By Gail Oberst and Will Oberst-Cairns
In June, the Oregon Beer Growler invited consumers to blind-taste Portland IPAs at F.H. Steinbart’s in Portland, and choose their favorites. We do this each month – in July, we’ll be in Bend.
Hop-forward IPAs (India Pale Ales) were one of Britain’s first exports – the “India” referring to where it was headed, rather than where it was made. In the 1800s,whole hops were added directly to the barrel to help preserve the beer on its long journey to India, where it became a popular thirst-quenching drink for the British personnel stationed there.
Fast-forward a century or two. The Northwest has adopted the IPA in the past quarter-century, and given it a whole new personality, reflecting the local willingness to test the boundaries of style, and our easy access to a variety of hops that can be added to wort at various stages of production. Oregon’s love of hops has not only changed the way we drink, but has created an entirely new niche among growers who supply hops to craft breweries.
And all IPAs are not the same here. In Oregon, our IPAs range from roasted dark and chocolatey “Cascade Dark Ales” or black IPAs, to lighter-bodied ales made from traditional light grains. In the descriptions and comments below about their favorite IPAs, please note the variety of grains and hops that make up Oregon’s IPAs. What wonderful choices we have!
McMenamins Concordia Brewery’s Equinox IPA, Portland 83 IBUs, 7.1 ABV
Commercial Description: Hop flavor and aroma without the palate-wrecking bitterness. Tropical fruit and citrus dominate the palate and nose. Malted grains include two-row premium barley, and caramel Vienna. Hops are Chinook, Simcoe, Mosaic and Citra.
Consumer Comments: “It’s a tropical citrus bomb.” “Good for handing out at a picnic, very crisp and smooth.” “Feel like I am having breakfast on the beach.” “Like the kind of beer I would go back to drinking after a girl slapped me at a bar for hitting on her quadriplegic aunt with Tourette’s.” “Great start to a drinking day.” “I’d drink it with my feet in a creek.”
Laurelwood Workhorse, Portland 80 IBUs, 7.5% ABV
Commercial Description: This West Coast style IPA’s over-the-top aroma comes from a heavy-handed dose of hops in the kettle, hop back and two separate dry-hop additions. A slightly sweet finish helps balance the hop bitterness.
Consumer Comments: “Hop explosion balanced with some sweet maltiness.” “Complex fun, for campfire evening.” “Good for drinking with my cigar and steak.” “Hippie beer!” “Would drink this while cutting flowers.” “Good with throwing horseshoes at an outdoor bar mitvah, beer mozel tov!” “I could drink this all day long.” “Perfect porch beer, great for an IPA doubter.”
Old Market British Bombay, Portland 80 IBUs, 6.7% ABV Commercial Description: This is a Northwest style IPA, with a nod to its roots. It is a bright pale ale with intense hop aroma, with not too much bittering, balanced with an addition of Cascade, Centennial and Amarillo hops.
Consumer Comments: “Grass, flower and pine.” “More bite than other IPAs and tiny tartness in the back end.” “Summer night party.” “Goes with pushing my limits.” “Burst of floral components and hop fire more of a bottle rocket.” “Like I’m high-fiving Stevie Nicks.” “A cigar-style IPA.” “Sophisticated.” “IPA with hips.” “Sexy.”
Columbia River Hop Heaven, Portland 78 IUs, 7.5% ABV
Commercial Description: An American-style IPA with five malts, five hop additions and two dry hop blends. Classical citrus aroma and light in color.
Consumer Comments: “Bitter notes but a festival of citrus/pine/tea/Kool-Aid.” “Would definitely drink a pint of this.” “Just right.” “Bring on the sunshine.” “Really nice hot summer’s afternoon taste.” “I could see lying in a meadow drinking this one.” “Very light finish, crisp and clean.”
Ecliptic Arcturus, Portland 75 IBUs, 7.4% ABV
Commercial Description: Named for the orange giant star 36.7 light years away, Arcturus IPA unites a constellation of “C” hops (Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Columbus) in the boil. Strong citrus notes shine in a medium body accented by honey malt.
Consumer Comments: “Similar to a tart grapefruit in the morning with a hint of sugar.” “A little smokiness?” “Great summer IPA and another barbecue and picnic beer.” “I’d drink this at the Portland Thorns soccer game.” “Crisp as fresh lettuce.” “Balanced as a complete breakfast.” “Smooth like a Barry White cover band.” “This is good lawn-mowing beer.”
BridgePort Trilogy 2 Aussie Salute, Portland 55 IBUs 5.8% ABV
Commercial Description: The second of the 1-2-3 series brewed to celebrated BridgePort’s 30th anniversary this year, Aussie Salute uses Centennial and Chinook hops from the Oregon Willamette Valley along with two hop varieties from down under, Galaxy and Ella, for a hearty and hazy IPA.
Consumer Comments: “Tropical fruit flavors straight from Polynesia.” “Like walking through a light-hearted funhouse.” “Light and refreshing, a nice warm weather beer.” “I can’t pinpoint it but the scent is great — reminds me a little of wine.” “Wheat and hop bomb.” “A carnival beer in a just-won-agiant-teddy bear way, not the tilt-a-wheel-operatorjust-stole-my wallet way.” “I could drink this beer for the whole night and wouldn’t mind the hangover that came with it.” “Sunburn; don’t forget your sunscreen, this one is beachy, passion fruity.”
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.