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
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 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.
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
How do I love thee, Belgian-style beers? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the
depth and breadth and height your tastes can reach …
My apologies to Lizzie B. Browning. But the first time I tasted a Belgian-style beer many years ago – it was a Pelican Saison, sipped at the Pacific City pub while watching an incredible sunset – I felt like reciting poetry. Years later, and with many Belgian-style beers under my belt, this style still makes me feel misty.
So what is this bubbly wonder that has inspired so many Oregon brewers? Brewing “Belgian-style,” it turns out, is like saying you are brewing “American-style” or “German-style.” The number and variety of Belgian beers are as vast as the ocean between us. And, like Belgians, Oregon brewers are known for caring not an ounce about official beer styles, instead experimenting, mixing tastes, pushing limits.
There are more than a dozen official Belgian styles – tripels, dubbels, Trappists, strong ales, biere de gardes, sour ales, lambics, saisons – including specialty styles, the list is endless.
Do they have anything in common? Most Belgian-style beers feature traditional Belgian yeasts, which leave the beers dry and bring out fruity, spicy or other complex flavors available in the malts used. To get a good feel for the recognizable “Belgian” flavors, I suggest you start with a saison or a farmhouse ale, where the yeast flavors are unmasked, light and fun. But don’t stop there. Try them all. See if they don’t inspire a poetic line or two! Below are the results from the latest monthly blind tasting:
Sky High: Monk’s Mana, Corvallis 10.3% ABV, 15 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: In celebration of the Trappist Monks, this Belgian-style honey tripel is brewed with local Honey Tree Apiaries honey and Crosby Farm hops. Lush wildflowers, spicy and distinct.
Consumer Comments: Stronger, fruitier, tastier. Slight spice, full-bodied, nice sipper. Pair it with a salmon fillet. When you need to reward yourself after a long day, drink this. A crisp strong beer loaded with fantastic flavor. Meady and vanilla-ish. Woody … yum! Complex and delicious.
Pelican: Saison, Pacific City 6.5% ABV, 25 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Fruity and spicy aroma from farmhouse yeast. Floral and slightly herbal hop character provided by Golding hops. Bottle conditioning provides lively finish.
Consumer Comments: Best yeast I’ve tasted so far. Great beer. Get me a bag of pretzels and a lawn chair. Great on a spring day or anytime. Frothy and silky. Champagne bubbles. Flavorful, super tasty. Mellow and smooth. Kick back in your lounger chair with this beer and a cigar.
Stickmen: Troonbeeckx Belgian Blond, Lake Oswego 7.9% ABV, 29 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This blond greets you with aromas of pear, orange and light spice, a bit of malt sweetness and fruit followed by a peppery bite and lingering alcohol warmth.
Consumer Comments: Oh yeah! Funk-a-licious! Great with seafood. Wildflowers. Serve it up with dessert! Belgian-y. I really like the aroma. I just want to stick my nose in that funk! Nuts and raisins. Spicy, smooth. Drink it on a sparkling clear snowy day.
Mazama: Saison d’Etre, Corvallis 6.3% ABV, 25 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This beer is spicy and aromatic in the true Belgian tradition. Spiced with coriander, juniper berries, orange peel and black pepper. Dry and effervescent, the spice is balanced with soft malt flavors.
Consumer Comments: A good Belgian. Smooth and great. Different and slightly tangy. Almost apple-y. I could see myself drinking this on a summer day by the pool. Cheers to 2016. Drink this.
Elk Horn: Twisted Wood Saison, Eugene 7% ABV, 30 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: An orange-colored, Belgian-style saison brewed with grains of paradise. It features flavors of banana, clove, mild bitterness, with a toffee malt backbone.
Consumer Comments: Crisp, clean aftertaste. Serve it with fruitcake. The “between-a-beer” beer. Belgian yeastiness. Chestnutty. Flavor is light and pleasant. Refreshing. Dry, tiny bubbles. The champagne of Belgian beers.
Worthy: Farm Out Saison, Bend 7.3% ABV, 25 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Fruity and spicy flavors from a unique yeast strain add to the complexity of this French/Belgian inspired ale. Complex yet refreshing, an all-occasions beer.
Consumer Comments: Lots of flavor. Full-bodied. Would pair well with a pork loin. Wild! Just like what a Belgian beer should taste like. Wild at heart, soft on tastebuds. Zesty. Fruitcake.
Golden Valley: Grizelda, McMinnville 6.5% ABV, 32 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This beer is brewed with Belgian pale and Pilsner malts, and graced with Hersbrucker, Willamette and Belma hops in the kettle and dry-hopped with whole Styrian Goldings. It’s then conditioned in oak barrels then conditioned in the bottle with Brettanomyces.
Consumer Comments: Is that my best friend, Brett? Smokey hints of mescal. Nice! Fruity and slightly sour. Good with a steak. Fruity! Tart and light. Pretty decent for a sour beer, and I usually don’t like sours.
NEXT FREE TASTING: Oregon Beer Growler’s Stout Tasting starts at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16 at Frame Central, 6639 SW Macadam Ave., Portland. In addition to the tasting, artist Ron Pomeroy will be showing his unique paintings made with beer during a reception from 7-9 p.m.
By Gail Oberst and Will Oberst-Cairns
Dark, rich porters arrived on the beer scene in the early 1700s as the love child of London’s brown beer and strong ale. It was the first beer to be aged and mixed at any brewery. Before porters arrived on the scene, beers were delivered fresh to the pub, and if there was aging to be done, it was done because the patrons didn’t drink it fast enough. I lie. Sometimes, the publicans and distributors aged it on purpose.
I could talk about Harwood’s Entire Butt, and a lot of other geeky stuff (look it up!), but suffice it to say early porters weighed in at over 6 percent ABV, rather strong by historic standards. Early porters were also brewed with brown malt, but the invention of black patent malt in 1817 made it possible to brew porter with pale malts, as they still are. It was the porter that prompted the use of thermometers and hydrometers in brewing, to push the ABV. Thanks, porter!
For various reasons – I think it was because porters were growing weaker than their predecessors – the popularity of porters began to wane from the mid-1800s until the mid-1900s.
The 1970s saw a revival in the production of porters, including the Baltic porter, originally brewed with top-fermenting yeasts in the 1800s, and with lager yeasts later on.
American porters have followed both British and Baltic traditions. You may find them as lagers or ales. Oregon’s porters are no less various.
One of Oregon’s oldest porters, Black Butte, produced in 1988, is still Deschute’s flagship beer. Other Oregon porters, as you will see below, vary in strength and ingredients.
Our porter tasters included industry professionals, distributors, writers, and friends and family of Blake Crosby, who gathered at his hop farm last month to celebrate the hop harvest. Here are their favorites, chosen in a blind tasting.
McMenamins Black Widow, Oregon 7.35% ABV, 40 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Originally created at the Thompson Brewery over 20 years ago on Oct. 15, 1991, and made once per year by all Thompson Brewers to come after that, Black Widow has generous amounts of black and roast malts, Horizon hops and flavors of caramel and licorice.
Tasters’ Descriptions: Malty goodness, roasty chocolate. Sweet molasses with smoke. Ice cream with a candy aroma like an old-time hardware store.
Laurelwood Organic Tree Hugger, Portland 5.8% ABV, 45 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This porter features a chocolate malt flavor that finishes dry and roasty. Delicate organic Newport, Cascade, and Fuggle hop flavors round out this rich, full-bodied ale. Brewed with 100% organically-grown crystal, carafa and chocolate malts.
Tasters’ Descriptions: More malty goodness. Get my cigars and tobacco pouch out. Fresh and tangy. Classic and true to style. Excellent balance.
Twisted Snout Honey Oatmeal Porker, Toledo 6.9% ABV
Brewer’s Description: A smooth, roasted chocolaty porter made with whole grain oats and wildflower honey from Queen Bee Apiaries, a honey company in Corvallis.
Tasters’ Descriptions: Roasty delicious. Fresh green tobacco leaves with cardamom. Very creamy, thick and chocolaty. Is it bourbon-barrel? It’s sweet and complex.
Rat Hole Vanilla Porter, Bend 5.5% ABV, 30 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A mild, appealing aroma of vanilla and a soft creamy mouth feel with a chocolate finish. Madagascar vanilla beans, six malts and chocolate and flaked oats.
Tasters’ Descriptions: Mild coffee. Nice chocolate flavor with a light body. Smokey vanilla smooth with hops. Chocolate decadence. Just a hint of coffee with nice malt.
Long Brewing Paul’s Porter, Newberg 6.2% ABV
Brewer’s Description: Intensely black with a thick tan head. Layers of dark bitter-sweet chocolate, coffee and caramel aroma and flavors supported by rich complex malts. Lightly hopped.
Tasters’ Descriptions: Smooooth as molasses. Creamy. Clean. Vanilla notes.
13 Virtues Baltic Porter, Portland 8.0% ABV, 40 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This Baltic porter is a strong black lager that was given a healthy period of cold-conditioning to achieve its crispness. Chocolate and cocoa entice the taste buds for a moment.
Tasters’ Descriptions: Crisp. Good and clean. Pretty nice. Flavorful.
Mazama Pyroclastic Porter, Corvallis 5.2% ABV, 30 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This porter pays homage to the bean roaster of the Pacific Northwest. It combines roasty aromas with a dark cocoa finish. Brewed with Oregon hops, these balance the bitter- sweet chocolate malt.
Tasters’ Descriptions: More malty than the others. Good alcohol balance. Good bold flavor but not too heavy. Good body. Lots of chocolate. My favorite.
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.