By Matthew Meador
For the Oregon Beer Growler
As a non-native Pacific Northwesterner, I am aware we live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet and I am usually attuned to others’ reasons for loving life here. One of the most colorful aspects of life in the Pacific Northwest is the changing of the seasons. Almost universally, the region’s residents mention the four distinct annual quarters that make up a calendar year. Never a fan of the rain — although I recognize the critical contribution of precipitation to our breathtaking landscape — seasonal change means something different for me than it does for people like my wife, who’s immensely fond of the autumn colors and the departure of summer. Where she enjoys the falling of the leaves, the return of the rain and the onset of winter, I’m already missing summer and looking forward to spring.
But fall brings with it other attractions, notably the start of football season. And when you’re talking about football in Oregon, the conversation never fails to touch on the endless Oregon or Oregon State debate and the epic tailgating gatherings which have come to define football in this area. So we thought a friendly little brews-made-for-tailgating competition between certain breweries located in the totally random towns of Corvallis and Eugene would be perfect. Totally random? OK, maybe not. But both of these Oregon football towns know how to turn out some great games — and champion brews!
Flat Tail Tailgater Kolsch, Corvallis
5.0% ABV; 25 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Mashed with Weyermann Malt from Bamberg, Germany, and hopped with German Tettnangers, this crushable brew is fermented cold with a traditional yeast strain to keep it light, crisp and perfect for an afternoon tailgate.
Consumer Comments: With the invitingly clean hue of fresh apple juice, the Tailgater Kolsch presents itself as a friendly, easy-drinking beer — exactly what it is. Panelists liked this brew’s easy-going nature, noting its mild malt and crisp finish. This one’s best served chilled — maybe a bit more than usual — in the company of friends.
Oregon Trail Wit, Corvallis
4.7% ABV; 20 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Oregon Trail Wit is a zesty spiced wheat ale, brewed since 1992. Crafted with Oregon pioneer spirit, Mount Hood hops, coriander and orange peel for a citrusy finish, this naturally hazy beer is supremely refreshing.
Consumer Comments: With the barest hint of clove on the nose and palate, the Oregon Trail Wit starts out paradoxically light and earthy. It’s a great autumn beer, with hints of spice and a bit of nip without the stereotypical “pumpkin spice” attitude. Panelists thought this pint might be a great introduction to those who’d like to try a beer for the first time. Serve with brats or sausages.
Block 15 Gloria!, Corvallis
5.0% ABV; Unavailable IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Blending delicate malt character and zesty hops, Gloria! is our vision of the crisp, unfiltered pilsner. Brewed with floor-malted pilsner malts, Gloria! pours a hazy, straw-colored pint. European- and Oregon-grown hops impart citrus and floral spice, while select lager yeast finishes clean and refreshing. This immensely drinkable lager is our brewers’ choice after a long day in the brewhouse. Gloria!
Consumer Comments: Panelists pegged this pint a pilsner without hesitation. Gloria! is light, crisp and easy-drinking, exhibiting notes of lemon peel framed by a sweet-but-friendly bitter body. With its refreshing character, this brew will accompany game day treats like wings, onion rings or teriyaki skewers perfectly.
Ninkasi Helles Belles, Eugene
5.3% ABV; 28 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Helles Belles is a headliner for the masses. Light and flavorful, this drinkable Lager strikes a chord between satisfyingly crisp and deliciously crafted. It’s time to rock — all night long.
Consumer Comments: Characterized by malt with a hint of spice, panelists loved the affable nature of Helles Belles Lager. With comments like “sure to please everyone” and “crisp, easy to drink,” tasters thought this brew would go well with chicken or barbecue sliders. This pint is well-balanced and lively, a great addition to any tailgate party.
Elk Horn Oktoberfest, Eugene
5.0% ABV; 20 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This brilliantly clear and orange-colored lager was brewed for our Oktobeerfest on Oct. 22. It showcases the delicate flavors of German Pilsner, Munich and Vienna malts that provide freshly baked bread and nutty flavors that are complemented by the subtle spicy flavor and bitterness from German Tettnang hops. This beer was cold conditioned during the summer and is undeniably crisp and refreshing. Cheers!
Consumer Comments: The easy smoothness of this brew was noted by panelists, more than one remarking on its “drinkability.” The Oktoberfest Lager sports a medium body, an unobtrusive spiciness and panelists imagined it a perfect companion for tailgating fare like burgers, dogs or even cheesesteaks. The brew’s honey hue and very subtle woodsy char make for a refreshing brew.
Hop Valley Citrus Mistress IPA, Eugene
6.5% ABV; 80 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This IPA features four different hops with the addition of grapefruit peel for a citrus, peach and tropical bouquet. Plus there’s enough Munich malt to give it a classic burnt-orange color.
Consumer Comments: The hands-down favorite of panelists, Citrus Mistress IPA is an aptly-named brew, weighty and maybe a little opinionated without being overbearing. With a bold color just shy of blood oranges, this brew has a body of delicate citrus blossom, framed by robust hops. Like its name implies, the Citrus Mistress will keep you warmly entertained on a chilly fall afternoon, but she won’t overstay her welcome. It’s worth noting that, among the tailgating beers, this brew was the odd man — or woman — out. While the others were amiable easy beers, the Citrus Mistress’ forward IPA character set it apart from the rest.
The good-natured rivalry between our two teams is undoubtedly underscored by a shared love of our beautiful state. After all, Northwesterners are known for their love of the land and sense of fair play. Regardless of whether you’re a Beaver or a Duck fan, I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy the tailgating beers crafted by the talented brewmasters at any of these Oregon breweries. Here’s to football in Oregon — and the beers which help us cheer on our teams!
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.