It’s just minutes away from the start of the Oregon Brewers Festival, and brew believers are revving their engines (i.e., faking flu symptoms around the office) in anticipation of the annual beer bacchanal. I’ll be ambling down there soon for a reconnaissance mission, but in the meantime, I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome Pfriem Family Brewers, a new ale outfit from Hood River, to our ever-expanding beer community.

Though Pfriem (pronounced "freem") isn’t slated to have beers on display at OBF, brewmaster/owner Josh Pfriem did arrange for a meet-and-greet last week at Bazi Bierbrasserie. Pfriem brought along samples of five of his brand-new beers so that various members of the brewing press could dip their beaks, and the results were (as near as I could tell) a unanimous thumbs-up.

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Pfriem is Northwest through and through, having worked for Chuckanut Brewery in Bellingham as well as Full Sail, and professes a love of lagers. I came to the same conclusion after sampling a few brews. Both his Belgian Strong Blonde (7.5 percent ABV) and Wit (5.1 percent) come equipped with trademark Belgian beer attributes—more pronounced malt and yeasty flavors—yet they are light of body, almost buoyant, thanks to a little extra carbonation. His beers in general are very refined, though nuanced, with a smooth finish that doesn’t lay the palate to waste. And if you’re in the mood for something with a bit more muscle, there’s the Belgian Strong Dark (10.25 percent), a puissant pour as potent as the name implies, but still deftly balanced between toffee, chocolate, and fruit highlights. I look forward to further explorations, particularly with the sturdy and complex Wit.

With Pfriem firmly ensconced alongside neighboring Double Mountain, Logsdon, and Full Sail breweries, the Hood River crew is making a bid for an identity all its own, beyond that of mere scenic satellite of the Portland Empire. Remember, there’s always room for more (good) beer.