Summer is finally here and some of us are getting out, if not into bars then maybe just outdoors with a bottle or can. Whether you are crushin’ czech crispies, craving a big bold IPA, or want to cool down with a cider or saison, the New School’s contributors have some of their current favorite packaged products to recommend.
Wayfinder Kollaps Kölsch
by Don Scheidt
Kölsch used to be a rare, somewhat unknown beer style, but in recent years, it’s become a style that several American craft brewers have emulated. Kölsch is defined by the “Kölsch-Konvention” agreement, stating that Kölsch is a top-fermented “full” beer (original gravity of 11 to 16 degrees Plato, or 4.4 to 5% alcohol by volume), filtered to be pale, bright, and clear, and well-attenuated for light body, and produced exclusively in and near Cologne.
So how does Wayfinder’s Kollaps fare? Actually, pretty well. It’s light and smooth, with a gently fruity aroma and just the right kiss of hops, inviting and refreshing, especially on a warm day. Drinking Kölsch at a beer-hall “Brauhaus” in its home city is an experience hard to duplicate: blue-aproned waiters circulate among the tables, dropping off full glasses as the little glasses, not even a half-pint, are drained. At a Kölsch pub, you don’t order your next beer; you ask the waiter to stop when you’re done, and ask to pay your tab. You can’t do that in most of the USA, but you can buy it in 16 ounce cans, or order a big glass fresh from the tap at Wayfinder’s excellent pub in near southeast Portland (social distancing tip: get there early for a table out on the deck), or enjoy it poured from a can at home. Either way, you’ll get a fresh locally-brewed version of Cologne’s classic pale-blond lagered ale, true to style and as good as any you’ll find in Cologne.
Block 15 Intergalactic Hop Shop
by Neil Ferguson
Block 15 is blasting off once again yet another edition of their Intergalactic Hop Shop IPA. Brewed annually in collaboration with Seattle neighborhood institution Chuck’s Hop Shop, this is one of Block 15’s IPA offerings that always draws plenty of excitement. The beer itself is unfiltered and not exactly translucent, but it wouldn’t be accurate to call it a hazy IPA. While the Corvallis brewery’s IPAs tend to all feature a similar hop flavor profile, this is precisely the draw for diehard Blockheads. As we have come to expect from offerings like Sticky Hands and the Dab Lab series, dank, tropical pininess (did I spell that right?) is what hits you. Dry-hopped with Chinook, Azacca and Galaxy, the brewers lean more on the tropical fruity side with these beer, resulting in flavors of pineapple and tangerine that would bring this into hazy territory were it not for a nice punch of bitterness. At 7.25%, this falls somewhere between summer sipper and summer crusher, although the former is recommended if you are day drinking in the sun. One of the cool things about Block 15 has always been the fact that their beers are sought after and highly respected, but somehow fall below the radar of traders and hype bois. They tend to knock most styles out of the park, but there is no question that IPAs are their strongsuit. This year’s edition of Chuck’s Intergalactic Hop Shop is bursting with bright tropical hop flavors, making it a canned offering that is worth seeking out as long as it’s available.
Son of Man 2019 Sagardo (in Cans!)
by Ezra Johnson-Greenough (aka Samurai Artist)
Son of Man makes strictly European inspired Basque-style cider in the Columbia River Gorge. The Cascade Locks, OR based cidery makes only one cider called Sagardo, they only make it one time per year and it takes that amount of time to ferment and cellar. And Son of Man has just released this year’s vintage, 2019 Sagardo was spontaneously fermented last year but released just in time for summer weather in 2020.
Basque-style cider is noted for it’s natural funky characteristics, dry, earthy, tart, it’s typically served flat from wine bottles and poured from arms length into a glass which causes an explosion of bubbles that quickly dissipate like a champagne. Those signature textures of Basque cider come from wild yeasts on the skins of the apples that are used to naturally ferment the juices similar to a spontenously fermented Lambic-style of beer. It also makes production that much more difficult; most modern cideries use pasteurized juice pressed from major locally grown apples that were not originally cultivated for cider. Son of Man hand selects only locally grown apples intended for use in cider, the skins must be kept intact and the apples can only then be pressed fresh once a season. This makes Sagardo a unique annual product akin to a saison or a natural wine, but made from apples.
Son of Man’s 2019 Sagardo was made last year where it spent an extended time spontaneously fermenting until it’s summer 2020 release. The cider uses more than two dozen cider apple varieties from five Oregon farms. The flavor profile showcases lemon peel, honeydew melon, and that real apple bitter tannin. What makes this brand new vintage even more unique? Son of Man has strayed from their traditional clear 750ml bottles and put some of the 2019 vintage into cans, which makes it that much easier to pour from arms length into a glass and share with friends as it’s meant to be.
Rosenstadt Brewery Helles
by Gordon “El Gordo” Feighner
It took a while for Portland to really warm up this summer, but now that the hot days are here, I’m really appreciating a nice Helles lager. Occidental and Baerlic make a good versions for sure, but my current fave is being turned out by Rosenstadt. The rare newer brewery that launched its product in bottles rather than cans, Rosenstadt has carved out a local niche with its excellent takes on standard German styles. The Helles gets double points for visuals, what with the bold yet clean design of the label and the beautiful golden clarity of the beer. The nose is clean and pleasant, nothing fussy, just the nice aroma of bready malt, There is a softness of this beer on the palate that makes it very drinkable, but the body is full enough that drinking it too fast does it a disservice. The flavor profile is nicely balanced between the lightly sweet malt and a very subtle spiciness of German hops. While we aren’t able to hang out in biergartens this summer, sipping a Helles on the front porch on a warm July evening is a pretty decent substitute for now.
Garden Path Fermentation The Gardens Led to Flowered
by Ben Keene
Summer in Washington is a special season. All I want to do is spend time outside. For months on end, the long days, clear skies, and cool breezes off the Sound are hard to ignore, imploring you to trade your computer screens for nature’s blues and greens. And when my mind begins to wander on those sunny summer days, I think of farmhouse ales and rustic saisons. After that, my next thought often involves Garden Path Fermentation in the Skagit Valley.
A lot of buzz surrounded Garden Path’s opening in the spring of 2018, and while I did seek out the distinctive and decidedly local beers that Ron Extract and Amber Watts have created here with the help of a small team, it wasn’t until late last year that I made my first trip to their tasting room. It’s a beautiful, relaxed space in close proximity to the farms where they source the grain, fruit, and honey used in all of their so-called Skagitonian ales. To visit the brewery is to understand the mission and motivation that goes into it. Hearing Amber and Ron passionately and painstakingly explain the philosophy and process behind the beers they ferment and age in oak with native yeast made an otherwise spontaneous day trip into one of the most memorable excursions I’ve had since moving to the Northwest.
The Garden Paths Led to Flowered is my idea of a beer for the season—a bottle to bring on a picnic, liquid provisions to slake your thirst on a warm afternoon outdoors in the sun. It’s dry, floral, fruity, and full of character, and reminds me of some of my favorite European saisons. Bitter yet balanced, with a touch of quenching tartness and enough barnyard funk to intrigue and engage, The Garden Paths is truly something special. Savor it, like summertime, when you can.
Breakside Brewery / Barley Brown’s Wanderjack IPA
by John Chilson
Breakside’s Milwaukie’s taproom is like a mirage. Nestled off of 224 in a nondescript office park, every time I pull up, walk in and grab a beer, I always ask myself “why don’t I come here more often?”
After a trip to nearby Bob’s Red Mill, the Dave’s Killer Bread outlet, then Concentrates (supplies for that fall veg planting), a beer(s) at the taproom was in order. I always first check the coolers for any new bottles or cans before hitting up the taps. Score. I picked up a four-pack of Wanderjack, Breakside’s new-ish collaboration with Barley Brown’s Beer from Baker City.
Described by Breakside as its take on an “IPA for the new decade,” it includes Strata, Mosaic, Simcoe, and Azacca hops and has definitely got a fruity flavor. That first sip tasted like….summer? The bad news? It won’t be around much longer. It’s only available through July according to the website, so try to find it around if you can.
Little Beast Brewing Czech-style Pilsner
by Nicole Kasten
Little Beast Czech Style Pilsner delivers on the promise of summer. The clean recipe execution makes this a lightish bodied lager beer that you want to keep drinking over and over again. Czech Style Pilsners have a wide range of light to medium bodies, but this one hits right in the center creating a balance of drinkability and flavor satisfaction.
The initial aroma has the traditional Bohemian expectations of light biscuit, with the Saaz hops holding strong. The sweetness is present, but not over powering, which leaves a crisp finish. Because of the sweetness level, you feel quenched without a lingering stickiness in your mouth. You can and want to drink more than one. It’s light and airy outside in the sun and warm and cozy at night under a blanket. Little Beast Czech Style Pilsner4.8% ABV16oz can
Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding.