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.
In Astoria, Oregon, Fort George Brewery is the veteran maker in the beverage-booming town at the mouth of the Columbia River. Holding rank for 10 years now, the last five years have been full of accolades and specialty releases, including the renowned 3-Way India pale ale — the annual IPA made by Fort George and two brewery collaborators. As the operation has expanded from a storefront to nearly taking over a city block, the brewery has grown and so as its partnerships, with this year’s 3-Way collab teaming up with Reuben’s Brews in Seattle and Great Notion Brewing in Portland.
Despite the big names involved each year — other 3-Ways have included Seattle’s Georgetown Brewing, pFriem Family Brewers in Hood River and Boneyard in Bend, Oregon — Fort George co-founder Jack Harris says egos don’t get involved. “People are really respectful and appreciative,” he says. “There are parameters, of course, it’s not a wide-open thing. The beer has to be an IPA, has to hit between high 6 percent and low 7 percent ABV. It’s not going to be a session or a triple.”
Harris says this year’s version will be a northeast Vermont-style IPA. “I’m personally kind of skeptical,” he says with a laugh.
“We’ve never made a beer like this before.” He says, though, the folks at Reuben’s and Great Notion are meticulous in their notes and their beta test batches.
And this is a first for the Sip BHOF. In this case we aren’t inducting a single beer, per se, but an idea, or a single beer series. A little curve ball for you regular readers! Let’s get down to it, though. How did Harris come up with this idea?
“At the time there was a lot of brewery collaboration, but not with three breweries, mostly it was just two,” he says. “Our idea was to do something with other breweries that we could learn something from.”
This year, the beer will be something new and different yet again — a milder IPA as opposed to the sharp or citrus-y ones we’re used to from the region. “The whole idea behind northeast IPAs it that they’re really soft and almost creamy in mouthfeel,” Harris says. “There’s almost no bitterness, the hops come through in the aroma.”
With the next generation of the 3-Way to be released this summer, we raise a glass to Fort George and the 3-Way. May it only get better as the years go by!