Beer Sherpa Roundup: Little Beast, Level, and Pelican
We approach a weekend and as such there’s some chance you’ll be out enjoying an adult beverage. Here are three beers to watch for.
Little Beast Black Cap (8.4%). A couple weeks ago, Stan Hieronymus was in town. He wanted to see this West Coast Grocery I’d raved about, and so we started there. When it came time to switch venues, I mentioned Little Beast. Stan was leaning toward Wayfinder until I mentioned Little Beast was Chuck Porter’s new place, and he responded, “That’s Chuck’s place? We gotta go to Little Beast.” This should be your thinking, as well. Oregon now has several breweries devoted to or very serious about wild ales (Upright, De Garde, Alesong, Block 15, Solera, Chuck’s former employer Logsdon Farmhouse Ales to name a few), so it makes it a little tough to break through the public’s consciousness. Let me say this without equivocation, though: Little Beast is every bit as accomplished as the state’s best.
I’ve been particularly impressed with the fruit beers, and we started with a bottle of Tree Spirit (nomination for best beer name), a kriek. It was a wonderful beer, with full cherry richness, including that cinnamon spice notes the pits give. But I like Black Cap, a raspberry beer, even more. It’s incredibly lush and indulgent, with a sweetish berry note accented by acidity and a whiff or two of funk underneath. They’re blackcap raspberries and so sweeter and more jammy—and they kick a sumptuous color. You have to order a bottle if you visit the pub, and you definitely should.
Level Cool Kids Drink Pale Ale (5.4%). One of the most unexpected developments in craft beer has been the collapse of the pale ale. For decades it was the king of craft, but after IPAs displaced it in 2011, the humble pale became a taproom ghost. It was replaced by IPAs that ranged from 4.5% to 6%, pale ale’s former domain, and for years people have seemed happy enough with that state of affairs. But there’s a reason pales were so popular for so long—they hit that ultimate sweet spot between drinkability and intensity. They are as full-flavor as you can go while still making a beer that tastes good pint after pint.
A few breweries have been tentatively retaking this lost terrain, and none better than Level with their Cool Kids Drink Pale Ale (a name that winks at this brief history I just recounted). Cool Kids has two things you really need: a bit of body and a bit of hop zing. The two create that perfect storm of intensity and drinkability. The hops are blend of old and new (Idaho 7 along with Simcoe and Cascade), and they’re aromatic and tasty in the modern fashion. But they also contain a pop of bitterness that is a perfect balance to the fuller body. Pales have evolved, of course. Cool Kids lacks that heavy caramel note that was once pale’s hallmark, and I have to conclude that’s an improvement. It’s a very particular flavor profile, and limits what the hops can do. I gulped my first pint of Cool Kids down with abandon and immediately re-upped, something I rarely do in this era of plenty. And then I gulped that pint down, too.
Pelican Sangre Del Sol (5.1%). The citrus IPA is beginning to run its course, and I think we’re all happy about that. So often they didn’t work or, even when they did, the citrus would compete with the hops in a way that just seemed unnecessary. Maybe it helps that Sangre Del Sol comes in at just 5.1% and has a fairly decent dose of hop bitterness. The idea here is to let the blood oranges take center stage, rather than using them as a counterfeit hop. The hops do provide a counter-punch with bitterness, but otherwise stay out of the way. It is quite a sweet beer as a consequence, and almost shamelessly full of fruit flavor. Were it not for that bitterness, I’d consign this to the same trash barge on which so many other citrus beers have been tossed. But despite myself, I loved it. The flavors really work. Sally and I were in Pacific City watching that interminable game 3 of the World Series, and I needed a workhorse to get me through those innings. (Just 13, though; eventually even we bailed.)
Happy Friday, everyone—