Summer Guide 2019
The craft-beer industry has been making a gradual pivot to canned beer for many years now, but it’s only recently that we noticed the clear majority of good beer comes in cans—sometimes, exclusively in cans. This is great news for your summer plans, because cans are the perfect vessel for summertime drinking. They’re super portable, and they won’t smash into shards for your bare feet to impale themselves on. You can fit more cans into a backpack, and their opacity keeps out the summer sun and prevents them from spoiling. (Even the darkest glass bottles can’t compete with a bright, cloudless day at the peak of Oregon summer.) Cans are far more efficient, too, meaning you can throw them in the cooler with some ice and they’ll cool down much faster than bottles. And importantly, they’re easier to recycle.
Why did the industry pivot to canned beer? The real question should be: Why did it take so long? The only reason most craft beer was primarily available in bottles for all those years is because installing in-house canning lines was prohibitively expensive for smaller brewers; due to several factors, that’s no longer the case, and now even Oregon’s tiniest breweries can offer their stuff inside the best single-serving package money can buy.
Don’t think canned beers taste as good as bottled ones? You’re mistaken. They taste exactly the same, particularly if you pour the beer into a glass so that you’re not planting your lips onto the mouth of a metal can. In fact, cans prevent spoilage much better than bottles ever could, so chances are awfully good that your fresh, canned beer will taste as close to the brewer’s intentions as possible. (Another happy side effect: Most canned beers have their brewed-on date easily legible on the bottom of the can.)
Here are 10 newly canned Oregon beers that you’ll want to crack open this summer.
BREWERY: pFriem Family Brewers
STYLE: IPA, duh
Hood River’s pFriem brewery is one of the best regarded in the state, and earlier this year they launched two of their flagship beers in 12-ounce cans—a very welcome development, as their 16.9-ounce bottles are not exactly cheap. Now you can stock the cooler with two of pFriem’s best, including their pilsner and this remarkable IPA, a well-balanced winner with tons of citrus and tropical flavors and not too much overriding bitterness.
BREWERY: Wayfinder Beer
STYLE: Export lagerbier helles
Brewed specially for the 22nd anniversary of legendary Portland beer store Belmont Station, Wayfinder’s Tasties is a stronger, more resilient version of the inner Southeast brewery’s house helles lager. The “export” in the descriptor suggests the beer’s geographical inspiration may be more Dortmund than Munich, but in any case, this is a bright, golden lager with a bold but not overpowering taste and a slight metallic twinge from the hops. It’s a solid and super-drinkable option that won’t scare off the IPA-averse, as well as being flavorful enough to keep seasoned beer-drinkers onboard.
BREWERY: Ecliptic Brewing
STYLE: Guava blonde ale
Flamingo Planet, originally brewed as Ecliptic’s 2018 submission for the Oregon Brewers Festival, is the Portland brewery’s spring seasonal, but let’s hope they extend that run: We can’t think of a finer beer for enjoying out in the sun. They’re not kidding with the “guava” part—there’s a ton of fruit in this one, and it’s really tasty. The beer pours a cloudy gold, with a wet-jungle smell and lots of lingering lace on the inside of the glass. The guava lends a slightly grainy texture, but this is a terrific summery beer that’ll be a big hit at any barbecue.
BREWERY: Deschutes Brewery
STYLE: American pilsner
If this beer was a pupil and we were a teacher, this would be a “see me after class” situation. Deschutes’ puckish alternative to your favorite cheap lager, bedecked in a tropical-flower can and bearing an irritating phonetic name, appears to be the result of some lowest-common-denominator marketing—in other words, it doesn’t seem targeted for beer drinkers but rather towards casual young folk who want something colorful to shove inside their coozies. Once you pop the top, it’s just another yellow lager inside, with a surfeit of sweet, creamed-corn flavor to remind you of your favorite macro. Deschutes knows how to make better beers than this, and the price—in line with the Bend brewery’s other offerings—means this craven attempt to corner a demographic is not really worth it.
BREWERY: Pelican Brewing Company
STYLE: Brut IPA
Brut IPA is one of the more recent fads on the beer-nerd scene, and Pelican’s offering is one of the few Oregon-made examples that’s readily available in 12-ounce cans. Like other brut IPAs, it’s exceptionally dry, with a somewhat muted overall flavor and a super-clean finish. There are tropical notes in the hop profile, and the dryness is a selling point, but this one feels like something’s missing. However, one member of our tasting party particularly took to this one, appreciating its appealing aroma and melon-like fruit flavors.
BREWERY: Little Beast Brewing
STYLE: Dry hopped sour ale
The wild-yeast tamers over at Little Beast began canning their one-of-a-kind beers earlier this year, and the most recent batch includes their Hot Break, an absolutely fantastic sour ale that was the head-and-shoulders favorite out of all the canned beers we tried. This superb, genre-agnostic beer is tangy and lightly sour, but eases off on the pucker factor for a juicy, full-dimensional flavor. Positioned as a summer thirst-quencher, the light sourness does a surprisingly good job at slaking your thirst (and won’t terrorize the sour-averse). And the beer is both incredibly drinkable and surprisingly complex, with each sip revealing different notes. This is an imaginative and versatile ale that deserves to be a summertime staple.
Long Root Wit
BREWERY: Hopworks Urban Brewery
STYLE: Belgian-style wheat ale with spices
Don’t be fooled by that new beer that’s masquerading under the name “Patagonia”—it’s actually brewed by Anheuser-Busch and has nothing to do with the eco-minded clothing company. In fact, Patagonia had to sue the makers of that Clydesdale-piss for stealing their name and confusing customers with a bizarrely similar logo. It’s all the more egregious because Patagonia has a line of very good beers of their own, brewed under the name Long Root, and their newly canned witbier—brewed in Portland at Hopworks—is fantastic, far better than anything that’s ever been put into a can in St. Louis. This is as good a Belgian wit as you’ll find this summer, with a crisp, wheat-like finish to quench your thirst and lots of yummy yeasty flavors and spices to keep your tongue intrigued. Long Root Wit apparently uses less wheat in favor of an eco-friendly alternative called Kernza®, a plant that apparently has its own registered trademark (which, frankly, sounds like another lawsuit in the works).
BREWERY: Ruse Brewing
STYLE: Czech-style pilsner
With their Southeast Portland brewery not even open a full year, Ruse Brewing is already at the front of the pack of local beermakers, and while they’re best known for IPAs and farmhouse ales, these guys can apparently do anything with aplomb. There’s no better indication of this than their superb pilsner, a faithful take on a seemingly simple style that’s usually mismanaged or dumbed down by American craft breweries. Not so with Ruse’s, which leans toward the Czech style of pilsner (as opposed to the hoppier German style) and leads with a big burst of malt sweetness that’s perfectly balanced by Pacifica hops, combining West Coast ingredients with Old World craft. This terrific beer almost seems designed for crushing, and its presence in 16-ounce tallboys makes it incredibly easy to do so.
BREWERY: Heater Allen Brewing
STYLE: Kölsch-style ale
While Kölsch beer has a long tradition stemming from its origins in Cologne, Germany, Kölsch-style beers made in the US usually make for some pretty generic blondes, brewed quickly with ale yeast with hopefully as few off-flavors as possible. Historically, Kölsches are, by default, the most summery option on a Pacific Northwest brewpub menu. McMinnville’s Heater Allen is a step above. While these lager experts make plenty of beers that could contend with Kölsch on the summer spectrum, their Das Bier—newly in cans—is a straightforward summer sipper, with a mellow, lightly metallic flavor and a smooth finish.
Secret Spot Pacific Pale
BREWERY: Worthy Brewing
STYLE: Pale ale
While Bend’s Worthy Brewing has always had its beers easily available in cans, a redesign earlier this year unified each one’s graphic design so that their beers now conform to their new packaging standard. This makes it easier to pick one out of the lineup, and for the purposes of this lineup, we’ve selected their Secret Spot Pacific Pale, which—name notwithstanding—is actually more of an English-style pale ale (think: Bass) as opposed to the hoppier, lighter-colored West Coast version. Secret Spot is malt-forward with a very subdued hop presence and makes for a pleasant alternative to the IPAs and summer lagers that crowd the beer aisle. As we know, summer sometimes doesn’t get fully underway here until July 4, so good thing there’s this wood-forward, dark copper ale to get us through the lingering rainy days of May and June.