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pFriem: Old and New Converge on the Banks of Hood River

March 03, 2017

By Will Thompson, March 03, 2017

The City of Hood River humbly offers this description of their municipal water: “[Our] water is of extremely high quality from a pristine groundwater source consisting of three springs located approximately 15 miles southwest of town on the slopes of Mount Hood.”

pFriem Family Brewers take full advantage of this pristine groundwater source.

They lead their upcoming calendar with an outstanding Pilsner available year-round on draft and in bottle. Brewed with Gambrinus & Weyermann German Pilsner malt, and Perle, Saphir, and Tettnang hops, this flagship beer still manages to fit within the Pacific Northwest brewing ethos. The malt-forward beer, with its dominant honey-sweetness, doesn’t feature much in the way of hop aroma or bitterness. Instead, the soft carbonation, and smooth, full body pleasantly overwhelms.  Perhaps it is the Hood River water mimicking the soft Pilsen water that makes this beer so great.

Another exceptionally quaffable offering, the Belgian Wit, is distributed in bottle during the summer. While the pilsner is classic and refined, the Wit, with its huge bubblegum flavors and spritzed conditioning, is truly pound-worthy. In fact, my 500 mL bottle was gone within a few minutes. Thanks to my local Grocery Outlet’s dusty, yet curiously stocked beer section, I was able to enjoy this beer on a cold February. Gasp in awe of my courage. I risked the 6-29-16 bottling date in the name of this review. Somehow still delicious in the dead of winter, I look forward to having this cost-efficient offering fresh in the coming summer months.

My experience with last year’s spring seasonal Saison suggests it will deliver fun fruity esters of banana that will remind you of European Hefeweizen and those Tyrolean mountain-top lodges with their beers, tubed meats, and views. But my personal tasting biases did not pick up alcohol heat or tartness that I align with stronger American-brewed Saisons. Drinkable? You bet. After all, Hood River, Oregon is fed by glacial melt water and reliable rain throughout the year.

An Internet query failed me in my search to find mineral data about Hood River municipal water. I cannot tell you whether or not pFriem uses filters in their production facility or drastically alters water chemistry before brewing. But I feel confident saying that spring water from the slopes of an 11,249-foot volcanic spire in the Pacific Northwest can provide unrivaled municipal water. pFriem and fellow Hood River brewers are starting with a massive advantage.

Is that why the previous three beers found the bottom of my stomach so quickly? With that in mind, I began thinking about what 2017 offerings I would be looking forward to from pFriem. The summer Bosbessen promises ripe fruit and white pepper as a result of the barrel aged Lambic sitting on fresh blueberries.

I suggest keeping an eye out for the Flanders Blonde or Red, both of which are available in the Spring and Fall and see 18 months in Pinot Noir barrels. With Hood River being so close to the Pinot Noir powerhouses in the Willamette Valley, pFriem’s barrels have probably maintained thise subtle Pinot Noir flavors that reflect the traditional Flanders style.

Despite living in premium wine country, I am in something of a beer desert. I normally appreciate that, thanks to pFriem, I can get beers with a more European focus for a reasonable price at the grocery store down the street. They make beers that will take me away … but these styles could also help me see these brewers, and this water, from a more local perspective.

Time for another trip to the store! Time to try one of their more American styles, such as the annual IPA or winter seasonal Mosaic Single Hop Pale. 

The flavors are raw and expressive, forgoing complexity and mellowness for a massive, focused flavor that is easy to pinpoint and remember.”

I find it so exciting to sit down with a single hopped beer. It is the same excitement I get when barrel tasting young wines. The flavors are raw and expressive, forgoing complexity and mellowness for a massive, focused flavor that is easy to pinpoint and remember.

This Mosaic, a hops varietal first commercially available in 2012, is a product of the Yakima Valley and a daughter of Simcoe. Definitive citrus persists from aroma through finish against an easy malt background and dry, crisp finish that made it really difficult to leave enough of the beer to help finish writing this paragraph. Imagine focusing on their great European style beers, while 500 mL of this shy monster was sitting on the shelf. Find this huge, freshly-hopped seasonal offering throughout March and into April, find it quickly.

Hurry also to acquire the aggressively-hopped winter Double IPA. pFriem treats crispy water with a deft hopping hand. I am looking forward to the Fall release of the CDA; an ale that would go perfectly with the smell of the first Fall rains after the drier summer months. Stockpile a few, and you can enjoy a CDA while the first Pacific Northwest snows of late 2017 dust a Douglas Fir or two.

A wine industry friend of mine had a tantalizing 375 mL Barrel Aged Saison, so I bribed her to share it with my charcoal grilled elk steaks. Bottled 01/03/2017, this beer was a treat to the senses. Six months of exposure to the Brettanomyces yeast, infused within the Chardonnay barrel, combined with a dry hopping, resulted in an amazing sparkle that zipped off the palate like a fine dry Champagne. Ironically, prior to savoring this outstanding Brett beer out of wine glasses, my winemaking friend laughingly reminisced on having spent all day in a cellar blasting Brettanomyces off wine barrels with scalding water.

At pFriem, great water, creative brewers, and a vision to combine the best of Old and New World styles all converge thanks to Hood River.

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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