50 Best Oregon Beers

Oregon’s best craft brews, organized (loosely) by style, from amber and IPA to saison and sour.

By Christian DeBenedetti July 1, 2013 Published in the July 2013 issue of Portland Monthly

Lager, Pilsner, Kölsch & other German Styles

Pils | Heater Allen Brewing, McMinnville

This crisp, refreshing, and substantial pilsner is a classically European pale brew that’s cold-conditioned for six weeks plus. It’s the beer you want in summer, and Heater Allen—currently doubling capacity to meet demand—makes the best in the state, if not the entire country. 4.8% ABV

HUB Lager | Hopworks Urban Brewery, Portland

HUB introduced this grainy, golden, 100 percent organic, formerly draft-only brew spiced with Zeus hops in 16-ounce cans just last summer. It already feels like a mainstay. 5.1% ABV

Na ZdravÍ Pils | Southern Oregon Brewing Co, Medford

True to style, this Czech-inspired pilsner is grainy, bready, spicy, and full-bodied, with a smack of spicy “noble” (read: delicate, hard-to-grow) hops. 4.8% ABV

Pilsner | Breakside Brewing Co, Portland

Suddenly Oregon is awash in great pilsners (a welcome development), and Breakside’s is among the best of the bunch, with biscuit-like maltiness and a light, tangy, citrusy kick. 5.3% ABV 

Session Lager| Full Sail Brewing Co, Hood River

Barbecue-friendly stubby bottles, critically acclaimed pre-Prohibition-style recipe ... what’s not to love about this crisp, golden brew? It comes in six-packs, but it’s wise to buy by the case. 5.1% ABV 

Kölsch | Occidental Brewing Co, Portland

A clear, dry, golden ale that’s cold-conditioned like lager, kölsch—the traditional brew of Cologne, Germany—is a great thirst quencher. Occidental’s, with spicy Perle hops, nails it. 4.4% ABV

Sterling Pils | Ninkasi Brewing Co, Eugene

“We love to make lagers,” says founder Jamie Floyd. It shows. This malt-forward, German-style pilsner with spicy, crackling hop notes may be your new summer standard. 5.1% ABV

Omission Lager | Widmer Brothers Brewing, Portland

Widmer’s gluten-free lager has the ample body and crisp, hoppy finish one expects from the style, minus the offending proteins. 4.6% ABV

American-Style Gold, Wheat & Pale Ale

Sweet As! Pacific Ale | GoodLife Brewing Co, Bend

Pale gold and faintly sweet at first sip, this wheaty brew’s mellow, marmalade-y tang from Pacifica and Galaxy hops grown in New Zealand is set off by a crisp, dry finish. 6% ABV

River Ale | Deschutes Brewery, Bend

It’s fair to call this a session beer—sociably low-alcohol, makes for extended sipping—but ample Cascade and Crystal hops kick this light golden ale up a notch. 4% ABV

ISA| 10 Barrel Brewing Co, Bend

A hugely refreshing ale with a late dose of grapefruity-tasting Cascade, Summit, and Centennial hops, this one is fast becoming a standby—if on the high side of “session.” 5.5% ABV

The Vaporizer |  Double Mountain Brewery, Hood River

Hazy-gold with a sweet, grainy start and a dry, lemony finish, this dry-hopped summer sipper is brewed with pilsner malt and Challenger hops grown in Washington’s Yakima Valley. 6% ABV

IPA & Imperial IPA

Watershed IPA Oakshire Brewing Co, Eugene

Now in 12-ounce cans, this hazy amber, floral, citrus-kissed brew has just enough resinous hop character to satisfy the jones without overpowering those caramelly malts. 7.1% ABV

RPM Boneyard Brewing Co, Bend

Gorgeous coppery color? Check. Massive hop flavors from four Pacific Northwest varieties? Check. Juicy, citrusy taste, faint cereal sweetness, and clean, crisp finish? Check, check, and check. RPM nails it. 7% ABV

Chainbreaker White IPA | Deschutes Brewery, Bend

Named for a legendary mountain bike race, this delicious cloudy-gold ale is a lovely hybrid of Belgian wit—orange peel and coriander-spiced—and tangy, Northwest-style IPA. 5.6% ABV

IPA | Long Brewery, Newberg

Paul Long’s one-man wine country operation is proof that big brews can come from small places. His American-style IPA, brewed and dry-hopped with six hop varieties, bursts with bright, floral, tropical notes. 6.2% ABV

Workhorse IPA | Laurelwood Brewing Co, Portland

The best thing about this pungent, biscuity West Coast–style IPA? You can fill an empty growler postsecurity at PDX (concourses A and E) and take fresh beer to your next port of call. 7.5% ABV 

Blue Dot Double India Pale Ale | Hair of the Dog Brewing Co, Portland

Next to brewer Alan Sprints’s barrel-aged beasts, Blue Dot seems tame by comparison. But few Imperial IPAs are this well behaved. It’s brawny and resinously hoppy without the acrid finish that can mar lesser interpretations. 7% ABV 

Whole in the Head  | Gigantic Brewing Co, Portland

As intended (“a freakin’ hop bomb”), the latest Gigantic offering—an Imperial IPA—assails the taste buds with massively delicious waves of citrusy Northwest hops. 8.5% ABV

ESB, Amber, Red & Brown Ales 

Ashland Amber | Caldera Brewing Co, Ashland

A bready, slightly honeyish brew with a mellow, herbaceous tang, this isn’t a complex beer—but it is super-smooth and satisfying on cool Oregon summer nights. 5.4% ABV

Red War | Double Mountain Brewery,Hood River

Using yeast from famed southern Belgian brewery Brasserie d’Achouffe, this burly scarlet brew has ample fruitiness and complexity, and finishes pleasantly dry. 8.4% ABV

FS Pub Series Brown  | Full Sail Brewing Co, Hood River

Released as part of the limited, seasonal “Pub Series,” this spring nut brown ale has clean, pecan-like flavors and a pleasantly spicy, hoppy finish. 6% ABV 

Kill Devil Brown | Widmer Brothers Brewing, Portland

Caribbean mainstays like blackstrap molasses and palm sugar amp up this approximately English-style brown aged in Puerto Rican rum barrels and spiced with fruity Calypso hops. 9.5% ABV  

Farmhouse, Saison & other Belgian Ales

Quick Wit | Fort George Brewing Co, Astoria

To the classic, unfiltered Belgian wit (or “white,” made with wheat, coriander, and orange zest), these bold coastal brewers add bright lemongrass and elderflower. 5.2% ABV

Urban Farmhouse | The Commons Brewery, Portland

The accolades just keep coming for this little Southeast Portland operation. A traditional saison, this mellow brew pours bright gold, with floral overtones and a dry, lip-smacking finish. 5.3% ABV

Seizoen Bretta | Logsdon Organic Farmhouse Ales, Hood River

With a gold medal at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival, this earthy, complex Belgian-style farmhouse ale set a new national standard. 8% ABV

Flemish Kiss | The Commons Brewery, Portland

The kiss in question: Brettanomyces, a wild yeast prized by Belgian brewers, which gives this dry, flowery pale ale an earthy kick. 6.5% ABV

Golden Farmhouse Ale | Ambacht Brewing, Hillsboro

Former beekeeper Tom Kramer named his little brewery the Dutch word for “handmade.” His spritzy, dark straw-gold saison is yeasty with a kiss of blackberry honey. 6.5% ABV 

Wild, Wood-Aged & Sour 

Gose | Upright Brewing Co, Portland

Say “goes” and walk into history with this obscure, nearly extinct northern German style, subtly seasoned with salt and coriander. It’s tart, Champagne-like, and überrefreshing. 5.2% ABV

Ching Ching | Bend Brewing Co, Bend

This tart Berliner Weisse beer is accented with hibiscus and pomegranate purée, imparting a gorgeous, rosy-pink hue and mouthwatering, lemony, pink-grapefruit taste. 4.5% ABV

Sahalie  | The Ale Apothecary, Bend

Brewer Paul Arney’s vinous, Belgian-style pale ale is a tour de force, with intriguing layers of earthy, angular flavors derived from wild yeasts. 9.3% ABV

Ferme de la’ Ville Provision | Block 15 Brewing Co, Corvallis

This small-batch annual is an opulently bright and fruity saison-style beer that’s been barrel-aged, imparting wine-like acidity and subtle hints of vanilla and oak. 6.75% ABV

Vlad the Imp-Aler | Cascade Barrel House, Portland

Vlad is among the most sought after of Cascade’s pucker-inducing brews, with tart angles akin to green apple and lemon balanced by warming, woody bourbon notes and spice. 10.3% ABV

Adam From the Wood | Hair of the Dog Brewing Co, Portland

Founder Alan Sprints’s first commercial beer, Adam, still leads his pack, especially this ruddy brown, brewpub-only version aged in buttery American oak barrels, which deepen the flavors of leather, caramel, and smoke. 12% ABV

The Dissident | Deschutes Brewery, Bend

This lusciously tart, wine-like occasional release is loosely modeled after oud bruin, or “old brown,” ales of Belgium. It tends to be copper-hued, with sour and earthy notes derived from ample use of cherries and wild yeasts in oak wine casks. 11.4% ABV

Fruit & Vegetable Beers 

Peche ’n Brett  | Logsdon Organic Farmhouse Ales, Hood River

To his world-class oak-aged Seizoen Bretta (a funky, grassy, oaky saison beer) brewer Dave Logsdon adds a pound and a half of organic peaches per gallon, resulting in lush, ripe fruit flavors with an impressive kick. 10% ABV

Apple Ale | Hopworks Urban Brewery, Portland

This tart, cidery refresher made as a blend of beer and pressed apples was a hit at last year’s Portland Fruit Beer Fest—and quickly ascended to the full-time lineup. 5.8% ABV

Cascade Apricot | Cascade Barrel House, Portland

Bright and hazy orange with a zingy, lemony tartness up front, this Belgian-style ale flows with waves of delicious, ripe apricot flavor. 8.5% ABV

Sweet Heat | Burnside Brewing Co, Portland

Lesser chile beers crash the palate party and leave. But Burnside’s is brewed with apricot purée and Scotch bonnet peppers, which supply a lingering, welcome heat. 4.9% ABV 

Strong British & Belgian Ales  

Billy the Mountain | Upright Brewing Co, Portland

This interpretation of British “old ale” makes use of a rare strain of wild yeast to commingle bright hoppy notes with the earthy, leathery, funky flavors of pinot noir barrels. 9.1% ABV

Mother of All Storms | Pelican Brewing Co, Pacific City

Ruby red, with rich flavors of buttery wood, toffee, and dark fruits, this beer is a squall of boozy complexity—but it still sips like a breeze. 13.5% ABV

Strong Dark | pFriem Family Brewers, Hood River

With flavors akin to ripe figs, plums, dark chocolate, and toffee, this one is similar to a big, Belgian-style abbey beer. It’s draft only for now, but will be bottled shortly. 10.3% ABV

Conflux #1 | Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Hair of the Dog Brewing Co, Portland

Amazingly, there are a few bottles left out there of this blend of Deschutes’s and Hair of the Dog’s most-sought-after wood-aged beers, full of sherry, tobacco, whiskey, and fig flavors. 11.6% ABV

Porters, Stouts & other Dark Ales 

Raw Wheat Dunkelweizen | Flat Tail Brewing Co, Corvallis

These adventurous brewers breathe life into an ancient German style that found favor here in the 1980s but then faded. It’s got the spicy tang of a traditional wheat beer with additional cocoa-like notes from dunkel, or dark, roasted grains. 4.5% ABV

Black Butte Porter | Deschutes Brewery, Bend

It’s been around so long, it might be tempting to look past this iconic, jet-black Oregon brew. Don’t. It’s as great as ever, with all the silky, chocolate-like flavor and zingy hops that made it a classic. 5.2% ABV

Secession | Hopworks Urban Brewery, Portland

Whatever you call it—Cascadian Dark Ale, Black IPA, etc.—this style of beer is meant to marry massive hop profiles with deep, dark roasted malts. HUB’s version is seriously drinkable, with nicely piney and astringent flavors. 6.5% ABV

Cavatica Stout | Fort George Brewing Co, Astoria

Named for the black barn spider, this imperial stout will, the brewers promise, “stain your clothes.” It’s a  pleasurable wall of caramel, coffee, wood, toffee, and chocolate notes that hang in balance. 8.8% ABV

Topsail bourbon barrel aged Imperial Porter  | Full Sail Brewing Co, Hood River 

This bourbon barrel–aged elixir of deep mocha and vanilla-bean flavors begs to be sipped in a snifter; add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and life is complete. 9.5% ABV

Black Flag Imperial Stout | Beer Valley Brewing, Ontario

A massive wallop of malts and grassy, pungent hops endows flavors of black licorice, soy sauce, vanilla, grapefruit, and espresso—which taste far better in concert than one might suspect. 11.1% ABV

The Abyss | Deschutes Brewery, Bend

Deschutes’s annual silky, carbon-black imperial stout reserve is brewed with licorice and molasses, then aged in French oak and bourbon barrels, lending bottomless layers of chocolate, vanilla, and oak flavors. 11% ABV  

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