Holy shit. I bought this beer for the name. After all, having grown up in the Northwest, I was privy to the reference—it’s not every day that the shooting of a pig almost leads to an international conflict—and I was always amused by the resulting conflation of neighborly and national aggression. But this beer is much much more than a clever and amusing name. However, I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. Technically, Pig War is our first beer from Hopworks Urban Brewery in Portland, OR, although we did previously try their IPA (that’s right, keep reading, keep reading—there it is).
Described on the bottle as a “NW style ale” featuring “estate-grown hops,” Pig War pours a rich orange and copper with a pretty minimal tan head. The nose is floral and fruity with a touch of candy malt in the background—it is both delicate and assertive at the same time, with a delicious combination of grape, citrus, orange, and flower-like hints. I’m not sure we get the “herbaceous” aromatics described on the bottle, but I do love their use of the word; there are some faint beguiling dank aromas lingering in the back of the beer, but that is as far as I would go. Flavors open with fruit and citrus followed by a candy sweet malt flavor that is just short of caramel. The initial flavors blossom in the middle, developing into an orange marmalade jamminess that couples with a clean, brisk bitterness carrying touches of resin and hop spiciness. There is a touch of grape and floral brightness in the final third before the flavors give way to a gentle lingering and spicy bitterness. And, as the bottle notes, there is a gentle warmth to the finish that helps round the beer as a whole; mixed with the medium body and the gentle carbonation, the beer provides a subtle, delicate balance that drinks far far easier than the 8% ABV listed on the label—this beer looks to get you in trouble for all the right reasons. Elli calls the malt flavors too sweet for the beer, but I find the candy malt flavors and bitterness in perfect harmony—this beer combines fruity Northwest hop character with candy-sweet Belgian malt sensibilities to create a beer that, well, defies any sort of easy classification. And I mean that in all the good ways. Those who know me know that I’m not inclined to throw around excessive or profuse praise. That said, I would consider calling this beer a revelation to be slightly understating the case. Seriously. Combined with the name, this beer is easily one of the best and most interesting beers of the year. Well done, Hopworks, well done.
Garth Williams illustration from here.
From the bottle: “Our Estate NW Style Ale uses both Willamette and Cascade hops grown exclusively for Hopworks on San Juan Island. These hops impart a fresh, crisp and stunning fruitiness, coupled perfectly with aromatic floral herbaceousness. A rich malt body. And warming finish are followed by a subtle, balancing hop bitterness. The name Pig War commemorates the confrontation in 1859 between American and British authorities over San Juan Island.”
Oh, and I found this Release Party notice on the Hopworks website.
OG: 19.8° P