I came to a decision today, one that will affect all of our readers here. I am going to do a Deschutes series. I decided this while I was standing in the beer aisle at a local grocery store trying to decide which beer to buy. I got four. Today I am going to be reviewing their Pale Ale. My goal is to go from lightest to darkest, as if we were sitting at a table together doing a beer tasting.

Despite the name Pale Ale, this beer has a nice dark golden color to it. The head is cream color (some might say off white, but whatever.) The aroma that assails the nose is light and refreshing. It smells florally, with a slight twinge of citrus and hops. The taste is bold and sharp. A light hop, or bitter, flavor hits you first followed by a fruit like flavor. This is exactly what I want in my Pale Ales. Deschutes always does a great job with their beers!

This beer is light and refreshing, it is a 5% abv beer, which to me is light on the abv, but is about average for beers. That being said, this beer is amazing! Who care about alcohol content when it tastes great! This beer could be paired with a pasta dish mixed with a sharp cheese, like a Dubliner or 2 year aged cheddar perhaps. The Deschutes website suggests a pairing with Mushroom Bruchetta or clams in corn stock (presumably available at their breweries.) For my tasting tonight, I used a craft pub glass. A standard pub glass will do just fine with this beer. The craft pub glass tapers in a bit at the top to catch the head and bouquet during the pour.  Bottoms up and enjoy!

Over All-Rating: 8.25

Approachability (for new comers): 7

Flavor: 9

Pour/head: 7

Bouquet: 10 Image

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Rogue Brewery: Chipotle Ale

February 13, 2012

I love me some Rogue Ales, and I love me some Chipotle peppers, normally in something a sauce or the like. I have never had them combined, nor would I ever have imagined them together. As I walked down the beer aisle I saw chipotle on a bottle and thought, “well that’s a disaster waiting to happen.” Then I saw the Rogue label and changed my mind quickly, and decided I best grab it and drink it, and now here we are.

As I poured this beer into the glass, I first noticed the beautiful golden brown hue of the beer. The head developed generously and in a lighter almost white color. My next experience was so take in the bouquet of the ale, initially I smelled a light almost floral tone of the ale provided by the hops, followed by a more forceful sharp malt smell. At this point I expected great things from the Chipotle Ale. As I took my first sip I was not disappointed. Initially I noticed that the chipotle flavor was a little underplayed, however, as the beer warmed up a bit the pepper flavor became more pronounced in the after taste of the beer.

Now, in my opinion, spicy food pair oddly well with a beer that has a hopped flavor to it. While this ale is only has a 35 IBU rating, the hops used are pronounced in this ale up front, followed by the pepper and smoky malt flavor. It provides a unique flavor yet pleasing flavor combination. A few final details: I used a craft pub glass for this beer. As I continually seem to be emphasizing the glass that closes in towards the top a bit captures the head and bouquet a little better than your standard glass. However, a standard glass will serve just fine here. Also, a chicken or pork dish are ideal pairings for this beer, especially if spiced correctly! Bottoms up and enjoy!

Over All-Rating: 8.25

Approachability (for new comers): 8

Flavor: 8

Pour/head: 8

Bouquet:  9

Deschutes Brewery has created some of my favorite dark ales, including their Black Butte Porter  and Obsidian Stout . Actually, as I looked over their list of beers, I kept thinking: like it, like it, like it, love it, . . .would marry it! Yea I know it is awkward to want to marry a beer, but well, I love beer? Today, I am going to be drinking (again) and reviewing the Red Chair NW Pale Ale. This is a seasonal beer (which means stop reading now and get it, then come back and finish reading as you drink your first one) and is only available from January to May.

As I poured the beer into the glass, I noticed a beautiful amber color to the beer (not to be confused with an amber beer, which if I am not mistaken is a lager not an ale like this is). I love when beers are this color; it just makes me happy to see. The head is a light color, almost white. My first smell of Red Chair revealed a complex aroma. Initially, a citrus cent assails the nostrils followed by a light floral aroma. There is an aroma, reminiscent of red wine (my wife picked up on that one). At this point, I was very excited to begin drinking Red Chair.
Most Pale Ales in my experience are characterized by hops. The NWPA does not share this characterization. It instead is very smooth. According to the description on the bottle, Deschutes used ‘seven select European and domestic malts’ and two different hops in this recipe. The hops show up in the after taste, but this ale is primarily very smooth with citrus notes. In almost any beer that features malts over hops the top of my palate is filled with the flavor of the malts, that reminded me of scotch, while the sides of my palate picked up the citrus flavor and the back of my palate picked up the slight hop flavor, which is tinted with a floral undertone, in the aftertaste.
I would recommend this ale with a chicken that is marinated in a citrus-based marinade, perhaps one using lemon pepper as the primary flavor. The Deschutes website suggests: hot-n-sour soup, Enchiladas with Mole Sauce or Thin Crust Margarita Pizza (which I am assuming you could get at their brew pub). The glass I used was a traditional pub glass (pictured above). This glass will serve just fine, though I am becoming a bigger fan in using a glass that tapers in at the top to trap the head and bouquet of the beer better. If you did not go pick this up when I instructed you too, go out and get this one, it is a great great beer. Bottoms up and enjoy!

Over All-Rating: 9.5

Approachability (for new comers): 10

Flavor: 10

Pour/head: 8

Bouquet: 10

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Over All-Rating: 8.25

Approachability (for newbies): 6

Flavor: 8

Pour/head: 9

Bouquet: 10 

Normally when I think of Oregon I only have bad memories. My first car trip through the state I got a flat in the middle of nowhere and the car was stranded for the weekend with that flat. However, the breweries I have been writing reviews about have worked to change my feeling toward Oregon, and this beer is no exception. Due to a recent post about organic chocolate on linkedin.com by fellow writer Mike Smith, along with the admission that the word “organic” on my food scares me, I decided to venture out and try an organic beer. To be honest, my expectations were not very high. I also decided to pick a lighter ale than I normally choose for myself.

As the title suggests, I went with a red-ale. Rise-Up Red is a NW Red Ale that is “hopped to the rafters with locally grown Cascade and Centennial hops,” according to the bottle. I love hops (to be honest I love most things that go in beer), and a beautifully hopped ale is just what I wanted to drink! This beer has an IBU rating of 60. If you like IPA’s you will love this beer. It also has an abv of 5.8% so, it is a little safer to drink out of the 1 pint 6 oz. bottle I bought.

My first smell and taste of this beer hinted, hinted is an understatement here really; perhaps, screamed is a better word…this beer screamed hops. The scream begins in the bouquet which contains the floral aroma of hops. The initial sip, especially with the head remaining on top, overwhelms the palate with the bitterness of hops. Once your senses return, there is a smell and taste that I liken to scotch or whiskey, a warm malt flavor. It is ever so faint and in the background, however, it balances out the hop flavor of this ale nicely.

As you can see, I used an English style Pub glass to drink this beer. I chose this glass because it is still on the darker side, and the English Pub glass is designed to enhance darker ales. However, a normal pub glass, or craft pub glass, will also serve just as well. There is no need for any super specialized beer glass with this ale, which is not to say that it is not a special ale.

Ninkasi’s ReNEWale 2012

January 16, 2012

Over All-Rating: 9

Approachability (for new comers): 10

Flavor: 8

Pour/head: 8

Bouquet: 10

 

Happy New Year to all (but mainly those that live in the PNW)! Ninkasi is a new brewery to me, but I have enjoyed all of my beers by them, and since I ended 2011 with Ninkasi Sleigh’r (that posted in 2012) I thought I would start with their New Years beer the ReNEWale 2012! This ale’s pour revealed a dark colored ale with a dark tan and thin head. The aroma brought to mind brown sugar or my wife’s molasses cookies. The smells of winter in my mind for these smells produce the thought of warmth in my head, which is marvelous on a cold night.

This beer is smooth and not bitter at all. It has more of a sweet aftertaste and a very faint malt taste on the front end. The sweetness in the aftertaste brought brown sugar back to mind. While the brewery intended this beer to be more dark chocolate in nature, the bitterness on the front end is reminiscent of dark chocolate. The beer also feels lighter on the palette and the flavor spectrum balances out nicely, with a light bitterness followed by the sweetness.

To talk a bit about this beers attributes, it boasts a 5.9% abv which is heavier than the average, but still light enough to enjoy without feeling tipsy at the end of the 22 oz bottle that it is available in. The bitterness rating 38 IBU which is on the less bitterside of a scale that tops out at 120 IBU (http://www.brewersfriend.com/2009/01/24/beer-styles-ibu-chart-graph-bitterness-range/) . Ninkasi invested 9 different types of malt into this beer while only 2 types of hops where used, this is why the beer feels more ‘warm’ in flavor than bitter in flavor.

I seem to be favoring the darker ales and lagers for my posts so far, this means that once again a stemmed porter/stout glass should be used, as this is a porter. This glass allows the drinker to hold the stem, which keeps body heat away from the beer, in addition the smaller top captures the head and bouquet of the beer. I recommend you go out and get this beer quickly as it is a seasonal available from January 1st to March 1st. Enjoy and bottoms up!

Ninkasi: Sleigh’r

January 6, 2012

Happy Holidays PNWers! This time around, we are going to dissect a true winter ale. Ninkasi Brewing Company’s Sleigh’r: Dark Doüble Alt. First a little background on what an ‘alt’ is. Like the last beer I reviewed, this beer also is a contradiction. The alt refers to a beer that uses ale yeast to ferment. Ale yeast ferment typically at the top of beer, in a warm temperature, however, an ‘alt’ is fermented at a colder temperature according to Ninkasi. It is still considered an ale, but it has some characteristics of the lager, most notably a more crisp taste, than the more typically smooth ale.

Now that the academia of the beer on to the Sleigh’r itself! The pour of the beer creates a light head, more white, than tan like most dark beers. The bouquet that Sleigh’r gives off reminds me of a tobacco I just bought for my pipe, which leads me to describe the aroma as smoky and sweet! The initial sip literally caused me to say, “Holy Crap!” The crispness comes across very sharp, but mellowed out as I continued to drink. The presents of many malts is noticeable as you drink this, the malty, nutty, and sweet flavors of this beer indicate the use of many malts. As a matter of fact, 6 different kinds of malts are used, and only 1 kind of hops. This makes the beer take on a sweeter nature and less bitter.

Pairing this beer, like all dark beers, would be a nice steak! In addition, lamb, a strong sharp cheese or chocolate dessert would go great! I did a cheese with it, the Dubliner to be precise! The sharpness of the cheese contrasted with the sweetness of beer. I would strongly recommend getting a sharp cheese to sample this beer with to enhance the flavor of the beer. In addition to this, the stemmed stout glass seen in the picture above is recommended help enhance the bouquet and flavor of the beer, as well as allow for the consumer to hold the stem and not cause undue temperature change due to the hands touching a part that the beer is in.

Over All-Rating: 8

Approachability (for new comers): 5

Flavor: 9

Pour/head: 7.5

Bouquet: 10

Over All-Rating 8/10

Approachability (for new comers) 6/10

Flavor: 9/10

Pour/head: 8/10

Bouquet: 8/10

Happy Holidays everyone! This week we are going to look at a beer from a brewery I feel is underrated, but is still one of my favorite breweries of all time: Widmer Brothers!

Widmer Brother’s Pitch Black IPA (Indian Pale Ale) is a contradiction in terms. The contradiction is first seen in that while the IPA is very dark to the eye, it is light on the palette. The Widmer website  states that this beer is their ‘take on the Cascadian Dark Ale (CDA).  The CDA style of beer is a newcomer to the beer world and has previously been called the ‘Black IPA’.  The Pitch Black IPA (and CDA’s in general) has all the qualities of a beautifully over-hopped IPA beer, but is obviously darker in color.

The dark color of this beer leads one to expect a thicker feeling as you drink it, however one finds this beer has the light feeling of any IPA. Unlike the stouts that the Pitch Black IPA resembles, the roasted grains are omitted from the beer and de-bitterized malts are then used to create the dark color without compromising the flavor expected of an IPA.

In tasting the Pitch Black IPA, I found the beer to have a hop and fruit filled aroma. The pour yielded a light golden head, unlike the tan color head of the cousin of the CDA–the stout. My initial sip of the beer was very hoppy with a floral like aftertaste. As I continued to drink the beer, the hops faded off a little. Interestingly enough as the hops faded the taste that emerged reminded me of a porter.

The higher hops content and hoppy flavor of this beer causes me to not recommend this beer for those new to the craft beer world. However, if you like hops and a great IPA then this beer is for you. Its unique composition includes five different kinds of malts and two different types of hops–including, Cascade hops. This beer is seasonal with an availability from January to April and boasts an ABV (alcohol by volume) of 6.5% making this a hoppy but drinkable beer!

For this beer, I used an English style Pub glass that has a bubble near the top. I would recommend this type of glass myself, as it is designed to drink darker colored ales especially, ales that look dark, but don’t taste ‘dark’.  Widmer’s themselves pictures the beer being consumed out of a stout glass. What ever the glass you choose, or if you go out of the bottle, bottoms up and enjoy!

MacTarnahan’s Amber Ale

December 13, 2011

Over All-Rating 8.75/10

Approachability (for new comers) 9/10

Flavor: 7/10

Pour/head: 9/10

Bouquet: 9/10

Hello fellow beer drinkers! Today we are going to take a look at an Amber Ale. MacTarnahan’s Amber hails from the great city of Portland! The pour on this beer creates a nice looking head, not a thick head like you might expect on a Porter or Stout though. As the name suggests this beer has a beautiful amber color. Upon smelling the beer the first thing that we notice is the smell of hops! Hops are used in much every beer; they are used to add flavor and aroma. According to the label this beer is dry hopped with Cascade hops creating a crisp flavor. After drinking the beer I agree with how the label describes the beer.

Dry hopping a beer basically means that once the beer is finished cooking, more “dried hops” are added to the beer. This technique really adds more aroma to the beer. The beer does not taste as hoppy as it smells, however. I would say that this characteristic of the beer makes it more approachable to those just getting into the micro-brew/craft brew scene.

If you were to select this beer, and then try to pair a food with it (as all good beer connoisseur should do) a grilled chicken dish would go fantastically with this ale. Maybe a lightly spiced chicken or fish; my personal choice with this ale would be a good old Fish and Chips! Really any kind of light meat or meal should go with this beer quite well.

Foodbeat NW

December 6, 2011

Hey readers just a quick little post to let you know that I am writing for a food website that focuses on food, drink, beers, and food artisans of the Pacific Northwest part of the US. You can find it at foodbeatnw.com. I am one of two beer contributors, and I would like to thank my fellow beer writer and Michael Smith for allowing me to contribute. Most of the posts I put there will also appear here, but I am going to delay the post to here for a few days after they appear there. Bottoms up and enjoy!

Rating 9.5/10

I really enjoy beer, that often makes it difficult to rate it. Anyway, this beer was delicious! This time of year is my favorite for beers, the fall season has the best seasonals (in my humble opinion). Pumpkin beer being the top of the list on the seasonal list! I have had a few this year, and I will write about another later. The pumpkin is a unique orange color, I assume given by the pumpkin brewed with the beer. There is a high degree of malts used in this beer, and the bottle says that there are hops, however, the hops play an extremely minor part in this beer. The malts and pumpkin are the highlight! The pumpkin adds most significantly to the bouquet of the ale! The beer smells overtly of Pumpkin Pie! The beer tastes very malty, with a strong malt and brown sugar flavor, with background hints of cinnamon or cardamon along with nutmeg (as one might expect in pumpkin pie!)

The beer boasts an 8.6% abv! This is above the average for beer, but still within the normal realm. Also if you have a chance to grab this beer, and have a stemmed beer glass or a white wine glass, that would be ideal, otherwise pour and enjoy! It should go without saying but this beer would go excellent with pumpkin pie, or pumpkin bread! Anything that has a autumn spices as a highlight flavor will go amazingly with this beer. I hope you have a chance to grab this beer and enjoy it! Bottoms up!