Straight talk on Deschutes Beers from two Oregonians

As just about everyone knows Deschutes Brewery, the 5th largest craft brewery in the US with headquarters located in Bend, Oregon, will be available in Ohio starting this Friday, January 24.  Deschutes makes a number of beers that are very highly regarded such as The Abyss (Imperial Stout), The Dissident (Flanders Oud Bruin), and Fresh Squeezed IPA (an IPA fresh hopped with Citra and Mosaic hops), but what about the beers that will be hitting our shelves later this week?

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Although I enjoyed Deschutes as a graduate student living in Oregon in the early to mid 1990s, living in the midwest for the last 15 years I’ve become somewhat out of touch with their beers.  So I asked my friends Michelle and Andy, who used to live in Columbus, but now reside in Corvallis, Oregon to give us their preview on the Deschutes beers coming to Ohio.  Those of you who follow the site may have seen Michelle’s recent list of her all-time favorite beers, which included two beers from Bend (where they make frequent weekend beer-cations).  So I think it is safe to say Michelle and Andy are as well qualified as anyone to speak on this subject.  Without further delay here are their thoughts on Deschutes.

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Michelle: With the release of Deschutes Beer in Ohio on the horizon, Pat asked me to review the four beers that will be available in the Midwest:  Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Black Butte Porter, Inversion IPA, and Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale.

Mirror Pond Pale Ale:  When I think of Mirror Pond, the first word that comes to mind is standard.  Mirror Pond is one of those non-controversial beers that most people would enjoy.  This is a good session beer (5% ABV) which has a great balance of hops (40 IBU) and malts that is appropriate for a Pale Ale.  I enjoy drinking this beer in the summer as I find it light and refreshing.

Inversion IPA: Inversion is a solid IPA.  It’s nothing fancy and there are much better Oregon IPAs, but Inversion is still a high quality, enjoyable beer.  The hop flavor is quite strong and in your face (80 IBUs), but it is balanced with a sweeter citrus taste and a little bit of malt flavor.  If you are not familiar with Northwest IPAs, this is probably a decent beer to drink as an introduction to the style.

Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale:  I went to the pub a few days ago to re-try this beer as I haven’t had it in a while, and I am glad I did.  The hop flavor of Red Chair sits between Inversion and Mirror Pond with an IBU rating of 60.  Red Chair is easy to drink.  You can definitely taste the hops, but it isn’t as overwhelming as Inversion and not obvious until the finish.  It has a sweeter malt flavor with a bit of a floral presence which you can taste up front.  I definitely recommend giving Red Chair a try.

Black Butte Porter:  Porters are not really my thing, so in order to provide a non-biased review, I’m going to pass this one over to Andy.

Andy: I really enjoy porters and stouts, especially during these dark, cold months.  Black Butte Porter is a funny one for me, however.  Like most Deschutes beers, it’s popular.  This is an easy drinking Porter that, for me, is a little on the thin side.  I don’t get the “creamy mouthfeel” the bottle promises, but I do get a metallic taste if the beer isn’t allowed to outgas and warm up a little after I pour it.  I’m attributing the metallic taste to the carbonation, but it could be something else.  This beer is on the hoppy side for a porter, which makes it interesting, and the chocolate finish is most noticeable as the beer approaches room temperature.  For me, it’s best between 50 and 60 degrees F, and I really don’t enjoy Black Butte ice cold.  I get some “forest fruit/berry” flavors out of this beer, as well.  I think it might be better on nitrogen, but there’s something about the hop and malt combination that produces some flavors that aren’t my favorite.  In fact, this isn’t one of my favorite porters.  For the money, though, it’s a decent porter that will appeal to most folks.  Among mainstream (“larger”) breweries, Deschutes is a really good one.  That said, they aren’t bottling any of their really groundbreaking work.  They’ve become one of my least favorite Bend breweries; not because they’re bad but because outfits like Crux, Silver Moon, Boneyard, and Good Life are producing such incredible beers.

All of Deschutes’ offerings that are coming to Ohio are solid beers and a good value.  It’s a shame they don’t bottle some of their more interesting brews.  They occasionally release a fairly safe bet for regular production but otherwise rely on their old standbys to make money.  It’s a business model that has allowed them to spread their distribution to over 20 states, so whatever they’re doing works.  It does, however, make them seem like a brewery that’s a bit stuck in the early days of the American craft beer revolution.

Michelle: My favorite Deschutes beers are Hop Henge, an Imperial IPA, and Chain Breaker, a white IPA.  Both are available in bottles, so hopefully they will make their way to the Midwest.  We’ve also found some outstanding Deschutes beers that are only available at their pubs.  Bachelor Bitter and Shifties Pilsner are both excellent, but you have to travel to Bend to drink them.  Andy once had a mussel-infused beer called the Mussel Relaxer at their pub in Portland.  Anything they release in stores is worth drinking, but if you want to try their more experimental beers, plan a beer-cation to Bend or Portland, Oregon.  You won’t regret it.

Pat: Click here for an article by Columbus Alive on Deschutes Launch events in the Columbus area.  For those of you who live in Clintonville two events of note are a meet the brewers event at Bob’s Bar at 7 pm on Thursday, January 30 and a Brewer’s Brunch on Saturday, February 1 at 11 am at the Crest Gastropub.

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