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