This past weekend was the Portland International Brewfest – an annual event that fills up PDX’s Pearl District as thousands of thirsty beer enthusiasts show up to sample the festival’s massive and tightly-curated selection of beers from across the globe. We couldn’t miss out, so we put on our drinking shoes, packed our notebooks, and took tasting notes until we were too drunk to hold a pen. Now that the hangover has finally subsided, we’ve combed through our notes to share nine of our favorites.
Why only nine? Because our tasting notes were completely illegible after three hours of drinking glass after glass of high-octane craft beer, and the last one on the list is technically a cider. So without further ado, here’s the Manual’s guide to the best beer in the world:
Ten Fidy Imperial Stout – Oskar Blues Brewery – CO
This was the first one we tried at the festival, and it set the bar high. Really high. This might be one of the best beers we’ve had all year. It’s dark as night (we held it up to the sun and couldn’t even see through it) with strong roasted malt flavors mingling alongside bold coffee and chocolate notes. The flavor is so full you’ll hardly notice the high IBUs.
Armored Fist Double CDA – Boneyard Beer Company – OR
CDA stands for Cascadian Dark Ale. It’s a relatively new style of beer that’s starting to pop up in the Northwest, and it’s f@%kign delicious. This one sits in the glass with a hazy reddish brown color and a thin foam on top. When it hits your tongue the flavor is just as hoppy as your nose leads you to believe, and finishes strong with plenty of citrus and dark malt.
Oaked Double IPA with Birch Syrup – Great Divide Brewing Company – CO
Colorado is killing it in the brewing game right now. They had a handful of the best beers at the entire event, and this one had us coming back for seconds. It pours with a murky orange-gold color and hits the palate with a woody, piney, hoppy flavor that’s offset with a light birch syrup sweetness. A clean, fizzy finish makes you want another sip every time you swallow.
Gose – Upright Brewery – OR
Gose is a German style beer that’s known for it’s salty, savory, and tart flavors, and even though they’re brewing it in Oregon, Upright absolutely nailed the recipe. This one comes through with a wheaty, salty, bread-like flavor with a satisfying finish reminiscent of cheese and champagne. It’s got a slight citrusy tang, but it’s not really tart, which makes it super drinkable.
Grand Cru Belgian Strong Pale Ale – North Coast Brewing Co. – CA
It’s hard to believe that this badboy weighs in at almost 13% ABV – the flavors are so robust you can hardly tell. It’s aged in whiskey barrels and brewed with agave nectar, so it’s got these great oaky bourbon notes mingling with sweet cactus hints. You’d think that wouldn’t mix, but somehow it comes together to form a wonderfully complex and highly refreshing brew.
Le Freak Belgian IPA – Green Flash Brewery – CA
Le Freak is aptly named – it’s freakishly good. Pours with golden yellow glow and a thick off-white head, and smells strongly of yeast, oranges, and hops. The flavor is about as hoppy as you’d expect from a straight-up IPA, but with a good bready finish. It’s surprisingly crisp, and features hints of clove and coriander. Great for warm weather.
Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout – Anderson Valley Brewing Company – CA
We thought Ten Fidy was going to be the best stout we had all day, and then we tasted this work of art. Aged in Wild Turkey barrels, this beer picks up all kinds of great flavors. It’s light and oaky up front with a slippery smooth vanilla-coffee flavor going down. Caramel and chocolate hints come through as well, but the sweetness is never overpowering.
Double Bastard – Stone Brewing – OR
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking Stone’s Arrogant Bastard Ale, you’ll probably recognize this one. Double Bastard is essentially the same thing, but with double the hops. As such, it’s got a mind-blowing full-bodied hop flavor that hits the palate with hints of citrus, pine, and a faint taste of cherries. You’re not worthy.
White Rider of Conquest Belgian Strong Pale Ale – Double Mountain Brewery – OR
This beer is every bit as epic as its name suggests. It pours with a solid gold color and a pillowy white head, and hits your nostrils with a light citrusy aroma. When sipped, the citrus flavor becomes even more apparent and mingles with whispy hints of clove and pine. It’s wonderfully light for a Belgian strong pale ale, which makes it a great summertime sipper.
Oaked Dry Cider – Wandering Aengus Ciderworks – OR
It’s not a beer, but we liked this cider so much that we just had to mention it. It’s appley and tart, but with an array of subtle flavors gained from oak barrel aging. The drink finishes clean and crisp with a mildly spicy and clove-like aftertaste.