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