Tag Archives: Deschutes Brewery

Let’s Get Vertical


A pleasant side effect of all this craft beer cellaring is the rise of the vertical tasting.

For the uninitiated, vertical tastings comprise of the same beer brewed in different years sampled at the same time so you can try to discern the changes that have occurred over the course of cellaring.

Small as my personal cellar is I do have a few beers aging that have different bottling dates including one of my personal favourites The Abyss from Deschutes Brewery.

Though I doubt any self-respecting beer geek has not tried this beer just in case, The Abyss is a malt-forward, molasses heavy, rich and viscous Russian Imperial Stout that weighs in at a non-too-shabby 11.6% ABV.

For our version of a vertical throw down the hubby and I compared a 2009 and a 2012 bottling.

Abyss 2009

Pours deep black brown with lots of mocha coloured head on the pour then a light skim and ring. Smells very liquory with almost a wine like nose. First few sips are rich and malty but also a bit harsh with a twinge of metallic or astringency that I did not expect from this beer. A full bodied beer. Hubby got an almost sour quality on the nose. Could be a bad bottle, bad storage or a bad year. Not the Abyss I know and love anyway.

Abyss 2012

In appearance the 2012 is pretty much identical to the 2009 perhaps with a bit more head on the initial pour. Liquory on the nose with lots of liquorice. First few sips are full-bodied with roasted malt and some alcohol. This beer is nice and warming as you drink. There is some bitterness on the finish. This bottle was far better than the 2009 but not nearly as good as The Abyss on tap at the brewery this winter.

If you had asked me before this taste test, which version would taste best I would have said the 2009 no contest. Typically I found found my cellared beers more mellow, better balanced and slightly stronger than the un-aged counterparts. In this case it was just the opposite so if you have some bottles stashed away don’t be afraid to pull them out sooner than later…;

Out of the Cellar: Conflux Series No. 1 Collage

Happy Family Day to my fellow British Columbians!

This time round I opened my May 2012 bottle of Conflux Series No. 1 (Collage), a collaboration between two Portland OR brewery mainstays, Deschutes and Hair of The Dog.  Described as a weaving of “The Dissident and The Stoic and Fred and Adam into an artistic collage of cask-aging alchemy” this 11.6% strong ale was a perfect candidate for cellaring.

Conflux No. 1

Conflux pours a slightly hazy copper colour with some off-white head that quickly dissipates to a thin skim and sticky lacing. There is good carbonation to this beer. Pretty liqoury on the nose with rich dense malt and dried red fruit. First few sips are viscous with lots of oaky character, sweet caramel and tart cherry flavour. As other reviewers have mentioned this beer, at this age, has a port like character. A really warming beer and the ABV has probably gone well beyond the 11.6% it started out with. There is a lot of complexity in this beer as it merges different styles, which works in its’ favour. As this beer opens up you get a slight funkiness and a bit of sour anchored in a medium bodied strong ale. The finish is slightly harsh with a burnt sweet taste.

Overall, I really like this collaboration. I think these beer work well together creating something to challenge complacent palates.

Out of the Cellar: Deschutes Brewery The Dissident 2012 Reserve

To honour the out of the ordinary weather inversion we were having here in Vancouver I thought it was time to pull another beer from the cellar; an added bonus of the cold weather at low elevations was I could chill this beer on my back porch!


The Dissident, a Belgian-style brown ale, is a blend of 20% malt beverage aged in French oak wine and 80% malt beverage brewed with cherries. This 2012 version had a recommended best after date of 8/20/13 but I always like to give my beers a little longer to develop their full potential.

The Dissident pours a reddish maple syrup colour, with slight haziness, good carbonation and some light airy head on the initial pour. You are left with a nice ring of head around the glass after a few minutes. Big red wine character on the nose, dark fruit and leather, with lots of malt to boot. This beer has one of the most aromatic noses I have smelled on a beer. First few sips are viscous, lots of dried cherry flavour and syrupy caramel malt. This is a very warming beer that you can feel long after you swallow. As you continue to drink the oakiness comes through but malt and fruit are the key flavours competing for your attention. While I have heard this beer called a sour, more accurately it is a wild ale, there is no real tartness to speak of instead The Dissident reminds me of kirsch cherries, all boozy, rich and sweet.

Overall yet another great beer from a brewery known for delivering consistently great beer.



Under the Dome


Last week, unbeknownst to the lay drinker, a weird and scary social experiment was set-up in downtown Portland. For five straight days Pioneer Square courtyard was hermetically sealed under a large plastic dome. Stringent entry and exit protocols were put in place so only a select few were allowed inside. This bio-dome was self-sustaining with all the basic necessities.

The rest of the population was left to observe from the outside bandying about their best guesses as to what lay within. Why, they asked, was this dome erected, who built it, and who or what resides in its’ temperature controlled walls?

As one of the chosen few selected to enter into this artificial world let me reveal what exactly went down under the dome…

HAF Volunteer

It was beer fest silly.

Starting last Wednesday Portland Oregon was once again home to Holiday Ale Festival the annual celebration of the real reason for the season, winter beer. For five ale-filled days and nights you could wander in and out of the beer-o-sphere sampling breweries seasonal offerings, rare casks, vertical tastings (hello six years of The Abyss anyone?) and even live beer blendings.

Beer Coaster in a Tree

Celebrate Beer

The Festival

This is my second year attending Holiday Ale Fest and, like last year, there are many well thought-out parts to this event. In and out privileges, long hours, the festival runs over several days, rotating casks, VIP lines, maps on the taster mugs, a mobile site to guide patrons (unless you are a Canadian with a stupid Canadian cell phone provider), a beer brunch on Sunday, a root beer garden, and, most importantly, lots of interesting winter beers.

Another Volunteer

At the same time there are a few drawbacks to this festival, Friday and Saturday nights get a little hectic, the line-ups and the crowds hanging-out tend to blend together into one big jumble of people, without the mobile site your map tells you very little because you do not know which beers are pouring where and there is only one rinse station in the farthest corner by the exit.

Overall though this festival is well-organized and well-executed.

Taster Mugs

Beer Guide


The Beer

With admission you are given ten tokens; the majority of beers are just one token with the rare casks and blendings/tastings being two or more tokens. This means hubby and I started out with a respectable twenty tokens plus two bonus added for purchasing a ticket online (nice touch!).

A Beer, not sure which one

Turning to our trusty beer guide we set out to take-on the rare beers first in case they sold-out and then to work our way through anything that peaked our interest (this can be dangerous strategy when almost all the winter beers sound wondrous on paper).

The flip side of this equation is that too many winter beers can be a bad thing. Generally, winter beers are heavy, dark, rich and strong so a few can go a long way. Some of the beers I really enjoyed tended to be those that bucked the traditional winter style and brought something a little lighter to the table.

Me like Beer

Some of our favourites this year included in no particular order:

Cascade Brewing Creamsicle, a Belgian meets blonde meets barrel aging with vanilla, orange and spices. This one was offered on its’ own or as a 6 token blend with the Crooked Stave Cranberry Saison.

2 Towns Ciderhouse Bourbon Barrel Nice & Naughty Barrel Aged spiced cider. A crisp and tart alternative to the onslaught of the winter beers at the festival but at the same time a strong warming drink.

Stone Brewing Co. Spiced Unicorn Milk Chai Milk Stout a smooth and sweet stout that has a nice complement of Indian spices.

New Belgium Brewing Co. Paradebloem Another lighter (in colour and body) beer that brings some tartness to the table making it stand out from the rest of the festival line-up.

Deschutes Brewery Virgin Sacrifice Imperial Stout with Cherries. We all know Deschutes knows how to do imperial stout so this one was a kind of a gimme. Nonetheless cherries add a nice touch of tart/sweet to a full bodied coffee and roasted grain forward stout.


Thanks to all the organizers and volunteers for another great holiday ale festival and see you again next year!

The Aftermath

I’ll have a Brew Christmas without you…

We have passed the halfway point in the advent calendar and are now peeking behind door number thirteen to find…

A 25th Anniversary bottle of Jubelale a “festive winter ale” from Deschutes Brewery and one of the most established winter beers in the countdown.


Deschutes Jubelale


Jubelale 25th Anniversary is sporting a really neat Van Gogh-esque label this time out. According to the Deschutes website that label is a collage constructed from layers of Jubelale labels from years past. This ale pours a chesnut reddish brown with tons of creamy head that ebbs into some nice lacing. Sweet malty nose with a twinge of tart fruit and warm spices. On the first couple of sips I noticed a more complex interaction of flavours from roasted malts, toffee-like qualities and ginger spice but as I continued drinking I found this one became less balanced with the hops dominating the palate. There is a decent amount of body to this winter ale giving it a bit of a warming quality and the finish is nicely bittered. Overall not my favourite year for the Jubelale but a strong outing nonetheless.


I am giving 25th Anniversary Jubelale seven candy canes.

Candy CaneCandy CaneCandy CaneCandy CaneCandy CaneCandy CaneCandy Cane

I Think I am in Love (Again)


I have been to Hair of the Dog and I think I just may have found my new favourite brewery. So now, and for the rest of time as we know it, all other beer will be mere pretenders to the throne forever cursed with the near impossible task of stealing away my heart.

Okay, okay I may be being a touch over dramatic here but seriously where have these guys been all my life? In fairness when they started brewing I was not exactly close to the drinking age and their beer is only available in the US (and mostly on tap for that matter) so I guess I can’t really blame Hair of the Dog for not finding me sooner.

But now that I have found them I totally want to hang-out 24/7 – oh yes I am that kind of needy, clingy craft beer geek.



Hair of the Dog is located on the other side of the bridges in Portland in an unassuming industrial area. Housed in what looks like an old garage replete with roll-up doors and tall ceilings, this tasting room looks pretty much like the majority of brew pubs I have visited. While the décor is not remarkable the beer sure is!

The majority of their beers are available on tap while Adam, Fred and Blue Dot are also bottled. One of my favourite things about their menu is the wide selection of Hair of the Dog bottled beers that have been cellared and/or casked. They even have a $75 Adam bottled in 1994.



Since I have had the pleasure of trying Adam and Fred, both amazing beers,  I concentrated on sampling the rest of their line-up, which included Little Dog, Greg, Lila, Blue Dot, Will and the Deschutes collaboration Collage (a blending of two Hair of the Dog and two Deschutes beers).


Little Dog – English mild ale. Stone fruit on the nose, cloudy and pale gold in colour, very light bodied and quaffable. Nice summer sessional.

Greg – Rose gold, tepid and sweet with fruity notes on the nose as well. Interesting but hard to describe flavour imparted by the squash, kind of clean and veggie like. Another all-round easy drinker.

Lila – Maibock. Amber to gold in colour with sweet caramel notes on the nose and a subtle hoppiness.

Blue Dot – Double IPA. Straw gold and hazy with lots of hop on the nose. Well-balanced with no single flavour dominating the others. Not a hop bomb but a very drinkable go-to IPA.

Will – Scottish Ale. Deep amber with tons of head. Malty flavour with a subtle smokiness to the finish.

Collage – Deep amber, very still with just a little head. Strong Belgian like with lots of spice and maltiness.


You can never drink the same beer twice

Beer Craft?

So another year ends marked by yet another trip to my favourite beer city Portland, Oregon. I visit so often that I worry one day I will become bored with the beer scene but this is just not the case and let me try to tell you why.

The adage goes “you can never step into the same river twice” and I like to think this outlook applies to craft beer drinking as well. Just like a river is always changing you will never drink the same beer twice for any number of reasons. On the most superficial of levels brew pubs are forever mixing up their menus bringing in the new, running dry of the old, changing equipment etc., and new breweries and tap houses are always emerging onto the scene. Looking at this truism from another perspective brewers, well craft brewers anyways, pride themselves on their inability to recreate the same ale over and over. Any number of external variants can affect the final taste of beer and this is a good thing. Like wine some beers have good years and they have less-than-stellar years. Tried and true beers often form the basis of a new flavoured ale, a casked ale or even a collaboration between breweries. If you want to get really philosophical you can also approach this as you will never be the same person at two different points in your life; your tastes will change, your circumstances will change, your worldview will change and so forth – I know I am not the same person I was when I started drinking craft beer so why would I prefer the same brews. What does all this rhetoric mean in real life? Well when I go to Beervana I visit the new and revisit the old to make the most of my beer-cation. Here are some of my Portland highlights:


The Belmont Station Bier Café had both Don the Younger and Pliny the Elder from Russian River on tap. Don the Younger was especially exciting since it was brewed exclusively for the 35th Anniversary of the Horse Brass Pub. Don the Younger is a hoppy, lemony American Bitter with pine on the nose, large white head, lots of carbonation, sweet lemon mouthfeel and bitter aftertaste. Finding Pliny the Elders to take home in the adjacent Belmont Station  Beer Store was equally exciting.


Visiting the Horse Brass Pub for the first time. Not the greatest menu unless you are a dyed-in-the-wool Brit (bangers and mash anyone?) but definitely a pub that knows their beer. Our server seemed shocked that we could even contemplate drinking in taster glasses (beer comes in something other than pint glasses?). Our server used to be a brewer himself so despite the many changes in beer availability he could offer a myriad of alternatives based on your taste preferences. Did I mention more Russian River on tap?



Beer Shopping. There are so many beer stores here but I swear there seems to be variation between them all. Loading up the trunk with a selection of hard to find (or impossible to find) ales to reinforce my beer stockpile is incredibly fulfilling. Stone and Russian River always top the shopping list but I also found a number of Oregon-unique ales like Hopworks Kolsch, Full Sail Imperial Porter and Rogue Double Chocolate Stout that made their way back across the border. Stone Levitation Ale and Stone/Dogfish/Victory Saison du Buff didn’t make it past the hotel room bar fridge.



Drinking through a sampler tray at the BridgePort Brew Pub. Not my favourite beers of the trip but an amazing lively atmosphere at the brew pub, beautiful location in a brick heritage building in the Pearl District, and tons of inventive pub grub options at super reasonable prices especially during happy hour -tofu fries with spicy cashew dipping sauce? Vegan perfection.


(Re)visiting Deschutes Brew Pub for consistently good beer and good food. The folks at Deschutes are constantly mixing it up in the beer front and this time around I got to sample their new Red Chair Ale (casked and regular), Orange Cream Ale, Menagerie Sour, Chainbreaker and Hop-u-py. The casked version of the Red Chair was the clear favourite of the night. Another great environment to drink in, always bustling, great location and incredible service. Here I first came across the concept of “nitro” beers; beers that change up the usual gas used for dispensing draft. Not sure I could tell the difference but the server swore it gave the beer a smoother taste. Bonus for the cool holiday decorations (see first picture in this post).


Winter Beer-Off: Deschutes Jubelale vs Tree Vertical Ale


There are a lot of great winter beers out there but there are also a fair amount of good ones too. Often I try so many different winter beers over the season that I tend to forget which ones are the best bets for repeat purchase. Barring the crazy knock-your-socks-off standout ales that are so over the top you could not forget them even if you wanted to, I really wanted to revisit some of those winter beers that were highly drinkable i.e. beers you can serve to Christmas company who are not raving beer geeks or beers you can buy in a six pack because you won’t get tired them after one beer. In this pursuit I decided to do a side-by-side comparison of Deschutes Brewery’s Jubelale and Tree Brewing’s Vertical Ale.

Deschutes Jubelale: A deep amber red with lots of off-white creamy head that has great retention. Sweet malt on the nose with a trace amount of bitter hop. Medium body with a ton of malt flavour and a hefty amount of hop at the finish. Overall I am not sure what makes this a winter beer per se. It is a great beer, well-balanced, and definitely representative of the hop-loving style that has come to define the Pacific Northwest. However, the ale seems to need something else to really make you think winter. I would give this beer a 3.5/5.

Tree Vertical Ale: A very clear orange amber ale with a minimal amount of bright white head and a slight effervescence. Vanilla really dominates on the nose and dominates on the palate as well. It is very light in body but smooth to drink. It reminds me of cream soda. Drinks better quite cold. Overall another highly-drinkable beer but I feel like this could benefit from a bit more body to really make it winter ale. Honestly the overall lightness made me think great Spring beer –if there is such a thing. I would give this beer a 4/5.

The obvious solution …blend these two beers together!

The Result: The sum is really better than the parts in this instance. The vanilla from the Tree softened the bitter hop bite of the Deschutes while imparting that unmistakable Christmas taste element. The Deschutes really gave depth to the Tree beer giving the blended beer a distinct malt character and more substance. Very drinkable. I would give this inspired collaboration 5/5.

*Thanks to my neighbour for the picture, the beer and the blog idea!

Staring into The Abyss

The Abyss 2010 Reserve

It has been awhile since I wrote a post entirely devoted to one beer but it has also been awhile since I had a beer so memorable that I wanted to devote a post entirely to said ale – the proverbial chicken and the egg paradox for beer if you will. I have been staring at my bottle of The Abyss for quite some time now waiting patiently for the best after date to come about. Every time I opened the cupboard there it was but no I could not drink it yet; so I waited, and waited, and then on a cold and rainy Saturday I finally opened it. Here is the description from Deschutes: “It’s dark. It’s deep. It’s mysterious. This imperial stout has immeasurable depth inviting you to explore and discover its rich complex profile. The flavour of this special brew draws you in further and further with each sip. The Abyss beckons. Enjoy the journey.”

The Abyss 2010 Reserve from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon is a stout brewed with liquorice and molasses with 33% aged in oak and oak bourbon barrels. This stout clocks in at a hefty ‘winter warmer’ 11% ABV, and the beer comes in a black wax sealed bottle with a best after date so the drinker can enjoy the benefits of the bourbon cask aging. The Abyss has a great label, which gives the impression that fine aged ale lay within through its interesting use of texture and colour as well as the spartan amount of detail. It is one of the bottles that you just have to pick up and read. The Abyss pours a deep black with a big caramel head. Immediately you get a sweet molasses nose with hints of roasted coffee and something reminiscent of the nose on a nice whiskey. The mouthfeel is cloyingly sticky and heavy with a big molasses taste; full bodied is an understatement here. Interestingly the molasses flavour lingers in your mouth long after you finish. This is one of those beers that really needs to breathe and warm up to be fully appreciated. As time passes more subtle tastes come to the forefront such as, sweet liquor and earthiness. There is a real bitterness to this stout that mellows out as you drink. The high ABV can really stand up to the strength of the molasses where a lesser beer could easily have been overwhelmed. Overall a near-perfect winter quaff the kind that warms you from the inside out and feels like a meal in a glass.


It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (for Beer!)

It is dark, cold and rainy in Vancouver and that can only mean good news for beer enthusiasts because the seasonal ales are finally here again. The fast approaching holiday season seems to bring out the kid in all of us -beer drinkers and brewers alike. That time when we want to spice things up, ramp up the roasted malts, kick up the ABV, lovingly cask our beers in winter spirits like rum and brandy, sprinkle in a little dried fruit and add a titch of vanilla to create those ever so wondrous winter ales. Not to mention the plethora of fantastic (and cheeky) beer names and labels that adorn these seasonal creations. To kick off a series of blog posts relating to the wonder that is winter beer I thought I would give my top twelve seasonal beer names (not to be confused with my top twelve stocking stuffers):

1)      Ridgeway Santa’s Butt Holiday Porter AND Lump of Coal Dark Holiday Stout AND Seriously Bad Elf (three-way tie from the creative folks at Ridgeway)

2)      BrewDog There is No Santa

3)      Full Sail Wassail

4)      Blue Ridge Snowball’s Chance Winter Ale

5)      Deschutes Jubelale

6)      Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve AND Yellow Snow

7)      Moylan’s White Christmas

8)      Boulder Never Summer Ale

9)      Odell Brewing Company’s Isolation Ale

10)   R&B Brewing Co. Iceholes Celebration Lager

11)   Leavenworth Snowblind

12)   Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig

*Honourable mention to the Hanukkah themed He’Brew Jewbelation

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