Thanks to a tip from Jeff Alworth (known on Twitter and elsewhere as Beervana) I had Von Ebert on my list of spots to visit while in Portland. Since I had a day in Portland, I decided to visit a few Portland breweries after Pfriem rather than exploring other Hood River spots. Von Ebert has a massive indoor spot with tons of seating. As one might expect from the size, it gets loud quickly and can be a bit chaotic.
I ordered a very interesting sounding beer first, a smoked rye beer aged on coffee. In the wrong hands this beer could be overly smoky, have prominent rye character, or too much coffee. The beer was perfectly balanced with subtle notes of smoke, a mild rye bite, and light nutty coffee on the finish. I would have ordered a crowler of this beer to go but they ran out shortly after I finished my pint.
I finished with their dark lager, a traditional German style beer that I love when it is done well. The beer was a bit thicker and more chocolate forward than the traditional style but quite delicious; It had prominent notes of dark chocolate and raisins. I hope to visit Von Ebert again on a future trip. The two beers I tried indicated that the brewers are quite talented.
I decided to leave Von Ebert after two pints and made my way to Little Beast, where they had a variety of delicious sour and wild ales on draft. Little Beast is much smaller than Von Ebert, and has a more intimate vibe with a small bar area and some surrounding seating.
I started with a full pour of Field Folk, a brett saison. The beer was dry and balanced, with prominent brett funk and mild citrus notes. I then got a few half pours so I could try more styles. The Ferme Rouge was lovely with notes of cherry, mildly tart, with low acidity. It was nicely balanced and easy drinking. The Dutchy was a lovely restrained aged sour with notes of cherry and dark chocolate. My husband surprisingly enjoyed this one. The Belgian dark strong was thick with notes of chocolate. I would have preferred this to be less dry, but it was solid.
I really enjoyed tasting the beers at Little Beast and was glad to see how restrained in acidity some of the sours were. They are worth checking out for fans of Belgian styles and sours.
Pfriem is in Hood River Oregon, about an hour east of Portland. It is a lovely drive along the Columbia River. I expect we missed some of the true majesty of the drive because it had recently snowed. Pfriem is a restaurant and so you may have to wait for a table if you plan to visit on a weekend. Thankfully we ended up in the upstairs area because it was a little bit quieter up there at least before it filled up.
I already expected excellent beer and was pleasantly surprised by the excellent food as well. For the hardcore beer nut, it may not be worth a visit given you can find so many of their beers in bottles and cans around town. As of this writing the cans are expected any day now but they seem to have focused the initial runs of cans on their local market rather than distributing them to San Diego.
I visited having previously enjoyed the delicious pilsner and a few sours so I mostly wanted to enjoy the beers at the source. The pilsner was as excellent as I remember. It is a gold winning beer for a reason. The beer was easy drinking with light notes of honey and hay with a crisp dry finish. This is certainly a beer for drinking as opposed to sipping. The traditional saison was lightly sweet and chewy with notes of cloves and tons of Belgian yeast character. The yeast dominated the beer here and any hops were barely detectable.
Given how high quality Pfriem’s other beers were, I ordered the hazy IPA without trying it. It was about as much of a miss as has become common in San Diego. While the beer was hazy in appearance it was not soft or pillowy as one might expect from the style. It had some notes of melon and tropical fruit but the boozy alcohol character dominated, making it mildly unpleasant. I don’t recommend you seek out this hazy when their traditional IPAs are so much better.
Come for excellent interpretations of classic styles including some lambic inspired barrel aged sours. You can find their beers in bottles and cans around Oregon and even down into San Diego.
Rowley is located in Santa Fe and if you are in Albuquerque it would be about an hour drive in between. I really enjoyed the atmosphere inside. It was rustic with wood on the walls and small enough that it didn’t get too loud. They also have a full kitchen. They did an excellent job both with my vegetable risotto and my husband’s impossible burger.
I started with the berliner weisse which turned out to be my favorite of the day. It was funky and complex with notes of bitter gourd and tropical fruit. I didn’t realize at the time but the bitter flavors that were subtly present in this beer were much more prominent in the various saisons. I got a flight for the rest of my beers, mostly because saisons are so hit and miss with me, but also because they price them so that they are almost the same price per ounce as ordering a larger pour, a rarity these days.
The two saisons both featured prominent herbal hop character. It took some adjusting before I could fully taste the beers. I generally don’t care for saisons that use herbal hops so take any criticisms of these beers with a grain of salt. Sarlac was dry and funky with prominent herbal hop notes and a bitter finish. The rye saison was the sweeter of the two also featuring prominent herbal hop character. Both beers were well made but not something I would order again.
Chantal was an interesting beer. They made an imperial saison and added raspberry. The beer was brewed as a fundraiser. It was surprisingly drinkable and dry for the higher alcohol but the raspberry was barely hinted at in flavor. I got some herbal hop notes with this beer as well though slightly covered up by the raspberry. I finished with the 2nd Anniversary, a dark sour aged in wine barrels with raspberry. The fruit again took a back seat to other more prominent flavors. The beer was thick with prominent red wine and oak notes finishing with hints of molasses and a prominent acidity. While a huge step up from the others in the flight, I did not feel like ordering more than a taster.
Overall, I found the beers at Rowley fairly underwhelming and average at best. If you like sours and wild ales, Bow and Arrow was much more impressive to me, and where I recommend you drink. Though if you are in the area and like a good Berliner Weisse I do recommend you try that one.
Come for farmhouse ales and the occasional sour. They also have guest taps if you like other styles.
I first heard about Bow and Arrow thanks to an article about diversity in beer in the New York Times. I was impressed by their story and also their commitment to quality barrel aged sours. I visited the brewery in chilly February and it had snowed just a few days before we arrived, leaving snow on the ground. The tasting room is a fairly standard mid-sized tasting room, complete with a loud echo and communal tables.
I started with a full pour of their brett saison. It was super dry with notes of dry white wine, mild funk, and nicely balanced. They also had a brett IPA that I didn’t try as you had to buy a bottle to taste it. I moved on to Desert Revival, their raspberry barrel-aged sour. My friend already had a pour before I arrived but I wanted to enjoy a full pour myself. The beer was super dry with mild oak, medium raspberry and a mild bitter finish. It was an excellent example of what I would expect of the style and better than most newer breweries tend to release.
I tried taster of their churro stout, made with actual churros and spices. My husband drank most of it but from what I tasted it was solid. The beer was prominently sweet with a medium body and a nice balance of spices. It has been a while since I had a churro but it reminded me of the flavor including some of the dough flavors. I ended with the house amber. It was mildly hopped with a crisp dry finish and a mild bitterness. Hops were used primarily as bittering instead of aroma, letting the malts shine.
Overall Bow and Arrow was quite impressive and well worth the visit if you are in the Albuquerque area. I didn’t try their IPAs so if you are looking more for that style you might find more to love at La Cumbre or Bosque.
I have been through San Jose a few times before but every time I end up drinking beers from breweries outside the area. I go for breweries that are worth taking a separate trip to visit. On my most recent trip, I had planned to visit Lazy Duck as a stop on the way to the airport but due to some changes, I ended up visiting both Hermitage and Lazy Duck in the same day. Both breweries are considered by the locals I have spoken with to be the best in the area.
I started at Hermitage mostly because it was further South and I had lunch South of San Jose that day. I was the first visitor of the day, which is not surprising for a Sunday especially on a chilly day where rain was forecast. The place filled up over time as people came by to drink and fill growlers. The tasting room space is fairly standard open warehouse style. They had a wide variety of beer styles but I had heard of them mostly for their sours, so I tried two of those before moving on to the next spot.
The Cherry Rocinante was an excellent delicious Flanders style red with cherry. This is a traditional Belgian style sour red ale that is common to see at breweries. This version was a cloudy dark reddish brown with prominent cherry and a dry tart finish. The beer had mild notes of vinegar and hints of caramel. Many of the other sours served at Hermitage were high alcohol, over 9%. I decided to stick to a 5oz pour of Eurynome, sour stout, which clocked in at over 11% alcohol.
Euronome was a delicious dark sour with tons of dark chocolate, notes of dried cherries and currants and a mildly tart finish. I would not have guessed from drinking this beer that it was so strong. It hides the alcohol quite well. Based on my short visit to Hermitage, I expect I will return when I am next in the area. The two sours I had suggest to me that they know how to make a quality barrel aged sour.
Though Hermitage had a variety of beers, they are best known for their barrel aged sours. I didn’t try their other styles.
When I walked into Lazy Duck, I was surprised by the appearance of the brewery. It was by far one of the roughest looking tasting rooms I have visited including back when Alesmith hadn’t put much money into their old tasting room some 7 or 8 years ago, and even more so than my first visit to Lightning before they had a tasting room. Lazy Duck had sheets and cardboard paneling blocking off the tasting room from the brewing area. Also, when we approached the brewery, my husband pointed out that the area we had entered did not appear as if it was very well maintained. Despite all that, I followed the advice of my fellow beer enthusiasts and ordered some of their beer.
The first question I asked the beer tender was whether any of the sours were barrel aged. I was told that they are not barrel aged but are also not kettle sours. They are quick fermented in the stainless steel tanks. After having visited Hermitage and reading that the sours here were the best in town, I had to give them a taste.
I started with the strawberry sour, which to me didn’t taste much like strawberry. It was nicely balanced with prominent acidic tart and a soft carbonation. If this was the only sour I had of the day, I would have left disappointed. On the recommendation of someone sitting at my table, I tried the raspberry sour next. This was much closer to what I would have expected, with tons of acidic raspberry flavor and a nice underlying funk. I can see why this beer would get people to come visit such a small tasting room.
My husband had the imperial stout with maple and coffee. He initially noted how it seemed quite boozy, reminding him of a barrel aged stout. After some of the Strawberry sour, I gave the stout a taste and found it to be below average. The beer had prominent notes of dark cherry and overall tasted more like Dr. Pepper with a hint of licorice at the finish. I wouldn’t have expected the sour cherry flavor or licorice flavor in a maple coffee stout. I suspect some of their sour yeast got into the stout and it got sour over time.
While Lazy Duck made some decent sours, I personally would sooner return to Hermitage.
Known for: Come if you like quick sours with lots of fruit flavor. None so far are barrel aged.