By Gail Oberst
Growler fill stations are becoming a way of life across the U.S. For example, The Growler Station company, founded in 2010 by two Connecticut brew pub owners, has nearly 20 franchises from coast to coast, the majority of which are east of the Mississippi. But the West is catching on -- fast. Dozens of new growler fill stores – some franchises and some not -- have opened recently in Oregon. Tin Bucket at 3520 N. Williams in Portland, is one of them. Owned and operated locally by Jason Monge and John Plutshack, their connection to the larger The Growler Station franchise gives them access to some of the most modern equipment aimed at producing the freshest and most long-lasting growler fills.
The month, the Oregon Beer Growler featured red ales in their consumer tasting at TinnBucket. Red ales get their garnet hue not from amber barley like amber ales, but rather from a very small amount of roasted grain, according to our Beer Champion Will Oberst-Cairns. This small additon of charred grain adds just a hint of a coffee-like flavor. “Here is the Northwest it is no wonder that by combining the java-esque body of coffee with the citrusy bitterness of hops, we end up with one of the most popular beer styles in Oregon; the red ale.” he said. The Oregon Beer Growler’s consumer ferretted out seven Oregon favorites listed below.
Stickmen’s Madame Molly Irish Red, Lake Oswego
5.4% ABV, 25 IBUs
Brewer’s description: Stories of Lake Oswego’s ghosts are legendary. Molly has been quiet in Stickmen’s building since they moved in, and in appreciation, this clean, traditional Irish-style ale with the balanced malt and hops has been named in her honor. This one is dead on …
Consumer comments: “ A good bike-riding beer; mild and balanced. I’d trade my water bottle out for this one,” “Yee-haw!” and “Fruity like an orchard somewhere in The Gorge,” were among comments.
Vertigo Smokestack Red, Hillsboro
5.3% ABV, 24 IBUs
Brewer’s description: Our American Red Ale focuses on the initial rich malty character and moderate caramel flavor. A touch of roasted presence with mild hop bitterness.
Consumer comments: “I feel like a cigar,” “I’m telling stories around the campfire,” “I’m listening to Kevin Burke.”
Stormbreaker Brewing Mississippi Red, Portland
5.8% ABV, 29 IBUs
Brewer’s description: An homage to the street we now call home, this Citra dry-hopped red gives the appearance of an IPA on the nose, with hops apparent on the palate, but balanced with caramel flavors for a smooth finish. Red perfection!
Consumer comments: “Hop, skip, jump ... let the kids play while I drink this,” “Pancakes!” and “I’m lost in my own world and simply enjoying this one.”
Laurelwood Free Range Red Ale, Portland
6.2% ABV, 60 IBUs
Brewer’s description: A rich copper-colored ale with loads of fresh hop flavor. Medium in body the caramel sweetness blends wonderfully with the smooth hop flavor creating a balanced, super drinkable beer.
Consumer comments: “Smooth, like my lover,” “How do I love thee? Let me Count the ways. One, thou art sweet!”
Oregon Trail Mosaic Red, Corvallis
6% ABV, 60 IBUs
Brewer’s description: She’s not sweet but she has a big malty red body. Topped with mango, fruity, earthy hoppiness via the new Mosaic hop. Oregon Trail Mosaic Red Ale has what it takes to titillate your organoleptic senses without knocking you out.
Consumer comments: “This beer is a snowboarding event. It’s got pep! Freestyle!” “It’s like Saturday night at Bar Bar.” “It’s breakfast beer. No need for coffee. Breakfast of champions!”
Ninkasi Dawn of the Red IRA, Eugene
7% ABV, 75 IBUs
Brewer’s description: An IRA bursting with notes of mango, papaya and pineapple, this beer finishes juicy with a subtle malty backbone. It doesn’t take brains to know hoppy, tropical IRAs are a great way to welcome warmer months ahead!
Consumer comments: “It excites me. I’m ready for adventure.” “Yum. Grapefruit. It’s great for a spring day. Refreshing and juicy.”
Coalition King Kitty Red, Portland
5.74% ABV, 60 IBUs
Brewer’s description: King Kitty Red is a Northwest take on the typically malt-forward style. Brewed with four different varieties of hops and a sweet malt backbone, this ale is balanced with a clean bitterness and enticing aromatics.
Consumer comments: “Curls my tongue with pleasure. I’m in heaven, honey. I’ve just lost my heart. Honeydew stuffed with hops.” “Pure Portland.”
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.