18 Oct

As you know by now, I recently found myself in Hood River and finally made it to Pfriem, one of the newest breweries to open their doors here in Oregon.  I had heard rumors that they specialize in Belgian-style beers, so I wasn’t sure this would be my thing (I have an aversion, you could say, to the candy used in brewing strong Belgian ales). But if I’ve learned anything over my beer-drinking years, it is that you cannot judge a beer by its name or its label. And I was pleasantly reminded of this at Pfriem, finding an array of beer styles, all of which were pretty damn tasty. Belgian influence? yeah. Northwest influence? yeah. The beer was great, so take the trip and grab a pint. Not convinced? Read on for more details.

I do have to start briefly with the location. If you have read any of my other posts you know that I love to travel. Beer becomes a part of just about every trip I take, and I love to write about the beer, but I also love to talk about the cool places I go to. This was no exception. Pfriem isn’t in the downtown, but it is only two minutes away, directly across the highway in the industrial area. As soon as you round the last turn, you see a brand new city park right along the river, where you can have a picnic watching the kiteboarders and windsurfers or you can enjoy the sandy  beach and take a swim. The sign says there are plans to expand the park along the waterfront, but what is there is beautiful and well-designed. Directly across the street, looking over the park and beyond to the river, is Pfriem. Talk about location! Behind their building it appears some three to four story residential buildings with some ground floor retail are being completed. Should be an interesting community and amazing place to live  in a few years.

The building  itself looks and feels industrial but has a nice balance with a lot of natural wood on the exterior and interior. We pulled up to the bar, but the booths and big open tables were also inviting. They used wood at the bar, on the walls, for the furniture, and for cool light and hanging fixtures which provided a pseudo ceiling much lower than the real ceiling. This made the space welcoming and cozy, and improved the acoustics, even though the space was completely open to the brewing operations and industrial energy. At the same time, the high ceilings and lots of windows let in a ton of natural light. I really enjoyed the atmosphere. I can’t tell you how many breweries need to learn a lesson or two from the interior design here. Those places can get so sterile or messy feeling when there isn’t that extra buffering layer, or so loud, that I can’t really sit and enjoy conversation with friends over a second beer.

Anyway, for those of you here to hear about the beer:

Wit: floral, spicy, effervescent, 18 IBUs, 5.1%
Smells like what I would expect out of a wit, lots of clove and banana, and both my friend and I noticed some coriander.  There was a nice fruit to the beer, but mostly I noticed the spice, which was more floral or herbal, and in part coming from the coriander. It finishes with a dry crispness leaving just a hint of the spice in your mouth. This had a lot going on, but was very light, making it a perfect summer or all-day drinking beer.

Belgian strong blonde: pear, clove, elegance, 30 IBUs, 7.5%
Really light aroma. What I do smell is pear and definitely clove. The beer itself is really light and has a slight effervescence. It finishes with some bitter hop and lingering fruit, but is very light and drinkable.

Blonde IPA: citrus, refreshing, snappy, 50IBUs, 6.2%

Michelle says it smells like nutritional yeast, a little sour and almost cheesy, and I have to agree. It is a beautiful golden hue with both citrus and floral hops. It is crisp but with a little bit of bitter lingering on the pallette. It has a light, clean mouthfeel making it very refreshing. And it finishes with just a slight sweetness from the malt. This was an excellent beer that I brought home for Michael to try.

IPA: pine, grapefruit,rich maltiness; 65 IBUs, 7.2%

Same yeast smell as the blonde ipa, but a little more subtle as there is much more hop-the heavenly pine and citrus kind. This beer was delightfully complex; there was pine, then citrus, and then back to pine before leaving me with a lovely grapefruit bitterness lingering on the tongue. It was full-bodied and rich, almost juicy. Although none of their beers have been simple, this was the most complex beer so far on the taster tray.

Belgian strong dark: fig, dark chocolate, ripe fruit, 38 IBUs, 10.25%

A lot of fruit like raisins and dates and figs and a slight candy aroma. This was a sweet and fruity beer. The fig, hefty malt and high alcohol gave it an almost port-like quality. This was a really well made beer and with the caramel notes from the malt, and the rich winter fruits, this would be great with bread pudding come wintertime. The alcohol was definitely noticeable. And it was a bit too sweet for me, although the alcohol does help balance this out. It isn’t overly sweet if you like a nice belgian strong ale or english-style barleywine. It just isn’t my type of beer on most occasions.

Belgian IPA: peach, passionfruit, luscious, 40 IBUs, 9%

Smells fantastic. Mostly peachy with just a hint of biscuit from the yeast. Warm, rich fruit flavor. Very good. The hop is all citrus and floral which is perfect with the bright, peachy fruit flavor. Very clean, light to medium bodied. Slight dryness to the finish with the hops.

Belgian Stout: coffee, cocoa, cardamom, velvety, 40IBUs, 11%

Rich chocolate aroma with a hint of coffee. High malt bill with a good, hefty mouthfeel-the way I like my stouts.  Delicious dark chocolate cocoa and coffee on the palette. Again, a great winter beer. We both wish we didn’t have to drive home after this, because you can definitely tell its 11% ABV from the first taste. It almost took away from its smoothness.

I loved the atmosphere, thought the beers were great, and enjoyed a bite of my friend’s brownie dessert.  I am excited to get back sometime soon with Michael and/or Brian in tow. We will be picking up our Marchesi wine club shipment in a couple weeks…sounds perfect.

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