Welcome back to Sip Northwest’s Beer Hall of Fame: a twice-monthly induction into a list of essential Northwest beers that have made their mark on the field and region.
When you first taste the Blonde India pale ale from pFriem Family Brewers in Hood River, Oregon, you don’t really know what’s happening. In the glass, it’s a light colored beer with a fluffy white head. On some level it looks like it would be a pilsner and on another level it tastes like it would be a session IPA or strong pale.
“Two of my favorite elements of beer have always been the big hop-forward IPAs but I also love crisp German lagers and pilsners,” says Josh pFriem, the brewery’s co-founder and brewmaster. “So I wanted to make a beer that’s a nod to both of them.”
In 2012 when pFriem opened his brewery, he recalls noting palates were starting to change. “Not everyone wanted big double IPAs,” he says. “But they did want a bright, aromatic hop profile – with a lighter body.”
And so the Blonde IPA, which clocks in at 6.2 percent ABV, was born, originally composed from all pilsner malts but now with 2-row. But, according to pFriem, the stuff that everyone loves in the beer is the hops – the bright, floral, citrusy, aromatic, delicious hops.
“Somehow that flavor has stood the test of time,” he muses. “It’s in the human genome or our DNA that we like that flavor and that it works really well in beer. Hops offer a lot of diversity of flavor – from floral to earthy tones to large fruit characteristics. Hops offer a lot of things you’d want to get out of juices or fruit beverages that you would only be able to drink 8 to 12 ounces of.”
And for pFriem’s personal palate, the signature Blonde IPA is citrusy, zesty and ripe. “On the nose you get big floral, citrusy and fruit flavors,” he says. “On the palate you get tropical fruit, a little grapefruit with a touch of zest and just enough backbone of malt to make it intriguing and balanced. The finish is zesty, a little snappy, with slight hop bitterness. And because of the 2-row pale malt, the beer leaves the tongue bright and dry.”
That finish is key for the Blonde IPA. It doesn’t wipe out the mouth. It’s pleasant in body and bright but not heavy on the tongue. It’s an excellent concoction and one of the many beers in the Northwest that make up the rich pastiche of craft culture in the area.
“The Pacific Northwest attracts artists and thinkers and creators and adventurers,” pFriem says. “We are the pioneering region for craft beer in the U.S.”
So, cheers to you, pFriem and cheers to the Blonde IPA!