Anyone into craft beer knows that Portland, Ore. is an endless wonderland of creative beer options. Over the years I have been lucky enough to make the pilgrimage to the pacific northwest at least once a year for the past decade or so and each time I make the trip I find a new favorite beer spot. The old stalwarts like Hair of the Dog, Cascade and Deschutes still hold a special place in my heart but a few trips ago I discovered a brewery that immediately became a must stop for each yearly trip going forward.
Great Notion Brewing has garnished a lot of hype over the last few years and if you get a chance to sit down for a flight in the North East Portland brewery you will see why. With its impressive lineup of top-quality hazy IPAs, fruit forward sours and diabetes-inducing pastry stouts they hit all the marks beer crazy fans are looking for these days.
A few weeks ago, I made that yearly journey to visit these breweries but this time I decided to sit in a car for 14 hours rather than fly. The downside of this decision was obviously having to sit in a car for 1,000 miles but the upside was that I had the entire back row of my SUV to bring back as much beer as I wanted. The game of figuring out how many beers will fit in my suitcase to get to 49.5 pounds was not a concern anymore. This resulted in the most impressive beer haul I have ever returned home with. A large portion of this bounty came from the aforementioned Great Notion and my Southern California beer nerd friends could not be happier about that decision.
One of the selections I was most excited about was a few four-packs of Luminous 3, a sour hazy IPA with malted oats, milk sugar, vanilla beans and fresh strawberries. While on the surface it sounds like a mish-mash of over-hyped styles I bought with confidence that the beer would rival the quality of Great Notions other offerings.
The beer pours a cloudy bright orange with just a splash of pink when held to the light. A finger of dense off-white head forms then fades within a minute or so. In general, the hazy IPA style does not generally produce the most attractive looking beers but this one isn’t milky or muddy and actually looks appealing. The aroma is bright and inviting with notes of actual strawberries which is not an easy feat to accomplish. Strawberry is a particularly tricky fruit to brew with and most beers I have tried that attempted it generally miss the mark. I also get an aroma that reminds me of a sweet jolly rancher candy along with crushed up Smarties candies. A little bit of funky guava is also present for me as well. It is a very pleasant bouquet that is pulling me in for a sip.
As I take a sip of the beer the first thing that jumps out at me is the sourness. The acid profile is spot on with just the right amount of punch to make a big impact but not so overpowering that it allows the rest of the components to join the party. The acidity is also lacking the sharpness I generally get in lesser kettle sours and the unfermented milks sugars add just a hint of sweetness that folds in well. I get the fruit as well but it is not quite as distinct strawberry as the nose and more of a generic sweet fruit note. The vanilla shows up in the finish and adds that fruity creamsicle note and it fades into the finish along with the fruit character.