The city of Portland has been sweltering in a record-breaking heat over the past few days. Our records never impress anyone, but consider that the average Portlander is like a salamander. We require soft, downy clouds, moderate temperatures, and lots of liquid to stay alive. So a 100-degree June day is, to the Portlander, an existential threat. We hiss at the devil sun when it delivers these blows.
On such days, the Portland salamander must watch what he drinks, lest he worsen matters. Beers light in body and alcohol are a must; bonus points go to those limned with acid or fruit, and those that deliver a restorative snap. There are many possible choices out there, but I’d like to direct your attention to Northeast Dekum. One of the finest such beers was on offer at last year’s Oregon Brewers Fest, and by delightful serendipity, started pouring again minutes before I arrived at Breakside last Friday. Its return was perfectly timed. What an ideal sunny-day beer.
Rainbows and Unicorns could serve as a perfect argument that the term “IPA” has really come to mean everything and nothing at all. It is just 5.1% and 30 IBUs, both way out of range for an American IPA. On the other hand, it is quintessentially American in its hopping, and in this way makes perfect sense as an IPA. It is lusciously juicy (El Dorado, Galaxy, and Comet hops) and does seem to have a little bittering fizz to it despite the low BUs, and yet it is light as air, springy, and winning. (The curious malt bill includes Maris Otter and flaked rice.) It’s way too intensely hoppy (not bitter, but hoppy) to qualify as a pale ale, too juicy/citrusy to be anything but American. If it’s not an IPA, what else is it?
Most importantly, it’s the beer the IPA lover wants on scorching days when a 7.5% beer means certain death. It delivers all the flavor you want in a spritely little package. I don’t know if it’s pouring anywhere but the pub on Dekum yet, but what better excuse to go lounge there, al fresco, in the late-afternoon shade?
“Beer Sherpa Recommends” is an irregular feature. In this fallen world, when the number of beers outnumber your woeful stomach capacity by several orders of magnitude, you risk exposing yourself to substandard beer. Worse, you risk selecting substandard beer when there are tasty alternatives at hand. In this terrible jungle of overabundance, wouldn’t it be nice to have a neon sign pointing to the few beers among the crowd that really stand out? A beer sherpa, if you will, to guide you to the beery mountaintop. I don’t profess to drink all the beers out there, but from time to time I stumble across a winner and when I do, I’ll pass it along to you.