Keep Spring Beers Weird

Buoy Beer Company’s fifth vintage of Love, Lost at Sea barleywine is aged in Freeland Spirits bourbon barrels.
Buoy Beer Company’s fifth vintage of Love, Lost at Sea barleywine is aged in Freeland Spirits bourbon barrels.
written by Beau Eastes

Having lived in the Pacific Northwest for more than 20 years, I’ve come to love and appreciate the craft beer calendar so many of our amazing breweries operate on.

Summer brings out IPAs and all their goodness, fall is time for fresh hop experimentation, and winter is usually one glorious high ABV haze.

But the spring, oh the spring is when things get wild and anything goes. It’s the seasonal equivalent of international waters or Malheur County.

Here’s what we’re drinking while we’re embracing the shoulder season behind March and April.

ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING FROM HAIR OF THE DOG: In February, craft beer pioneer Alan Sprints announced he’s shutting down Hair of the Dog, the iconic eastside Portland brewery he founded in 1993. Your favorite barrel-aged beer most likely owes a debt of gratitude to Sprints, who popularized the Old World beer-making technique at a time when most U.S.-based craft brewers were just trying to get local beer drinkers to put down their Bud Light and try a pale ale. Sprints has said he’ll keep his taproom open until some time in the summer. We’ll be stocking up on any Hair of the Dog beers we can get before Sprints closes his doors.

VAN HENION’S HELLES LAGER: Former Boneyard brewers are taking a stab at a lager-focused operation right in the middle of Bend’s IPA empire? Sounds fantastic. The beer geekery is strong among the Van Henion team, with founders Mark Henion, Dana Henion and John Van Duzer—See what they did there with the name?—boasting more than 65 years of experience. Their Helles is already selling out all over Bend, both on draft and in cans. It’s a fantastic clean and crisp counterweight to the abundance of IPA that now dominates tap handles across the state.

GREAT NOTION AND MCMENAMINS RECIPE SWAP: A brilliant new take on the collaboration movement, Great Notion and McMemanins traded recipes and put their own spin on a classic beer from the other brewery. Great Notion took McMemanin’s iconic Ruby Ale and amped up the raspberries while adding notes of vanilla and lime for a new beer called Ruby Jammin. McMenamins, in turn, came out with Cold as Ripe, a cold-fermented version of Great Notion’s Ripe IPA. Cans are tough to come by at this point, but every McMenamins in Oregon and Washington will be serving both beers on tap while supplies last.

BUOY BARLEYWINE: Astoria’s Buoy Beer Company makes some of the best lagers in the state, so when they swing in the opposite direction and put out a barleywine, it gets our attention. Love, Lost at Sea— this is the fifth version in as many years produced by Buoy—ages in Freeland Spirits bourbon barrels for 10 months before being deemed ready for consumption. Bottles are available around the state, but if you can, swing by Buoy’s Astoria taproom and order a flight of vintages from years past and see if you can taste the subtle changes in how the barleywine ages over the years.

ECLIPTIC AND WAYFINDER COLLABORATION: Alright, we’re a sucker for a classic collaboration when it involves two of our favorite breweries. These two Portland beer houses first joined forces last year to release their Ecliptic + Wayfinder Cold IPA, and it proved popular enough that the beer is part of Ecliptic’s recent launch into Idaho. Do you really need another IPA in your life, you ask? Yes, yes you do. Cold IPAs taste great—there’s a crispness there that’s reminiscent of a lager—AND the new style infuriated a portion of the craft beer world that takes itself too serious when Wayfinder introduced the new style and lexicon in 2018. That’s a win win in our book.

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