At Belmont Station in Portland, a dozen or so patrons last month took up their pens and glasses and sipped on “Green” beers – the Oregon brews that in some way attempt to reduce the load on Ma Earth.
In Oregon brewing “green” is almost assumed. Wasteful brewers don’t stay in production long. Innovative Oregon brewers, on the other hand, find ways to use, reuse, recycle and reduce waste. Old kettles and old barrels put back into use, solar energy, mash waste sent to farms, recycled hot water, growlers and cans – all of these are among the activities our consumer panelists, and most Oregon craft beer drinkers – simply took for granted as they tasted beers contributed to this month’s Perfect Pints. Does being green impact the taste of the beer? Au contraire, mon frère/cheri. Green beers don’t include the bitter taste of guilt. Nothing but smooth attention to the details of brewing that keep this garden planet growing.
Following, in alphabetical order, are seven of the consumer panel’s choices, and a few of the green practices (loosely defined!) used by each brewery. With the exception of Agrarian, all are available for sale in bottles.
Agrarian BelGene Green Farmhouse Ale (Saison)– ABV 7%
This new Coburg farm-based brewery is hoping to someday brew only ingredients they grow and process on the farm. Today, they use their farm-grown chilies and hops in their brews, and other herbs and spiced grown on their 25-acre farm. Now, in addition to the farm, you can also find the beer flowing from a few Eugene and Corvallis taps. “We make beer that reflects our connection to the Earth,” reads their Facebook page description. What did consumers say? “Complex herbal flavors. Is it coriander?” mused one. Good character without any of the funky notes that make some Belgians taste bad,” said another. “Good to drink while sitting on the beach,” suggested a fan. “Tastes like Grandpa candy. I liked it the more I drank it,” said another.
Ambacht Mazobrau Golden Ale -- ABV 6.5%
“Not kosher for Passover,” reads the subtitle to Hillsboro’s Ambacht beer. Owner Tom Kramer calls his beer a “malt beverage brewed with matzah and honey,” and declares it “Belgian-inspired.” OBG has grouped this prize-winning brewery with other green breweries because of Kramer’s dedication to locally organically-grown products. We suggest you take the “bread of affliction” in liquid form and be humbled by its deliciousness. Passover, observed in both Jewish and Christian traditions, is March 26. Matzah bread plays a role in Jewish Passover meals. Consumers said: “Slight whiskey-ish aroma. Goes down easy!” “Good beer to drink on the mountain,” said a fan. “Nice apple notes. Easy session beer,” said another.
BridgePort Smooth Ryed – ABV 6.3%
One of Portland’s oldest post-prohibition breweries, BridgePort still manages to hone the edges with innovative ales. Locally-sourced Centennial whole-leaf hops grown on two farms in Oregon are added to a rye-spiced brew. In the brewing process, heat exchangers re-use heat within the building on Marshall Street. Spent grain and yeast are used as feed in a local dairy. The company also composts, and recycles. Consumers at Belmont Station approved. “Fruity nose and lingering rye finish,” said one. “Nice bitterness, good body and light head,” said another. “This would be a good tailgate beer,” said a fan. “A nice dinner beer,” said another.
Coalition Two Dogs IPA – ABV 5.8%
Your Mama always told you to share. Coalition takes that advice to heart, raising the level of the whole brewing community by educating potential new brewers. Their Coalator program invites local home brewers to create recipes and try them out on Coalition’s pilot system. If the recipe is sufficiently popular at Coalition’s pub, it may be brewed on the 10-barrel system. What an opportunity for new brewers and craft beer drinkers! While sharing isn’t something you can taste in a beer, the joy of brewing is palpable, Coalition’s fans say: “Sitting on a park bench in the summer, watching silly joggers feeling good about themselves for working out, but I’m feeling good cuz my beer is Yum! Yum!” wrote a fan. “Simple hoppy-ness,” and “Very tasty, said two others.
Hopworks Secession Cascadian Dark Ale – ABV 6.5%
Without a doubt, Hopworks is proud to be an organic and sustainable brewery, both of which they declare in several places on their label along with advice to “think-drink-smile-recycle.” You name the Earth-friendly practice, Hopworks does it, from bicycling events to solar panels and a water-permeable parking lot. If that weren’t enough, this particular ale taps into the Northwest spirit by declaring Oregon at the root of “Cascadia,” a secessionist’s dreamscape that encompasses the lands surrounding the Cascades. The region is reflected in the Northwest hop flavors and in this relatively new dark malty hoppy style. Belmont consumers loved it. “Fuzzy slippers and lover cuddles. Stay at home and wait for spring,” said one. “A dark beer with a bitter and a sweet taste? Yum,” said another. “Toasty, smoky tobacco. Very nice!
Laurelwood Organic Free Range Red Ale – ABV 5.9%
Portland’s Laurelwood Brewery touts this hoppy, copper-colored ale for its 100 percent organically-grown malts and hops, certified organic by Oregon Tilth. Oregon Tilth is not Laurelwood’s only Eco-friend. Among its collaborators is Portland’s Office of Sustainable Development, which helped the brewery set up a composting program to reduce waste going to the landfill. Appreciative tasters gave it a thumbs up for its light, session-able taste. “Well-balanced and enjoyable,” said one taster. “Not too heavy, good body, light and refreshing.” “Makes me think of my drunk grandpa,” mused another.
Oakshire Watershed IPA – ABV 7.1%
Eugene’s expanding Oakshire Brewing joins the green ranks for its enthusiastic support of environmental groups including the McKenzie River Trust, which aims at conserving land on and around the McKenzie River watershed. That enthusiasm translates into support at the rate of 1% of the sales of this beer, which, if our consumer tasters are any indication, might amount to lots of cash. Why support efforts to keep the McKenzie pristine? The bottle says it all: The beer is made from “Pure McKenzie Watershed H20,” in addition to barley and “copious amounts of Northwest hops.” Among comments: “Nice nose;” “Nice medium body;” Perfect hop bitterness and aroma;” “Lovely grapefruit,” “Hop-forward but not overpowering,” they said. “I don’t usually like IPAs, but I like this one,” said another.
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.