I was invited to a special blogger preview of the Oregon Brewers Festival this year, which took place yesterday (Thursday) at one o’clock (right after the OBF opened). The purpose of the preview was to offer the “opportunity to taste 15 select beers that we have chosen as being outstanding or unique, with commentary from Noel Blake of the Oregon Brew Crew” and of course to write about the beers and give readers a good idea of what to expect at this year’s OBF.
This preview turned out to be a lot of fun and really informative, with an impressive lineup of mostly-Oregon beers, and credit really needs to go to Noel Blake of the Oregon Brew Crew for MC’ing the event (unfortunately I don’t know who was helping out with pouring beers and such, but I’d be happy to give a shout out—it was a well-done event).
Here are the beers we tried, in order, along with my impressions. My overall picks of these beers is below.
(And interestingly, four of these coincided with my must-try list.)
Helles Belles: Ninkasi Brewing: Munich Helles
Fruity and tart nose; nice toasty flavor, light and crisp and doesn’t have the usual Ninkasi “house” character (read: hops) that you’d expect. Really nice and apparently very popular with the crowd (I heard from several sources that the line to this beer was really long, even early).
Offen Weisse: Upright Brewing: Weizen/Weissbier
Clovey, sour nose. Cloves and a touch of banana, presents as a fairly classic German wheat beer. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t to everyone’s liking.
Jimvar Bohemian Pilsner: Full Sail Brewing: Bohemian Pilsner
Full of character, nice grain and bread crust notes, with classic, spicy hops. Full Sail has a winner of a Pilsner here.
Hopfinium: Collaborator: Strong Lager
An “India Pale Lager”. Catty, resiny hops in the nose, quite nice; IPA without the fruity body—it’s super clean and fresh. Really nicely balanced.
Gratzer: Burnside Brewing: Specialty Beer
I love smoked beers, so I was looking forward to this one. Fruity and smokey nose, and it’s nicely smokey on the tongue, while being incredibly light and subtle. It makes me think, “Sausage!”
Girl Beer: Boneyard Beer: Fruit Beer
I first tried Boneyard’s Girl Beer about a year ago, and I have to admit to not being impressed. This time, it’s better than a year ago, with subtle fruit (cherry) notes present without overdoing it; it’s not overly aromatic.
Sunrise Oatmeal Pale Ale: Fort George Brewery and Public House: American Pale Ale
This one is sticky with hops—resin and cleanly bitter. The oatmeal smooths out the body, but the malt takes a backseat to the hops. I was left with the impression “ashy.” [To be fair, I drank a pint of this a couple of weeks ago and did not have this impression.]
Double Dry Hopped Glacier Pale Ale: Boundary Bay Brewery: American Pale Ale
Really clean, nicely hopped without being too heavy; crisp with an almost woody note. Hops remind me of “cool” as in wintergreen.
Nyctophobia IPA: Columbia River Brewing: Cascadian Dark Ale
I was skeptical going into this beer I needn’t have been. It looks right. It’s roasty and lightly spiced with hops, and on the tongue there are big hops, and overall it’s really well done—the roasty malts blend with the straight-up bittering hops really well.
Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Wild: Lagunitas Brewing: Belgian Golden Strong Ale
Funky nose, with a vegetal note that reminds me of turnips. On the palate it’s fruity with a touch of funk, and the “house” hops character I find present in Lagunitas beers. It’s not as “wild” as expected.
Bruce/Lee Porter: Prodigal Son Brewery & Pub: Robust Porter
Full of coffee and roasted barley. Lighter in body than you’d expect for a strong porter. It’s full of coffee on the tongue along with roasted malts and a touch of fruitiness; overall it’s really, really nice. Would make a great breakfast beer.
Jackalope Imperial Pumpkin Porter: Beer Valley Brewing: Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer
I’m a big fan of pumpkin beers so I was anxious to try this. It has a mellow, roasty nose, not nearly as spicy as I was expecting (for me, “pumpkin beer” is spiced). On the tongue it’s sweet, mellow, and I’m not really tasting pumpkin. (Someone suggested graham cracker.) It’s subtle and definitely more “porter” than “pumpkin”.
Donner Party Porter: FiftyFifty Brewing: Imperial Porter
The main thing I remember about this beer is that in 2007 (when I was last at the Brewfest) the server quipped, “It’ll eat you alive!” Compared to the last two porters, this one has almost no nose. It’s sweet, with a bit of chocolate, subtle roast. Not bad, but more of a dessert beer. Nicely smooth.
Idiot Sauvin: Elysian Brewing: American IPA
Wow, the first impression I can give about this beer from smelling it is “Sweaty!” Seriously, the nose is like a sweaty soccer player or something; “sweaty” must be the new “catty.” On the tongue though it’s super hoppy, crisp and clean and bitter, and yes there’s a touch of “sweat” still. Worth it to see if the “sweaty” character holds up.
Black & Red: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery: Imperial Stout
Okay, this one is pretty amazing; it’s mint and really berry-fruity, full of chocolate chip mint ice cream notes in the nose. All of that is on the tongue—mint, raspberry, dark chocolate, and it hides its strength really well. Someone else mentioned (and I agree with) it tastes like an Andes mint with berries.
Overall based on these preview beers, I can definitely recommend Ninkasi’s Helles Belles, Full Sail’s Jimvar Bohemian Pilsner, Collaborator’s Hopfinium, Burnside’s Gratzer, Columbia River’s Nyctophobia IPA, Prodigal Sun’s Bruce/Lee Porter, and Dogfish’s Red and Black.
Seek these beers out. (And of course, there are many other really good beers available as well.)