TERMINAL GRAVITY in JULY 2007
When we visited TG last weekend, we were not only treated to glorious views and impeccable hospitality, but also some of the finest beers in our fair state. Drinking this stuff at the source is an experience not to be missed. Here's what we tried:
ESG (Extra Special Golden)
This is the locals' favorite. One bartender said that they sell more of this at the brewery than their IPA! The color is as named, limpid and golden, with a fine head and delicate carbonation. The beer has a delicious floral, herbaceous aroma that carries through on the palate, where it is almost unbelievably refreshing. The key is freshness: ESG here in Portland tends to heavy up a bit as it ages, with the hops coming more into the forefront. Have a fresh pour and you'll taste maybe the most thirst-quenching beer in the state. The quintessential summer beer, snappy, sunny, and dry. And the awesome news is that they'll be bottling it soon!
The flagship, and deservedly so. This is one of the best iterations of the style you can taste, and with the added hoppiness, it holds up better way out here in the big city (but see my tasting notes for fresh IPA below…oh, yum!). Still, there's something to be said for looking out at Ruby Peak with a tall frosty in your hand. The beer has a nice malty minerality underneath a wash of lemon zest. On the tongue the hops read as luscious ruby red grapefruit, with a mouthwatering herbal finish. Not nearly as heavy as many IPAs now, but still a hop-bomb in the true Oregonian style. Effin' great brew!
SDS ("San Diego style" IPA)
The name here is a barb at the enfants terribles down at Arrogant Bastard, who have humbly re-named what we've been calling Northwestern-style IPAs for years now. All that sun and salty wind must have made them forget… but we love ‘em anyway! I digress; basically, SDS is a double IPA, an explosion of hops- and it more than stands up with its sunny southern brethren. The color is a dark amber, with assertive bubbles and a compelling nose of cracked white pepper and grapefruit. It's floral and broad on the tongue, with a long, persistent finish. What's remarkable, and this is a theme throughout the TG catalog, is how light on its feet this beer is; a totally refreshing hoppy kick to the head, its warm, malty finish notwithstanding. Take that, Gargoyle Boys! As John From Cincinnati would say, we got our eyes on you!
This is TG's take on a Belgian Trippel, but, in typically iconoclastic fashion, brewed with ale yeast. In reality, it should probably be called an American Strong Ale, but that's just too long! The nose is rich and warming, and it's so on the palate as well, with expressive floral notes wound around a malty core. The finish is rather dry, surprisingly so, almost reminiscent of a big Saison, with lingering flavors of hoppy green peppercorns. And, wow, how can a beer this big be so refreshing?! Be careful with this one; at 8.5% ABV, it's a heavyweight.
The first thing you notice about this beer is that you can see right through it; it's a shade lighter than cola, which the TGers say is the traditional coloration of porters. But on the tongue it's all you'd expect, wonderful fleshy flavors of chocolate, toffee, and cocoa powder, with a hint of licorice. The finish is awash in roasted filberts, with a smooth hoppiness and a silky mouthfeel.
You'd expect a top-notch barleywine from these guys, and you'd not be disappointed. And, at around $12 a growler, it's the least expensive one I've had in some time. The nose is vast and complex, a riot of roasted cherries, rose petals, fresh wort, and caramel. On the tongue it positively preens; this is a beer to be savored with a good cigar or a long sunset. The toffee and amaretto flavors swirl around a balancing note of lemony acidity, much like a good Vin Santo. The finish is a touch sweet, but not heavy or cloying. If only they bottled it, so we could cellar some! Legend is, they broke out a five-year-old barrel a year ago, and happy mayhem ensued…
On the tour, head brewer Dean grinned a wicked grin and pulled a twisty metal contraption out of a corner. Heading right for the bottling tank, he plugged it in, turned a switch, and out poured one of the most delicious beverages I have ever had (and I've had a few). This was brand-spanking-new IPA bound for bottling, an ice-cold 35 degrees or so, bright, clear, almost glowing in the glasses we'd happily lugged around on our tour. It was completely different than the "normal" thing, with explosively peppery, white grapefruit hops that just danced on the tongue. The great treatment had to sway me a bit, but this might just have been the most refreshing drink I've ever had, second only to that cave-born spring in the mountains of eastern Kentucky… But you probably won't ever get to try this, so I should shut up and not be a tease.
Now that you're thirsty, come to John's Marketplace in Portland, Oregon and grab a sixer of IPA and see if I'm lying! We'll see you here…
yrs,Mr. Riggs, the Beer-lovin' Cork-Dork