Something Old, Something New, Something Dark=Stellar Brews

By Tom Bedell

The given is that the Northwest is the epicenter of good craft brewing in North America. “There’s a rich amount of talented brewers here because it’s a place where brewers want to be,” said Lisa Morrison, locally known as the Beer Goddess, whose book Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest was released in April. “The ingredients are ample here: we grow the majority of hops grown in the U.S., and the water sources are clean, pure and abundant.”

With a nod to those California guys—Fritz Maytag stirring things up at the Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco, or Jack McAuliffe at New Albion—the winds of the good beer movement really gathered force further north. Pioneers like Bert Grant in Yakima, Chuck Coury in Portland, Paul Shipman and Gordon Bowker in Seattle, the brothers McMenamins and Widmer in Portland and John Mitchell in British Columbia, are among those who can take credit for opening the spigots to better brews.

In trying to field an all-star team of Northwest suds almost 20 or more years down the road from the origins, the not-so-simple problem is not what to include, but what to leave out: One could pick 20 superior beers from Portland alone. Even a single brewery presents puzzles—the Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale or Black Butte Porter (or the Abyss, or…) ?

So let’s be clear: I’ve just corralled 15 beers meant to represent the iconic pillars and old favorites of Northwest brewing, with a dash of stylistic diversity to be sure. Those in constant chase of the new and esoteric may eschew the basics; maybe not. In any case, we can always talk it all over with foot on rail, ordering up another.

OREGON

Deschutes Black Butte Porter, 5.2% ABV (descutesbrewery.com)

Full Sail Amber Ale, 5.5% ABV (fullsailbrewing.com)

Rogue Dead Guy Ale, 6.6% ABV (rogue.com)

BridgePort IPA, 5.5% ABV (bridgeportbrew.com)

Hair of the Dog Fred, 10% ABV (hairofthedog.com)

WASHINGTON

Hale’s Cream Ale, 4.9% ABV (halesbrewery.com)

Pike XXXXX Extra Stout, 7% ABV (pikebrewing.com)

Fish Tale Organic India Pale Ale, 6.7% ABV (fishbrewing.com)

Elysian Zephyrus Pilsner, 4.7% ABV (elysianbrewing.com)

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Spinnakers Mitchell’s Extra Special Bitter, 5.2% ABV (spinnakers.com)

Russell Wee Angry Scotch Ale, 6.5% ABV (russellbeer.com)

Vancouver Island Hermann’s Dark Lager, 5.5% ABV (vanislandbrewery.com)

Wolf Black Tail Porter, 6% ABV (wolfbrewingcompany.com)

IDAHO

Laughing Dog CSB ESB, 5% ABV (laughingdogbrewing.com)

ALASKA

Alaskan Smoked Porter, 6.5% ABV (alaskanbeer.com)