First things first. The “p” in pFreim is silent—a fact that their marketing director has likely grown long tired of saying. But that’s why the second letter is capitalized in the brewery’s name. The “p” is silent.
This Belgian-inspired 15-barrel brewery was founded in 2012 by Josh Pfriem in Hood River, Oregon, who became enamored with European brewing traditions after biking through Belgium and knocking on the doors of some of the continent’s top brewers. Partnering with Ken Whiteman and Rudy Kellner, they’re still inspired by both Northwestern and Belgian styles—as well as the scenic environs and the bounty of local farms—to produce some of the best brews coming out of the shark tank that is Oregon’s craft brewing scene.
And while it’s a downright miracle to stand out in the crowded field of Northwest IPAs, their robust barrel-aging program gives you a sense of what pFriem is really up to—though, naturally, they still pump out hop-bombs too. To sample their love of wood and all things Belgian, start with the two Flanders-style brews, the Flanders Blonde and Flanders Red.
pFriem Flanders Blonde
The Blonde spends 18 months in French oak that previously housed pinot noir, another Pacific Northwest specialty, imbuing the hay-colored beer with notes of green apple, lemon zest, and an unmistakable oakiness that’s nicely complimented by a sour tang from brett yeast and lactic bacteria cultures. It drinks lighter than its 7.1% ABV, with a generous head of fluffy white foam and a brightness that feels like it was made to drink on long, lazy summer nights as you watch windsurfers ply the waters of the Hood River—a sound plan if you ever find yourself in their tasting room and want to snag a bottle and sit by the water.
pFriem Flanders Red
The Red leans the other way, a tribute to the rich and fruity traditions of the Belgian Burgundies. Like the Blonde, it rests for 18 months in pinot barrels, but it delivers a deeper flavor profile—leather, tobacco, sour cherries, soured with the same yeast and bacteria strains, paired with Hallertau hops that makes the Red go deep when the Blonde goes bright, even though the latter boasts nine more IBUs than the Flanders Red. The Red comforts in winter, the Blonde begs for summer sun.
Others in their barrel-aged line—a cognac-barrel-aged Belgian dark, an oud bruin, the oude kreik—follow a similar pattern, with aging that ranges from one to three years to push complex flavors to the foreground.
No…Belgian beers aren’t new to the craft scene. Hell, the founder of Fat Tire got inspired to brew Belgian beers by biking through Belgium, just like pFriem’s master brewer. And Portland’s Cascade Brewing Barrel House still makes some of the scene’s best crazy-flavorful sour ales (with a higher price point to match).
But, like a rising tide that lifts all ships, fPreim’s forays into barrel aging should help spread the glories of European styles beyond the IPAs. And maybe soon everyone will know the “p” is silent.