Editorial Dept.'s picture

The Best Brewery in the World: pFriem Family Brewers

The Best Brewery in the World: pFriem Family Brewers

While many breweries operate around the world, there is one clear-cut top spot for brews according to our copious Official Review: pFriem Family Brewers in Hood River, Oregon has produced some of the finest beers that our judges have ever had the privilege to imbibe. As such, pFriem can be called the Best Brewery in the World.

As the number of breweries in the world continues to climb (over 19,000 according to a 2017 survey by The Brewers Journal and Alltech), so too does the competition for which brewery makes the finest beers. Is it one of the storied Trappist breweries, helmed by Trappist monks with generations of knowledge and brewing tradition behind them? Or perhaps it is one of the pioneering American craft breweries that helped spearhead the movement that continues to grow unabated over 30 years later?

With over 7,000 breweries in the United States, beer is among the most important aspects of the country’s economy and culture. While beer (and alcohol in general) has had its ups and downs, clearly the fermented malt beverage is experiencing its peak during these heady days of craft beer variety and engaging flavor combinations.

Certainly, the efforts of those trailblazing early craft breweries can never be forgotten, but there is one brewery that stands head and shoulders above the rest. That brewery is pFriem Family Brewers of Hood River, Oregon – a brewery that is thoroughly deserving of the title of Best Brewery in the World.

Now, sure, you might immediately recoil at the sight of such a seemingly hyperbolic statement, but when limited to the evidence of what is found within our Official Review, there can literally be no denying this fact. Let’s delve into some numbers to help back this up.


collage of pfriem family brewers interior, bar and brewhouse
pFriem Family Brewers of Hood River, Oregon stands head and shoulders above the rest as a brewery that is thoroughly deserving of the title of Best Brewery in the World.


First off, it must be expressed that pFriem has won our Brewery of the Year award three times out of a possible four years (2016, 2018 and 2019) – a staggering feat only interrupted by Heavy Seas Beer of Baltimore, Maryland taking Brewery of the Year honors in 2017.

When it comes to overall volume of high-quality beers in our review, scores of 96 and above (deemed World Class) are fairly hard to come by. However, pFriem has produced the highest number of world-class beers by far in our history with a whopping six beers scoring higher than 96 – including one beer that notched a near-perfect rating of 99 (Frambozen).

Here is the list of the brewery’s world-class brews as judged in our Official Review (find a full list of each pFriem beer we’ve reviewed later on):

99 – Frambozen​
97 – Wit
96 – Oude Kriek​
96 – Oud Bruin
96 – Maple Barrel Aged Smoked Porter
96 – Brouwer’s 14th Anniversary

All of these beers represent the pinnacle of their styles, and brewing a vast array of different styles at pFriem is something that pFriem Head Brewer Gavin Lord adores about the brewery:

“Our industry is unique in that we're all so passionate about what we do, and so eager to share what we've learned with one another,” Lord said.

“Like many brewery production crews, our team is made up of smart, hardworking, creative and kind people, each of whom gains insight and inspiration from unique perspectives and experiences. We built pFriem to be extraordinarily agile because we didn't want to limit the creative ambition of our team. In 2019 we produced about 30,000 BBLs on a 15-BBL brewhouse. We split those 2,000 brew lengths over 115 unique styles. This is a very challenging way to arrive at that volume, but it certainly removes any roadblocks to creativity.”

Producing six beers that scored a 96 or above in our Official Review is no minor feat on its own, but would it be enough to definitively proclaim that pFriem is the Best Brewery in the World simply with those six beers? Certainly not.

Many other breweries throughout our history have produced multiple world-class beers, including pFriem’s nearest competitors in that category – Brouwerij Rodenbach in Roeselare, Belgium, a world-renowned sour beer brewery with nearly 200 years of history, which has produced four world-class beers according to the judges in our Official Review.

However, the great makers of famed Flanders Red Ales have only submitted seven beers to us overall – giving them an impressive “hit” rating, but also limiting the breadth of their achievement. A caveat: it is well-known that Rodenbach only brews a small selection of brews, but while four of their beers were graded out as world-class, the other three beers our judges reviewed fell below the Exceptional moniker – that is to say they graded out below a 91 rating.


attractive pfriem family brewers beer in branded glassware atop bar
pFriem has produced a whopping six beers that have scored a 96 rating or above in our Official Review.


Four breweries in our history have been bestowed three world-class ratings, including Heavy Seas Beer (two of which came in 2017, when they won Brewery of the Year), Avery Brewing Co., Upland Brewing Co. and Stone Brewing Co.

Further, 14 breweries have produced two beers with world-class ratings, highlighted by East Brother Beer Co., Tree House Brewing Co., Arches Brewing, Breckenridge Brewery, Brewery Ommegang, Bell’s Brewery, Prairie Artisan Ales and Firestone Walker Brewing Co. A further 12 breweries have produced only one world-class beer according to our judges in the Official Review.

Speaking of Exceptional beers, let’s circle back to the Best Brewery in the World. pFriem Family Brewers has submitted the second-most beers in our history (49) as well as had the most beers given a rating of World Class or Exceptional – a striking 25 pFriem beers were given an exceptional rating between 91 and 95.

Only Upland Brewing Co. in Bloomington, Indiana has submitted more beers to our Official Review with a whopping fifty beers reviewed in our history, but while that brewery has produced 19 beers that scored world-class or exceptional ratings, that’s still a far cry from pFriem’s massive selection of 31 such beers.

In fact, Upland and Monday Night Brewing in Atlanta, Georgia are tied for second place behind pFriem in terms of cumulative world-class and exceptional beers reviewed in our history with 19 apiece. Hot on those breweries’ heels is Stone Brewing with 18 world-class and exceptional reviews, then 14 from Breckenridge Brewery, 13 from Starr Hill Brewery and 12 from Cape May Brewing Co.

Let’s put these numbers into context.

Among those seven breweries (pFriem, Upland, Monday Night, Stone, Breckenridge, Starr Hill and Cape May), which brewery was the most successful overall in terms of a ratio? To distill it down further, what percentage of beers submitted hit the world-class or exceptional threshold out of the overall number of beers submitted?


limited release pfriem beers in front of a fire pit
With 31 world-class and exceptional beers, a whopping 63.2 percent of pFriem's reviewed beers have been featured as some the best in the world.


As you might expect at this point, pFriem bested the competition in this category. Out of the 49 beers the brewery submitted, 63.2 percent of them (31 of 49) achieved ratings of 91 or above.

Stone Brewing was second on this list with a solid “hit” ratio of 60 percent (18 of 30), but it must be noted that the Escondido brewery has submitted nearly 20 fewer beers than our Best Brewery in the World has.

Breckenridge Brewery was third with 58.3 percent of beers (14 of 24) being named world-class or exceptional. Following up the top three was Cape May with an even 50 percent (12 of 24), Monday Night at 48.7 percent (19 of 39), Starr Hill at 40.6 percent (13 of 32) and Upland rounding out the list at 38 percent (19 of 50) – showing that simply submitting the most beers doesn’t necessarily indicate a high “hit” ratio in terms of world-class and exceptional brews.

While these numbers help to express why we believe pFriem Family Brewers to be immensely deserving of the title of Best Brewery in the World, what these statistics do not dictate is the ineffable quality that pFriem Family Brewers imbue in their beers.

Top-tier breweries produce a certain quality to their beers that cannot be easily defined or reformulated; it’s a matter of “feel.” If a brewery has it, they are seemingly able to float above the extremely competitive industry they work in and simply create masterful beer after masterful beer – something that pFriem Family Brewers surely does.

Don’t just take our word for it: find out for yourself by seeking out these tremendous fermented creations and taste just what it means to be the Best Brewery in the World!


pfriem pilsner can held in front of a river

All pFriem Family Brewers Beers Reviewed by BC:

99 – Frambozen​
97 – Wit
96 – Oude Kriek​
96 – Oud Bruin
96 – Maple Barrel Aged Smoked Porter
96 – Brouwer’s 14th Anniversary
95 – Belgian-Style Blonde Ale
95 – Flanders Blonde
95 – Nectarine Golden Ale
95 – Golden Coffee Pale
95 – Vienna Lager
95 – Pilsner
94 – Lemon Zest Farmhouse Ale
94 – Barrel Aged Saison II
94 – Super Saison​
94 – Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
94 – Bailey’s Taproom 10th
94 – Flanders-Style Red Ale
93 – Pêche​
93 – Helles Lager
93 – Extra Pale Ale
93 – Brett Saison​
92 – pFriem IPA
92 – Hazy IPA
92 – Export Lager
92 – Dank IPA
91 – Brut IPA
91 – Druif – 2018 Vintage
91 – La Mûre​
91 – Sauv Blanc Barrel Aged Golden Ale
91 – Mosaic Single Hop Pale
90 – Winter Ale
90 – Bosbessen​
90 – Citrus Zest IPA
90 – Belgian-Style Dark Ale
89 – Bright Pale
89 – Pumpkin Bier
89 – Kölsch Style Ale
89 – Barrel Aged Saison III
88 – Juicy IPA
87 – Scotch Barrel Aged Imperial Brown
87 – Down Under IPA
87  – Druif Rouge
86 – Hoppy Pils​
86 – Belgian Strong Dark
86 – Abrikoos​
84 – Druif​
84 – CDA​
77 – Pruim


pfriem family brewers brewing team

pFriem Family Brewers Co-Founder and Brewmaster Josh ​Pfriem (front row, second from right) and Head Brewer Gavin Lord (front row, far right) react to being named The Beer Connoisseur's Best Brewery in the World.

BC: When you started pFriem, did you envisage the level of critical acclaim that the brewery has garnered over the years?
Josh Pfriem: When we set forth to create pFriem, we had a couple simple, but important, goals to lead us. We wanted to make the best beer we possibly could, and we wanted everything we did to be as high quality as the beers themselves. This included our employees/team, our tasting room, our food experience in the tasting room, brand perception in the marketplace and, ultimately, all of our relationships with distributors, retailers and our very supportive beer drinkers. It has been very humbling to receive the recognition that we have been honored with. Our drive first and foremost has been to create great beers – everything else will fall into place from there. We are continually blown away by the amount of recognition and love we have felt. 

BC: Of the six World-Class beers we've reviewed (Oude Kriek, Frambozen, Oud Bruin, Wit, Brouwer's 14th Anniversary, Maple Barrel Aged Smoked Porter), which is your personal favorite and which has been the most popular for your fans?
Josh: Oh man that’s a tough one… I have always said that making our beers is like having kids. As a parent you love them all equally, but they all have their own place and time. Of this group of beers, Oude Kriek is probably the most nostalgic. On my first trip to Belgium, my wife and I were touring the country on bicycles, and we were absolutely astonished to drink our way through Pajottenland just outside of Brussels. We became infatuated with the spontaneous beers aged on fruit. The complexity, the balance of the acid, funk and fruit along with the sparkling carbonation sent us on a love journey for these beers. In particular, the oude kriek lambics blew us away and helped inspire us to create what is now pFriem. Our Oude Kriek is a journey year over year. We continually learn more and more about the delicate art of making spontaneous beer, aging beer with microflora, and experimenting with different cherry varietals. Although we are very proud of the current state of this beer, I look forward to the continued pursuit of making this one better year after year.

BC: Frambozen is one of only four beers in our history to receive a near-perfect score of 99. What does that eminently high rating mean to you personally and to the brewing team in general?
Josh: As a team we thrive off our ability to be in a constant state of making our beer better today than it was yesterday. We are probably our hardest critics. Week over week we are evaluating our beer at a very critical level, we are trying to figure out what we can do to make it better and what is getting in the way of making it better. This is hard and trying work, so when we are recognized for it, we are incredibly grateful and humbly honored. It also means that we didn’t get 100 so there is more work to do on that beer.

BC: How do you see the brewery evolving in the coming years? 
Josh: We are in the process of building the future of our brewery. We are nearing completion on our Cascade Locks facility, which will allow us to take our barrel-aged beer program to the next level. In our current facility we are in the midst of a major expansion and we are preparing for our new 5-vessel German brewhouse to arrive in early spring. All of the new equipment that we are going to be installing will allow us to achieve another level of quality and flavor. These projects have been in the works for years and we are very excited for them to come to fruition. Over the coming years we look forward to growing into our new spaces and utilizing our new tools to create even better pFriem beer.

BC: What does the title "Best Brewery in the World" mean to you?
Josh: To me the idea of being the best brewery in the world has been an ideology or a mythical place such as Shangri-La, Atlantis or Avalon. It is a place to dream of one day getting there, but the journey itself is the real reward. We are beyond grateful, humbled and honored that The Beer Connoisseur would bestow such an esteemed title on us. But when we look around our brewery and examine our beers, all we see is how much work still needs to be done on both in order for us to make the best beer that we possibly can. We will continue on our journey.     


pfriem ipa being canned in canning line
Even for the Best Brewery in the World, there is always room for improvement. Perhaps this drive to reach perfection is what makes pFriem Family Brewers BC's top Brewery.


BC: Of the six World-Class beers we've reviewed (Oude Kriek, Frambozen, Oud Bruin, Wit, Brouwer's 14th Anniversary, Maple Barrel Aged Smoked Porter), which is your personal favorite and which has been the most popular for your fans? 
Gavin Lord: Each of these six beers represents years of hard work on the part of our team. While we're honored at their recognition, we think of them as constant works in progress. To pick a favorite or speak to their popularity at a single point in time feels somehow unfair. I will say, however, that our Oud Bruin is often overshadowed by its flashier siblings, and I really enjoy its understated complexity. One would be hard pressed to find a better style to pair with a hearty supper.    

BC: What does the title "Best Brewery in the World" mean to you? 
Gavin: It's incredibly humbling. We look up to so many breweries and brewing teams both stateside and abroad. Our friends and colleagues continue to teach, challenge and inspire us to make better beer, and for that we are very grateful.  

BC: What can we expect from the pFriem brewing team in the next few years? 
Gavin: We have many irons in the fire at the moment. We're right on the cusp of moving into a brand-new warehouse, cold storage and barrel storage facility, we're installing an additional brewhouse this spring and our team continues to grow (we're hiring!). Our hope is that these improvements allow us to continue to increase quality across all aspects of pFriem. Cheers!


pfriem artwork behind bar
"We are beyond grateful, humbled and honored that The Beer Connoisseur would bestow such an esteemed title as "Best Brewery in the World" on us. But when we look around our brewery and examine our beers, all we see is how much work still needs to be done on both in order for us to make the best beer that we possibly can. We will continue on our journey."
- Josh Pfriem, Co-Founder and Brewmaster


All Images Courtesy pFriem Family Brewers

Comments

David Morrow's picture
When a start-up brewer based in Hood River, Oregon asked us to create a new brand from the ground up, we knew it would be a challenge. The craft beer industry in the US at the time was growing at a rate of 15% a year and offered a highly fragmented selection of beers…just looking at the growth of the beer isle at retail proved it. That said, we were immediately captivated by the vision, ambition and character of the brewery team and we knew we had something special and unique to work with. We began by understanding the history of beers around the world and learned that many of the esteemed brands had traditionally been named after their founders. These names translated into a personal stamp of quality and trust in the product. The founders inspired us with their strong family culture, and they wanted to bring that personal expression into the brand. From there, PFriem Family Brewers was born, and the work of creating the brand identity, bottle labels, signage, tap handles, packaging, tasting trays, branded swag and more began. The launch of pFriem Family Brewers was a huge success. In their first year they doubled capacity and distribution, hired their 25th employee and were four years ahead of projections in their business plan. When we first meet Josh Pfriem and his family, we knew there was something special about this opportunity. “The Best Brewery in the World”, confirms just how special. Congratulations pFriem Family Brewers! Sally Morrow Creative https://www.sallymorrowcreative.com/pfriem-beer-brand-packaging-design
Editorial Dept.'s picture
Thanks David Morrow, No other brewery comes particularly close in our history to matching pFriem's incredible ratings in our beer review.

Comments

David Morrow's picture
When a start-up brewer based in Hood River, Oregon asked us to create a new brand from the ground up, we knew it would be a challenge. The craft beer industry in the US at the time was growing at a rate of 15% a year and offered a highly fragmented selection of beers…just looking at the growth of the beer isle at retail proved it. That said, we were immediately captivated by the vision, ambition and character of the brewery team and we knew we had something special and unique to work with. We began by understanding the history of beers around the world and learned that many of the esteemed brands had traditionally been named after their founders. These names translated into a personal stamp of quality and trust in the product. The founders inspired us with their strong family culture, and they wanted to bring that personal expression into the brand. From there, PFriem Family Brewers was born, and the work of creating the brand identity, bottle labels, signage, tap handles, packaging, tasting trays, branded swag and more began. The launch of pFriem Family Brewers was a huge success. In their first year they doubled capacity and distribution, hired their 25th employee and were four years ahead of projections in their business plan. When we first meet Josh Pfriem and his family, we knew there was something special about this opportunity. “The Best Brewery in the World”, confirms just how special. Congratulations pFriem Family Brewers! Sally Morrow Creative https://www.sallymorrowcreative.com/pfriem-beer-brand-packaging-design
Editorial Dept.'s picture
Thanks David Morrow, No other brewery comes particularly close in our history to matching pFriem's incredible ratings in our beer review.

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