I tasted close to 40 different Oregon-brewed beers during my recent ten day excursion to the Beaver State. A little quick math will tell you that I was pretty much drunk the entire time I was there, but that would only be partially true. I'd say a little less than half of these were two or three ounce samples, so that number is a little misleading.
I thought I would make a little best-of-trip list. That is, to rate the five best Oregon brews from my recent trip. As is usually the case with me, the list reflects my taste, not any effort to be a legitimate beer critic, so it's a little over-represented by my favorite style. For that reason, I'm also going to give a few honorable mentions to beers that were either really good representatives of a particular style, or simply just came a little short of making the cut. These are (in no particular order): McMenamins' Terminator Stout; Amnesia's Copacetic IPA, Desolation IPA, and Slow Train Porter; and BridgePort ESB, which I really wanted to go back for a full pint, but unfortunately never did.
Also in no particular order, here are the five I'm craving more of. Unfortunately, only one of them is distributed to the east coast.
Double Dead Guy Ale - Not surprisingly, this is intended to be a stronger version of Rogue's signature Dead Guy Ale. It has a wonderful malty aroma, with slight caramel undertones, and while certainly not an IPA, is just hoppy enough to offset the sweetness from its high alcoholic content.
Multnomah Falls IPA - This one has loads of hops flavor up front, and is a little citrusy—I’m thinking grapefruit—with just a little less hops aftertaste than one would typically expect from the style. Of course, I love hops bitterness, but I really appreciate how it's slightly toned down in this brew.
Total Domination IPA - Thanks to our wonderful waitress at Nick's Coney Island for this recommendation, which was also the cheapest pint of quality beer I've had for as long as I can remember. Nick's offers $2 pints and well drinks from 3:30 to 6pm every day. Happy hours are a foreign concept to me, as drink specials are illegal in puritanical Massachusetts.
Anyway, Total Domination is smoother up front than most IPAs, and pleasantly so. Its hoppyness really kind of sneaks up on you. But, of course, it's a very welcome surprise. Our waitress also made the suggestion that we not have the Nick's TKO, the tavern's special draft. I won't say why—it’s not a disgusting reason or anything—but you'll just have to take my word for it. Oh yeah, thanks also to Mz. Mazz for recommending Nick's in the first place.
LSD (Lompoc Strong Draft) - I'm calling this one my favorite beer of the entire trip. It's dark and sweet with a wonderfully subtle smokiness. Man, it would go great with BBQ. We all know that I'm all about the hops/malt balance—that is, the more the merrier, as long as they're in comparable quantities—and this is quite possibly one of the most perfectly balanced beers I've ever tasted.
C-Note Imperial Pale Ale - It's called C-Note because it's brewed with seven different varieties of hops that all begin with the letter "C" (Crystal, Cascade, Cluster, Chinook, Centennial, Columbus, Challenger). It had such a tremendous hops aroma that I could smell it long before the glass reached my nose. Obviously, it's really hoppy, but also nicely balanced, with subtle floral undertones.
The following is a complete list of all the Oregon-brewed beers I tried while out there. I also had a few others, but at least 90% of my alcohol consumption was of brews indigenous to the state.
Rogue Ales (Newport): Double Dead Guy Ale
BridgePort Brewing Company (Portland): Haymaker Extra Pale Ale, Ropewalk Amber Ale, Blue Heron Pale Ale, BridgePort ESB, BridgePort IPA, BridgePort Porter, Black Strap Stout, Hop Czar
Deschutes Brewery (Bend): Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Bachelor ESB, Black Butte Porter, Red Chair IPA
MacTarnahan's Brewing Company (Portland): MacTarnahan's Amber Ale
Ninkasi Brewing Company (Eugene): Multnomah Falls IPA, Total Domination IPA
Full Sail Brewing Company (Hood River): Full Sail Amber, Full Sail LTD
Roots Organic Brewing Company (Portland): Island Red
10 Barrel Brewing Company (Bend): S1NIST0R Black Ale
Bill's Tavern & Brew House (Cannon Beach): Duckdive Pale Ale, Blackberry Beauty, Rudy's Red, 2 x 4 Stout
McMenamins (Portland): Poor Farm Pale Ale, Sunflower IPA, Hammerhead, Ruby, Terminator Stout
Amnesia Brewing Company (Portland): Copacetic IPA, Desolation IPA, Slow Train Porter, The ESB
Old Lompoc Brewery (Portland): C-Note Imperial Pale Ale, LSD (Lompoc Strong Draft), Proletariat Red, Flower of the Gods