By Gail Oberst
Bazi Brasserie is Belgian Beer Central in Portland, so it is no accident that we scheduled our Belgian-style Oregon beer-tasting event at this hidden gem in Southeast Portland. And what better brew to drink in April than Belgian-style beers, with its typically spring-like freshness and light flavor, right? Well, maybe. In the Northwest, as in Belgium, these beers run the gamut of styles and strengths, including Abbey Dubbel, Tripel and Quadrupel, goldens, lambics, wild ales and sours. Belgian-style, it turns out, is a bit of a misnomer. Belgian “styles” is more like it. Even so, Oregon’s Belgian styles are good in the spring, and for that matter, any time.As are all of Oregon Beer Growler’s monthly tastings, the Bazi event was a blind, random, and conducted by consumers only. No brewery owners or employees were allowed to judge.
Some of the comments below reflect what a person would want to eat with this beer, with whom they’d like to drink it, or where they’d like to drink it. Our consumer volunteers – a different group every month – are not expert tasters. But, they are like our readers – they know what inspires them!
In no particular order, here are their responses.
Rogue Beard Beer, Newport. 5.6% ABV, 25 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Beard Beer is brewed with yeast created from Brewmaster John Maier’s beard. No need to freak out. Brewers have used wild yeasts in beer-making for centuries. John has had the same old-growth beard since 1978 and for over 15,000 brews, so it is no great surprise that a natural yeast ideal for brewing was discovered in his beard.
Consumer Comments: “I would drink this anytime/anywhere.” “Has the feeling of a French farmhouse.” “Light yeast souring, sweet fruity backbone, balanced finish.” Curtains closed, tasty golden, light.” “Like a candy-apple as an adult; good even though you know it’s bad for you.”
Mazama Brewing Belgian-style Blonde, Corvallis. 7.7% ABV, 20 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Hand-made in the ecclesiastic brewing style of the great Belgian abbeys. This golden ale is light-bodied, drinkable and full of complex fermentation-derived flavors such as fruit, spices and honey. This ale is so full of delicate aromas, you might just swear it came from the old country.
Consumer Comments: “Like Shel Silverstein in liquid beer form, comfortable yet alluring.” “Appealing and drinkable, a more-than-one-beer.” “Beer I could drink all night in the circle of old friends and reminisce. “Like beer candy.” “Would crawl into a cozy window with a growler, straw, and full set of Game of Thrones and demand smoked turkey legs for my family.” “It’s yummy, I’ll drink this any time, would drink when I crave some Belgian style chewing gum.”
Ambacht Ginger Farmhouse Ale, Hillsboro. 6.5% ABV, Unlisted IBU
Brewer’s Description: Our Ginger Farmhouse Ale best exemplifies the Belgian brewing philosophy: If it tastes good, it is good! It is “the beer” for folks who love beer and also love ginger. It is not a half-way ginger beer. Made with organic malt, organic hops AND organic ginger, and bottle conditioned with blackberry honey.
Consumer comments: A flavorful Belgium beer that I would drink in an old bar with wood-paneled siding.” “Nice pepper finish, smells like an herb garden and flowery perfume. “Reminds me of the smell of a big Sunday dinner at home.” “Taste and fizz is reminiscent of fresh ginger ale.” “THIS is the champagne of beers!” “A hot summer day at SOAK surrounded by hippies.” “Like a musty grizzled hug from your grandpa.”
Cascade Kriek Ale 2012, Portland. 7.2% ABV, Unlisted IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This NW style sour ale is a blend of red ales aged in oak barrels for up to eight months, then aged on fresh Bing and sour pie cherries for an additional eight months.
Consumer Comments: “Whoa sour, nice fruit smell and tart.” “Wow, nice sour surprise.” “Wonderful, a sour candy, but well-balanced, fun to drink, a favorite.” “Sweet tarts pucker.” “Really good taste of cherries, very sour nose, very sour taste, pucker fest, classic sour beer.”
McMenamins White Night Belgian IPA, Oak Hills, Portland. 6.19% ABV, 90 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Two pounds of Chinook hops added early give the White Night an assertive bite, while utilizing Amarillo and Crystal hops later in the boil gives this unique beer a nice flavorful hop finish and aroma. Different than the standard PacNW fare, this batch was brewed with a Belgian yeast that imparts a distinct spiciness.
Consumer Comments: “Whoa, hoppy Belgium.” “ I would drink this when I get homesick for Oregon beers.” “The Easter bunny can bring me this in my basket.” “Piney and light, good food beer.” “Makes me think of full green trees and wet green grass.” “Best of both worlds (IPA and Belgian).” “I am in love, pine notes, dynamic flavor, citra; love it.” “A Wes Anderson movie scored by Outkast; I would totally watch that, by the way.”
Vertigo Saison de Vertige C’est Noir, Hillsboro. 5.9% ABV, 20 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A dark version of the classic Belgian beer style, Saison. Fermented at a very warm temperature, this beer is well-balanced with spicy notes from the addition of bitter orange peel. Well attenuated to give it a dry, tart and peppery finish.
Consumer Comments: “Balanced, not too sweet, very smooth.” Would be fun with cake.” “Nice toasted flavor I’d eat with rich goulash with egg noodles.” “Making little rocks out of big rocks all day.” “Another cozy-feeling dark brew.” “Would drink this one in Walloon areas of Belgium.”
Golden Valley Belgian Bomb, McMinnville. 8.3% ABV, 52 IBU
Brewer’s Description: Made with wort from our Tannen Bomb strong ale, BelgianBomb was fermented using a strain of ale yeast native to the West Flanders region of Belgium. The beer was re-fermented in the bottle to reflect the traditional bottling technique of Belgian strong ales.
Consumer Comments: “Subtle, well balanced, good early-spring porch-drinker.” “I like how the fruity taste lingers on the back of the tongue.” “I like the bitterness of this.” “A cozy murder mystery, molasses flavor.” “Well hello friend, can you stay for a dram?” “Tasty not astringent, soft and cozy.” “Hoppy sweet tasty, yummy but hoppy.” “Transports me to Bruges, no need for expensive plane tickets. I would drink this after work if I lived in Belgium.”
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.