Sampling microbrews for the first time


With a little help you can select friendly brews right away at more than 60 craft breweries thoughout the state

By Spence Lack

To fully experience a visit to Oregon you'll want to try a local craft beer. Even if you don't normally drink craft brew, there's no need for trepidation. There are plenty of approachable options for the uninitiated.

It's important to note that just because a beer is a "microbrew," it doesn't mean you'll need a knife and fork to drink it. There's an array of friendly offerings from all of the major microbreweries here in the state. With a little help you can select first-time friendly brews right away without slogging through some of the more eclectic offerings that might prove to be more of an acquired taste.

Fresh ingredients, personal attention make for great beer
Mass produced American lagers have set a disappointing standard for the country's beer drinkers. These beers can only be as good as their ingredients. Instead of fine grains like barley and wheat, rice and corn are often used as cheap replacements. In place of whole kiln fired heirloom hops, the giant "macro" breweries rely on little pellets of compressed hop dust. Their water source is often chlorinated, fluoridated city municipal supply. This is a recipe for mediocre beer.

Here in Oregon, more than 60 craft breweries provide locals and visitors alike with glorious alternatives.

Microbrewed craft brew relies on tradition, using expensive fine ingredients in place of money and labor saving shortcuts. The misconceiving implication is that these beers are necessarily all either bitter or overly sweet.

Some ideas for the unitiated
If you are new to microbrews, a few beers you might want to try include the Hefe Weizen from Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland, the India Pale Ale from Bridgeport Brewing of Portland and the Mirror Pond Ale from Deschutes Brewing in Bend. These are all quite "user friendly" brews from three of Oregon's most highly regarded craft breweries. All three are commonly found on tap and on grocery shelves throughout the state.

Order a sampler tray
When visiting an unfamiliar brewpub, there is a wonderful way to sample a variety of offerings without committing to a whole pint. Many pubs offer a sampler tray with five to seven two-ounce pours, often labeled with a placemat to avoid confusion.

No tray, ask for a taste
If not, virtually every pub will let you taste anything you'd like before you commit to a pint, so don't be shy. Ask your server and solicit their opinion as well. Tell them your situation and your level of comfort with microbrew, and be ready for a litany of advice and suggestions.

Making the switch from macro to micro involves a bit of patience. Wean yourself onto micro brew slowly; find one that pleases you and let your palate adjust to the wonderful world of real malt and real hops. If these beers seem a bit to dry to you, be patient. Adjusting to hops may take some time, but you will find it time well spent.