[These are nine of our favorite ten beers of the past year. For our Beer of the Year, click here.]
2. Swill (10 Barrel)
Call it brewmaster Tonya Cornett’s Berliner Period.
Picasso went through a stage in which he used warm, rosy colors. Cornett, the head of experimental brewing at Bend’s 10 Barrel, has lately been the queen of the tangy, effervescent Berliner Weisses.
10 Barrel Swill is a sweet, citric grapefruit radler that may have been dismissed as a lady’s beer in another era. Contemporary Portland men have come to love it, too: Swill even won second place in the year-end poll conducted by the New School beer blog, a bastion of bearded beer-geekiness. We’ve also come to love it.
Swill starts with a base of sour wheat beer that won a gold medal at the most recent Great American Beer Festival. That beer is called German Sparkle Party, and it’s been known to put on various flavors of party pants thanks to various fruits. There’s an apricot version and a cherry version, as well as more challenging iterations like cucumber and pumpkin. All are called “Crush,” and have nothing in common with the raspberry- and woodruff-flavored syrups traditionally associated with Berliner Weisse.
In the case of Swill, German Sparkle Party is used to make a beer like Stiegl Grapefruit Radler, one of the most perfect quaffers on warm, sunny days. Whereas Stiegl’s submission has only 2.5 percent alcohol, Swill remains sessionable at 4.5 percent. Grapefruit juice works very well as a flavoring agent here: Swill tastes like a vodkaless greyhound, a tequilaless paloma or a Champagne-less grapefruit mimosa.
“We wanted to brew a beer that you could crush in the sun, and Swill was just that,” says 10 Barrel co-owner Jeremy Cox. “Technically difficult to brew but easy to drink.”
Given Portlanders’ propensity for riding bikes from brewpub to taphouse, it’s worth noting that “radler” translates to cyclist in German. Cox wants fair-weather two-wheelers to know that this beer will be back for their next long summer ride. It was originally brewed as a one-off, but given the ecstatic response, it’ll be back.
“We’ve been tweaking the recipe all winter,” he says. “We’re excited to release it again this summer.” BRIAN YAEGER.