color of apple juice invites you to sample the Mein Schatz. Built on a mineral foundation with hints of grapefruit zest and roasted plantains, this brew thumps its chest with masculine potency. If you’re not careful, the Mein Schatz will have you hollering for bloodlust at a NASCAR race.
Two-Shy Brewing: Treble Clef Hefeweizen, Roseburg
5.2% ABV; 29 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: An American hefeweizen brewed with Wakatu hops lead to an exotic lemon flavor with a slight bite.
Consumer Comments: With a delicate nose of vanilla and a little citrus, the Treble Clef Hefeweizen practically sings spring sunshine. Easy and approachable, panelists liked the honesty of this brew with its honey hue and lightly tart finish. Tasters suggested serving it with spaghetti or pizza, describing it as clean and easy-drinking.
One of my favorite things about beer is its universal suitability for any circumstance. We pop the cap off a brew during times of celebration, after moments of stress or just to relax. In case you’re wondering, I fixed my new PC myself — completely voiding my warranty, which was worthless anyway. And I did so with the warm comfort of a cold bottle — or seven — in hand.
By Matthew Meador
For the Oregon Beer Growler
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
I have a tough job. For several years, I wrote a wine column called “Cellar Dweller” which appeared in a Portland Metro-area market publication. Today, that column has moved to a magazine celebrating the increasingly world-class food and beverage options in Oregon’s storied wine country. As you might imagine, I like writing about food and drink — maybe I love it. At the very least, I get to enjoy outstanding cuisine and libations from chefs and winemakers of significant renown. If all that isn’t difficult enough, now I get to add beer to my menu. Are you feeling sorry for me yet? Like I said, it’s a tough job but, as they say, someone has to do it.
Beer was always an escape for me, a way to relax, something that wasn’t “work.” Bluntly put, with beer I didn’t have to pay attention. When I drink wine or whiskey — something else I’m known to write about — I am usually careful to note the appearance, the nose, the various stages of the palate. I could enjoy beer without stopping to think about it, parse it and put my thoughts into words for others to read. That’s all changed now.
I spent my 20s in Portland, back when Widmer was a small local joint and Buck Night was an eagerly-anticipated twice-weekly event. On Thursday and Saturday nights, well drinks were a dollar-and-a-half and we always followed our hours-long visits to Virginia Cafe with music and beer at Satyricon. Or something like that. You’ll forgive me if my memory is a little fuzzy.
Whatever the case, I’m now middle-aged, jaded and curmudgeonly. And I get to write about beer. Perhaps the most amiable and forgiving of adult beverages, beer might be the perfect cure for middle-agedness, cynicism and the accompanying urge to make one’s displeasure known. With that thought in mind, I joined with a panel of beer lovers to taste and discuss some great Oregon porters — and an outstanding stout. Maybe we’re onto something here.
Three Creeks: FivePine Chocolate Porter, Sisters
6.2% ABV; 55 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A robust porter that features 2 pounds per barrel of the finest Belgian chocolate, making a slightly roasty pint with underlying chocolate sweetness. Malts: Northwest pale, Munich, wheat, British chocolate malt, dark crystal malt, brown, special roast
Adjuncts: Imported dark Belgian chocolate, flaked barley, yeast: American Ale
Consumer Comments: With an inviting coloring of brown honey; FivePine Chocolate Porter features notes of malt, caramel and molasses on the nose and palate accompanied by a delightful char character throughout. Several panelists described this brew as “roasty” and all liked its innate sweetness. One panelist thought this beer would pair perfectly with a sweet marinated beef dish.
Santiam: Coal Porter, Salem
6.2% ABV; 29 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Medium-bodied porter with a moderate hop character that allows the roast malts to shine.
Consumer Comments: Demonstrating a grassy affability, panelists enjoyed this pint’s spicy fruitiness. With notes of anise, coffee and maybe even a little bourbon, Coal Porter was a refreshing favorite, well-balanced and medium-bodied.
Calapooia: ‘Pooya Porter, Albany
5.0% ABV; 32 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A dark, robust and balanced porter, [this brew is] medium-bodied and moderately-hopped, with a crisp chocolate finish. Willamette hops.
Consumer Comments: Panelists liked the easy approachability of this pint, suggesting ‘Pooya might be a great introductory porter for folks accustomed to lighter brews. With hints of leather and wood, this brew might be called masculine but you can be sure he’ll remain a perfect gentleman.
Rusty Truck: Taft Toffee Porter, Lincoln City
5.0% ABV; 20 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Named for the Rusty Truck’s home in the Historic Taft District, Taft Toffee Porter is a dark, velvety ale with significant toffee and chocolate notes. Slightly lighter in color than mass-produced porters, our version is a tasty twist on the dockworkers’ old favorite.
Consumer Comments: The coffee-like character of the Taft Toffee Porter had panelists suggesting this brew might also be a good candidate for people who want a friendly introduction to fuller-bodied beers. Panelists described this porter as straightforward and honest, a cold reward after a hard day’s work.
Three Mugs: Sinfully Yours Imperial Porter, Hillsboro
9.5% ABV; 38 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Go ahead, be bad ... you deserve it. Indulge yourself with this huge, chewy, malty, chocolatey brew, with nice residual sweetness and a hint of roastiness and hops to balance. A perfect ale to warm your soul on those cold, rainy Oregon days and nights.
Consumer Comments: Defined by clear notes of vanilla and coffee with a hint of burnt oak, the Sinfully Yours Imperial Porter was a clear favorite with panelists. Well-balanced and complex, this brew’s satisfying fig finish delighted our tasting panel. Closer to the holidays, we might say “now bring us a figgy porter” — a Sinfully Yours Imperial Porter, of course!
Migration: Terry’s Porter, Portland
6.7% ABV; 42 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Terry’s Porter is the perfect compilation of five different malts, including chocolate and caramel that create a deep brown smoky body coupled with a mild sweetness. Finished off with Nugget, Willamette and English Fuggle hops, making this one an instant Northwest classic!
Consumer Comments: With a darkly fruity character, the Terry’s Porter earned raves from panelists attesting to its fruit nose, sweet mid-palate and after-dinner coffee finish. More than one panelist suggested using the Terry’s Porter as the foundation for a round of beer floats or maybe even pairing it with treats like caramel corn.
Widmer: Steel Bridge Porter, Portland
5.6% ABV; 48 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Developed by homebrewer Noel Blake, [this porter] was a winner in the Widmer Brothers Collaborator Homebrew Competition with the Oregon Brew Crew. Like the Steel Bridge itself, this dark ale is a Portland original and carries more than its share of weight. Rich flavors of mocha, chocolate and toffee are well-balanced and complemented by a refreshing body, a hint of citrus and a dry finish.
Consumer Comments: Another porter popular with panelists, the Steel Bridge Porter’s deep hue, robust body and flavors of spice and smoke, along with the barest suggestion of thistle, make for a truly perfect pint. Innately layered, this brew was lauded for its complexity and spiciness. The Steel Bridge Porter might hit you in the face — but I promise you’ll be glad it did.
PINTS: Steel Bridge Stout, Portland
5.2% ABV; 22 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Rich and chewy, this robust stout is girdered together with Midnight Wheat, Blackprinz, roasted barley, Special B and chocolate malts. You can tell: it’s jet black with a thick brown head, loaded with espresso, coffee and rich malt flavors. Bittered with Columbus hops and finished with spicy Willamettes, it all holds together nicely.
Consumer Comments: The Steel Bridge Stout earned unanimous and enthusiastic approval from panelists. From comments like “This is why I drink stouts” to “This is better than wine,” tasters loved the brew’s luxuriant head and themes of malt, caramel, molasses and vanilla bean — followed by a lingeringly sweet finish.
StormBreaker: Fall of the Iron Curtain Baltic Porter, Portland
8.0% ABV; 24 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Flavor has a big upfront but balanced sweetness with prominent chocolate flavors and hints of caramel. No roasty coffee-ness in this one. Just a smooth and silky finish with a touch of alcohol warmth.
Consumer Comments: Panelists liked the initial palate of Fall of the Iron Curtain, calling it fruity and a little tangy with notes of caramel and the barest hint of tar. Several panelists suggested this brew might be best served to folks looking to enter the world of full-bodied beers.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I was being a little facetious before. I love my job. A friend asked me once why I was eager to share the box of then-illegal Cuban cigars I had stashed. I told him smoking a really good cigar is wasted if one does it by oneself — enjoying the pleasant things in life is inherently social. Likewise, beer is best enjoyed together, in the company of friends, with people who want to relax, unwind and maybe even celebrate a little. Beer brings out the enthusiasm we should all have for life, particularly life in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I’m pretty sure there’s no better place on the planet to knock back a cold one — especially since so many of the world’s best beers are crafted right here.
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
On a recent day when the mercury hit the 80s, I was standing in my booth serving tastes of Oregon’s pale ales to thirsty visitors at the Hammer N’Ales Brewfest fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity in Canyonville. Pale ales are the perfect beer for a hot day — a great Oregon refresher.
In addition to fests, how about a pale ale on a lake after the cast, on the bank of a river after floating the rapids, behind a lawnmower, after weeding the garden or on your shady porch watching the neighbors sweat it out in their yards. They’re not too strong (official range is from 4.5 to 6.0 percent ABV), so you can drink them for a happy session. Also, pale ales tend to be less hoppy than the India pale ale, so your tongue may be less tarred after a few beers. Pale ale hoppiness usually ranges from 30-45 IBUs, according Beer Judge Certification Program standards. Oregon pales are a bit hoppier, but mildly fragrant and fresh. This popular English style landed in the New World with a hearty “huzzah,” and is ours now.
Here are the Oregon pale ales chosen as favorites in the blind tasting by visitors to the festival:
Vertigo: Closer Pale Ale, Hillsboro 5.3% ABV; 55 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This ale gets its light copper color from 120 and 60L caramel malts. Magnum and Amarillo hops added for bittering, flavor and aroma give this beer a balanced profile.
Consumer Comments: Smooth, crisp and slightly hoppy. I could be happy with this one because I don’t like overly hopped beers. Great floral flavor. Made my mouth feel like a velvet slipper dipped in rosewater and lemon rind. Crisp, dry, firm bitterness. A beer for beer drinkers. Great for a long afternoon barbecue. Light, nice and bright. Nice summer beer.
Ordnance: RX Pale Ale, Boardman 5.6% ABV; 32 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 Citra and Mosaic hop aromas to create a beer that is perfect for day's end, be it after work or a long day of outdoor pursuits.
Consumer Comments: Light, interesting, mild fruity hop flavor. Hoppy! Nose outstanding. Taste is OMG. Drama in my mouth. Well done! Very nice and exceptionally smooth, and not bitter. Clean and refreshing. Dry. I need to figure out how to get a keg of this into my RV. Light and crisp.
Rogue: Pendleton Pale Ale, Newport 5.2% ABV; 30 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A light, refreshing pale ale brewed with hops and malts grown on Rogue Farms, including Rogue Farms Risk, 2-Row, Sacchra 50 and Dextra Pils Malts; Delta and Rogue Farms Alluvial and Rebel hops.
Consumer Comments: Malty highlights. Crisp and clean taste. Easy drinking. Get out the fried chicken, we’re taking this one on a picnic. Better than most. Light hop and clean taste. Refreshing! Fruity!
Laurelwood: Piston Pale Ale, Portland 5.8% ABV; 37 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Our seasonal pale is the Northwest interpretation of a classic British style, which essentially means — yup, you guessed it — more hops! We have updated our recipe to please the palates of our current crowd of beer drinkers. Expect refreshing citrus hop flavors and aromas.
Consumer Comments: My perfect pale ale. Drinkable and refreshing. Love the floral notes. Hoppier and hoppier! Dude! Smells like killer bud. Hint of sugar and spice. Eat it with simple carbs and cheese. Piney. Nice hop notes. Great aroma — a real winner. Fruit. A drink for a sunny day. Take it to the cabin and drink it in front of the fire.
Big Horse; Badfish, Hood River 5.5% ABV; 45 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Blond-colored pale with intense hop flavors of tropical citrus and pine. Finishes dry without a harsh lingering bitterness.
Consumer Comments: Well-balanced hops and malt, great drinkability. Not as hoppy as the others. Burst of flowers. Put me in the rose garden. Subtle almost lager-ish mellowness with a satisfying bitter accent. Clean and fresh. Crisp and dry. Best one so far. Nice blend of bitter flavors. Pale ale, as it should be. Not too hoppy, not too light. I loved this beer.
Arch Rock: Pistol River Pale, Gold Beach 6.0% ABV; N/A IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This recent gold medal winner is robustly dry-hopped, giving way to the intense hoppy aroma and flavor. Subtle bitterness and drinkability set this beer apart. Its resinous, citrusy and fruity character comes from CTZ, Chinook, Nugget and Centennial hops. Even with the hop-forward flavor of this beer, it’s well balanced with medium bitterness.
Consumer Comments: Intense flavor for a pale. All about the hops. Bold and strong flavor. Beautiful nose, almost Donald Trump arrogant bitterness presentation. Well played! Sweet up front — hop party in the back. Solid and easy drinking. Good flavor.
Hop Haus: Dr. Bob's Periodic Pale Ale, Gresham 5.8 % ABV; 40 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A tribute beer to the late Dr. Bob, this pale ale is true to the style — easy drinking with a subtle malt backbone and smooth balanced hop finish. Made with 2-row, C40, aromatic and Victory malts; Chinook and Cascade hops.
Consumer Comments: Perfect amount of hoppiness. Yes! I’d share this one with my friends. I like this like sunshine. Subtle nose. I would date this beer! Goes down well with a little bitterness on the aftertaste. Tasty! A good all-around beer that could be a staple for the ‘fridge.
NEXT FREE TASTING: Oregon Beer Growler’s IPA Tasting 2 p.m. Saturday, June 18 at F.H. Steinbart Co., 234 SE 12th, Portland.
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
I balked at doing this tasting as part of our annual salute to women in brewing issue, lest you think fruit beers are somehow “girl beers.” There was a time, and I’m not saying it’s entirely passed, when the ladies were served beer laced with fruit juice to save us from … what? Bad beer? Or the (ha ha) heavy alcohol in the Buds that were available to us then? Gurrl, please.
But despite the backhanded insult, I fell in love with fruit beers when my bestie’s mom served me and all of her guests — including the guys — cold shandies. This beer-lemonade combination, served on a hot summer day on her deck overlooking the Umpqua River, was refreshing. Suddenly, I was a fan of fruit beer, and it looked like I wasn’t a sissy for admitting it. Fast forward to 2016.
We’ve come a long way, babies. Evidence: Portland’s annual Fruit Beer Festival, June 10-12 this year in a new location in the North Park Blocks downtown. I dare you to stand amid those throngs of sweating men drinking fruit beers and yell, “Fruit beers are for girls!” If you make it out alive, you’ll have learned a valuable lesson: Fruit beers are for everyone.
Think you’re not a fruit beer drinker? You might think twice, because not all fruit beers are the same. It’s apples and oranges, literally. Our tasting last month featured fruit beers that ranged from sweet to tart, hot pink to tan, sessionable to heavy hitter. Didn’t like one? Try another. Fruit finds a friend in lambics, krieks, Belgian-style creations, wheats, stouts, blondes and even IPAs. I promise, you’ll find one that suits you and have a great time in the discovery phase.
Our volunteer tasters chose the following favorites from among the Oregon fruit beers sent to us last month:
Ambacht: Pie Cherry Pale, Hillsboro 7% ABV; 17 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: The farmhouse-style golden ale is infused with whole Montmorency pie cherries from Yamhill County during the secondary fermentation. Rosy gold in color, its aroma has hints of cherries as well as almonds. Not too sweet, and just a little bit tart, this ale's smooth, dry finish makes it light on the tongue.
Consumer Comments: A fruity drink with a wine-like bite. Summery and not too tart. Tart cherries from the farm with a little salt. Reminds me of apricot fruit leather! Nice balance of tart and sweet. I’d enjoy a pint of this on a warm day. Good grapefruity taste.
Silver Moon: Mango Daze Session Ale, Bend 4.9% ABV; 29 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A mouthful of summer, this enjoyable session ale is packed with traditional fruity Northwest hops and a perfect hint of tropical mango.
Consumer Comments: A perfect summer picnic drink on a beautiful sunset warm evening with puffy clouds turning orange and pink as we lay under a gently-swaying willow tree. Smooth and sweet. Hibiscus tea? Loveliness! Peachy flavor. Tastes like the sun! Light and pleasant.
Rusty Truck: Moonlight Ride Blackberry Ale, Lincoln City 5.3% ABV; 20 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: The aroma of ripened Oregon blackberries on a crisp moonlit September night is what inspired our blackberry ale. This ale was aged on 126 pounds of pureed blackberries per 10-barrel batch. Enjoy the ride!
Consumer Comments: Nice, dry, not too sweet, fun color! Soft on a summer day when you need something light. It’s like a raspberry-cherry saison. A great session beer. Raspberry Jolly Rancher! Light and effervescent.
Ordnance: Bloops!, Boardman 4.6% ABV; 21 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This blueberry wheat beer starts with a pleasant blueberry nose followed by a sip of blueberry flavor and mingled with hearty malt sweetness. Reminiscent of blueberry pie. Who cares if it started life as an accident? Bloops!
Consumer Comments: Great nose! Wonderful to enjoy on a warm spring or summer day. A mysteriously good fruit pie. Fields of blue, mild and soft. A smooth and silky fruit salad. A berry party — serve it with pie. Berry light, alcohol with a bite.
Mazama: Rasplendent, Corvallis 5% ABV; 13 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This is an award-winning American fruit ale. What could be more refreshing 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.
Consumer Comments: On the sweet side — serve it with whiskey? A mouth-puckering, sweet-tart experience. Easy drinking on a barbecue night. Not-quite-ripe strawberries. Raspberry kick. A good replacement for a blush wine on a hot summer day. Interesting! What is it? Really good.
10 Barrel: Raspberry Crush, Bend/Portland 5.5% ABV; 10 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Raspberry Crush is the beer that started the Crush series. It is conditioned with loads of raspberries. The tartness of the base beer acts to amplify the raspberry flavor. You can almost taste the seeds!
Consumer Comments: Delicious raspberry beer to serve on a hot summer day. I could have two or three. Raspberries, I get it! So good! Nice and fruity raspberries. Sweet berries. Tantalizing fruity tickle on the tongue. A fruity Popsicle. Nice fruit flavor and a little sweet.
Hop Haus: Tiki Caliente Chili Mango, Gresham 4.9% ABV; 38 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A well-balanced pale ale brewed with two-row, Munich, Golden Promise and Victory malts along with Willamette hops, toasted jalapeno and habanero peppers with pure mango juice.
Consumer Comments: Spicy! Ay, caramba! I have a jalapeno face! Habanero kick! Very nice pepper and a great summer beer. Habanero fruit salad! Great spicy peppers! Some tropical fruit with peppers. I would love it with some grilled halibut or prawns.
NEXT FREE TASTING: Oregon Beer Growler’s Pale Ale Tasting 3-7 p.m. Saturday, May 7 at the Seven Feathers Casino Hammer N’Ales Brewfest in Canyonville.
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.