This blog documents my attempt to drink a beer from every country in the world and every state in the United States.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

State #4: Oregon

Beer: Green Lakes Organic Ale

Brewery: Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Oregon

ABV: 5.2%

Green Lakes Organic Ale in a glass for another Oregon brewery: Hopworks Urban Brewery in Portland, where my cousin Chad works, which after visiting I can gladly say is "killing it," and makes ALL their beers with organic ingredients.
I originally intended to write about an obnoxiously hoppy IPA to represent the state of Oregon. It’s an interesting style that hasn’t become very popular outside of the west coast of the United States, and since my California beer was a run-of-the-mill pale ale, I figured any number of Oregon IPAs would prove a worthy representative of the style.

That was until I stumbled upon Green Lakes Organic Ale, from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon. In addition to being a really tasty representative of the often-boring amber ale style, there were so many interesting things to say about this beer and this brewery.

I had lots of good Oregon beers to choose from, including any number from Full Sail in Hood River, whose beers are not spectacular but are consistently good and really can't be beat for the price. Also, as Jared can tell you, they taste much better out of a Burger King Star Wars glass from 1980.
First, along with California, the state of Oregon has long been at the forefront of the craft brewing movement in the United States, and the Deschutes Brewery (pronounced deh-SHOOTS), founded in 1988, has been in the game for a relatively long time. Although unfamiliar on the east coast, Deschutes’ beers are available all over the place out west. In addition to being early to the craft brewing scene, they are staying true to the do-it-yourself ethos driving the craft beer  movement by making homebrew clone recipes available on their web site for all their beers.

Want to know what goes into Green Lakes Organic Ale? Here you go, courtesy of Deschutes' own web site.
Second, Oregon is also on the vanguard of the organic farming movement, and Green Lakes has been certified as organic by Oregon Tilth, a non-profit organization that certifies such things. This means that the barley, hops, and malt used in brewing the beer were farmed without pesticides. It also means that the hops (which grow quite well in that part of the world) were not farmed with water diverted from streams important to salmon spawning, nor were any important spawning streams polluted by runoff during the production of the beer’s ingredients: an important ecological concern in the Pacific Northwest. “Altruism has never gone down so easy,” or so says the web site.

Oregon has lots of mountains and rivers. As such, Deschtutes uses this imagery in all their branding.
Third, there is so much geographic allusion in all of Deschutes’ branding, but particularly so for Green Lakes Organic Ale.  The brewery itself is named after the Deschutes River, which runs through Bend, and Deschutes County, in which Bend is located. The Green Lakes are a series of glacial tarns at the base of South Sister Mountain in Deschutes National Forest north of Bend. Finally, in the geo-nerd coup de grace, the label is an artistically drawn contour map of an alpine lake, albeit one stylized after the Deschutes logo rather than an accurate map of the Green Lakes themselves. 

Even though it's not a real map, geography nerds such as myself will be enamored with the contour map on the label.
And of course, the beer itself is good, too. Amber ales are typically one of my least favorite styles of beer, as many of them are cloyingly sweet, while others are just plain boring. Green Lakes manages to avoid both of these pratfalls just by adding a little hops to their amber ale. It’s less sweet, and adds quite a bit of nice flavor to the mix, without making it overly bitter. I highly recommend it.

One of the actual Green Lakes in Deschutes National Forest, with South Sister Mountain in the background. Looks pretty nice. Taken by Panoramio user rparge.


  1. I got excited about the clone recipes, until I noticed they left out quantities for the ingredients. It's sort of like saying you need eggs, chocolate chips, butter, vanilla, milk, sugar, and baking powder to make chocolate chip cookies. In any case, Deschutes is a cool brewery... they take that whole organic thing to heart, going as far as to use their spent grains to feed the cows on the farm that they use to as the source of their local burgers at their brew-pub.

    1. Hello...I work at Deschutes Brewery and we leave out the amounts because homebrewing is all about experimentation. Even if we gave the exact recipe, it still would not be exactly the same due to the difference in equipment, water and yeast. We do steer people to which helps with amounts and tell fans to use Wyeast - Ringwood Ale yeast as that is closest to our house strain. Our homebrew fans seem to love the clones and make some "damn tasty" beer from them. Cheers!