You love the blog, so subscribe to the Beervana Podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud today!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Portland's Favorite IPA

The Oregon Hophouse has recently been running a little experiment.  They invited patrons to try a flight of twelve IPAs and vote on their favorites.  In a certain sense, the free market functions as a way of determining patrons' favorite beers, too.  But in that case, people may be influenced by price, ad campaigns, the image of a brewery, peer pressure, or proximity.  Here it was just twelve unmarked beers and the palates of the tasters.  The flight contained:
  • Barley Brown’s Pallet Jack
  • Boneyard RPM
  • Breakside IPA
  • Crux Outcast
  • Double Mountain Hop Lava
  • Fort George Vortex
  • Gigantic IPA
  • Goodlife Descender
  • Hop Valley Alphadelic
  • Laurelwood Workhorse
  • Migration Luscious Lupulin
  • Ninkasi Total Domination
Care to guess which one came out on top?  Before I tell you, last year the champeen was Boneyard--but the beers weren't served blind.  This year, 864 people cast a ballot and the results looked like this: 
Barley Brown Pallet Jack: 160 (18.5%)*
Breakside IPA:132 (15.2%)
Boneyard RPM: 123 (14.2%)
I'm interested in this experiment because I think it tracks the momentary preferences of Oregonians.  Boneyard has definitely been the most recent example of the Oregon palate, with its thick body and saturated late-addition flavors and aromas.  Pallet Jack is lighter and sharper and more dank--to me it seems a bit more Californian. (A characterization I suspect would make a good Baker Citian cringe.) Breakside is a more classic interpretation, with tons of citrus and a hint of pine.  So does this suggest a move away from the Boneyard mode to something a little more universal?  Probably that's going too far--Boneyard did hang in at a respectable third.  But still, it's at least suggestive.

Interesting side-note.  In an email, the Hophouse's Kirsten Seitz added this bit of detail: "Breakside was in fourth/fifth place until the third week, when both locations saw a drastic increase in votes for Breakside.  It even earned the most votes during a week at each location in total votes, but it still wasn't enough to surpass Pallet Jack's monthly totals.  It was incredibly interesting to witness the change, and the staff felt certain that it was a new batch of Breakside."  I offer that without a lot of commentary--though I'd love it if someone from Breakside would care to weigh in with theories.

*Does this prove Pallet Jack is definitively Portland's fave IPA?  No.  It was not a scientific study and there are any number of variables that were not controlled for.  But it was a blind tasting, and so I'd be leery to dismiss it outright, either. 


  1. First, RPM is not the same beer it was two years ago or even a year ago. It's gotten lighter, has less color and body and lower ABV. I'm surprised it did as well as it did, even though it was the beer I voted for. With respect to Breakside's late surge, it would be interesting to know when kegs were changed and if it impacted voting. Actually, it would be interesting to see those stats for the entire month, if they were tracked.

  2. What struck me most about doing this tasting blind is how hard a time I had identifying things that I drink on an almost daily basis. I think two of the beers were unique enough to set aside as positive IDs, and from there it was just educated guessing. I think I got 3 out of 12 right. The fact that they were 3oz servings in those little fluted glasses also didn't help, since it made it really difficult to gauge aromas. There was also almost zero difference in SRM. It's a fun exercise, but I'd be amazed by anyone who could get even half of them right on a consistent basis.

  3. I'm interested if the order the beers are listed in the article is the order they were served. All the flavors and aromas of your twelfth sample are not going to stand out as much as your first.

  4. I find the most interesting conclusion to be that you can 30% of your taps be pretty similar IPAs and no one complains.