By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
On a recent day when the mercury hit the 80s, I was standing in my booth serving tastes of Oregon’s pale ales to thirsty visitors at the Hammer N’Ales Brewfest fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity in Canyonville. Pale ales are the perfect beer for a hot day — a great Oregon refresher.
In addition to fests, how about a pale ale on a lake after the cast, on the bank of a river after floating the rapids, behind a lawnmower, after weeding the garden or on your shady porch watching the neighbors sweat it out in their yards. They’re not too strong (official range is from 4.5 to 6.0 percent ABV), so you can drink them for a happy session. Also, pale ales tend to be less hoppy than the India pale ale, so your tongue may be less tarred after a few beers. Pale ale hoppiness usually ranges from 30-45 IBUs, according Beer Judge Certification Program standards. Oregon pales are a bit hoppier, but mildly fragrant and fresh. This popular English style landed in the New World with a hearty “huzzah,” and is ours now.
Here are the Oregon pale ales chosen as favorites in the blind tasting by visitors to the festival:
Vertigo: Closer Pale Ale, Hillsboro 5.3% ABV; 55 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This ale gets its light copper color from 120 and 60L caramel malts. Magnum and Amarillo hops added for bittering, flavor and aroma give this beer a balanced profile.
Consumer Comments: Smooth, crisp and slightly hoppy. I could be happy with this one because I don’t like overly hopped beers. Great floral flavor. Made my mouth feel like a velvet slipper dipped in rosewater and lemon rind. Crisp, dry, firm bitterness. A beer for beer drinkers. Great for a long afternoon barbecue. Light, nice and bright. Nice summer beer.
Ordnance: RX Pale Ale, Boardman 5.6% ABV; 32 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Pouring a light straw color, this ale gets its spicy flavor from a healthy dose of rye malt. The rye spice combines nicely with Citra and Mosaic hop aromas to create a beer that is perfect for day's end, be it after work or a long day of outdoor pursuits.
Consumer Comments: Light, interesting, mild fruity hop flavor. Hoppy! Nose outstanding. Taste is OMG. Drama in my mouth. Well done! Very nice and exceptionally smooth, and not bitter. Clean and refreshing. Dry. I need to figure out how to get a keg of this into my RV. Light and crisp.
Rogue: Pendleton Pale Ale, Newport 5.2% ABV; 30 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A light, refreshing pale ale brewed with hops and malts grown on Rogue Farms, including Rogue Farms Risk, 2-Row, Sacchra 50 and Dextra Pils Malts; Delta and Rogue Farms Alluvial and Rebel hops.
Consumer Comments: Malty highlights. Crisp and clean taste. Easy drinking. Get out the fried chicken, we’re taking this one on a picnic. Better than most. Light hop and clean taste. Refreshing! Fruity!
Laurelwood: Piston Pale Ale, Portland 5.8% ABV; 37 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Our seasonal pale is the Northwest interpretation of a classic British style, which essentially means — yup, you guessed it — more hops! We have updated our recipe to please the palates of our current crowd of beer drinkers. Expect refreshing citrus hop flavors and aromas.
Consumer Comments: My perfect pale ale. Drinkable and refreshing. Love the floral notes. Hoppier and hoppier! Dude! Smells like killer bud. Hint of sugar and spice. Eat it with simple carbs and cheese. Piney. Nice hop notes. Great aroma — a real winner. Fruit. A drink for a sunny day. Take it to the cabin and drink it in front of the fire.
Big Horse; Badfish, Hood River 5.5% ABV; 45 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Blond-colored pale with intense hop flavors of tropical citrus and pine. Finishes dry without a harsh lingering bitterness.
Consumer Comments: Well-balanced hops and malt, great drinkability. Not as hoppy as the others. Burst of flowers. Put me in the rose garden. Subtle almost lager-ish mellowness with a satisfying bitter accent. Clean and fresh. Crisp and dry. Best one so far. Nice blend of bitter flavors. Pale ale, as it should be. Not too hoppy, not too light. I loved this beer.
Arch Rock: Pistol River Pale, Gold Beach 6.0% ABV; N/A IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This recent gold medal winner is robustly dry-hopped, giving way to the intense hoppy aroma and flavor. Subtle bitterness and drinkability set this beer apart. Its resinous, citrusy and fruity character comes from CTZ, Chinook, Nugget and Centennial hops. Even with the hop-forward flavor of this beer, it’s well balanced with medium bitterness.
Consumer Comments: Intense flavor for a pale. All about the hops. Bold and strong flavor. Beautiful nose, almost Donald Trump arrogant bitterness presentation. Well played! Sweet up front — hop party in the back. Solid and easy drinking. Good flavor.
Hop Haus: Dr. Bob's Periodic Pale Ale, Gresham 5.8 % ABV; 40 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A tribute beer to the late Dr. Bob, this pale ale is true to the style — easy drinking with a subtle malt backbone and smooth balanced hop finish. Made with 2-row, C40, aromatic and Victory malts; Chinook and Cascade hops.
Consumer Comments: Perfect amount of hoppiness. Yes! I’d share this one with my friends. I like this like sunshine. Subtle nose. I would date this beer! Goes down well with a little bitterness on the aftertaste. Tasty! A good all-around beer that could be a staple for the ‘fridge.
NEXT FREE TASTING: Oregon Beer Growler’s IPA Tasting 2 p.m. Saturday, June 18 at F.H. Steinbart Co., 234 SE 12th, Portland.
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.