Following are selected comments from our 19 consumer tasters.
Dave’s Devil Juice, McMenamin’s Highland Brewery, Gresham 7.35% ABV, 23 IBUs
Brewer Description: Marris Otter and Munich malts, with a light hand on the hops. A full-bodied red ale, also red wheat and roasted barley.
Consumer Comments: Strong, maybe great for Fall/Winter fishing. A great beer for the person who doesn’t like hoppy beer. Smooth, strong, tasty. Smooth, good social beer.
Laurelwood Free Range Red, Portland 6.2% ABV, 60 IBUs
Brewer Description: A rich copper-colored ale with loads of fresh hop flavor. Medium body with caramel sweetness that blends with hop flavor. Malt: 2-Row, Crystal, Dextrin Malt. Hops: Cascade, Newport.
Consumer Comments: Citrusy, session-able beer. Nice balance in flavors. Very drinkable. A slow dance in the rain: Not as much fun as you’d think by reputation, but fun enough. I could probably drink more than one.
Ex Novo Scottish Red, Portland 6.2% ABV, 21 IBUs
Brewer Description: A traditional Scottish Red, malt forward with a showcase of roast and caramel flavor. Slightly sweet, but with a refreshing balance.
Consumer Comments: Nice malt backbone, great for barbecue. Delightful. Summer day. Mild. Sweet Aroma. Mild flavor. Smooth. Super mild. A session beer. Would be great for sitting in the shade by the water. A buxom, auburn contralto. Smooth, easy-drinking, good when I want a mellow beer.
Lompoc Proletariat Red, Portland 6.2% ABV, 32 IBU
Brewer Description: Since 1996, a red ale with a deep chestnut color, toasted malt quality with biscuit undertones, and notes of caramelized pear and cinnamon.
Consumer Comments: Taste grapefruit, very re- freshing. Great for a hike. Nice mix of flavors, subtle. Subtle hoppy tasty, pretty good. Built for speed and pleasure. A saxophone solo, in all the best ways. Yum yum yum.
Kells Irish Red Ale, Portland 4.6% ABV, 24 IBUs
Brewer Description: Aromatic red with hints of caramel.
Consumer Comments: Sweet, malty, great mouth feel, very session-able. Smooth, nice and easy. Sitting on the beach. Kinda refreshing. My favorite so far – such a clean finish and easy to drink. Smooth ride. Another session beer, good for summer. Take this one with you to the park.
Golden Valley Red Thistle Ale, McMinnville/ Beaverton 5.3% ABV, 38 IBUs
Brewer Description: Since 1993, generous amounts of imported malts create a complex flavor profile balanced and enhanced by the use of mild local hops.
Consumer Comments: Kind of sweet. Would be good with a dessert. Lovely, smooth, delicious. Dry and crisp, refreshing. Crisp. Great summer beer. Subtle hops. I like it. Can I have a bigger glass? Malty mild – would be great with fish and chips. Drinkable and delicious.
Defining the Diverse and Flavorful Oregon Red Ales
By Andi Prewitt
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Do you find yourself constantly searching for the perfect IPA? Does the debut of a new hop variety send shivers across your taste buds? Have you boldly crossed the threshold of 100 IBUs and still found yourself wanting more? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions then you, my friend, are a hop head.
I admit I’m one of you. I have an unfulfilled urge to rack up as many different IPA tastings as possible as if they were merit badges in a cool beer club. But focusing on one style sometimes means neglecting other worthy options. In order to expand my beer knowledge, I recently sat down with the co-owner of Belmont Station, Lisa Morrison, for a tutorial on red beers, which can be surprisingly diverse and flavorful.
If you’re relatively new to these types of brews, a great place to start your exploration is by becoming familiar with four different schools of red: Irish, American/India Red Ale, sour, and lager. Each features an emphasized malt presence, but the degrees of hoppiness will vary.
A traditional Irish Red Ale is going to be between 4 and 6 percent ABV. Hops are often absent from this beer. But, if they’re used, it’s generally to tone down the sweetness from the malt. Morrison says a variety of Noble hop, such as Fuggle, would likely go into an Irish Red, giving it earthy flavors.
The Northwest’s love affair with hops led to the development of the second school: the American Red Ale. Brewers wanted to make a bolder version of the approachable Irish Red, so they started adding citrusy hops to their beers. The maltiness isn’t as pronounced in this school, and drinkers may instead notice grapefruit and lemon notes along with some pine resin. One local example of this style is Buoy Beer Company’s NW Red Ale, coming in at 6.7 percent ABV and 65 IBUs. Double Mountain IRA is another year-round, popular hoppy red with an ABV of 6.5 percent and 60 IBUs.
The third school of reds has Morrison excited these days. The Flanders-style vacillates between sweet and tart, never settling on one taste. There isn’t a hop presence, but there are plenty of bold flavors, including fruitiness and wood notes since many of these reds are aged in barrels. The regional sour beer movement has led to an ncrease in the number of breweries producing this style. However, Morrison says no one was making anything like it around here until recently. Her gold-standard in this category is Duchesse De Bourgogne, which is from Belgium.
Just when you thought there couldn’t be another way to make a red, along comes the blushing lager. This school is crisp and refreshing, but has more of a malt presence than something like a Pilsner. Worthy Brewing Company offers Local 36 Red Lager at 5.2 percent ABV and 42 IBUs. Morrison finds that this style is rising in popularity as breweries have more time and resources to devote to the lengthier lagering process.
No matter which school of red you find yourself drawn to, nearly all of them are fabulous partners with food. Morrison describes the typical red as the “Miss Congeniality” of beers:
“It really goes well with a lot of different things and because it’s not overly hoppy it’s not going to fight different flavors.”
While it may seem like IPAs make the masses swoon and get all of the attention, it’s worth recognizing the developments that are underway with reds.
Morrison sums up her take on Oregon’s relationship with the style:
“I would describe it as like a long-time marriage. You know, we’ve been hanging out together for a long time. We still love each other, but we’re pretty comfortable with it. And we don’t necessarily get overly excited about them, but there’s still a spark there.”