Cinder Cone is an Amber (Red) Ale, which is available throughout the year in 22 oz. bombers. Aromas are characteristic of the style with evident caramel sweetness, along with hints of roasted grain husk. Hop notes give an immediate impression of sour orange zest. Floral, herbal undertones come in the form of grass and evergreen.
The palate is initiated by a supportive backbone of caramel and bread, which remain steady for the entire duration. In terms of style, the barley roast grows to be quite robust. Amarillo hops take the lead in a citrus character, which is dominated by orange and tangerine. Mild fruity overtones then wash over. Tettnang hops fall to the back in a unique combination of flowers, grass, and spice. A bitterness of 55 IBU’s settles comfortably on the aftertaste, where sour highlights continue to radiate. The mouthfeel brings a creamy texture over standard body weight, leaving behind moderate astringency with a crisp, clean departure.
Amber Ales were my first favorite beer style, because the hops typically aren’t overbearing on the bitterness, yet still provide some of the more pleasant flavors. An agreeable ratio of sweet, bitter, and sour tastes in accordance to proper style guidelines. It’s got enough West-Coast flare to suit modern taste, so in order to like it, you must have at least some tolerance to hops. Deschutes aren’t known for drawing outside the lines, so it resides within obvious parameters, and generally won’t impress you with much novel flavor. I find it a bit strange this is exclusively sold in bombers, but I guess this makes sense, because Deschutes have an extensive lineup. Cinder Cone is a well-balanced, easy to drink brew that was designed for those of you who like the malts just as much as the hops. I recommend it.
Deschutes Brewery (Bend, OR) Not the Stoic, 22 oz., 12.1% ABV, 15 IBU. Here’s a fun thing I learned: if the brewery doesn’t put the brew year on the bottle, I have a hard time remembering when I purchased a beer. But the internet exists, so I know I bought this in April 2014. Lots of character from the barrel aging process, plus pomegranate and molasses. Quads aren’t my favorite style, but this is definitely enjoyable.
Mirror Mirror is a limited-release English Barleywine aged in oak barrels. This is only brewed every four or five years. The heart of the brew consists of a double batch of Mirror Pond Pale Ale, of which 50% then goes on to be aged in retired Pinot Noir, Tempranillo and Malbec barrels for ten months. Aromas are malt-forward, suggesting caramel sweet bread and cinnamon rolls. Sweetness is like brown sugar with heavier notes of maple syrup. Booze gives obvious fusel notes.
The palate opens in a flood of sweet, caramelized barley with that classic Barleywine flavor. Hops rise with modest orange-citrus highlights. A big body of dark fruits touches on dried apricot, raisin, plum, and date. The barrel-aging has a drying effect with tart, vinous qualities reminiscent of cherries and tannins like red grape skin. A spicy quality hits, then hops re-emerge with herbal bitterness to help counterbalance the heavy sugar weight. Malts develop a mild roast with weak hints of chocolate. Final remarks give details of oak and caramel popcorn. The mouthfeel carries soft carbonation over a full, creamy body that ends a little dry and sticky. Sweetness stops just shy of cloying. Lingering bitterness does a great job at persistently masking the alcohol.
Overall, I think this a finely tuned, exceptional Barleywine. Although the barrel has a restrained impact, it adds a unique flavor that bumps the complexity a few points. As it warms, the hops and booze land a bit more front-and-center. Sweetness is right on target in terms of style, coming to a pleasant agreement with the hoppy bitterness. The hop level itself is about right for my taste, but a little age would probably do wonders. I recommend it to malt lovers with high sweet tolerance.
This seasonal Pale Ale is available January through May. Hops dominate the nose with fresh flowers, pine needles, herbs, and citrus fruits. Malts give a sort of grainy, bready character with sweet honey on the back-end.
The palate begins with floral notes that keep things light while sweet caramel slips in below, establishing a firm malt base. Mid-palate tastes like stone fruits, followed by citrus with a focus on grapefruit. Herbal notes surface with rosemary, lemongrass, and pine sap. Malts continue to develop a modest complexity of biscuits, toasted bread, and grain husk. The finish gently fades into grassy hops that linger with impressive sustain, ending with an orange zest bitterness. Mouthfeel is clean and creamy over a medium body with level carbonation.
Overall, this is a really strong pale ale with pleasant hop flavors and solid balance. When compared to others in the style, Red Chair has a considerably strong, supportive malt backbone. Though bitterness takes the lead here, sweet and sour notes fall behind with perfect weight distribution. Everything has a resolute sense of wholeness, rounded with an apparent attention to weight and proportion. I appreciate how Deschutes put slightly more effort into this malt bill than some breweries might for a Pale Ale. Drinkability still remains pretty good, but this isn’t quite a session ale. I suppose this is geared more toward the hoppy crowd. Hell, this would probably pass as an IPA in most places! It’s worth trying, and I recommend it.
Foray is a seasonal Belgian IPA available June through September in 22 oz. bombers. First off, I dig this label. Secondly, the malt bill is pretty interesting considering the style (Pilsner and Carapils). Aromas are delightfully hoppy, blending delicate floral notes with fruity hints of cantaloupe, apricot, white grapefruit, pear, and apple cider. Malts smell something like honey-nut cereal.
The palate begins with orange, then dives into white grapefruit. Fruity flavors make a transition from sweet melon into white grape, then pear and tart green apple. Grassy undertones wash in from below with a gentle evergreen bitterness of 60 IBU’s. A black pepper spice is stirred up in its wake, and a sour note of lemon zest marks the final highlight. Malts finally present mild, honey-like sweetness with Pilsner grain character falling on the aftertaste. Mouthfeel plays out smooth over a moderate body weight with crisp carbonation, leaving clean and semi-dry to close.
The balance is perfectly arranged so that bitter, sweet, and sour components are held in equal measure. All the hop flavors have been particularly enjoyable, but citrus dictates the general direction of the brew. I love this Pilsner malt mix in the context of a Belgian IPA – this makes the beer a little bit fusion (points for originality). The yeast doesn’t taste quite as heavy compared to other bubble gum Belgian IPA’s, but nonetheless, expands the fruity potential. Minimal bitterness opens up space, and as a result, allows greater flavor appreciation. Considering it’s an IPA, Foray is pretty easy-going and refreshing. I always enjoy this style, and Deschutes never lets me down. I recommend it.
Hop In The Dark is a seasonal Black IPA (Cascadian Black Ale) available May through June. Aromas appear rather dull, but hops stand at the foreground with bright hints of citrus (orange) and pine. Malts lie below as roasted barley give notes of burnt toast, cocoa, and coffee.
The palate opens in a gentle malt roast initiated by baker’s chocolate. Hops steadily rise with a tart edge of grapefruit. Sweet malts slightly take the lead in flavors of caramel and malted milk balls. Bitterness jumps into the back in an herbal character driven by pine. Escalating toward a bitter climax, grapefruit zest becomes the focal point. Final suggestions of coffee surface on the back-end as malts unfold grainy details of oatmeal. Hop oils leave behind a thin coating which lingers as a prolonged aftertaste. The mouthfeel is very smooth and stout-like, then slightly shifts gears as hop oils accumulate for a somewhat dry conclusion that closes clean and crisp. Drinkability is very good, aided by a modest ranking 6.8% ABV.
Overall, this isn’t as aggressive on the hop load as other Black IPA’s in my memory. It comes across more like a hoppy porter than anything. I find the bitterness to be perfectly aligned with the degree of malt roast, resulting in a complementary flavor combination where each side fights for control. As in all Deschutes brews, this is very balanced in terms of malt and hop weight. In the end, it probably ends up more on the hoppy end of the spectrum. I have always appreciated this style, but having anticipated something bigger and better, I guess I was a bit disappointed with Hop in the Dark. I think this is a good, palatable example of this niche style, so I recommend it to those of you who share a divided love for both Stouts and IPA’s. I’m not overtly impressed here, but it’s at least worth one go.
Known Malts: Pale, Crystal, Chocolate, Chocolate Wheat, Black Barley, Flaked Oats, Midnight Wheat
Known Hops: Northern Brewer, Nugget, Centennial, Amarillo, Cascade, Citra
Pine Mountain is a German-style Pilsner, which is actually an old release that’s been newly resurrected for year-round availability in 22 oz. bombers. Aromas reveal lemongrass hops, fragrant yeast, corn, and grainy pilsner malts containing a modest sweet note.
The palate begins in sour highlights of lemon juice. The malts descend with a balancing sweetness as smooth cereal grains push toward flavors of saltine crackers and sourdough. Hops begin a gentle bitterness with grassy undertones, as if outlined by a trace of pine. Finishing notes are a tad spicy like black pepper over a dull fruity note resembling apricot. The mouthfeel delivers peppy carbonation that grows sharp before winding down in a dry conclusion. The body is medium-light, but proves to be quite lively.
This is hoppy for a pilsner, but you should’ve guessed that would be the case with a name like Pine Mountain. By that, I mean hoppy in flavor, not bitterness. The palate actually has surprising balance, where bitter and sweet components taste parallel as they perform a subtle shifting of control and weight. However, hops have much greater impact as it resonates out. It’s a good pick for the outdoors, because it’s clean, light, and refreshing. You all should know by now, this isn’t my typical style, but I always appreciate the delicious malt flavor only found in a pilsner.
This “imperial porter” celebrates the 25th Anniversary of Deschutes, as well as their flagship beer, Black Butte. This limited release uses a blend of 50% aged in bourbon barrels, 12.5% were infused with black currant, then with an addition of dates, figs, and cocoa nibs. Seems like a fitting assembly of flavors to tribute to this big anniversary date to me. I’m sure this would do well with some age, but I really don’t have the patience for that.
On the nose, tart blackcurrant up front, mid-range brown sugar, loads of fruity highlights, chocolate below, with modest barrel contributions of bourbon, vanilla, and oak. On the palate, a body of chocolate makes immediate introductions, with a fruity, sweet and sour note standing on its shoulders, bursting to reveal a delicious trio of fig, date, and black currant flavors. Woody, vanilla notes add dimensionality with subtle touches of bourbon. Hops provide a character like that of burnt weed with a surprising floral focus. As fruity flavors decay, they leave behind a lingering sour note that hangs overhead, mingling with fruity esters. The roasted character grows increasingly charred as chocolate flavors fall away, and coffee flavors take their place for the finish. Mouthfeel is generally wet, low on carbonation, a little sticky, and just oily enough to lift the body up from the sweetness.
This is strong beer that’s worthy of a 25th anniversary. I would love to do a vertical with last year, which used the same ingredients but wasn’t barrel-aged. It would be interesting to see how much the barrel added to the brew, but this appears much more complex than I recall. I think the use of a blended recipe was really the only way of controlling a proper ratio of flavor, ensuring that the bourbon barrel, or the black currant don’t have too much effect on the overall palate. Using this method, everything is kept in precise control. This stays true to its chocolate roots, but I suggest you brace yourself for the fruity nature because it’s not all darkness here. If you can still find a bottle hiding someplace, snatch that shit up, because it’s worth trying! I recommend it, especially to those of you who know a thing or two about barrel-aged beers.
PS: I had the pleasure of pairing this with a fig balsamic goat cheese, which was absolutely perfect!
This American Stout is a personal favorite of mine, seen as the core of the Deschutes lineup. Aromas are like chocolate milk, caffe latte, roasted cereal grains, and raw cane sugar.
On the palate, an onset of smooth milk chocolate arrives with gentle ease. Roasted barley settles on the back of the palate with increasingly charred, blackened malt flavors. Hops infuse a slight orange rind bitterness, potentiating the roasted character to create a more resonant sense of depth. The middle-register is filled with bittersweet chocolate, cookie dough, cocoa powder, and tasty malt grains. Mouthfeel is creamy at first, clean with perfect carbonation, gently rising into a semi-coarse, hoppy dryness.
I cannot think of a better standard, year-round Stout as good as this. I appreciate how chocolate and coffee share influence, but I especially love the just how intensely dark the roast gets. The hops are certainly present, but refrain from domination. I only wish Deschutes had chosen Obsidian Stout instead of Black Butte Porter for their Anniversary range, because it’s the clear which is the winner of the two. I love it. This is a delicious, rock-solid single stout, and I highly recommend it!
Malts: Pale, Crystal, Carapils, Munich, Black Barley, Roasted Barley, Wheat
Fresh Squeezed IPA was previously only released as a seasonal, but is now available throughout the year, sold in six-packs. Aromas are dank with herbs, coming across like wet, sticky, hops. Peachy undertones are covered up with highlights of orange and lime. Malts contribute a sweet note that comes across a bit like maple syrup.
Upon entry, a sour highlight rises with flavors that hit on the citric side of the hop spectrum, reminding me of tangelo (grapefruit + orange). Biscuit malts immediately jump in to bolster a framework of sweetness from the ground up, followed by a gentle body of tropical fruit. Entering the middle-palate, grassy, herbal notes surface with an agreeable balance coming from 60 units of bitterness, which helps to properly level out the initial sweetness. Hoppy terpenes (myrcene) lightly cling with oily residue left behind. Finishing flavors aren’t very redeeming. The mouthfeel presents a medium-body, which is creamy at first, slightly acidic, then closes a little dry.
In contrast to the typical IPA, either the sweetness (crystal malt) is higher than normal, or the bitterness is a bit weaker. Either way, this results in pleasant harmony among the malts and hops, sweetness and bitterness. The bitterness is low, so it never grows too oily. This is a solid brew that follows through with the same supreme balancing act you’ll find from every beer brewed by Deschutes. However, I do wish the hops had something a little bit more interesting to say, perhaps with a more dynamic reach of flavor that could have been achieved through the addition of another varietal. It’s actually quite palatable for an IPA, but the flavor leaves something to be desired. There’s this unappealing, sort of medicinal weirdness to the hops that just isn’t doing it for me. Overall, I feel this deserves an score of 90 or better, but I’m really not that excited about this Fresh Squeezed IPA. I suppose its worth trying if you have hoppy inclinations.
The backside of our fresh hop postcard explains the important difference between dry and wet hops. Of course, now you need to do the required field research and drink a pint of Hop Trip and Chasin’ Freshies. Enjoy!