Jazz legend Louis Armstrong once said if you have to ask what swing is, "you'll never know." The same thing can be said when trying to define what makes Portland's world-class beers so irresistible.
If there's one lesson I've learned after years of sharing my favorite pours with friends and family while verbosely explaining their origins, perfect pouring temperatures and selecting optimum glassware, it's that the best of the bunch require very little explanation.
It is in this light that I present three of the most exciting beers I tasted this year. I'll tell you about them here, but you should go out and try them—all three have been relatively easy to find this year. After all, if you have to ask what makes them great, you'll never really know.
Culmination: Momentary Lapse of Reason (Hazy IPA, 8.4% ABV)
A hyper-aromatic schmear of overripe tropical fruit atop a perfectly doughy base, Culmination's Momentary Lapse of Reason is what all tourists should be served after they step off the plane in Hawaii. The blend of Citra and El Dorado hops leap out of the glass like an Olympic pole vaulter, but they're balanced in the oft-sweet style by a crisp alcoholic bite, creating one of the most dangerously drinkable 8.4 percent ales I've ever come across. You don't like hops? Yeah, right.
Upright: Ives, Blend 3 (barrel-aged sour, 7% ABV)
An unfruited blend of six handpicked barrels, the third iteration of Upright's Belgian lambic-inspired Ives is among the most subtle and elegant American sour ales I've ever tasted, full stop. Peach skin, vanilla and a sprinkle of wine-cellar funk explode inside a universe of other flavors, forming a beer that easily holds its own among those from world-renowned apothecaries like Cantillon, 3 Fonteinen, and others. There is perhaps no brewery in the United States more unsung for its ability to bottle lightning, and this is the finest example of the year.
Von Ebert: Pilsner (4.9% ABV)
Acclaimed ex-Commons brewer Sean Burke has been hard at work building the brewery at Von Ebert's East Portland wild-and-sour-focused location, but it's his crisp, clean Pilsner—one of his first projects at Von Ebert's Pearl District location—that's most impossible to drink slowly. A delicate blend of spicy Tettnanger and floral Perle hops dance inside this masterpiece, with just the right amount of husky European barley flavor on the finish. Medically, I'm sure I've had too much in 2018. Mentally, I'm not sure that's possible.