Serious Beer: 8 Amber Ales from Oregon

Beer Reviews

Seeking out the best in malty, hoppy refreshment.


[Photograph: Jessica Leibowitz]



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With a couple of exceptions, Oregon-brewed amber ales are a mellower and maltier bunch than their California counterparts. The beers are a little less assertive, but the best strike a delicious balance of malt and hops.

We managed to get our hands on eight Oregon ambers, but that's just enough to whet the appetite. Oregon is known for its small breweries and brewpubs, and many great beers don't make it outside the bar, let alone into bottles. Did we miss some local favorites that visitors shouldn't pass up? Sound off in the comments section.

Serious Beer Ratings

5/5 Mindblowing; a new favorite 4/5 Awesome, stock up on this 3/5 Around average for the style 2/5 There are probably better options 1/5 No, thanks, I'll have water.

Deschutes Brewery Green Lakes Organic Ale Bend, 5.2% ABV Opening aromas of bready caramel malts lead a bit of toast and the beer's slightly fruity English yeast character. Floral and tangerine citrus hops become more prominent at midsip. The finish is crisp and dry. Green Lakes Organic Ale is extremely well balanced. 4.25/5

Rogue Brewery American Amber Newport, 5.6% ABV This beer pours a slightly hazy amber color with a dense off-white head. Burnt caramel accents the sweet malt aroma. The mild apricot and grapefruit flavors of Rogue's blend of English and American hops provide balance. Smooth yet snappy bitterness provides a clean finish. 4/5

Oakshire Brewing Co. Oakshire Amber Ale Eugene, 5.4% ABV The aroma begins rich and biscuity, followed by cocoa powder and a bit of roast. Oakshire Amber tips more toward the malty side, with just enough hops to even things out. It starts off a bit chewy, but finishes dry. 3.75/5

Full Sail Brewing Co. Amber Ale Hood River, 5.5% ABV Pours a dark amber, almost brown. There's a good deal of depth in the beer's rich caramel character. Accents of bitter chocolate and floral and citrus hop flavors offset the malt. It's one of the maltiest Ambers we've tried. 3.75/5

Laurelwood Brewing Co. Free Range Red Portland, 6.1% ABV Free Range Red was the most hop-forward beer we tried this time, with Cascade hops supplying a prominent citrus and somewhat spicy character. The aroma is light caramel with some bready notes. The malt component was definitely on the lighter side. 3.5/5

Vertigo Brewing High-Altitude Amber Hillsboro, 5.1% ABV This medium amber ale has a smooth caramel malt character with hints of toast. Grapefruit and orange flavors provide a measured and balancing bitterness. Without any one element dominating, this was very sessionable. 3/5

Golden Valley Brewery Red Thistle Ale McMinnville, 5.5% ABV Red Thistle smells a bit like bread dough and butterscotch, offset by woody and spicy hops. It was a little thinner than other ambers we tried, and it finished slightly tart. 2.75/5

Widmer Brothers Brewing Drop Top Amber Ale Portland, 5.3% ABV Drop Top is perfectly clear and deep gold in the glass. This light-bodied beer has aromas of cocoa and malted milk balls. The malt flavor is rather sweet, barely offset by a mild hop character. We found it to be very easy to drink, but it lacked some of the richer malt and bolder hop flavors we enjoyed in other ambers. 2.5/5

Next stop: Washington!

Disclosure: All of the beers except Rogue were provided as samples for review.

About the Author: Jonathan Moxey is a Harlem-based homebrewer and BJCP beer judge. He hosts private beer tastings for Tapped Craft Beer Events.