30 of the Best Oregon Beers From Paste Blind Tastings

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30 of the Best Oregon Beers From <i>Paste</i> Blind Tastings

Since Paste began hosting large-scale blind tastings of craft beer styles in 2015, it’s safe to say we have tasted a lot of beers. The sheer numbers are mind-boggling even to us, reaching beyond the hundreds and into the thousands of separate brews. All of the data from these tastings has continued to be archived on Paste, primarily here and here, but until now it’s solely been partitioned into various lists by beer style.

Recently, we realized that this was missing out on a useful way to present this information, which was to group the beers by state of origin. That way, if you’re planning a vacation to California, Maine, Oregon, Colorado or some other great beer state, you can look up a Paste list to find a ready-made Easter egg hunt of great beers to look for while you’re there. And not only that—the vast majority of these beers are ones that excelled in blind tasting settings. That’s a big deal, and the significance of it shouldn’t be overlooked. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to taste beers in a totally blind environment, you know how different and enlightening the results can be when you remove hype and labels from the equation.

The below list isn’t meant to be viewed as the absolute best beers from Oregon, one of America’s best beer states thanks to cities such as Bend, Eugene and the beer mecca that is Portland. Such a list would be difficult to pull off for any publication without being based in the state.

What we can tell you is that Oregon has provided quite a few great beers over the course of our blind tastings. Portland alone, in terms of output, has landed more beers in our rankings than many small states that don’t happen to be blessed with well developed craft beer communities. So if you find yourself in Oregon sometime soon, go out of your way to track these beers down. You’ll likely find that this list is even more hop-forward than usual, reflecting the pacific Northwest’s love affair with American hops.

The beers below are not ranked, and are simply presented in alphabetical order.

Barley Brown’s Pallet Jack

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City: Baker City, OR
ABV: 7%
The verdict: This beer nabbed a GABF medal back in 2012, and they’re still doing things very, very right at Barley Brown’s, four years later. It is, in a single sentence, a fantastically balanced, classically northwestern IPA. Everything is in harmony in this beer, from the grapefruit zest citrus on the nose to the support structure of mildly biscuity and lightly caramelized malt. The hop character combines that grapefruit citrus with fragrant, earthy pine for a classic combination that nonetheless seems fresher than it should in their hands. It incorporates the caramel in particular with a lot of tact—just a touch for complexity, without subtracting from the hops. It’s the kind of beer that scored high scores from every taster without sparking much in the way of conversation, because there’s no controversy to it. It’s all too easy to overlook this type of IPA right now, but the best examples, like this one, deserve plenty of attention and respect.

Boneyard Beer Co. Bone-A-Fide Pale Ale

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City: Bend, OR
ABV: 5.5%
IBU: 38
The verdict: A taster marking down a beer with a rating of “100” is something we’ve seen only a handful of times in the course of doing these sessions. This was one of those times. On some level, we were surprised it was Boneyard, but on second thought we weren’t surprised at all. They performed well in our DIPA tasting, and their single IPA, RPM, made the finals of our original 116 IPA blind tasting. This is a brewery that knows hops, but this beautiful pale ale might be their most perfect execution of a hoppy beer.

To quote directly from that 100-point score sheet: “Gorgeous hop aroma/flavor. Huge floral, tropical fruit and honey malt flavors. Fan-damn-tastic.” The flavors aren’t just big, though, they’re staggeringly complex. You get waves of tropical fruit (pineapple, passionfruit) on the nose, along with citrus, but also an almost peppery spiciness. It’s sweet without being cloying, light of body without being watery, hugely flavorful while being drinkable. It barges in and puts your taste buds on notice. Go out and get some of this beer, and conduct your own blind tasting. If Bone-A-Fide doesn’t win, write to us and let us know about the magical beer you’ve discovered that beat it. Because Boneyard has served up one of the best American pales ale here that we’ve ever had.

Boneyard Beer Co. RPM IPA

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City: Bend, OR
ABV: 7.5%
The verdict: Outside of say, Maine Beer Co. or Grimm Artisanal Ales, Boneyard might be the most consistently awesome producer of hop-forward beers that we’ve had at these tastings. These guys just know hops—intimately know how to produce hoppy beer styles, I mean. RPM is their flagship IPA, and it’s a beer that also made last year’s finals. In terms of character, it actually reminds us somewhat of the preceding beer from Station 26, although it’s a little bit more reined in and drinkable. Caramel and biscuity malt are present and will not be overlooked, contributing a light malt sweetness (and just a touch of booze) that is far from cloying. The hops run slightly more citrus in direction than tropical, although it’s a fruit-forward nose that is complex and difficult to individually categorize. Orange citrus is certainly present, though, as is grapefruit. All in all, it feels like an IPA that is a synthesis of several styles, and certainly worth building around as a flagship, but Boneyard also gave us a second IPA that was even better.

Boneyard Beer Co. Hop-a-Wheelie

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City: Bend, OR
ABV: 7%
The verdict: We’ve already mentioned Boneyard’s consistency with hop-forward beer, but it bears repeating: They’re really good at this sort of thing. This is another beer that sort of straddles the border between old-school and new-school, executing on some classic flavor combinations but doing so with modern panache. Firm hoppiness shines in the nose, with dank, resinous character and some juicy, orangey citrus as well. To quote one score sheet: “Nose like a freshly-mowed orchard.” To quote a different one: “This is what I think of when I think of IPA.” There’s some toast and caramel malt in this beer’s backbone as well, and a moderately bitter finish that reminds you that this is “IPA” and not orange juice. It’s a new beer to Boneyard’s lineup, but you’d believe them if they said they’d been making it for 10 years—and we mean that as a compliment.

Breakside Fitzcarraldo

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City: Portland, OR
ABV: 11.2%
The verdict: Breakside has only been represented in a couple of these tastings, but they’ve got a truly enviable batting average going so far. Fitzcarraldo is quite the unique beer, and we’re being slightly generous in including it here as a cuvee, but the majority is indeed made from a Belgian strong dark ale. That majority was aged for a rather ridiculous 18 months in Knob Creek barrels, soaking up overproof whiskey, and yeah—there’s no missing that in the final product. It is, however, by no means one-note—in fact, tasters were perplexed by the intensity and the complexity on display here. Cruising through the tasting sheets, you find all kinds of descriptors for the fruitiness: “raisin, stewed plums, port wine,” etc. Belgian yeast is restrained after such a long aging, but dances on the periphery of notice. Regardless, this is a very big, expressive beer with no shortage of character.

Breakside Brewery IPA

City: Portland, OR
ABV: 6.8%
The verdict: You never truly know if a beer that has won major awards will live up to the hype in a blind tasting. We knew that Breakside’s IPA was one with a major star next to its name—that’s what a gold medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival will get for you. But really, was it going to stand out in a crowd of 116 American IPAs? Answer: Yep. Absolutely. And yet the odd thing is, Breakside’s IPA isn’t extremely aggressive or easily identifiable by a certain flavor profile—if anything, it’s right down the middle, West Coast classic. It scored so highly because it just does everything well. It’s complex in every facet of the game, from a beautiful nose that blends resinous pine, florals and citrus, right down to a restrained caramel backbone. It’s dry, perfectly balanced and sophisticated, a real joy to analyze. It’s easy to see how it earned its medal.

Breakside Liquid Sunshine

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City: Portland, OR
ABV: 5.2%
The verdict: The pilsners in this tasting can be enjoyable for just about any reason, but one thing we can’t help but worry about is that at some point, a really subtle beer could simply slip through the cracks. Breakside’s pilsner is one of those kinds of beers, a very tactful and delicious beer that could theoretically get lost in the noise alongside more aggressive pils. Its grainy malt flavors build a solid, biscuity (but subtle) foundation, on which is perfectly balanced a classically floral German hop profile. It’s not trying to do anything fancy—it’s just a very well-balanced German-style pilsner. It’s not a hop bomb, or a malt showcase. It’s just clean, thirst-quenching lager.

Cascade Brewing Gose

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City: Portland, OR
ABV: 5.7%
The verdict: The coriander pops more noticeably than usual in this gose from Cascade, giving it a bit of a witbier-like spiciness. It’s an effervescent, lively beer, with flavors that are in good balance—tartness is moderate, saltiness on the lower side. Creamy wheat malt pops up for a moment and is occasionally detectable behind waves of citrus, brine and spice. Not quite as sour as some goses—and not quite as sour as you tend to expect from a Cascade beer, come to think of it—but just the right amount of tartness to make it go down smooth. Whether an extremely sessionable beer like this one should really be able to command a $25+ price is an entirely different matter—we’re rating flavors here, not value per ounce, so please keep that in mind.

Cascade Brewing Kriek

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City: Portland, OR
ABV: 8.2%
The verdict: Well, Cascade is consistent, you gotta give them that. Jokes aside, this kriek is the best cherry beer we tasted in the course of these rankings, avoiding the musty or muddled flavors of some others to bring forth bright fruity goodness that is pierced by an intense beam of sourness. This one is very tart indeed, but of the ultra-sour examples on the table, it’s one where the strength of lactic sourness works very well to enliven the fruit. By no means is there any balance, but for lovers of very bright, clean fruit flavors it’s heavenly. The cherry presence is backed up by some oak and perhaps by a bit of spice, but make no mistake that this one is a fruit and sour bomb, all the way, and we mean that in the best way possible. It’s a puckering cherry treat with a long, lingering finish.

Cascade Brewing Sang Rouge

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City: Portland, OR
ABV: 8.06%
The verdict: This blended Flanders red shares a lot of similarities and tasting notes in common with the already mentioned Crooked Stave Origins, but was slightly better balanced in the opinion of most tasters. The fact that it’s extraordinarily complex is no big surprise, given the incredible commitment to aging and blending—up to nine different batches that are as much as three years old come together to create a cohesive whole. The final product is assertively tart and feels like the big beer it is—chewy, vinuous and packed with dark fruit flavors of plum, black cherry and perhaps black currant. “Robust” certainly applies, and there’s no shortage of spicy, woody flavors either. It’s like a dusty, well-aged bottle of wine that your oenophile friend has been saving in a corner of his cellar for a special occasion.

Deschutes Jubelale

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City: Bend, OR
Style: Winter warmer
ABV: 6.7%
The verdict: Jubelale almost feels like a spiritual peer of Old Jubilation, so I guess their side-by-side placement is only fitting. It’s smaller in ABV but perhaps more assertive in its flavors, with lots of dark, dried fruits: “Cooked blackberries,” wrote one particularly specific taster on his sheet. It’s a bit like an American barleywine that has been shrunk down to fit a smaller frame, although it still tastes larger than 6.7%. Several tasters also noted more of a roasty quality than in the past, and a few of the sheets have a quizzical “coffee?”, although the beer doesn’t actually feature any—Deschutes does include the word “chicory” in its tasting notes, though, so perhaps they’re not far off. The biggest stars are crystal malt sweetness and dark fruitiness, however, which makes it perhaps the first beer on this list to draw the “fruitcake” comparison. It will not be the last.

Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale

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City: Bend, OR
ABV: 5.0%
IBU: 40
The verdict: This is, to us, the most classic Deschutes pale ale, and the most iconic in their regular lineup after the famed Black Butte. The Northwest answer to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is a little bit less hop-forward but features beautifully complex malt flavors in addition to the grapefruit/floral combo of Cascade. There’s a wonderfully bready, biscuity quality to the malt, at a volume that is perfectly in sync with the hop rate. A little bit of unexpected, peppery spice and just a touch of deeper toffee maltiness almost give a more English impression, as if this beer was a synthesis of American and English pale ale traditions. It’s simply a classic of the region.

Deschutes Obsidian Stout

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City: Bend, OR
ABV: 6.4%
The verdict: A classic American stout that has long been considered a benchmark for the style, Obsidian features a redesigned label since we last saw it that evokes a certain heavy metal aesthetic we weren’t exactly expecting. Thankfully, though, the beer is unchanged—A rich, fairly sweet and roasty stout that evokes powerful coffee impressions despite not actually using coffee beans in the brewing process. A bit of hops are in there as well, but not so noticeable as a few of the other American stouts on the table. What it reminds me of more is an Irish dry stout that has been amplified and filled with more character—residual sweetness incorporated to give it more of a soul, but without losing any of the strong, assertive roast. It drinks frighteningly easily. Most of the year-round beers from Deschutes are excellent, but this is still among their best.

Deschutes The Abyss

City: Bend, OR
ABV: 11%
The verdict: Geez, what isn’t in The Abyss? Its uniqueness doesn’t end with the ingredient additions: It’s also partially aged in a combination of bourbon, pinot noir and neutral oak barrels. That sounds a little similar to the earlier description of Humboldt’s Black Xantus, but clearly the multiple barrel elements are working in much better conjunction here. All of the many flavor components pop up one after another as a parade: Here’s some caramelized molasses richness, here’s twist of black licorice, there’s some vanilla. Smooth, complex and subtle, it’s a beer that begs introspection.

Fort George Matryoshka

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City: Astoria, OR
ABV: 12%
The verdict: Fort George is a brewery that seems to sneakily do far above average every time they’re in one of these blind tastings, and it’s time we start recognizing them for it. Matryoshka is a pretty classical BBA stout, big on the chocolate impressions, but with a significant charge of candied fruitiness as well. Packing moderate booziness that was noted by all the tasters, it features both milk and dark chocolate notes—almost brownie batter-esque—and a red fruitiness that combine like an impression of chocolate-covered cherries. The booze is slightly bracing, but it gives the stout a necessary backbone to avoid coming off as dessert beer. All in all, an excellent take on Russian imperial stout with a very balanced approach, including a moderately assertive influence from the bourbon barrels. It deftly balances being both characterful and inviting to drinkers just beginning to experiment with this style.

Fort George Brewery 3-Way IPA

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City: Astoria, OR
ABV: 7.4%
The Verdict: Fort George is quite a solid brewery on average, with IPAs that usually seem to strike a good balance between older and newer influences, and this collaboration beer with two other excellent breweries is no exception. The first thing that hits on the nose is a big waft of lemony citrus, like lightly sweetened lemonade, but with a touch of pineapple as well. That’s soon swept aside by a big charge of grassy, green hops—a nicely old-school touch that plays very well with the juicier fruit flavors. Malt? Well, there’s probably some in there somewhere, but you’re not drinking this for malt. Nevertheless, it’s quite a lot different from say, the NE IPA’s on the table—less sweet, less juicy, less rich, and instead much more clean and crisp, with firm, moderate bitterness that invites another sip. It’s a versatile IPA that hits the dead center of the bullseye, as far as reverence for the style and execution are concerned.

Fort George Brewery Vortex IPA

City: Astoria, OR
ABV: 7.7%
The verdict: Oregon’s Fort George is one of several breweries that sent us two IPAs (the maximum was two entries), and one of them that scored big as a result. This beer, the brewery’s #1 seller, is a real bruiser—almost DIPA-like in its intensity. It’s a complex offering, very woodsy on the nose, with a nice backing of caramel maltiness and citric hops, along with a definite booziness. Smelling it made me picture myself taking a stroll through some sort of huge, overgrown forest in the Pacific Northwest where the pine resin has perfumed the air. It’s an imposing beer that stood out as the most unique of its heat, where all the judges present were very curious to find out what exactly we were drinking.

Full Sail 8 Pound Ale

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City: Hood River, OR
ABV: 5.6%
The verdict: Full Sail says that their fresh-hop ale features Magnum hops, a varietal often used by homebrewers for clean bittering rather than in flavor or aroma additions, but here it creates a very pleasant profile. A bit of toasty malt is present in this dry but still hop-forward pale ale, which follows with plenty of resinous, grassy green hops. “Old-school, top-notch IPA” wrote one taster, noting the interplay between moderate malt and hops. This beer hits the center of the bullseye on what we’d typically be expecting out of a fresh hop beer: Green, grassy hops and a very clean malt profile, perfectly balanced in an approachable way. There’s nothing fancy about it; it’s just well executed.

Gigantic Brewing Co. Brain Damage

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City: Portland, OR
ABV: 13%
The verdict: We would have described the Saint Arnold offering as the biggest and most ridiculously flavorful of the barrel-aged quads, except for the fact that this offering from Portland’s Gigantic was just a smidge crazier. Make no mistake: This beer is absolutely massive. Monstrous, really. The gigantic nose and overall lack of carbonation immediately recalled to our mind Samuel Adams Utopias—that’s how big and flavorful this thing really is. After the reveal, we actually got out our Utopias bottle to compare the two, and this one is nearly as flavorful, despite being half the ABV. Booze is obviously assertive, but the other flavors are tremendous: Gingerbread cookie, maple, intense raisin fruitiness and a plethora of baking spices combine in beautiful fashion. We have no doubt at all that some tasters will find this quad too hot or too boozy, but it avoided being simply one-dimensional in our eyes. What it creates is an end product that is the single most decadent beer on this list.

Great Notion Brewing Double Stack

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City: Portland, OR
ABV: 10%
The verdict: It’s difficult to rate a beer in the mold of Double Stack, because your enjoyment of it is likely going to be determined entirely by two factors. One: Do you like maple syrup? Two: Is the end result too sweet or cloying, in your mind? Regardless, everything about this maple syrup/coffee stout screams “breakfast”—it smells like a platter of flapjacks, syrup, bold coffee and maybe a side bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Golden Grahams for good measure. The residual sweetness is prominent as you’d expect, and the base beer does get a little bit lost behind all the maple and coffee character, but we had to admit that the final synthesis comes together in a way that is decadent and crowd-pleasing. It stops just short of being too sweet or too gimmicky, and although it’s not a beer you’d likely want to down by the pint, this would be an exceedingly fun crowler to break out at a party. We had a few other maple beers in the tasting, but this one struck us as the most genuine and purest exhibition of what the brewery was trying to achieve.

Great Notion Juice Jr.

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City: Portland, OR
ABV: 6%
The verdict: This beer was the only one we allowed into the entire tasting that was labeled as a “session IPA,” but considering the fact that it’s 6% ABV, we’re simply going to reject that categorization: This is an American IPA, pure and simple, and it’s a damn good one at that. It’s almost shocking how flavorful this is for that 6% ABV weight class, by the way—this crowler was punching well above the weight class of many of the IPAs in this tasting that were pushing 8% ABV. Massive stone fruit and citrus aromatics explode out of the glass, very sweet and rich—think blood oranges, apricot and maybe pineapple as well. A bit of biscuity malt saves it from getting completely out of hand or artificial-tasting, adding complexity and structure. This is a flavor bomb, packed into that 6% ABV frame, and it should be sought-after beer for geeks who can appreciate big things in small packages.

Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) Abominable

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City: Portland, OR
Style: American IPA/”winter ale”
ABV: 7.3%
The verdict: The “winter ale” label could very well mislead you on a can of Abominable (and we love this can design, by the way), because the first whiff of this beer lets you know that it definitely exists somewhere on the IPA spectrum—or maybe this is just how they do winter warmers out in Portland. One taster compared it to an imperial version of Sierra Nevada Celebration, and that’s really not a bad extrapolation—it’s big on piney, resinous and citrus hops while also bringing an assertive shot of toffee and booze and very dark, rich caramel into play. We’re not at all sold on the term “India red ale” as a separate style, but this beer could easily fit into that mold, and be a superior example of it.

Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) Nonstop Hef Hop

City: Portland, OR
Style: Hoppy American wheat
ABV: 3.9%
The verdict: An archetypal example of the “hoppy American wheat” substyle, this beer packs an incredible amount of flavor into a 3.9% ABV frame. That truly is remarkable, because it drinks with the fuller body of a pale ale or even an IPA, presumably because the wheat malt gives it more of a chewy, bready body. Flavors are dominated by hops, however, with tons of pine, lemon and spice—like the smell of walking in the woods when the sap is drying on the trees and the floors are littered with pine needles. Sessionable, but punching way above its weight class in terms of assertiveness.

Laurelwood Public House & Brewery Tropical Rage

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City: Portland, OR
ABV: 6.5%
The verdict: Laurelwood delivered multiple solid IPAs in this tasting, but of the few we were able to sample, the best was the newly arrived Tropical Rage. It’s an entry in the modern, tropical fruity IPA style, but is more subtle and gentle in its delivery than most. On the nose, perfumey hops and light tropical fruit notes (mango? melon?) are the takeaway, which yield to more citrusy hop flavors (lemon, grapefruit) on the palate. Very easy drinking, it features some well-hidden IBUs that don’t factor prominently, and feels rather like an IPA for outdoor porch or poolside consumption. This is a quaffer, for certain.

Ninkasi Brewing Co. Noir

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City: Eugene, OR
ABV: 7.6%
The verdict: This new coffee milk stout from Ninkasi hits you with an explosion of deep, dark, bitter, coffee flavor—very much like super dark roast Italian coffee. A true “roast bomb” in a lineup of roasty beers, it’s very assertive and in-your-face, which made more sense once we saw that it was only a few tenths of a percentage away from the 8% ABV ceiling. Once it warmed and we got past the initial roast and coffee, some other flavors emerged—one taster noted “a hint of black cherry” in particular, which is certainly unexpected. It asserts the lactose side of the equation less than some of the others, certainly much less than the preceding beer, to offer a different kind of milk stout—drier, much more roasty, beer for the kind of people who like their coffee black, or maybe with just a dollop of cream. In terms of sheer volume of flavor, you certainly know it’s one of the higher-ABV offerings on the table, but that doesn’t show up in booze so much as a feeling of heft.

pFriem Winter Ale

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City: Hood River, OR
ABV: 7.5%
The verdict: How weird is this: The hoppiest beer in this entire damn tasting doesn’t say anything about “hops” or “IPA” on the bottle. You’ve never think so from the name “winter ale,” but stick your nose in a glass of this stuff and prepare yourself for a serious hop bomb, and a damn good one too. Big, resinous, green grassy and pine aromatics dominate, chased by orange citrus and a bit of doughy malt. Balance is completely in favor of the hops on this one, though. It actually reminds me favorably of our 2015 American IPA blind tasting winner White Rajah, from The Brew Kettle in Ohio. As it warms up, you get a bit more fruit in the aroma, and a twist of something that might be a bit juicier and more tropical, but definitely don’t go into this thing expecting some kind of typical winter warmer or spiced ale. It may not be labeled as IPA, but it was the best overall IPA of this tasting, and that’s a fact.

Rogue Farms Good Chit Pilsner

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City: Newport, OR
ABV: 6%
The verdict: There was literally a moment after this beer was revealed when I said “Wait, this can’t be Rogue, it doesn’t taste like Pacman yeast.” That’s how used to the brewery’s proprietary yeast strain I’d gotten; enough to forget entirely that they probably wouldn’t be using it for proper Czech pils. And lo and behold, that’s what Good Chit is—a really excellent, surprising Czech pilsner. It’s a beer that really showcases their whole Rogue Farms program and the subtleties and unique nature of making your own floor-malted German-style barley and small-batch Liberty hops. There’s a lightly toasted but not distracting quality to the maltiness that is wonderful, chased by floral, earthy and even slightly funky hops that had tasters going back to the glass repeatedly to ponder their source. Really a pilsner with excellent complexity and layers to it from Rogue.

Rogue Farms Pumpkin Patch Ale

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City: Newport, OR
ABV: 5.6%
The verdict: We really should stop being surprised each year when we drink this beer, because Rogue is making one of the best classic-style pumpkin ales in the country. We liked it last year, and it’s even better this year, really showing off the spirit of the “Rogue Farms” concept with pumpkins they grew themselves. Toasty malt is the anchor here, with great bready, deep malt complexity. You do get a hint of the “squashy” flavor that suggests the gourd itself, which is of course buttressed by spices: Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and a very nicely subtle note of vanilla. If it’s been a while since you’ve tried this one, go try it again, because it’s a great example of how classic-style pumpkin ales should be executed.

10 Barrel Cucumber Crush

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City: Bend, OR
ABV: 4%
The verdict: You really don’t have to look that far to find a cucumber beer these days—it’s an increasingly popular beer addition, especially in these lighter, tarter styles. 10 Barrel’s example manages to harness something that their earlier Sparkle Party misses, and the cucumber adds a refreshing, pleasant dimension. As one taster wrote, “Cucumber is strong on the nose but balanced in flavor.” From another: “Health? It smells healthy. It must be healthy.” And from another: “Like a carbonated cucumber water in a Thai restaurant, in a good way.” It’s honestly pretty damn refreshing stuff. If you enjoy cucumbers, this might very well be one where you could crush a full bomber yourself on the patio. After all, it’s only 4% ABV, right?

Widmer Hefeweizen

City: Portland, OR
ABV: 4.9%
The verdict: Okay, bear with us on this one: When is the last time you had really, really fresh Widmer Hefeweizen? The better question might be, have you ever had really fresh Widmer Hefeweizen? This flagship beer has been around since 1986, but the fact that it’s so accessible means that few of us have ever really had it at the peak of its flavor, and it turns out that can make quite a difference. This is something we now know, because the crafty folks at Widmer went out of their way to send “SUPER FRESH HEFEWEIZEN” (their emphasis) to Paste via crowler rather than cans or bottles, and the gambit totally paid off, because this beer when very fresh is a pretty lovely thing. Very bready, and redolent in yeasty, bread crusty flavors, it’s supported by a squeeze of lemon citrus and the very light ghost of banana, with excellent balance. There is malt complexity here, at least for drinkers who enjoy dry, grainy, bready wheat beers, but it would be easy to overlook. Don’t sleep on this old-school beer, if you have a way of getting it at the peak of its freshness. Also: We somehow misplaced the photo we took of this one. Whoops.

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer guru. You can follow him on Twitter.