By Gail Oberst
The Oregon Beer Growler’s monthly consumer tasting was very “civil” this month, as in Civil War. All Corvallis and Eugene-area breweries were invited to represent their Ducks and Beavers by contributing their IPAs to be judged by a panel of consumers. This year, Bier Stein in Eugene hosted the Civil War Beer Tasting at Bier Stein’s sparkling new and spacious facility at 16th and Willamette streets. Without knowing whether they tasted Eugene or Corvallis beers, the panel tasted 14 IPAs and chose their favorites. In the spirit of the Oregon’s winner-gets-bragging-rights Civil War, the panel this month named one winner: Springfield’s Plank Town IPA.
This is the second year Eugene has won the contest. Last year, Rogue’s Honey Orange Wheat Ale Track Town Ales won the contest held at Corvallis Brewing Supply. Rogue did not enter this year’s IPA tasting.
Plank Town created a buzz as loud as circular saw in February this year when Bart Caridio, co-owner of Sam Bond's Garage in Eugene and the Axe & Fiddle pub in Cottage Grove, opened this brewpub and restaurant on Springfield’s flagging Main Street. By May, the 10-barrel system was producing beer. Last month, it was apparent that Plank Town IPA rates highly among consumers. Brewer Steve VanRossem, formerly Corvallis’ Block 15 brewer, should be proud.
Coincidentally, Block 15’s IPA came in second.
Following is a list of the Corvallis and Eugene-area IPAs tasted at The Bier Stein last month.
Plank Town IPA, Springfield
6.2% ABV, 65 IBU
An intense array of signature NW hops backed by an international of malts. Full flavored, robust, and not at all subtle. “It’s like a good time on a dirty subway. You know what I mean,” wrote one consumer taster. “Sweet and bitter at the same time,” and “Oh brothas and sistahs, that’s good,” said fans.
Flat Tail Rough Cut IPA, Corvallis
6.8 % ABV, IBU not listed
Brewed with West Coast hops (Cascade and Zythos) IPA has a huge grapefruit nose with a hint of spice, and a crisp clean bitter finish. “Mild, refreshing and hoppy,” said a taster. “Nice and mellow with some flowers,” said another. “Kind of like going to the dark side of the moon and finding moon joy,” said a fan. “Nice malty flavor,” and “A strange but pleasant aroma,” were among other comments.
Mazama Brewing White Wedding, Corvallis
5.2 % ABV, 55 IBUs
This white IPA in the style that crosses an American pale ale with a big Beligian crossed is characterized by a clean crisp wit melded with a mix of American IPA hops that create a very refreshing, tart beer that is great on a hot summer day, or any thirsty day, for that matter. “Spicy!” wrote one fan. “A meld of Belgian flavors with IPAs. It creates a unique taste,” said another. “Hey, is this a Belgian?” asked another. (Remember, this is a blind tasting and these are not experts!)
Oregon Trail Hop Doctor, Corvallis
7 % ABV, IBU not provided
This is Oregon Trail’s annual harvest ale. Brewed with fresh hops in the IPA style, the freshness of the hops contributes to the unique aroma and flavor. “Tastes like Yum,” said one fan. “Mild and smooth,” said another. “Dinkable,” and “Nice Balance” were among other comments.
Oakshire Brewing, Watershed IPA, Eugene
6.7% ABV, 70 IBU
Bold, aromatic and balanced, this Northwest style India Pale Ale highlights the flavors and aromas of our region’s best hops. Crisp, dry and refreshing, this dry hopped IPA is smooth and easy to drink. “Really toasty, almost a woody flavor,” said one taster. “Hmm, it’s like champagne,” said another.
Block 15 Sticky Hands Man on the Moon IPA, Corvallis
8.25% ABV, 110 IBUs
Brewer’s description: Blast into the hop solar system with our latest Sticky Hands creation. Maris Otter barley malts launch multiple kettle additions of Comet and Apollo hops before an orbit of dank Galaxy hops spin in the whirlpool. Two select brewer’s yeasts work in tandem fermenting the extraterrestrial hoppy wort, complementing the beer with soft notes of stone fruits. Finally, a double dry hop of Galaxy completes this hop trip to the moon. “It’s hoppy, from start to finish,” said one taster. “Get down!” exclaimed another. “That is one complex taste,” and “Smells like college,” were among other comments.
Benny’s Pale Ale, McMenamins, Corvallis
ABV 6.9%, IBUs 95
Brewer’s description: This American IPA’s golden color comes from very small additions of specialty malts. The Chinook, Cascade and Sterling hops lend the spicy and piney aroma. This is the perfect brew for on the way to or returning from Reser Stadium. As you might surmise this beer is named after our fearless mascot Benny. Go Beavs.
“The hop finish is right on,” said a fan. “Good hop balance,” said another. “Pleasant flavor and aroma,” said another fan.
Turf Burner Amber, McMenamins, Eugene
5.8 % ABV, 39 IBU
Brewer’s description: Some people call it fall, but I’ve always thought of this as football season. Heavy additions of Caramel Munich and Crystal malts give this amber a deep, rich pigskin-esque color, while the ever noble Sterling hops give it a crisp, clean finish. Turf Burner is designed to be the perfect pint whether you like watching the leaves turn and drop from the trees, or the Ducks put up out-of-this-world numbers and drop the hammer on whoever is unlucky enough to be playing them on any given weekend. “Good floral notes … it sings!” “Great balance of malt and hops,” and “Very refreshing,” were among comments from consumer tasters.
Sky High Freewheel IPA, Corvallis
7% ABV, 77 IBUs
For you free-wheeling PNW hop heads out there, we break out our hop back for our unique take on IPA. A cornucopia of hop varieties are added in the boil, at the hop back and in the fermenter to lend fruity and floral notes to a melodious hoppy brew. “What a good bitter beer!” said one taster. “Is that rosemary I taste?” asked another. “I taste lemon rind … delicious!” said another. “It’s like a 300-pound pine had a baby with a 10-pound orange,” commented a taster.
Ninkasi Total Domination, Eugene
6.7% ABV, 65 IBUs
Multiple hops collide in balanced perfection, dominating the senses and achieving total satisfaction. From the Pacific Northwest, birthplace of the modern IPA, comes a beer whose name says it all. Munich and Carahells malts blend with Summit, Amarillo, Crystal hops to give a big flavor with appeals to novice and seasoned hop heads. “Good balance of flavors with a nice finish,” “I like the aftertaste,” and “Firm and toasty” were among compliments from tasters.
Calapooia Paddle Me IPA, Albany
Our best-selling seasonal hop bomb IPA combines our love of rivers, getting paddled (wait, what?) and our homage to the classic Oregon microbrewery, Siletz Brewing, which first brought you this gem. Brewed with Maris Otter pale malt and three high-alpha hops – Simcoe, Nugget and Centennial – this beer provides classic IPA bitterness combined with a spicy floral aroma and grapefruit notes. This beer will have you begging: “Thank you brewmaster. May I have another?” Tasters agreed: “Unusual flavor,” said one. “Spicy delicious,” said another.
McKenzie Brewing’s Twisted Meniscus, Eugene
6.9% ABV, 63 IBUs.
This is a bronze unfiltered Northwest IPA with several varieties of malted barley and hops producing a hop-forward beer while not being shy about its toasted malt profile. Tastes weave toasted malt flavors with floral, citrus and stone fruit aromas. “Refreshing and drinkable,” said one consumer taster. “Sweet maltiness, like bitter toffee,” said another.
Falling Sky’s Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, Eugene
5.7% ABV, 60 IBU
The fourth in our series of beers dedicated to Douglas Adams’ classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Aromas of ripe tropical fruits, citrus, and flowers mix with toasty malt sweetness and enough resinous hop flavor to last to the End of the Universe. “. . . the best drink in existence is the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. It says that the effect of a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick.” Consumer tasters said: “Nice even tones,” “Malty!,” and “Nice blend of flavors. It finishes just right. Nice character.”
Hop Valley’s Proxima IPA, Eugene
6.3% ABV, 70 IBUs
Just released in 12-ounce and 22-ounce bottles, this luminous Northwest IPA is brewed with eight hop varieties to produce a constellation of big flavors and complex aromas. Consumer tasters gave it a thumbs-up: “Totally drinkable,” “Mild maltiness,” “Really pleasant tropical fruity hop flavor,” were among comments.
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.