So I thought I was a beer drinker. I thought I was pretty knowledgeable in the craft. I thought that the best beer was made in San Diego (which in part it is) or Delaware (Dogfish Head IS, epic brew craft), and had no idea how epically faulted my perception of the industry was, until Oregon slapped me right in my ignorant liver.
All I knew of Oregon brews was Deschutes Brewery out of Bend, and their year round offerings to the world that I honestly was never blown away by the selection. Once I started to dive deeper into the world of “bread soda” I started to notice all the labels that read Deschutes, and the opinions of those around me that swelled with admiration for their off the beaten path releases like The Abyss, Red Chair NWPA, Hop Trip, Black Butte Anniversary and so on and so on. So with a foot in my mouth and some egg on my face I had to completely reevaluate my outlook on this world that I SHOULD have known existed. Deschutes puts out more solid beer than Anheuser-Busch puts out crappy beer. Can you comprehend the severity of my exaggeration? They put out beer that not only defies mainstream acceptance, but makes you feel good to drink it, privileged even. And Deschutes is just the tip of the iceberg that is the Oregon craft brew scene.
You cannot talk about the Oregon beer culture without throwing some respect out to those hipster “do it yourselfers” at Rogue Ales. Their flagship Dead Guy Ale I remember seeing before I even drank beer. Now when you are faced with the daunting task of choosing your next beverage at your local craft beer store, you would be foolish not to consider one of the many fine brews they put out year round. And by “many”, I mean it dammit. From Dead Guy, Hazelnut Brown Nectar, Yellow Snow or one of their GYO (Grow Your Own) series and more, the attitude seems to be that of true hipster logic. They were brewing this stuff way before it was cool to do so, and they appear to be staying ahead of the curve. For me, they excel when they dare to be a little wacky like they did with their collaboration with Voodoo Doughnuts. The Pretzel, Raspberry & Chocolate Ale tasted exactly as the name implies, but with a “quality beer” twist that I notice and now come to expect out of all Rogue brews. Its a good conversation starter and better yet, its a damn good beer. I give it a 7.5/10 on the UrD scale. (Side note: the XS series is as special as it gets. All XS brews get an 8.5/10 UrD)
Big breweries never started that way. Widmer Brothers Brewing made such a racket with their craft that it got the attention of the big boys and like Kona Brewing Company, signed on with AB/InBev to facilitate growth and expanded distribution. While this has caused some backlash from craft loyalist shouting “sell out”, Widmer along with 10 Barrel Brewing, maintains that their creative fire is still all their own, and while initially I was guilty of a temporary shun as well, I have come back around to appreciate that they indeed have stuck to their guns. They maintain credibility through collaborations and not getting stuck in just delivering the hits. Their Brrrbon Barrel Aged with Vanilla IIPA is a mouthful to say and to drink. Every flavor is represented so well that I must tip my hat to this statement brew and the realization that no quality in the craft has been compromised or lost. This brew gets a 7.5/10 UrD. They are still here to innovate and once again, an Oregon brewery puts me in my beer snobbing place.