8 Must Try Summer Beers & A Cider
With a summer heat wave blanketing Portland right now, you're most likely reaching for your favorite summer sipper (or gulper). Thus, the time is right to point you in the direction of 7 summer beers and 1 cider you might have overlooked. From light and lagered to hoppy and citrusy, and even sour, we have 8 recommendations for you that are all available right now in cans or bottles in Oregon.
Victory Brewing: Summer Love
One of only two beers on this list not from Oregon is this new-to-me summer offering from Downington, Pennsylvania-based Victory Brewing. It's a macro lager, swill-colored yellow with just a slight haze and big frothy white head, as if a batch of Coors Light escaped unfiltered. Cool, crisp, fresh grain malts and a bit of lemon on the nose. Light bready body with grape nuts and surprisingly hoppy. Spicy German hop character imparts a tongue-coating floral bitterness. Creamy but light mouthfeel. Thirst quenching, yet light and full-flavored! I guess I shouldn't be surprised, as Victory's Prima Pils is an all-time favorite light summer beer, and this Summer Love has all of those qualities with a richer, earthier hop profile. German lager lovers rejoice!
2 Towns Ciderhouse: Rhubarbarian
Corvallis's 2 Towns Ciderhouse has paved the way for Oregon cideries, much like Arnold Schwarzanegger's performance in the seminal first Conan The Barbarian film. When asked what is best in life, Conan responds, "Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the women!" I would say this new Rhubarbarian achieves those goals, but something of the opposite regarding the lamentation of their women.
Rhubarbarian pours with a big fizzy head that dissipates to a thin ring of bubbles. It pours that light, almost colorless crisp water tone of a light dry cider. Fresh cut but dry, crisp granny smith apple on the nose precedes juicy rhubarb on the tongue. Far from barbaric, it's like a fresh-baked strawberry rhubarb pie, minus the strawberry. Rhubarb has that soft, rounded fruitiness of a berry without any sharpness of citrus or the pointed sourness of a blackberry. A dry green apple tartness shines through the rhubarb and finishes with a dry, slightly tannic crisp finish with some lingering rhubarb fruitiness on the tongue and upper mouth.
Burnside Brewing: Couch Select Lager
You would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the first ever canned beer from Burnside Brewing--Couch Select Lager--and a macro lager from one of the corporations currently ruling the beer landscape. Surprisingly, I get the feeling that is exactly what its creators wish, as it's just one in a recent trend of loving tributes to the light, corn-infused American lagers that have dominated the country since Prohibition.
From the stark green and white can, simple classic lettering, and the pour of fizzy yellow beer, Burnside Couch Select Lager pays tribute in more ways than one. With a first whiff of the glass, you detect a fresher product than you get from the big guys; fresh baked sourdough bread and soft fruitiness dominates the nose, whereas a macro beer might smell of nothing but cooked vegetables. The body and mouthfeel are as light as you would want from a macro lager, perfect for quaffing while working in the yard. Grape nuts and victorious malts already pack in more flavor than most, and though this beer is not hoppy, a soft, spicy German hop flavor takes it beyond a one-note beer. Burnside brewers stop short of making this a hoppy pilsner, though, instead going for clean and refreshing but with an unmistakable spicy hop to balance it out. This is the beer you should give your macro and PBR-swilling hipster friends. 5% Abv 18 IBUs.
Ommegang Brewery: Fleur De Houblon
Cooperstown, New York's Brewery Ommegang has long been on the forefront of American farmhouse beers, and to my mind is now experiencing a renaissance of sorts with the general public's discovery of hoppy saisons.
Fleur De Houblon pours a hazy blond yellow, super effervescent and bubbly with a beautiful white head. Distinct Ommegang farmhouse nose with hay, pepper, lemon peel, dried apricot, pineapple, and some spicy yeast. Soapy, creamy body with a slightly hoppy, bitter finish. Creamy, lightly bready malts with coriander, spicy and floral hops, herbs and flowers all come through in the palate. Slightly lemony in a sweet way. Super dry on the finish. Perhaps some dry, creamy oats are adding a nuttiness. Around this time I realized there is still a beautiful 1/4 inch white head on this beautiful beer.
Deschutes: Foray Belgian-style IPA
I was pleasantly surprised when I began pouring Deschutes's new Bond Street Series offering, Foray Belgian-style IPA. At first glance I could see that it looked like more of a blond ale or pilsner than the usual merging of these styles. These days it's popular to dress an IPA in the clothes of a million other styles, from White IPAs to Session IPAs, but the Belgian-style IPA has been one of the longer-running and one of my least favorites. Unlike the typical Belgian-style IPA, Foray is neither malty nor cloying, nor overly bittter or estery. It's nose smells of pineapple and whipped cream, with an appearance more like an unfiltered pilsner. The body is light and creamy and shockingly not really truly bitter. It does have some soapy and floral hops on the finish, but this tastes more like a true Belgian beer with a slightly higher hopping rate ,and that's kind of a good thing. I say kind of because I think those hoping for a west coast-style IPA will be disappointed, but this is more like what the Belgians would really brew if you asked them to do an IPA.
Hopworks Urban Brewery: Pig War White IPA
Like all the previous beers on this list, this "White IPA" pours a hazy blonde color; perhaps it's a theme. However, that's where most similarities end, as lemon, mandarin orange, grapefruit, and apricot make for a beautiful citrus bouquet in the aroma. A moderately creamy body serves as a light base for the hops, but just as I like my IPAs, this one is not all that bitter, instead packed with hop flavor dancing across the tongue. Juicy oranges blend with floral and only slightly bitter hops to make for an excellent juicy summer quaffer for hop heads who would still enjoy something lighter in the hot weather.
Gigantic Brewing: IPL (India Pale Lager)
Yellow lemon, crystal clear, bubbly, with a big frothy head. Grainy and fruity and floral bouquet on the nose, like a soft potpourri of hops in a fruit bowl. Light-ish body with a delicious soapy and spicy hop flavor, smooth bitterness that finishes pretty clean and not lingering. Gigantic has taken the IPL style more literally than others. This beer is as pale as it gets, and instead of just lagering an IPA, it's more like Gigantic has amped up a German Pilsner to IPA levels of hoppiness, with just about the same lightness and crispness. Delicious.
Dogfish Head: Festina Peche
Like a hazy yellow lager, it pours with a huge head that quickly dissipates to nothing, as a Berliner-Weisse should. My favorite style of summer beer, the Berliner-Weisse is a low-alcohol wheat beer that undergoes a lactic fermentation through an introduction of bacteria, a sour mash, or souring the wort. Like a proper Berliner, Dogfish Head's rendition is nice and tart and light but not fully sour, and the brewery has made the wise decision to ferment the addition of peach concentrate. The aroma on this beer is a combo of sweet and tart peach and bready wheat. The body is light and wheaty, creamy with a tart and juicy flavor profile that ends crisp with an acidic edge on the finish. So refreshing it makes my list of favorite summer brews every year. I always look forward to it, yet somehow it is not a best seller. If you enjoy the current radler craze, give this beer a try, as it has the refreshing fruit character and tartness but with a less cloying sweetness. 4.5% Abv.