Josh Pfriem is the rare brewer whose mastery runs the full gamut of styles.
Pfriem Family Brewers' Belgian Strong Dark was WW's 2014 Beer of the Year, and its Golden Promise Single Malt Pale Ale made our top 10 in 2015. Meanwhile, Pfriem's Pilsner won a silver medal at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival. All the while, the Hood River brewery has been busy bringing fresh bottles to market, on a nearly weekly basis.
Pfriem's bottled beers made their debut April 3, 2015, and by the end of the year it had released 22 different ones. Our favorite was the Double IPA. It's the best imperial IPA we've had in a while—even if it's not one that beer geeks hunt for like Moby-Dick, giving mad shout-outs every time one is sighted.
Pfriem's double has not had such a reception since its 2013 debut. But take another look if you see it in bottles, as we spotted at the end of 2015. Four malt varieties and five hop types go into this mouth-filling brew, making for a substantive blend of sweet and bitter flavors. Even at 9 percent ABV, it almost seems unboozy…until it kicks in.
The first pour out of the bottle releases an invisible cloud of hop perfume, and in the glass it forms a fluffy white head. Aromas nearly somersault out of the glass. Malt and hops blaze their own trails across the palate, and it finishes dry yet surprisingly clean. And yes, if there happens to be a lovely little slice of roast lamb, pork or beef on the plate next to that glass, umami bliss. Do try this at home.
Pfriem may have been the prime mover on this one, but doesn't take all the credit.
"All of our beers are a team effort," says brewmaster Josh Pfriem, "especially the ones that get brewed year over year. With that said, I lead the charge on this one. Back in 2013, we hadn't done any really big, hop-forward beers yet. When I told the brew crew that we were brewing a double IPA, they looked at me in shock: 'Really, Pfriem is going to brew a double IPA?' I said, 'Yes, we are going to do it the Pfriem way, though—balanced, clean, hop-forward and drinkable.'"
He's four for four.
Is it the same beer Pfriem started with back in 2013?
Maybe, maybe not.
"We feel this beer has gotten better year over year; process changes, hop changes, malt changes, and this year finishing the beer with our centrifuge," Pfriem says. "Every year we have been proud and excited about this beer, but this year we really felt we were able to take it to the next level. We have made a lot of equipment, process and ingredient changes this past year that affects all our beers, but this beer is one that really shined through the changes."