As Portland ale hounds already know, July isn’t just for kids and patriotic pyromaniacs. Craft Beer Month, so dubbed by the Oregon Brewers Guild, culminates between July 23 and 26 with the Oregon Brewers Festival, when seventy thousand folks will descend upon Waterfront Park, braving sunburns and two-hour lines to sip and swill exclusive beers from more than eighty local craft breweries.
Of course, not everyone with a thirst for hops and malt can attend—and there’s no greater torment for a beer lover than hearing about the panoply of custom brews that flowed freely at the fest (“Did you try Barnacle Bill’s Triple Imperial cask-conditioned?”), only to disappear afterward like the whooping crane.
It’s a good thing “exclusive” is a relative term. Several regional beer barons are offering their distinctive creations at pubs and specialty shops for a limited run (before, during, and after the fest), giving aficionados a chance to sample the rare brews even if they can’t make it to the waterfront. Here’s a quality quartet worth checking out.
Impale Ale Brewmaster Kevin King will be pouring this clean, citrusy imperial pale ale at his pub immediately before and after the festival, while supplies last. But this summer beer isn’t to be quaffed lightly: at 6.2 percent alcohol by volume, two or three pints may have you heading for the hammock.
Organic Rise Up Red The number of hoppy beer entries is in decline this year, partly because of skyrocketing hops prices, but also due to some palate boredom. HUB owner and brewmaster Christian Ettinger answers the challenge with his Organic Rise Up Red, a beer that combines caramelly malt flavors with the piney and citrusy aromas of Oregon-grown Cascade and Centennial hops. The resulting brew has a full-bodied but balanced flavor profile. And lucky for us, it’s on tap at Hopworks for a limited time.
Solar Flare Ale This summer seasonal is rich and golden in hue, but it’s also green—as in sustainable. Lucky Lab brewmaster Alex Stiles says that Solar Flare is the first of his beers to harness the power of the sun (that is, to be brewed using rooftop solar panels). It’s a light, refreshing ale buoyed with Scottish malt, and it’s in stock at Lucky Lab’s SE Hawthorne and NW Quimby locales.
Kraken Imperial IPA Old Market’s Kraken Imperial is every bit as powerful as its namesake, the fabled giant squid that dragged mariners to a watery grave. Made from a triple blend of two beer batches—dry-hopped, non-dry-hopped, and bourbon-barrel aged—the brawny hybrid is closer in flavor to a barley wine. This wily Kraken can be captured in 750 ml champagne bottles at both Old Market locations.