The connection to the past is strong with Lisa Allen. Growing up in a family that brewed and embraced craft beer, she was around it from an early age, and craft beer became ingrained in family rituals—visiting the grandparents or family ski trips. Later, as lager became the focus of the brewery her mother and father founded, she created her own memories by exploring Bamberg and Munich. The beers in her six-pack reflect the impact of these experiences on her as both a craft-beer drinker and a brewer.
Bridgeport Blue Heron
“Growing up in Portland, I grew up with the craft beer scene, too. In Oregon, Bridgeport was early on, and their beers were always in our fridge while I was growing up. When I did start drinking, it was one of those first beers that I really started drinking and getting into, beyond the obvious domestic light lagers that you drink when going to college. It was one of those first beers where I was just like, ‘Oh, wow, this has flavor.’
“I loved the citrus notes that you got from it, and it had this really nice malt character to it. And so that, to me, has always been one of my gateway beers.
“When I was growing up, Blue Heron and Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale were two beers my parents both drank, so when I would go home from college and wanted a beer, I’d go grab one of those out of the fridge. This was before I could legally buy my own beer, and with my friends, I was like ‘Hey, can you get me a six-pack of this at the grocery store?’ It was just one of those beers—easy-drinking, really nice flavor, and easy to get. I reminisce about it because it reminds me of my first experiences with beer. It’s wrapped up in those memories of growing up in a family that loved beer and bought beer and kept being around beer, and it feels like that classic and consistent thing. Then, when I could buy beer myself, I’d think ‘Oh, I want to buy a good beer. What do I recognize?’ Of course, I recognized Blue Heron because of my parents, and I trust their palates.”
Mahrs Bräu Ungespundet
“Ungespundet immediately came to mind because it’s one of my all-time favorite beers. It’s just so drinkable and very approachable. I think of it as a beer that really made me. When I first had it, I aspired to make a beer like this, just because it’s so approachable. I had a pretty fresh batch the first time I had it, and then I actually was able to go to Bamberg and have it at the source. My cousin had to drag me out of there because we had plans for the day, yet I wanted to stay at Mahrs Brau and keep drinking it.
“It’s one of those memories of place, too. Going there and drinking it in wintertime—it was cold outside, there was a fire going—that memory cements it as one of my all-time favorites.
“It’s more of an amber lager, so it has this nice bready, almost yeasty, character to it and a really nice spicy floral-hop character. But it’s so approachable and drinkable—everything is just so well-balanced, and nothing is out of place. It’s one of those beers that keeps me engaged, beer after beer.”
“I’m going to stick with the Bamberg route for this next beer because the Schlenkerla Märzen is a favorite of mine as well. To be honest, the first time I tried it, I didn’t care for it. But later, after my palate had developed, I was able to try it again at the source, and it made me realize just how delicious smoked beers can be. Schlenkerla’s approach is smoky but very much in balance with a light malt character, and the smoked flavor is not overdone. After drinking it for a while, you forget you’re even drinking a smoked beer.
“It’s great with food, and the more I got into it, the more it made me want to make a beer like that. Like the Mahrs Bräu beer, this Schlenkerla beer inspired me to go back to the drawing board with smoked beers. We had made a couple, and I hadn’t been super-happy with them. Going to the source and having it there gave me a better appreciation for the style and a clear idea of the direction we should take our smoked beers. You need to have some sweetness, but it can’t be too sweet, if that makes sense. Schlenkerla captures that nice malty sweetness while still finishing dry, and that’s really important to this kind of beer. It has to be drinkable. Smoked beers get a bad rap, and a big part of that is that many of them are just not well-made. You need that malty flavor with the dry finish to make them work.”
Deschutes Obsidian Stout
“This is another nostalgic pick that goes back to my early days of drinking craft beer. One of my favorite things to do when I go to Bend is to go to the Deschutes pub and get an Obsidian Stout on nitro. It’s just a well-made stout, and it has stood the test of time—to this day it’s just delicious. Like a lot of beers on my list, it’s a beer you could have multiple of—it’s a very drinkable stout, but it offers that nice warming feeling when it’s cold outside and you want a dark beer.
“In the pub, they have a newer area and the old pub side. I always like to go sit at the bar, which feels a bit like an old-school dark pub, and I’m like, ‘It’s cold and dark, I’m gonna drink my stout.’
“My grandparents retired to Sun River, which is just south of Bend, so Deschutes was another brewery I grew up with. We would always go through Bend on the way to Sun River and pick up a couple growlers—then it became tradition. Once I got old enough to drink, after a day skiing, we’d go back to Deschutes, and we’d get lunch and some beers. And you know, once you’ve been up on a cold mountain all day, nothing is better than a stout.
“It still tastes every bit as good today as it did when I first had it. It’s still delicious with rich dark chocolate, coffee flavors that you expect from a stout, but it’s not overly sweet. I’m not a huge fan of the super-sweet. And it’s probably no surprise that I gravitate to beers that finish nice and dry. But still, it has a kind of lingering roasty character to it as well that’s nicely in balance.”
“I’ve been back-and-forth on this one, but I think I have to go with Augustiner Edelstoff, a helles. I keep going between that and their Festbier, but I think Edelstoff wins out. Again, this was a beer that I had originally in the States, and I got a fresh bottle of it. Then after trying it over in Munich, it was just a whole other experience. I love their helles—I mean, I love all of Augustiner’s beers, pretty much—but I think their Edelstoff is just really, really well-made. The fact that it’s more of an export helles works in its favor—I have some people who bring me some back from Germany, and it still tastes delicious, even after making the trip. I think sometimes helles can be a little bit worn after traveling over the ocean and the continent. Again, it’s one of those beers that’s really well balanced. It has nice malt character, nice hop character to it. And it’s something that I could drink multiples of, sitting in a beer hall.
“With the malt character, whereas the Mahrs Bräu is almost bready, I’d describe the Edelstoff as more crackery crispness. And again, I love German Noble hops. This also has a nice spicy character and a little bit of the floralness, but it’s not overwhelmingly floral—just nice, typical spicy hop character you would expect from Noble hops. I’m not sure what hop variety they actually use, but now I’m curious. It just has this nice mouthfeel quality to it, too. And it’s one of those beers that I could drink for days in a German beer hall.”
“I know, I know. CZAF is my partner Kevin [Davies’] beer, but I chose this beer not to give him a shout-out, but because I started drinking it when Wayfinder opened. I don’t think they’d even named it CZAF the first time I had it.
“When Wayfinder first opened, they were talking up all that they were doing, and all they were going to do, and all of that sort of stuff. I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll believe it when I see it.’ And then going and actually trying the beer, I was like, ‘Okay, shit, yeah this is really fucking good.’ And now it’s one of my go-to pilsners outside of my own. I’ve consumed so much of that beer—it’s a really good example of a Czech-style pilsner. A lot of people are really surprised by that bitterness when they try it, but if you try a pilsner over in Germany or the Czech Republic, it’s going to have bitterness to it because a pilsner is supposed to be bitter.
“I don’t know if it’s because of the American domestics that are like, you know, ‘pilsner.’ But I feel like there’s this general misconception that pilsners are not supposed to be bitter. They very much are supposed to be bitter. That is one thing I will preach to the masses (or try to do, anyway). I do think Czech pilsner is more bitter than German pilsner, but a German pilsner should have bitterness to it, too. I think the impression may come because by the time these European pilsners get here … I mean, I can tell it from my beer. If I stick a can of my Pils in the back of a fridge for six months and then open it up and try it, it’s not going to be super-bitter either. But if you drink it fresh, and close to the source, you know it should have a nice bitterness to it.
“CZAF starts with the traditional golden color, and on first whiff you can just tell it’s Saaz hops. Then you taste the bitterness but with this sweeter malt character typical of Czech pilsners, which again does not mean that it should not be bitter. Then it finishes dry.
“When I used to go to Portland a lot more frequently, I’d go to Wayfinder, and the bartenders just knew. Almost immediately, I’d sit down, and without asking, I’d have a CZAF in front of me.”