3. Workhorse/RPM (Laurelwood/Boneyard)
The beer you loved last week might not be the beer you love next year. For the most part, our tastes change faster than recipes, which is why so many once-groundbreaking beers become boring over time.
This is especially true of Northwest IPAs. The beers that started the great hop race of the late ’90s and early ’00s (see our feature on BridgePort IPA) often seem tame today. Tomorrow, Pliny the Younger may drink like a Henry Weinhard’s amber.
The makers of Oregon’s two best IPAs, Laurelwood and Boneyard, know that. Which is why they updated the recipes for their flagship brands, Workhorse and RPM, in the past year or so. The results have been extraordinary.
RPM comes from the recently expanded Bend brewery run by Tony Lawrence. It’s dropped in ABV in the past year, and improved in flavor. The September batch is the best Oregon IPA I’ve ever had: crisp and fresh with huge bursts of grapefruit and cannabis.
Workhorse, from Portland’s Laurelwood, is a huge success story—especially given how this recipe came to be. When brewmaster Vasili Gletsos took over in July 2011, he quickly figured out that the brewery hadn’t contracted for enough of the elusive and expensive hops—Simcoe and Amarillo—needed to continue brewing the company’s most successful beer. Rather than use fewer hops, degrading the quality of the beer, he stopped making it altogether. “We figured we could spread them a little thinner, but we thought it would lose its integrity,” he says. “The West Coast IPA is really about the bouquet of those particular hop varieties. It was painful. It wasn’t anything I’d wish on anyone. It was a rough way to start a new job.”
After the new hop harvest the brewery brought it back as a pub-only offering, with the first batch out to toast the holidays in 2012. And then Gletsos decided to do something even more radical: change the recipe.
“We entered a contract with Craft Brewers Alliance, and they had a bunch of new varieties available to us,” he says. “And we thought it made a better beer.”
We agree. The new blend—roughly 40 percent juicy Galaxy from Australia, 50 percent Citra from Washington and a smattering of El Dorado and Simcoe—has a fresh flavor, a nice dry body and, we dare say, an even better bouquet of fresh citrus and flowers than the Workhorse now put out to pasture. MARTIN CIZMAR.