Posts Tagged deschutes

Tis The Season!

Deschutes Jubelale

It’s that time of year, when the leaves are about done changing color, the heat of summer and fall has subsided and my favorite brewery of all time releases their star seasonal: Deschutes Jubelale Festive Winter Ale (6.7% abv).

This wonder in a bottle poured very dark amber in color, with a thick cap of sudsy tan head. Aromas were fruity sweet, with caramel, raisins, plums and a hint of spice. The taste was mild and malty at first. Then the fruitiness kicked in, a bit tart, but the warmth from the alcohol and the malts took over quickly to calm it down. The middle is just as mild, with medium-light body and light carbonation, which carried through to a malty finish, punctuated by some warm spice and dark fruit flavors. Simply put, this is a great beer from my favorite brewery and all I need to get in the mood for the winter holidays. I love this beer.

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

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San Diego International Beer Festival 2015

SDIBF_frontI recently attended a glorious event held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds (home of the famous Del Mar racetrack) called the San Diego International Beer Festival. Held at the same time as the San Diego County Fair, this exhibition brought together some 400 beers by breweries from all over the world. It was a great atmosphere and an even better way to taste a whole lot of different beers in one place.

IMG_3446There were two ticket options available: General Admission, which got visitors unlimited one-ounce tastings over four hours and a plastic ‘souvenir’ tasting cup, and VIP, which allowed an extra hour of unlimited tastings (why?) and a glass souvenir tasting cup that vendors would fill as full as three ounces for each tasting. Four hours was plenty for me since, as mentioned at the top, there were over 400 beers to try. I got my fill of far too many to list and/or review here, so I’ll just hit the highlights.

The first stop I had to make was at the booth of my favorite brewery: Deschutes. As luck would have it, they had some cleanup to do from the previous tasting session and were not going to be open for another hour, so I was forced to move on. I sampled mediocre beer after mediocre beer, some even downright swill bucket material…until I happened upon the Einstock beer tent. With only three beers on tap, I did not really know what to expect from this Icelandic brewery, until I saw this:

Einstock_ax

I need one of these

That, my friends is one serious bottle opener. No matter what the beer tasted like, I was in from this implement alone. The Icelandic White Ale was a typical example of a witbier: poured very pale light yellow with a fizziness that reminded me of Squirt soda.  There was lots of fresh citrus aroma and taste that was quite refreshing. It didn’t have much of a finish, but the effervescence kept my tastebuds alive.

Next I tried the Icelandic Arctic Pale. This one poured a bit darker with still minimal head. It smelled remarkably malty for a pale ale, with only a hint of hops. My first taste was of malty sweetness up front and some fruit flavors to follow. The middle was mild and light, finishing with the same maltiness as at the top. It wasn’t a particularly dynamic beer, but enough to hold my interest for the third tasting.

The Icelandic Toasted Porter was actually the one I was looking forward to the most. It poured deep, dark brown, with only a little fizzy brown head on top. It smelled distinctly of chocolate and coffee and little else. The taste was purely of these two flavors the whole way through, though not overpoweringly so. I liked this one most.

SDIBF_collageInnumerable samples and a giant hot dog later, because I’m a responsible drinker, I finally got to my number one destination of the event: the Deschutes Woody booth. It was done up in finished wood to look just like a beer barrel. Enjoying one of the many brews they had on tap, the driver of the woody saw the Deschutes hat I was wearing and came over for a chat. I mentioned that this DeschutesWoodywas was very cool booth and that it reminded me of the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile.

“Funny you should mention that,” he said. He then brought out his phone and explained that he had contacted them once to partner on a promotional event, but was rebuffed, with the folks at Oscar Mayer telling him that the Deschutes drinkers were “not their demographic.”

Pardon me, Oscar Mayer, but since when have hot dogs NOT fit the beer crowd like a glove? Never, that’s when. He was lucky enough, however to get them to pose for a picture at another event. This simply made my night.

The San Diego International Beer Festival was a fantastic event with lots of beer vendors, even more beer lovers and lots and lots of beer. I sincerely hope this even comes back next year, as I’ll absolutely be there!

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Tripping on Melons

DeschutesHopTripFreshHopPaleAle_fullWhenever I see a beer from what has become one of my favorite breweries in Deschutes, I have to try it. It was no different when I decided to try the Deschutes Hop Trip Fresh Hop Pale Ale. Even though the hoppy name put me off a bit, I pressed forward.

It poured a deep golden red color with medium white head that stuck around a while and left some nice lacing on the glass (despite the lack of lacing in the picture…) There was a light smell of fresh fruit and malt on the smell, with a nice hoppiness coming through afterward. On the taste, it was medium-bodied with light carbonation. Some fruity berries came through at first. The most surprising bit of this one was the slight watermelon flavor I got after the berry DeschutesHopTripFreshHopPaleAle_topflavors. This was refreshing, if a bit odd for a beer called “Hop Trip.” That refreshing watermelon stayed through to the finish, with a touch of maltiness on the tail end.

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Great Hops of Fire!

Deschutes Cinder Cone Red“Goodness, gracious, great [hops] of fire!” …ok, not really, but it sounded clever (enough). I would have thought with a name like Cinder Cone that this was a seasonal, but apparently they brew it year round. I had never seen this one from Deschutes before so I was kind of excited to try it.

It poured a deep orange-red with sudsy medium white head that streaked down the glass a little. The aromas included a slight fruity sweetness and a touch of sourness, but mostly hops. This gave me pause, as it didn’t present itself as an imperial red ale, but just as a regular red. My confusion lasted but a second, though and I pressed on. The first taste I got was bitterness right out the gate. It did have a smooth mouthfeel, with light carbonation and a bit of fruitiness.Cinder Cone top Toward the end, it presented the maltiness I had been missing the whole way through, but finished fruity and hoppy.

I was disappointed by the emphasis on the hops in this one, as I expected a bit more malty warmth from a beer with such a fiery name. Alas, too many hops for me, but still passable:

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An Anchor, A ‘Chute and A Bell

Anchor, Deschutes and Bell's

Saturday was game day, so I had to find a place to be among fellow fans. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a good place to root for USC in San Diego, so I went with my go-to sports-watching hangout: San Diego Brewing. I basically had a TV all to myself, so it was like watching it at home with more beer and better food.

I couldn’t decide on just one beer, so I got a sampler of three from three good breweries: San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Co., Oregon mainstay Deschutes Brewery and Bell’s Brewery, Inc all the way from Michigan. First up was a special barrel blend from Anchor. This one poured a rich orange golden color, with creamy-ish head that seemed to stick around a while. Just looking at it, it gave me the impression of a heavy beer. It smelled really boozy and somewhat sour, while maintaining some richness at the same time. There was also some musty oak and sugary malt notes on the end. The whole thing smelled very complex. It tasted very smooth and not as alcoholic as the smell led me to believe. The taste was just as complex as the smell, sort of like a beer version of a “suicide soda,” in which (usually) kids run down a soda fountain, filling their cup with every flavor on offer. There were sour notes up front, with a maltiness that helped tie together all the things going on with this beer. It was difficult to pick out any distinguishing flavors to describe. The aftertaste was a little on the sour side, but over all a good enough beer. I would rate it:

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Next was one from one of my favorite breweries. Deschutes Black Butte XXIII Porter. It poured a beautiful dark brown, with light brown, medium head that did not last long. It smelled very chocolatey, with lots of bittersweet flavor up front. Then some sticky sweetness came through, a little like brown sugar, for lack of a better way to describe it. The taste was rich chocolate all the way. It was so warm and smooth, it almost made me want it served hot. There was considerable bourbon flavor toward the end, making the finish all warm and smooth as well. This is a great beer for the winter months to come.

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I finished up with Bell’s Cherry Stout. I was a little leery of this one going in, as I don’t normally like flavors that define a beer. It poured black (duh), with sticky, foamy tan head. It smelled incredibly sweet and rich. There was some brown sugar, with the cherry flavor on the tail end. The taste was mild at first, but then some sourness crept in, giving way to a load of tartness that almost made me pucker. It could have used a little heavier carbonation to break up the sweetness, or at least a little more malt to add some character to it. The tangy tartness carried the whole way through this beer and the finish. A bit too tart for my taste, but an ok beer.

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Despite the relative mediocrity of the couple threes up there, not a bad way to spend an evening. It definitely helped me get even more excited for the turkey-infused gluttonfest this Thrusday… Eat, drink and be merry. Also:

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Au Revoir Portland!

Mt. Hood as visible from almost anywhere in the city.

As promised, I went to Portland, Oregon last week and I loved it. I love the Pacific Northwest mainly for 3 things: the beautiful scenery, the weather (yes, I like rain), and now the beer.  Of course, I have long known about the vibrant beer culture up there, but to actually go to the place where it is all happening was really something. First stop upon arrival (around dinnertime) was Henry’s Tavern. This place was a kind of spontaneous decision, as we had yet to get our bearings and were very hungry. This is one of those tall brick buildings you’d expect in a historic district, but since many parts of Portland are historic, Henry’s place on 12th Street was hardly out-of-place. Walking in, the place seemed huge, with a large room that served as its bar area to the left and a long double row of seating to the right. Above and directly in front of the front door was a narrow loft with even more seating. It definitely had the feel of an old-timey feel, with unfinished wood floors and brick everywhere. They were very busy and short-staffed, but on to the beer.

Although they do not brew their own beer, they offer more than enough local and regional fare to choose from. Though they had a respectable list of stouts, my love of reds immediately drew my attention to that section of the menu. I was tired and wanted to get some bang for my buck, so I chose the Lompoc Proletariat Red. This was a pretty good one and at 6.2% ABV, very drinkable. It took so long to get to the table after I ordered it that I couldn’t tell you about the head, but it the beer had a dark, cloudy amber color to it. It smelled somewhat malty and sour, though that was not altogether unpleasant. It was not a cold beer, probably again owing to it taking so long to get to the table, but was surprisingly refreshing. At first, I was hit with the sourness and I thought I had gotten a beer different from the one I ordered. Then the heavy malts started coming through, making it almost creamy in texture and taste. Afterwards, I had mostly the heavy malt left to remember it by. Not a bad beer, but I was hoping for more.

IMG_1563Then we went back to the hotel and sat by the fire at the restaurant, Nel Centro. Their beer selection was not extensive, but the Amnesia Porter caught my eye. It came cold, which was quite welcome after the semi-warm beer at dinner. This dark beauty had little head, but swirling it a bit in the glass left some nice lacing. It smelled heavily of my second love, coffee, which excited me. At first the taste was like a shot of espresso, followed by that characteristic chocolate bitterness. The alcohol content was just enough to pleasantly warm my insides. That was pretty much it for the first day in Portland, as it was pretty late by then. I mean, we went to a pretty cool ice cream shop after dinner, but I want this to be less a travelogue and more about the beer.

The next day Portland collagewe got up early to see some of the sights and went to the Portland Japanese Garden. Again, I won’t bore you with details, but suffice to say it was pretty and tranquil.

IMG_1576Portland Japanese Garden

From there, we ventured forth in search of a brew pub called Kell’s Irish Brew Pub that I saw on the list of area attractions on our map. This is a fairly out-of-the-way place on the western side of the city. Inside, it is basically one big room, with a large fireplace on the left, the bar toward the back, the brewing room behind that, and the seating area just kind of haphazardly set around the whole floor. After being seated, I ordered my second coffee of the morning, this time an Irish coffee. As always, this was a tantalizing treat. I had IMG_1580somewhat underdone waffles to eat, topped with Jameson maple syrup that was too good to pass up. After I drained my coffee, I followed it up with one of only 3 brews they had. As usual, it was a red. It was a bright red color, came cold and without head. It smelled somewhat hoppy, with floral notes and something like a citrus, though I couldn’t readily identify it at the time. With my first sip, however, the fruitiness came through. It then kind of fell away to become somewhat flat in both flavor and carbonation. The finish was much the same and left only a slight malty taste. Not a great beer, but good enough for an experiment.

From there, we really didn’t have a destination, so we cruised around until we happened upon a very nondescript industrial building. Upon closer inspection, it was actually a listed attraction: Clear Creek Distillery. Now, I know this doesn’t really belong with a writing about all things beer, but I thought it was a good enough experience to share it.

IMG_1581We parked it what was essentially an alley and upon trying to enter the place, we discovered the door was locked. Turns out there is a sign on the door that instructs entrants to knock…read for comprehension, kids (Hooked on Phonics worked for me!) We entered into a tasting room with various bottles set on tables and counters around 3/4 of the room. We were given a card that served as our “passport”. In it, we could browse the menu of “Eau de Vie” (brandy), grappa, whiskey and liqueurs, taste up to 5 and check them off so we remember what we had. I started with the single whiskey selection they had: McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt Whiskey. I knew nothing about this one before tasting it, which was why I was surprised and a little dismayed at the thick peat and smokiness in both the smell and flavor. I was a little afraid this would set my chest afire with heartburn, as this kind of whiskey usually does, but I pressed on. Next I tried two of the brandies- the apple and the pear. Both smelled heavily of their respective fruits. Both were relatively thin and clear. Both started with a quick hit of alcohol, then the fruit flavor, finishing back with the alcohol burn afterward. The next one I tried was grappa. I had never had this type of alcohol before, so I had to look it up. According to Clear Creek’s website, it is made from the crushed seed and skin leftovers from wine makers. The result is a rather harsh, vodka-like burn, with (for me) very little fruitiness. I tried it– then I moved on. The final one I tried was easily the most intriguing of the bunch. It was the one the reps in the store recommended I try last. It was a Eau de Vie of Douglas Fir. That’s right: pine flavored booze. It looked much the same as the pear and apple brandy, with the slightest green tint. One smell told my confused brain that I was about to drink a liquid pine tree. The taste was not any different from the smell and gave me a bit of indigestion. Even though I wouldn’t buy a bottle of it, I am glad for the interesting experience of it.

IMG_1586Next, we went in search of dinner. What better place, I thought, than the brewery we had an inexplicable amount of trouble finding upon our arrival the day before: Deschutes Brewery. This was the one place I was looking forward to making my whole trip. Despite not being able to find it in the dark the previous night, we had no trouble getting there this time. A popular place, we had to wait a bit to get in and seated. Once inside, it has a very warm noisy (but not over the top) feel. The beer menu, as you would imagine, is extensive. For me, the best way to deal with this…”problem” is to order multiple brews at the same time. Of course, IPA crowded the menu, but they were easy enough to avoid and I filled my sampler IMG_1590thusly: the seasonal Jubelale, Double D Imperial Spelt Ale, Black Butte Porter XXV, Fresh Hop Saison, River Ale, and Nitro Obsidian Stout. It was quite a tray. I tried them in order, so let’s dive in.

First was the Jubelale. It was a pretty dark red color without much head, but what head was visible was a light off white color. It smelled of mulled spices and made me think of hot cider. The taste, on the other hand, was not cidery, but reminded me of dark fruit like plum and raisins. Very warming, it was a pleasant experience with a medium malty fruit aftertaste. Next up was the Double D Imperial Spelt Ale. In my journey of beer learnings I had never come across the term spelt before. Turns out this is a type of malt. I like malt. I liked this beer. It had almost no head left when I got it and it was a bright red-orange color. It smelled spicy and fruity, like banana and citrus. The taste was not far off these flavors. It was light to medium bodied with a little alcohol warmth on the finish. Then I tried the Black Butte Porter. I had had this one before, but couldn’t remember. I have a soft spot for porters and it was a good one anyway. This one, too, had no head left, but I imagine it was tan and thick. It had a bitter smell and I couldn’t quite make out any chocolate or coffee. Tasting it, they definitely came through. It also had a slight richness to it that tasted like roasted brown sugar. The finish was pretty light and tasted mostly of chocolate. For a porter, this is a pretty mild beer, but I liked it. Fourth up, the Fresh Hop Saison. This was the riskiest part of the sampler for me since hoppy beers usually bother me so much. What head was left was very white and frothy. The brew was very bright yellow and opaque, as you might expect from a saison. I got lots of citrus from both the smell and the taste alike. The aftertaste was slightly sour and tart. Moving on, I went to the River Ale, which looked like a lighter version of the Double D. Its head was well dissipated by then. It smelled like spiced fruit and a slight floral aroma. The taste was not so heavy on the flowers, but the fruit did come through, with a peppery accent. The finish was mild, with the fruity spiciness lingering a bit. Last was the one I was most excited to try: Nitro Obsidian Stout. This one was super dark, I daresay darker than the porter, with very creamy tan head that stuck around for a good long while, which I appreciated. The taste–oh man, the taste. First I was hit with the rich roasted barley, then it got bitter, finishing with the prominent coffee and chocolate that I love in these beers so much.

Thus concludes my trip to the northwest (at least where beer was concerned). A very good trip, for sure and I will be back.

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