Deschutes’ Delicious Secret
Deschutes’ Cassis Abbey Ale might be Sarah’s favorite American wild ale. Too bad it seems to be a one off, pub only release. The beer was aged in oak for 15 months with black currants. It pours a murky brownish red with tons of floating detritus. It looks properly wild. The flavor is dominated by the fruit and acid. Nice notes of lactic acid with only a hint of brettanomyces funk. I believe the base beer was a dubbel, and malty sweetness does make an appearance. But the ten percent alcohol snuck up on both of us.
Our growler didn’t make it through the weekend, but as the days passed the beer got less appealing, So keep in mind that growlers shouldn’t be stored indefinitely.
Here are some great barbecue beers. Light, refreshing, but still a bit bitter, and dry. Perfect for manning the grill. Have one or two of four. I’ve had the HUB Lager a few times, and Fort George’s 1811 was one the first beers on Whachudrinkin. Deschutes Twilight is a summer ale with a nice crisp lemon flavor and a crisp finish.
Black Butte Porter was the first beer I ever tried. It wasn’t the first drink — that distinction goes to a ceramic conch shell filled with strawberries and tequila I drank with a crazy straw — but it did start me down the path of beer love. From Black Butte I went in search of chocolate and coffee stouts. I searched out beers with added spices, wits and Belgians. I drank an entire case of Session. I toyed with Imperial beers and bitters. I decided I was going to try them all.
But now I am back at the beginning with a Black Butte. I’m not sure what I thought at the time. I don’t even think I knew what color it was, like any novice who drinks directly from the bottle. I’m sure the coffee flavor just blew my mind. Today I recognize the bittersweet chocolate chips and the dark roasted coffee. I can point at the light bitterness. I can enjoy the medium body that makes Black Butte just as quaffable on a warm summer evening as a dark winter night. Still a solid beer.
On Saturday Sarah and I attended the Portland Fruit Beer Festival at Burnside Brewing with our friend Chelsea. The event was small and relaxed. The crowd got a little heavy after the Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade finally ended and the road blacks were cleared. We actually spent twenty minutes trying to drive five minutes from our apartment. The festival was dominated by local breweries and one off, exclusive beers. Some were experimental. Most were interesting, but some missed the mark.
I started out with a bourbon barrel aged RenewALE porter from Ninkasi that had been aged with cherries. It was an interesting beer, all the layers really stood out. The one problem was that all the layers stood out. It was bourbon, cherries, and then some porter. It wasn’t a good marriage of flavors; everything was just layered one on top of the other.
I tried my second Logsdon’s ale: Fruit Melange, a batch of the Seizoen Bretta aged with pears and cherries. The cherries really jumped out, but so did their saison yeast. It wasn’t a brettanomyces flavor I got off it. It was more of a Belgian yeast, all pepper in the finish.
I also tried Ching Ching from Bend Brewing Company — thanks festival guide, I forgot to write that down. Ching Ching is a a Berliner weiss made with pomegranate and hibiscus. Hibiscus was very popular this year. It was super dry and tart with a cranberry sourness. I thought it was more similar to a sour beer than a wheat.
I then went on to one of my favorite breweries, Upright, and had their Levinator. The guide tells us that the Levinator is a bock beer brewed with weisse yeast and matured in wine barrels with black currants. Sarah and I both had tasters of this one. Sarah mentioned a coffee like flavor. I thought there was a hint of oak. There was a hint of sour and a really mellow flavor. It felt big, and boasted 7.2% ABV, but the flavors were very light.
The Huckleberry Hound was the most recognizable beer in the whole line up. Alameda Brewing made an IPA and then added huckleberries. I could smell this beer all day, big piney aroma. The taste was also fantastic, big bitter hops. But then the blueberries hit. It doesn’t make sense at all to have piney hops mixed with blueberries. I can get behind huckleberry and grapefruit. I can get behind huckleberries and whatever, but pine? No.
Deschutes made a very dark stout with raspberries called Extinction. It was like some sort of coffee and chocolate cake covered in raspberry reduction. The only problem was that I smelled wet dog the whole time I was sipping it. Now that probably wasn’t the brewers fault, there were dogs around. But I couldn’t fully appreciate the nose on this one.
There were a few more stand outs that had us waiting in line for seconds, but I’ll get to those later.
I considered not posting this beer. I reviewed it a few months ago. I liked it then, and I don’t like it as much now. I bought a six pack of Red Chair for a poker night at Carlos’ place, and a few bottles sat in his fridge until last month when I liberated them. So this is a three or four month old once hoppy beer. Hoppy beers shouldn’t get that old.
Originally I loved the tangerine-like sweetness and citrus bite, but that’s gone now. The malty caramel notes are stronger, and frigging delicious. Red Chair was supposed to be a Northwest pale ale, but this isn’t the beer Deschutes meant it to be. It’s all malt, no hops. It’s not balanced anymore. But It raises the question, should you drink old beer? Should I review it?
I’ve been really concerned that the IPA tastings I’ve been hosting have been full of off beers. Not infected, but not a prime example of the beer. Especially last week. All those beers tasted a little off kilter, a little stale. But I thought, if this is what they are putting on the shelves, if they don’t label them with freshness dates, it’s completely fair for me to rate them. This is how it tastes to anyone who walked into the beer aisle after me, so it’s not like I am sabotaging any brewery. Right?
Today I hosted round one of the Oregon IPA Invitational blind taste test challenge. I brought bottles of some of the biggest breweries in the state: Bridgeport, Full Sail, Widmer Brothers, and Deschutes. Sarah poured six 6 oz. servings for my brothers, my dad, and I. In the end they all had opinions along with my sisters, and everyone else in tasting distance.
Our first beer was a very classic IPA, earthy, orange peel. The beer coated the tongue and left a healthy bitterness. It was the immediate favorite.
Beer number two was an instant change. It was completely different. The bitterness was more like old coffee and stuck around a bit longer. Compared to beer one, it fell flat. No citrus or pine notes, just bitter.
Number three was the lightest tasting beer in the group. It was not very bitter with a hint of citrus. It had the texture of soapy water and left a greasy feeling on my tongue. It was better than number two, but trailed number one.
Our last beer was polarizing. Even just sniffing it people started talking about fields of green and fresh soil. The taste brought to mind basil and mint. Veronica said it would be perfect for a warm summer evening. Others panned it outright. I liked the basil personally, but it is a bit unorthodox.
Beer one was Deschutes Brewing’s Inversion IPA, and it won the gold with a heavy margin. Just as I suspected. Beer two was Full Sail’s IPA, and came in third with a few ranking it second or fourth. Beer three was from Bridgeport which won the silver medal. A pretty solid beer. The last beer was obviously the Spiced IPA from Widmer Brothers. I liked it, but it came in last.
Today, I heard on Twitter that Deschutes dug a few extra cases of The Abyss and The Stoic out of storage, so I went down to the brewpub to pick up a few. I’ve wanted to try the Abyss for a while. I missed this years batch because I was in Virginia. When I got home, there were no bottles left in Portland, so I was pretty excited. And the Stoic just sounds amazing.
Red Chair NWPA from Deschutes is full of tangerine citrus, sweet malt, nice little bitterness.
This Imperial Red Ale is surprisingly hoppy for a red, but that’s Lagunitas’ deal. Citrus hops followed by some malt and a bitter burn.
I had the pleasure of trying three different experimental beers at Deschutes tonight. Hop-u-py Portland NWPA is Lemony but not too bitter. Leap Year NWPA tastes like grapefruit hops. I could smell it coming. The aftertaste is very piney. Hop City 2 is an imperial India pale ale, like Hop Henge. Unlike Hop Henge, the hops in Hop City are a bit flat. I smell the grapefruit, but I don’t taste it. Of the three, Leap Year was the most delicious. I wish it came in bottles.