Drank: Fallin' For Brew

Raking through Oregon's wide selection of seasonal beer.

Like those soggy leaves you should be raking up about now, autumn beers come in different shades of yellow, orange and brown. For brewers, the months between summer’s crisp lagers and winter's spicy booze bombs are a free-for-all. The seasonal shelf at local beer shops is crowded with a mishmash of bitter fresh-hopped pale ales, roasty porters and cinnamon-blasted pumpkin stouts.

What should you be drinking on these cool, damp nights? Five WW writers—Martin Cizmar, Rebecca Jacobson, John Locanthi, Brian Yaeger and Robert Ham—graded 10 widely available Oregon-made autumn beers on a 100-point scale.


Rogue Chatoe Pumpkin Patch Ale

Score: 85

Pumpkin beers present a paradox. You want them before Halloween, but it takes at least a month to get from harvest to bottle, so brews using fresh pumpkins rather than canned squash or fake flavoring agents come out closer to Christmas. Rogue set its own schedule for this pale-ish ale by harvesting pumpkins early from its own patch. It's not the best pumpkin beer we've tasted, but it was the most impressive fall seasonal we found for this taste-off.

Tasters said: "Smooth, gets better by the taste" and "Tastes like pumpkins!"


Oakshire Big Black Jack Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter

Score: 82

Combining pumpkins and chocolate is like buying your kid a Batman costume: It just seems too easy. But Eugene's Oakshire still gets credit for balancing two big, distinct flavors. At 9 percent alcohol, it'll keep you warm, too.

Tasters said: "Just awesome" and "Spicy and chocolatey, nice pumpkin aftertaste."

McMenamins Black Widow Porter

Score: 80

McMenamins is bringing Black Widow to all its brewpubs this year for the first time. An outpost in Salem has been making this brew for two decades, but this year all locations are making their own barrels. Expect slight variation in this pitch-black, licorice-infused tonic from the tap, or seek out a bottle made at Edgefield. 

Tasters said: "Nice and chocolatey, nice liquorice root goes with roast malts" and "Delicious, chocolatey, licoricey, tasty!"


Alameda Stubs Old Crow Hazelnut Porter

Score: 59

The Willamette Valley grows most of our nation's hazelnuts, so it's smart for this Northeast Portland brewery to capitalize with this brownish black brew.

Tasters said: "Roasty, toasty hazelnut aftertaste" and "Long-lasting head, raisiny, hazelnuts in aftertaste."

Lompoc Monster Mash

Score: 52

New Old Lompoc's Monster Mash is sort of a brewhouse brass monkey, usually concocted from whatever leftover malts are handy. This year's version is very chocolatey, but the thin body lacked the appropriate heft.

Tasters said: "Like a watered-down, lighter version of the Black Widow Porter" and "Like mixing Nesquik with water."|

BridgePort Witch Hunt

Score: 51

New this fall, this BridgePort seasonal is very subtly spiced and could easily pass as a summer beer.

Tasters said: "Crisp, slightly citrusy, but really bland" and "More gingerbread man than pumpkin pie."

Bridgeport Hop Harvest Pilsner

Score: 45

We let BridgePort take a second bob for the apple with this fresh-hopped lager. No luck.

Tasters said: "Duller than the draft version I had two weeks ago—like it died in the bottle" and "Tastes like they needed to leave the hops on the bine longer."

Oakshire Harvest Ale

Score: 38

A copper-colored brew with earthy Old World noble hops that did nothing to evoke the flavors of the season. It's not good, either, with a lightly metallic flavor.

Tasters said: "No theme here" and "Tastes like a pile of rusty leaves."

Captured By Porches Undead Porter

Score: 19

Our bottle of this porter, which is made using unmalted grains, may have been spoiled, given the terrible showing for this typically solid Portland brewery.

Tasters said: "Super heady with a lingering, disgusting aftertaste...buttery and almost sour" and "Spoiled."

Flat Tail Feathertop Pumpkin Stout

Score: 15

Remember when a stingy neighbor dropped a penny in your trick-or-treat bag? That's how we felt after trying this undrinkable mix of pumpkin, vanilla bean and cinnamon bark from Corvallis. The ambitious mix of ingredients boded well, but the result was an unmitigated disaster.

Tasters said: “Tastes like they rubbed Sour Patch Kids on a dirty elevator button” and “Spoiled, sour and no pumpkin at all.” 

DRINK: Beers gathered from New Seasons Market, Fred Meyer, McMenamins, the BeerMongers and Belmont Station.

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