The beers don't have clever names, at least not so far: they're just called by whatever style they are. Here's what we tried on Friday:
- Wit: Noticeably more bitter than most wits (this is intentional), but a nice take on the style, with the usual herbal/yeasty flavors.
- Blonde IPA: Josh said he thinks of this as a "Pilsner IPA" -- it is brewed with pilsner malts -- but also intends it as an homage to Westvleteren Blonde (a surprisingly hoppy light Belgian beer). It is very crisp and dry. Interesting and not bad, though I think IPA is not quite the right word for it.
- Belgian Strong Blonde: I loved this beer. It has that nice clovey flavor like Duvel (though it's always dangerous to compare something to Duvel). Like the other Pfriem beers, it's pretty dry and light-bodied, and it is a beautiful-looking beer: impossibly light in color, almost clear, but with a golden sparkle.
- IPA: This is intended to be the NW style house offering. Again, surprisingly dry and light on the tongue, but with nice floral hops. Pretty strong at 7.2%. Not bad, but probably not going to become your go-to IPA.
- Belgian Strong Dark: A 10% sipper, with the kinds of dark fruit, chocolatey, almost leathery flavors you want in big beers like this, but still drier than a lot of beers this size. Josh wouldn't call it a Quadrupel, but he does want you to think of beers like St. Bernardus when you're drinking this.
All the beers were clean and well-made. At a point in time where saisons and related "farmhouse" styles seem to be all the rage, it's interesting that Pfriem didn't go down that road. Nor are they selling any wild or sour ales, though Josh did say that a wild-ale program is in the works for future releases. I predict that the Strong Blonde and Strong Dark are going to be the most popular Pfriem beers. It's great to have an Oregon brewery focus on those kind of Abbey-inspired Belgians -- I can't think of another brewery in the region that has those as their flagships, though Hopworks comes out with some great strong Belgians from time to time.
Except for the Wit, all the beers we tried were filtered, which gave them a really pretty clarity in the glass. If there's a common theme in my tasting notes, it's "dry" -- there was nothing anywhere near cloying in any of the beers, and even the stronger ones were surprisingly light-bodied and drinkable.
Look for Pfriem beers on draft in Portland at finer establishments. The brewery has ordered equipment to produce corked-and-caged 750 ml bottles. The tasting room at the brewery in Hood River will hold a grand opening Saturday August 4th, and it looks like the hours after that will be 11:30 to 9 Wednesday thru Sunday.
Further reading: Ezra has a very detailed interview with Josh over at the New School.