The Oregon IPA Invitational is finally finished. It only took six months. Five beers entered last night, and one walked away the winner. I would like to thank all our tasters and guinea pigs. We couldn’t do it without you.
The first beer up was fruity — an orangey scent, but extra bitter with a surprising alcohol burn. Sara says it tasted pink. Dan was afraid it would all be downhill from here. Mitch said it was bland and uninspiring. But Mitch liked number two the best, so don’t listen to him.
Our second beer was totally off, completely and totally screwed up. An IPA shouldn’t taste like that. Smokey, like bacon — Sara said it tastes like it’s on fire. It was super cloudy like fresh apple cider. Chelsea wrote that smokey the beer says don’t drink alone, or this beer at all. It was chocolaty and weird. It was a bottle from Captured by Porches, a surprise winner in an earlier round. They package their beers in recycled swing-top bottles, which don’t seal perfectly. These two bottles were probably infected.
Caroline and Tristan thought the third beer smelled like cat pee, which turned all our tasters off — for a few minutes. Smells like oranges and tastes like grapefruit, with a hint of pine. I even got a hint of cinnamon. Tristan didn’t hate it.
Beer four didn’t have much to recommend it. It was just beer. Dan ranked it number two, but it just bitter and meh. Weak and bland. Mitch hated it. He wanted to water the lawn with it — like the fast food of beer. Chelsea said it had a bitter heart with a left over box of chocolates.
The fifth and final beer probably got a little ignored. We were all a little bored at this point. Everything was tasting similar. Tristan said it tasted like nail polish remover. Dan said it was just OK — balanced but not exciting. A crispy, bitter November day according to Chelsea.
When the voting finished, beer one, Inversion IPA from Deschutes Brewery came out on top. But then Mitch showed up and turned the whole contest upside down. Gigantic, beer number three, moved up a few points and tied it up. But no vote is a real contest without a recount.
OUR WINNER AND IPA CHAMPION IS: GIGANTIC IPA!
It was green week in the Oregon IPA Challenge. Somehow the last round was dominated by green labels. Next month, the exciting conclusion!
The worst beer was Two Dogs IPA from Coalition Brewing. One whiff and every taster grimaced. It was like B.O. — a gym locker full of sweat socks. Extra gassy, it did not go down smooth. Extra yeasty, maybe it was infected, or over pitched. Not good.
In third place we had Terminal Gravity’s IPA. A balanced beer with a nutty character and a peppery bitterness, like fresh arugula, semi-sweet and not too harsh.
It was a close tie for first place, as always. Two beers tied exactly. One was all citrus— fresh squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice, a summer beer with a healthy bitter kick. The other was balanced with a short aftertaste and a more complex aroma, green and piney, tongue coating thickness and a progressive bitterness.
The usual tie breaker didn’t work out; the two beers had exactly the same scores. And so, we trusted our impartial master of ceremonies, my wife Sarah, to taste the two and make the final call. I was pulling for the fresher, citrus crush of the first beer, but I was denied. Goodlife Brewing and Descender IPA took second place, and our winner was Caldera Brewing. Both are great beers, but I feel a little betrayed.
The Oregon IPA Invitational is moving along. This weekend we compared IPAs from Southern Oregon Brewing, Fort George, Gigantic, and Seven Brides Brewing. Of course, our tasters didn’t know which beer they were trying.
Up first we tried Nice Rack from Southern Oregon Brewing. The fruitiness was pretty intense; I got pineapple, orange pulp. I thought it was a great summer IPA. Tristan found it buttery and was the first to note the honey in the back. The finish was bitter and piney.
Second, Fort George’s Vortex IPA came out strong. Dad thought it was really nutty, walnuts? The bitter aftertaste really stuck around according to Dan. I figured it was Vortex, and I was right.
Next, I had the pleasure of revisiting Gigantic’s excellent IPA. It was the fruitiest of the bunch. Unlike Nice Rack, Gigantic’s IPA had a full, rounded grapefruit flavor. Great kick in the mouth. Tristan found it overwhelming, but I thought it was perfect.
And lastly, Frankenlou’s IPA from Seven Brides. Tristan sniffed out some raspberry, but summed up the taste in one word: “Blech!” I have to agree. This was not tasty. It was so dark and burnt. Just a bitter, bitter beer.
The scores gave a clear winner and loser. Gigantic took the prize. SOB and Fort George took second and third. Seven brides was the clear loser.
We finally, finally got around to doing round three of the Oregon IPA Invitation Taste Test Challenge. It’s like the Pepsi Challenge for beer. I had some trouble finding beers with the same theme this time around. Rogue IPAs are sometimes hard to find, go figure. But we got a nice variety. The results were surprising, and surprisingly close.
Beer number one, was a classic IPA. Exactly what you want in an IPA, citrus hops on the nose with a hint of pine. The taste is mostly pine with a hint of citrus. Great bitterness. Veronica said she knew this beer, she had it before, right? Jay noted a honey tinge and a black licorice finish. He said it was a perfect cold day IPA.
Our second beer scared me. I immediately got a whiff of cat piss. Apparently that’s a thing with citra hops? Veronica said it was more like ammonia, but no one else really got it. It started out tasting all grapefruit but had a strong bitterness. Dad really noticed that it came on stronger after a while. It got was more bitter and a bit metallic. No one really liked it by the end.
Beer three, beer three! Floral, juicy rose blossoms, a little sweeter. Jay said it tasted like grapes, a summer IPA. A lighter body, but really nice. Number three was my favorite of the night.
Jay’s notes on beer four just say, “The tart!” Lots of citrus juice off the top. Best bite of the night? I got some coffee grounds on the finish, but that might just be the darker color. Veronica said it was the most balanced.
The votes were very, very close. Beer number two, Hopworks IPA, was the clear loser, which really surprised me. I’ve loved that beer before this. In third place, by one point was India Pelican Ale from Pelican Pub, beer number one. The classic IPA was great, but we are into the stand out, unique beers apparently. The 10 Barrel Apocalypse IPA was in second. Beer three, my favorite.
And the winner, by two points, was Ninkasi Total Domination. I was blown away. I have been ignoring Ninkasi because I thought their beers were too bitter and all sort of the same; even their oatmeal stout tasted too hoppy for me. My prejudice was overturned!
Next month, round four!
The second round of the First Annual Oregon IPA Invitational Blind Taste Test Challenge Tournament for Supremacy was last night. And it was fun. I called it the Portland round, all the beers come from smaller breweries within city limits, give or take. At the store I also found another two Oregon brewed IPAs, so I might need to add a fifth round of competition.
The first beer we sampled was the IPA from Burnside Brewing. I haven’t had too many of their beers. My sister Michelle liked it best. It was light and refreshing, not too much bitterness, an afternoon beer. I thought there was a lot of floral nectar, honey flavor with a bit of orange peel. Dan thought it tasted sort of hefe-y, a lawn mowing beer. Jay called it average, and added, that’s all I gotta say.
The second beer was Laurelwood Brewing’s Gearhead IPA. I wanted to use their Workhorse IPA, but it’s been hard to find lately. I think they are having trouble sourcing hops for the Workhorse, but Gearhead was a decent stand in. Michelle wrote that it is smooth and light, but solid. Dan thought it was really similar to the Burnside IPA, but more IPA-y, stronger and maybe a bit sweeter. Jay thought it had a sweeter smell, but some edginess, not a lot of bite. I noticed more grapefruit and more bitter finish, less polite.
The third beer was Captured by Porches’ Invasive Species IPA. Technically, Porches is brewed in St. Helens, but they operate two buses that pour pints in Portland parking lots, so they have Portland street cred. Invasive Species had more pine flavor and scent, a much stronger bitter bite. It really sticks to your mouth’s bones. Paul focused on the bitterness in the back of the throat. Dan thought it was the most like a real IPA, strongest flavor, dry, bitter. Also not his favorite. In the end he voted for it based on it’s IPA-ness. Jay said he could drink Invasive Species all day.
The fourth beer was Alameda’s El Torero, which was returned to the sweet, orange and caramel from the earlier contenders. Paul smelled a lot of honey, though I thought it lacked the floral freshness of the Burnside. Dan thought it was a bit wheat-y. Jay thought it was only good with fruit, but very smooth.
In the end the scores were very, very close. The Invasive Species and Burnside IPA were tied for first, and the Laurelwood and Alameda were tied for third. And the difference between them all was only a single point. All the beers tasted really similar, and none of them were really traditional. I tried to chalk up the similarities to age and staleness, but none of them were labeled with bottling dates or even best by dates. In the end we awarded the title to Captured by Porches and the Invasive Species based on the number of firsts choices it received. Surprisingly, they call it an English style IPA, not west coast. Is it weird that we found it the most traditional?
Today I hosted round one of the Oregon IPA Invitational blind taste test challenge. I brought bottles of some of the biggest breweries in the state: Bridgeport, Full Sail, Widmer Brothers, and Deschutes. Sarah poured six 6 oz. servings for my brothers, my dad, and I. In the end they all had opinions along with my sisters, and everyone else in tasting distance.
Our first beer was a very classic IPA, earthy, orange peel. The beer coated the tongue and left a healthy bitterness. It was the immediate favorite.
Beer number two was an instant change. It was completely different. The bitterness was more like old coffee and stuck around a bit longer. Compared to beer one, it fell flat. No citrus or pine notes, just bitter.
Number three was the lightest tasting beer in the group. It was not very bitter with a hint of citrus. It had the texture of soapy water and left a greasy feeling on my tongue. It was better than number two, but trailed number one.
Our last beer was polarizing. Even just sniffing it people started talking about fields of green and fresh soil. The taste brought to mind basil and mint. Veronica said it would be perfect for a warm summer evening. Others panned it outright. I liked the basil personally, but it is a bit unorthodox.
Beer one was Deschutes Brewing’s Inversion IPA, and it won the gold with a heavy margin. Just as I suspected. Beer two was Full Sail’s IPA, and came in third with a few ranking it second or fourth. Beer three was from Bridgeport which won the silver medal. A pretty solid beer. The last beer was obviously the Spiced IPA from Widmer Brothers. I liked it, but it came in last.
Yesterday, I woke up with a notion. Actually, I’ve been kicking it around for a while. I’ve noticed that I like IPAs, I love IPAs, but I’m not keen on the local stuff. I’ve downed my fair share of them in my three years of legal drinking, but I wasn’t really awakened to what an IPA can be until I started drinking stuff like Lagunitas and double IPAs like Pliny the Elder and Hop Henge. I know we have good beer here, and I know that every brewery in town produces some sort of IPA, so I’ve decided to compare them, tournament style. Via blind taste test we will find the best IPA. Here’s the lineup for the first Oregon IPA Invitational.