By Matthew Meador
For the Oregon Beer Growler
As a food and beverage writer for several publications, I usually try to write with humor, relating lighthearted anecdotes as I describe the enormous role food and drink plays in making life so enjoyable. But as the country grows increasingly polarized and people on opposite sides of controversial issues are no longer willing to speak with each other — other than hurling vile insults and screaming obscenities — I find myself emphasizing the potential eating and drinking have to act as bridge-builders.
I have been blessed to enjoy friendships with people of many cultures, religions and colors — and political beliefs spanning the entire spectrum. Although I disagreed profoundly with some of my friends’ positions, I am absolutely certain my life has been vastly enriched by the scope of these varied relationships. Maybe surprisingly, some of the people who blessed me the greatest are those with whom I disagreed most vehemently. Almost never did our hours-long discussions end with significant position changes for any of us. But every time — almost without exception — these dialogues resulted in mutually increased respect around the table. And it was a table invariably littered with crumpled napkins, food-spotted plates and empty pint glasses.
As we celebrate the harvest, it’s worth underscoring the importance food and drink play in bringing humans together. If you set aside your most dearly held beliefs just for a moment, you’ll find we have a lot more in common with each other than we have at odds. I’m not advocating compromising your principles; I won’t do that myself. But when two people with opposing perspectives put aside the issues separating them, they’ll find dozens of interests or tastes they have in common. Every time, guaranteed.
In the spirit of healthy discussion (and with apologies for preaching), we bring you several reds this month — perfect to get the conversation started.
Royale Brewing Co.: Inspektor Red Ale, Portland
6.0% ABV; 31 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Rich, malty, flavorful red ale. Deep crimson red in color. Ripe melon, bright berry and citrus aroma. Toffee caramel, fresh-baked bread malt character. Medium-bodied. Clean finish.
Consumer Comments: The favorite of this month’s panelists, our tasters spoke of the outstanding quenchability of Inspektor. Hints of lemon and hops on the nose yield gently to notes of caramel and a mild bitterness. Panelists overwhelmingly recommended pairing this brew with harvest barbecue.
Backside Brewing Co.: Axeman Red, Roseburg
6.3% ABV; 75 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A notorious Northwest-style red. Deep color and silky layered complex flavoring. If you like reds, Axeman does not disappoint. This beer is a tribute to our local logging heritage.
Consumer Comments: A frothy head and berry palate characterize the affable easy-drinking Axeman. A soft mouthfeel and notes of lemon suggest a broader appeal than a straightforward red — sort of a gregarious strawberry blonde, if you like.
Leikam Brewing: Grateful Red, Portland
7.1% ABV; 70 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Our Grateful Red will ripple through your taste buds with the flavor and aroma of Chinook, Willamette and Columbus hops. We use five different malts and four hop varietals for this hoppy red.
Consumer Comments: Green melon and gentle hops introduce the tantalizing Grateful Red. This lively brew’s fruit yields to a more astringent hoppiness and notes of juniper on the mid-palate, finishing cleanly. An excellent pint, the Grateful Red is a beer-lover’s brew, through and through. I’ll have another Grateful Red, please!
Laurelwood Brew Pub: Free Range Red Ale, Portland
5.9% ABV; 50 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A Northwest-style red with a sweet caramel malty backbone, balanced by a smooth hop profile.
Consumer Comments: If ever a beer had perfect manners, it’s the Free Range Red. With easy notes of charred wood and a shred of butterscotch, this beer possessed a balance and drinkability that immediately earned it high marks. A happy brew, this one should satisfy both IPA lovers and those who prefer a more restrained pint.
Scout Beer: Jam, Portland
5.9% ABV; 20 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: The focus of Jam is on the beautiful and fresh marionberry flavor. Already bursting with fruit from the pounds and pounds of berries added to this beer, we then heightened the flavor by using Kent Golding hops and Scottish ale yeast. If you stop by the brewery, try it blended with Anaphylactic, our peanut butter porter. It’s a PB&J in a glass!
Consumer Comments: The brewers are right: Jam is a berry-centric delight. Tasters liked the fruit focus, noting its subtlety and simplicity heightened the brew’s enjoyability. A straightforward and honest brew, Jam is a perfect pint to drink after a day’s work or as a regular weekender.
Wild Ride Brew: 3 Sisters Red Ale, Redmond
6.0% ABV; 45 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Faith, Hope and Charity. The backdrop of Central Oregon features these lovely Sisters, which are three of the highest peaks in Oregon. We use three main types of malt and hops to represent these Central Oregon landmarks. This beautiful beer has a sunset-red appearance to remind us of their presence at the end of the day. Like many peaks you might aspire to climb, the Sisters can be both bitter and sweet, and the select hops represent the Northwest in every way possible.
Consumer Comments: Notes of sweet apple and malt lead with a beguiling smoothness when a 3 Sisters Red Ale is pulled. Beautifully balanced, this medium-bodied and lightly hopped pint was described as easy to drink and a good “anytime brew,” perfect to serve when trying to please varied tastes.
So grab a pint and have a seat across the table from someone who belongs to the other political party or who practices a different faith or cultural tradition than yours. You don’t need to change your positions or compromise your beliefs. You just need to be willing to listen and to speak easily while enjoying a great Oregon brew. It’s a message I will continue to preach — a lesson I learned that can dramatically enrich your life. And since it’s a lesson best learned over a pint, it’s worth trying, right?
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Here’s the conundrum I offered as conversation to a handful of party stragglers sipping the last of their brews around a solstice campfire: This will be the fourth, maybe fifth year I’ve written up the results of our Oregon IPA tastings. Surely by now, I say, everyone knows the India story — that English colonizers living in that faraway place, thirsty for their ales, packed their barrels with preservative hops to get the beer to India so it wouldn’t spoil along the way.
Or, do they? One person tells the tale of a beer server in Portland who suggested that IPAs were actually invented there. We all snickered, arrogant in our superior knowledge of beer. Did the fool not notice the name refers to India pale ales?
Someone suggested: “Why didn’t they name it Portland pale ale if this hoppy beverage were actually invented in Portland?”
“Because nobody wanted to order a “Pee-Pee A,” delivered Kate, ever the one-line queen.
Ba-dum-bum. Cheers all around.
Here are some of our consumer tasters’ favorite Oregon IPAs:
Ordnance Full Metal Jacket, Boardman 6.6% ABV; 53 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Western Europe meets West Coast in this quaffable IPA. A fusion of New-World hops are held up with a malty backbone reminiscent of a maltier English-style pale.
Consumer Comments: Floral, malty and thick. Citrusy, floral, nice smell, slightly piney. Strong bitterness but not too much, with a nice balance. Molasses. Easy drinking. Flavorage! Flowery smooth flavor. Sunny hop delight! Lightly floral and malty.
StormBreaker Handful of Hops V. 3.0, Portland 6.8 % ABV; 78 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: V. 3.0 of this experimental IPA series has aromas of mango, citrus and pine. Hoppy finish blends nicely as the slightly sweet fruitiness and characteristics of orange
citrus and pine find their way across the palate.
Consumer Comments: Hop in the sun for some of this fun! Fruity and sweet and a little bitter. A light citrus flavor and a smooth ending. Floral with a nice balance of bitter and sweet. Nice head. A bit tart. I love the citrus notes. Easy drinking. Crisp backbone.
Widmer Upheaval IPA, Portland 7% ABV; 55 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This IPA has more than two pounds of hops per barrel, unleashing a huge hop flavor and aroma with serious bitterness and a balanced finish. Brewed with wheat, the result is a hazy, bold IPA that’s unfiltered. Hops: Alchemy, Simcoe, Chinook, Willamette, Brewers Gold, Nelson Sauvin.
Consumer Comments: Piney, citrus, hoppy goodness. Sweet and smooth. Lemony hints. Spicy aftertaste with a little bite. Malty, sweet, easy drinking. Sticks to your tongue! Pleasant drink. Refreshing. Mowing the lawn IPA.
Full Sail Classic IPA, Hood River 6% ABV; 60 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This Northwest-style IPA is generously hopped with Centennials from the Yakima Valley and brewed in the classic style with two-row Pale and Crystal malt. It has a full, malty body and a hint of fresh citrus. Perfect after your favorite water sport, even if that happens to be the grueling drag-the-poolside-lounge-chair-into-the-sun event.
Consumer Comments: Light and refreshing. Bubbly fun. Flavorful, nice crisp taste. Very good, balanced and good summer fun. Smooth drinking and easy flavor to savor. Citrusy and herbal, quaffable and simple. A good go-to beer.
Hop Haus Genie In A Bottle, Gresham 5.7% ABV; 70 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A well-respected Northwest-style IPA. It’s smooth drinking with a late hop addition. This medium-bodied, palate-pleasing beer is definitely something you’d ask for in
one of your three wishes!
Consumer Comments: Well-rounded, balanced, enjoyable. Zippy. Some pine and citrus. Nice! My favorite! Very easy drinking. Great beer. Very simple, which is nice. Pool party beer. Summertime fun beer.
Big Horse Paragon, Hood River 6.4% ABV; 65 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: The Paragon is a light and bright summer IPA. Made with a blend of Amarillo, Centennial and Azacca hops, the Paragon pops with fresh citrus flavors of candied mandarin orange and subtle flavors of star anise.
Consumer Comments: Subdued flavor and not too intense. Sweeter with a floral aftertaste. A food one for a spring day when the sun is out, but still cold. Nutty. Licorice? Nice level of bitterness. Great color, light, dandelion notes, good spring beer.
Hopworks Pig War, Portland 6% ABV; 60 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Organic Hard Red Spring Wheat grown on Twin Oaks Farm on San Juan Island imparts tart flavors, medium body and signature wheat cloudiness. Pig War refers to the 1859 standoff between American and British authorities over San Juan Island. The only casualty of this 15-year standoff was one wayward pig.
Consumer Comments: Refreshing. Great for a summer picnic. I wouldn’t hate myself for drinking too much of this. Flavor on the palate jumps like a kangaroo with hops in its pouch. The hops are very unique. Wonderful flavor. Would be nice with a burger. Real citrus flavor. A very pleasant beer.
Silver Moon IPA 97, Bend 7% ABV; 75 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Packs a punch with bold tropical fruit and citrus zest flavors, creating a light pine aroma.
Consumer Comments: Sound sipping with a Sitka spruce. Fruity body with a warm, hoppy after flavor. Perfect for a hot day on the river. Good and fresh tasting. Floral and slightly sweet. Would go great with Chinese food. Fantastic. The hop notes are spot on. Roasty, but light.
McMenamins Hillsdale IPA, Portland 7% ABV; 100 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: The Hillsdale IPA greets your nose with the pungent, grassy aromas of Mosaic and Citra hops. A simple grain bill keeps the beer light in color and body, as sweet malts were excluded to avoid overshadowing any hop flavors. The name pays homage to the very first McMenamins brewery, opened more than 30 years ago.
Consumer Comments: Is it rude to ask for the recipe? Good basic IPA. Keep this one around for guests who love IPAs. Light and delicious.
pFriem IPA, Hood River 7.2% ABV; 65 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: When the first pale ales arrived in India in the early 18th century, outcries of “Zounds!” “Jolly good!” and “Huzzah!” were heard across the East Indian subcontinent. Expect the same exclamations when sniffing the piney aroma and tasting the big hops, huge citrus and candy-like malt.
Consumer Comments: The champagne of IPAs. Very good. Get me some curry. Great flavor. Smells like tropical fruit. Golden delicious. Candy with a bitter back. Long-lasting hoppy taste, coats my tongue.
Sunriver Vicious Mosquito, Sunriver 7% ABV; 70 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: The Sunriver Brewing Company’s flagship uses heavy handfuls of the finest Northwest hops (Warrior, Cascade, Centennial, Columbus and Simcoe), which define this pungent, resinous brew. This hop attack comes at you like the vicious mosquitos at our nearby Cascade Mountains.
Consumer Comments: Bitter like my sister-in-law after the divorce, but in a good way. Classic IPA with a nice balance. Easy drinking. Good taste with no lingering aftertaste. Yes! Light and refreshing. Great smell.
Portland Brewing and Double Mountain Subcontinental IPA, Portland/Hood River 7% ABV
Brewer’s Description: Brewed for Portland Beer Week, these two brewing giants collaborated on an IPA with pepper, cardamom, clove, cumin and saffron.
Consumer Comments: No way. Anise? This is Christmas on my tongue! It’s like running through a clover field on a beautiful summer day. Very good. Hint of cloves or some other spice. Low bitterness. Santa’s workshop IPA.
Wild Ride Electri-Fly, Redmond 6.3% ABV; 65 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Prepare to lift off and experience an IPA that showcases a blend of premium two-row and honey malts, which lay a perfect perch for the addition of hops. Flown in from the Southern Hemisphere, the unique hops give this beer a pleasant flavor and the aroma of
Consumer Comments: Floral aroma. Pine cones. Slight butterscotch. Good and smooth. Smooth and fruity and not too bitter.
NEXT FREE TASTING: Oregon Beer Growler’s Canned Beer Tasting 2 p.m. Saturday, July 9 at F.H. Steinbart Co., 234 SE 12th Ave., Portland
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.