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 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.
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.