It’s Blonde…James Blonde
Named After Bierly’s Second Born
I’m excited to bring you a new review for a west coast blonde ale today! It’s called the James Blonde Ale and it’s brewed by Bierly Brewing in McMinnville Oregon. I have never tasted this beer before. The tap was blown last I was in their tasting room, but luckily I was able to snag a bottle to share with all of you!
As you may have gathered from the title of this article, this beer is their second to be named after the owner’s young children. The first one released was their Felix Pilsner, a year round offering that has really changed the landscape (and raised the standards) for gluten free pilsners.
Jamie, their second son, is the inspiration for the James Blonde Ale. If you watched the brew tour I released for Bierly Brewing, you’ll see Jamie strapped to his mother’s belly as she tends to the tasting room and prepares food for patrons. As you can see, he’s got 21 long years before he’ll be able to taste the beer named after him. Lucky for us, no waiting necessary.
This beer is currently available in the Bierly Brewing taproom, as it’s still in the experimentation phase. The head brewer is exploring different mashing techniques and fine tuning the process before packaging it for distribution. The ABV of this batch is 4.2% and the IBU is 20.
Note: Bierly Brewing’s head brewer informed me that their following batch of James Blonde Ale (version #3) utilized a different mash technique that yielded a higher efficiency rating. This resulted in a whopping 6.3% ABV. (2.1% higher than the batch I’m currently tasting!)
Unlike several of Bierly Brewing’s beers, this one was brewed with all-grain, using both millet and rice. No sorghum whatsoever. No oats either. (Super safe for any Celiac.) The recipe for the James Blonde Ale is based on a recipe created by Joe Morris, but the hops were modified and rice malt was added. You can check out Joe’s original recipe on Brewer’s Friend (search for “GF Blonde Ale Homebrew Con”).
The Taste Test
Bierly Brewing James Blonde Ale
The James Blonde Ale pours with a muted straw yellow color. The carbonation is lively, and the head was spectacular. Possibly the thickest head I’ve seen on a gluten free blonde ale. When the bigger bubbles disappeared, a filmy layer of small bubbles remained. So far, this is a beautiful beer.
The aroma is faintly fruity, with just a touch of spice hiding behind the malt. In my opinion, it tastes just like it smells. It’s an easy drinking, light bodied blonde whose carbonation lends a crisp and refreshing texture to the mouthfeel. There is no bitterness. There is no funky aftertaste. It’s pleasant from start to finish, and it has enough character behind the flavor profile to keep me interested.
The hop bill was comprised exclusively of Crystal hops, an Oregon-born classic northwest hop variety that is well loved for its woody, floral and fruity characteristics. They come off very clean and mild in this blonde ale.
The James Blonde Ale’s low alcohol content makes it the perfect ale to crack open on a mid-summer day, but this beer has enough going on that it would be enjoyable in any setting, including alongside a meal. This is a fantastic and versatile beer that I feel would please a wide variety of palates. I can’t seem to come up with a complaint.
I have to say, gluten free dedicated breweries are doing a pretty good job in the blonde ale category. There are several across the country that I would drink (willingly!) including this one, the Aurochs Blonde Ale, and the Holidaily Favorite Blonde. The best thing about these high quality gluten free blonde ales is that I would highly recommend them to anyone out there who classifies themselves as a “light beer drinker”.
Chances are, if you call yourself that, you’re probably referring to the Coors Light/Bud Light equivalents…which are probably most closely resembled by Redbridge…BUT if you like light beer and you’re ready to step it up a notch where quality is concerned (a.k.a. craft beer instead of mass produced beer), these blonde ales would be right up your alley.
If you are ever in Oregon, be sure to swing by Bierly Brewing for a pint of the James Blonde, because it’s currently a taproom exclusive. (But Bierly’s owners hope to take it to market soon!) If it’s not available, try their Felix Pilsner, another light–yet delicious offering that is offered year round.
If you yourself have tried the James Blonde Ale, comment below to let me know what you thought of it. I love hearing other beer lover’s opinions because we all have different palates with different preferences. While you do that, I’m going to go enjoy the rest of this ale on my porch with Neela. :)