Caldera Big Island Red Sea

The Big Island Brewhaus, tucked into previously-existing Tako Taco Taqueria, has a lineup of beers that’s amazing, and I was surprised to discover a beer called Red Sea — brewed in collaboration with none other than Caldera Brewing from Ashland in Southern Oregon.

On top of a delectable imperial red ale — think hoppy IPA but with red-hued caramel malts for added body — chocolate, molasses, pink peppercorns and Himalayan pink salt were added for richness and spice. The end flavor is not unlike a sweet-and-savory molé

Hillsboro Hops Beer: BridgePort Long Ball Ale

When the new Short Season A baseball team announced it was coming to the Portland suburb of Hillsboro, there was a modicum of excitement. Who needs an MLB team when we’ve got MLS and even MLU teams? However, when the hardball team from Hillsboro announced they were going to be called  the Hops, well now, stand back. (Though confoundingly, the hop cone team mascot’s name is Barley…) Stepping up to the plate to sponsor the Hillsboro Hops and create an exclusive beer is Oregon’s longest running craft brewery, BridgePort. Long Ball Ale was brewed to honor beer’s MVP ingredient as well as the sports team named after it. The beer is a light-bodied, summery golden ale.

Barley Brown’s Turmoil CDA

In Portland, IPAs sell themselves. Over one in four beers we consume locally is a hop-tastic IPA, and in terms of sales growth, they’re speeding up over 30 percent. While we don’t have fancy sales stats for stouts, suffice it to say, people around here mostly shy away from them, possibly for fear they’re “too heavy.”

That bias doesn’t take into account the fact that a dry Irish stout is one of the lightest classic beer styles, or that boisterous Russian Imperial Stouts completely dominate user-generated best lists on RateBeer and BeerAdvocate. Where does that leave a style that is essentially a hybrid of the two? Black IPAs are recognized formally as American-style black ales by the Brewers Association, but are known locally and colloquially as Cascadian Dark Ales.

In this era of ever-hybridized India Pale Ales, only the dark version — in which recipes call for the hop additions of an IPA with the roasted malt bill of a stout or porter — has really taken off at the races. It’s safe to say Turmoil CDA from Eastern Oregon’s Barley Brown’s is the odds-on favorite.

Stickmen seasonal saisons

It’s a gospel fact that the best way to soak up the glory of these early summer-like days is in the sanctuary of a beer garden. Praise be that Stickmen Brewery & Skewery in Lake Oswego, though already opened softly, had its grand opening recently. Now, Oswegans can soak up the sun and lakefront views while sipping a dozen house beers. The “skewery” half of this Izakaya-style pub — it serves Japanese-style food-on-sticks and other small plates — brings lots of sake and shochu to the beverage program. Head in soon and you can try the limited Sake Beer, a strong, fruity ale fermented with sake yeast. Though that one is definitely a crowd favorite, so too is Spring 13 Saison. The seasonal is fermented with Belgian Ardennes yeast, which are the highlight of and perfect complement to this delicate beer’s lemony and spicy aromas and flavors. Pairing it with a variety of meat or vegetable bites is pretty much effortless. Why stop there? Hurry over to the lake pub and you might still find a sip of Meyer-Bay Saison, created for April’s Portland Cheers to Belgian Beers festival. Brewers Jon “JT” Turner and Tim Schoenheit dry-hopped Spring 13 with Meyer lemon peel and bay leaves, and it’s remarkable how the dominant notes toggle from heavy on the sweet citrus to more robust Italian seasoning as it warms in the glass. Saisons naturally take on herbal additions and the additions  showcase this epicurean style nicely.

Portland Brewing: Rose Hip Gold

One of the very first breweries in Portland was the eponymous Portland Brewing Co., founded in 1986. Based on the popularity of its MacTarnahan’s Amber Ale, released in 1992, the company name was changed to MacTarnahan’s Brewing Co. From there it gets even more confusing, with ownership tied to Pyramid Brewing, Vermont’s Magic Hat, and New York’s North American Breweries. But the brewery itself never left Portland, and its brand new name reflects that. In 2013, it’s back to Portland Brewing once more! While Mac’s Amber isn’t going anywhere, to commemorate all this old newness, Portland Brewing will be releasing new beers, starting with Rose Hip Gold.

Golden Valley Brewery Tannen Bomb

The only logical decision is to drink winter seasonal beers while the getting’s good. Most craft breweries release a “winter warmer” to ward off Jack Frost, a tradition dating back millennia to when agrarians celebrated the solstice by brewing beers made heavier with extra with grains (and perhaps fruits and spices), and religious practitioners believed intoxication aided communion with deities and spirits. Outside Portland in McMinnville, great beers are easily found inside the Golden Valley Brewpub; visit to New Seasons in hopes of picking up a six-pack of Tannen Bomb, so named since it arrives in stores along with Christmas trees and is a veritable malt bomb — 125 lbs. of malts per barrel.

Coalition Brewing Loving Cup Maple Porter

The leaves were losing their fiery colors, replaced by brown in only slightly varying shades. Nights arrived an hour earlier, giving up a minute of sunshine with each passing day. But before we grabbed our saws to chop down our Christmas trees, we paused to give thanks. Oddly, no one’s cornered the Thanksgiving beer market. Well pilgrim, Coalition Brewing has just the thing.

Brewery co-founder Kiley Hoyt is a Vermont native, so it makes sense Coalition offers a porter brewed with maple syrup. Loving Cup Maple Porter is available year-round at the brewpub, but was being bottled as a seasonal offering for the first time. The British-style porter is on the dry side, offering desirable chocolatiness without being thick or sweet.

Enter the maple syrup.

Oakshire Brewing Big Black Jack Imperial Pumpkin Chocolate Porter

Pumpkin beers, it turns out, squash all other seasonal styles of beer in popularity, according to the Brewers Association. So it’s no wonder that come October (or earlier) more and more craft breweries offer them, and also no surprise brewers continue to up the creativity level of their creations. While a standard beer works perfectly fine with addition of pumpkin and/or pumpkin pie spices (usually a brown ale or something with a malt bill that can support autumnal flavoring without hops stealing the show), Eugene’s Oakshire Bewing went a step further. Big Black Jack Imperial Pumpkin Chocolate Porter is as complex as its name implies.