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
Tasked with organizing a session beer tasting, I dutifully looked up the definition of a session beer in my online dictionary, and found this: “Session Beer: A beer that has a relatively low alcohol content and is therefore suitable for drinking over an extended period.” The dictionary suggested that a “session beer” weighs in at about 4 percent.
Guess these folks aren’t from Oregon, where “relatively low” is, um, relative. Here, session beers are as various as its residents: Low alcohol content, to some here, is around 5 percent; to others, 3 percent. Styles run the gamut. There are radlers/shandies, wheat beers, IPAs, lagers and ales, Belgian styles — all fall into the giant keg of “session beers.”
But why quibble about a few percentage points? Your session beer will be the one you love to drink on a boat, on the shore, while swimming, while hiking, while biking, while mowing the lawn, while barbecuing, while sitting in the shade, while doing all those things you’re going to do in this long, hot, thirsty summer in Oregon.
Our volunteer consumers gathered last month to choose and comment on the following favorite session beers in a blind tasting.
Next month, to mark the coming of the fall colors, the Oregon Beer Growler tasting will feature Oregon’s red ales.
Burnside: Skyline Extra Pale Ale, Portland 4.8 percent ABV, 38 IBUs
Brewery Description: Smooth, crisp pale featuring Horizon and Amarillo hops.
Consumer Comments: Tastes like beer I’d drink on a pontoon boat. Not bad, in fact, really good! Fishing beer! Would be great at a baseball game with some peanuts. Light and refreshing with a hit of sour. Happy and hoppy. Great taste with sumpin’ sumpin’.
HUB: Organic Totally Radler, Portland 2.6 percent ABV, 15 IBUs
Brewery Description: A 50-50 blend of Hopworks’ award-winning Organic HUB Lager and organic lemon soda. The lemon soda complements the lager’s honey flavors and herbal hop aroma while maintaining its crisp malt backbone.
Consumer Comments: Malty and pure. Refreshing! Better than Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Good tasting. Is it a shandy? Get me a tree, a hammock and a case of these, and I’m good for the day. Lemons! Citrusy. Juicy good.
McMenamins: Quatrophenia, Troutdale 4.9 percent ABV, 44 IBUs
Brewery Description: An inscrutable, mystic liquid imbued with power beyond knowing. Quatrophenia is a satisfyingly sessionable ale that gets the most out of the Simcoe, Galaxy and Meridian hops used throughout the brew and for dry hopping. It is compact, bold and drinkable.
Consumer Comments: Clean and hoppy. Yay, more hops! Refreshing, light and crisp! Good and smooth. Goody yum yum.
Base Camp: Lost Meridian Wit, Portland 5 percent ABV, 20 IBUs
Brewery Description: Our twist on a wheaty Belgian witbier. Meridian hops deliver bright citrus and mimosa-like character, creating flavors of orange and dry champagne.
Consumer Comments: Bright! Lemon chicken. Right all night. Fresh and clean. Lightness. Refreshing! Very solid, easy drinking and tasty. A crisp easy drinker.
Full Sail: Session Premium Lager, Hood River 5.1 percent ABV, 18 IBUs
Brewery Description: This is an import-style lager, like the kind of beer made back in the pre-Prohibition days. American and European hops offer a wonderful noble hop aroma, and the two-row barley malt and a touch of wheat malt give a pleasant, refreshing finish.
Consumer Comments: Light and lagerly. I could really knock back a sixer of these, right now! Very good. Thumbs up. Ooo ooo that smell. Smooth and silky!
Rusty Truck: Cruiser Session IPA, Lincoln City 4.9 percent ABV, 50 IBUs
Brewery Description: This IPA is dry hopped with Mosaic hops for a refreshing complex array of tropical fruit, citrus, berry, herbal and pine flavors. The lower alcohol helps the hop lover in you responsibly enjoy more beer.
Consumer Comments: Cool. Ooof. Oh, yeah! Tasty! Hella tight. Hops! Take me to the islands and feed me mangos chased back with this beer.
Wild Ride: Whoopty Whoop, Redmond 5.5 percent ABV, 20 IBUs
Brewery Description: This beer is an American hefeweizen brewed to help you get through the obstacles of life. The late addition of lemon peel during fermentation gives this traditional wheat beer a pleasant citrus aroma with a slightly tart finish.
Consumer Comments: ‘Tis good and citrusy. Solid: I could drink a lot of these. Nicely sweet and hoppy. Nice and easy. Put a lemon in this one. German lemon trees growing in a hop field?
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.