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Belt’s Beer Garden: Up in the Pacific Northwest

Two Beers’ Wonderland Trail and Oakshire’s Hopollo 7

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Sorry, no fancy/creative title this week. I’m on vacation and didn’t want to (i.e couldn’t) think of a good one. However, on my trip up through the Pacific Northwest I did find some great beers to showcase.

Up first, a brewery from Seattle:

Two Beers, for those of you that pay really close attention to what I write (and shame on the rest of you that don’t!), shares a facility with Seattle Cider Company up in Seattle, Washington. They were founded back in 2007 but couldn’t sell any beer until June of 2008. And, since that time, they have grown immensely – you can now find them in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, Michigan and even parts of Canada and Japan.

Contrary to their name, they do offer more than just two brews (about eight year round and 10 seasonal, some only on draft at their brewhouse though). And since I wasn’t in Washington for very long, I had to choose just one beer from them. Knowing my tastes, I grabbed their Wonderland Trail; with a six-pack if this IPA will run you around $9.99, which is average for craft beer these days.

This staple IPA from Two Beers is named after the 93-mile trail around Mount Rainier. It’s made with five different hop varieties (Amarillo, Cascade, Citra, Legacy, and Mosaic), four of which were grown in the state of Washington. It poured a bright, but cloudy, copper color with just a finger of head building atop the beer.

The bubbles quickly faded down into just a small ring around my glass with some nice lacing, marking where the foam had once been near the lip of my snifter.

On the nose there was quite the strong melon aroma with piney hops backing that up. I could also pick up on some light bready malt in the background, but this beer’s fragrance was mostly melon and hops. And, with Wonderland Trail coming it at 84 IBU, that didn’t surprise me too much.

The taste mirrored what I had picked up in the scent. The brew had a creamy, medium mouthfeel to it to begin. Then a bouquet of melon and other light citrus flavors (like lemon and passion fruit) hit my tongue, with a slight hoppiness to them. Then, once the fruit flavors fade, just a tiny bitter twang is left on palate. There is a small lingering flavor and dryness to this beer that stays with you at the end of each sip.

But I was really surprised at how smooth Wonderland Trail was. Especially after the hoppy aroma and high IBU rating the beer contains. The bready malts that I could smell did not show up in the taste, but they did act to cut down the high bitterness that this beer could have had. That’s not to say this beer will please those that don’t like hops…it’s still an IPA and still somewhat bitter. However, it’s an incredibly easy to drink one.

The 7.1% ABV is all but hidden in the massive fruit flavor and the little head that remained did a great job of lacing the glass as I emptied the contents in my glass. There were clearly defined lines left with each sip that had streaks of bubbles slowly slipping down into the next well-defined sip mark.

Overall, this was another really solid IPA from the Pacific Northwest…I should really move up there. Wonderland Trail has great melon (and other citrus) flavors, is quite hoppy yet quite smooth, and great for sitting in the shade on those hot summer days. 8/10

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Next up, I traveled just a few hours south on a five hour drive to Oregon and their Oakshire Brewing.

Oakshire Brewing calls Eugene, Oregon home. They have been crafting up since 2006 and pride themselves on being “community inspired”, as they are locally owned and use many local ingredients. Currently you can find their beers in Oregon, Washington, and Vermont (according to SeekABrew.com)

Hopollo 7 is one of their Northwest IPAs. A six-pack of 12 ounce cans will run you just $9.99. This brew poured a cloudy amber color with just over a finger of thick, white head topping off the beer. There might not have been a lot of head but it sure had some nice staying power, as the bubbles remained for quite a while atop the liquid.

This Northwestern IPA was made with seven different locally grown (to the Pacific Northwest) hop varieties. Despite the copious amount of hops, it still has a balanced aroma to it. Bready malts, with some caramel undertones, led the charge up front. However, there were also some dank hops with some slight citrus and melon notes that were noticeably present as well.

The taste was quite similar to the aroma, only this time the hops took control while the malts sat backseat to calm everything down.

It starts off with a smooth, but slightly heavier, mouthfeel with very little carbonation. Then those melon and citrusy hops hit the tongue with a bit of a bitter sting (it does have 77 IBU, so it’s slightly hoppy). The bready malts show up on the backend of the sip, cutting the sharpness of the hops down quite a bit. Hopollo 7 does leave a bitter twang on the palate and finishes on the dry side.

The bubbles clung to my glass as the contents disappeared, leaving an intricate web-work of foam around the entire tulip glass. At 7% ABV, this beer will sneak up on you…especially because the alcohol is hidden so well.

Overall, Hopollo 7 is a pretty solid beer. Is it out of this world (see what I did there…)? Not quite. But it is a very solid IPA with a nice flavors and a larger hop presence that somehow remains balanced as well. Would I drink it again? Absolutely. 8/10

EDIT: I just heard that production of this beer may have stopped. If that’s the case, you need to go out and grab your six-pack now before it’s all gone forever!

8 beers