Deschutes Mirror Pond

Oh, I love my Mirror pond. This pale ale came my way some several to many years ago, and has remained at the top of the short list ever since. A nonoffensive brew, yet hoppy enough to offer a light, rewarding bite, Mirror Pond is suitable as a transition beer, probably after the Widmer Hefeweizen stage. No lemons in this one, folks.

The Deschutes Brewery is in Bend, OR, a very beautiful part of the country. It was founded in 1988 as a brewpub, expanding into a distributing brewery in 1993. There they produce what I feel is the most consistently great line of ales anywhere. Every single beer they produce could be a favorite. Most notable are the Black Butte Porter, one of my first favorite micros, and very popular all around, and their Jubelale seasonal—rarely have I seen such excitement as the first keg of Jubel awakens near the start of winter. The Cinder Cone Red is looking to be a fabulous addition to their line (new to me, at least!) as well.

Deschutes uses a process called Kraeusening in producing their bottled beers, as well as some of their kegged beers. This process involves the blending of the filtered and fermented beer with a quantity of working wort. The purpose of this is to allow the beer to regain flavor lost through filtering, and also has the benefit of consuming extra oxygen from the bottle, which can cause a beer to skunk.

This is a fantastic beer, with a wonderful flavor that makes it right for any event where a beer sounds good….but leave breakfast for Guiness.

Saxer Bock

It has been awhile since a Saxer beer crossed my path. Opened, at least. On this occasion, I am sampling their Bock, a tasty golden treat. This beer, weighing in at 6.2% alcohol (volume) goes down far smoother than I would have expected. A light sweetness is the strongest sensation, but coupled nicely with a faint bitter flavor. The combination comes through with a very old-European flair, more so than other American beers. The aftertaste strikes me as similar to Pilsner Urquel, though the lead in make that something of a surprise.

This is a delicious fireside beer. Read a book by the glow, and throw back a few Saxer Bocks. Sounds like a nice evening. This one will go nicely at the pub as well, tossing darts with the boys, and I’m sure that it wouldn’t shy away from a few peanuts.
This lager is very lightly carbonated. The flavor is deep enough that this beer really does not need the carbonation.

Saxer is located a bit outside of Portland in Lake Oswego. Portland is something of a beer lover’s mecca, with a number of fabulous breweries inside the city limits, or not far outside. Saxer takes its name from one Henry Saxer, who opened the Pacific Northwest’s first commercial brewery here in Porland and later sold it to Henry Weinhard who happily passed on long before his brewery passed over to Stroh, Miller, and other assorted giants. They also moved the brewery sans building to Olympia, Wa. because we need a New York-owned fancy-pants grocery-store (hyphen added to complete trifecta!) at the gateway to the Pearl.

Saxer was established in the 1990’s. They specialize in lagers, which contrasts with a brewery that specializes in ales. Basically a lager takes longer to make, has to be kept cooler while fermenting, and the yeast lives at the bottom rather than the top while it turns wort into a fabulous malty beverage.

Overall, this is a tasty pint. While not the one I’ll reach for first, it will go onto my on-sale watchlist. cheers.

I didn’t know they were out there

Short post tonite. Had to work tonite so a frien brought in some beers for a bit of beer tasting. A couple of them were very interesting, and I’d never even heard of them before. I did get to taste them, but this environment is a little funky for writing a review. I’d put these under the category of needle beers just because of the needles in them.

The first I tried was Alba Scots Pine Ale. That’s right, it’s brewed with pine, and spruce too!. It is really really tarty, a bit different, and the hint of needly matter is really subtle. The ale has a very lush fruity aroma. It’s made in Scotland. Dig it. The amazing thing is the ingredient list: Malted Barly Bree, Scots Pine and Spruce Sprigs. What’s missing there? Hops! And this is a full-flavored beer. Way to go Scots!

The other is Siletz Spruce Ale. Also pretty good, this one is brewed with spruce tips. My buddy had me try the Alba first, and then this one, which was a good thing…the taste here is much less subtle than that one. Still good, but I think that my endurance in putting these babies down would be much shorter.

Anyway, just wanted to put out the word that these exist, I’ll probably do a more in-depth review of the possibilities later on. cheers, and happy saturday.

Snowball’s Chance Winter Ale

I sit down anxiously to enjoy this beer. It has graced my refrigerator for some time now, but I have yet to taste it. I pour the winter ale into my Rogue pint glass and receive a rich, frothy head. The events of the day go through my head as a meander to my computer, nothing particularly exciting or dismal today, but I’ve just been feeling a gloom. The beer is sounding quite good at this point. And it is pretty good.

I sipped on it for a bit, as my brother just called and we spoke for awhile. As it warmed and flattened, I’ve found myself enjoying this one more than I had before. At first, it had a flat bitterness to it that overrode most of the other flavors. Towards the bottom, this negative has subsided, giving it a nice, nonoffensive flavor, but still not too exciting.

This is another offering from the Frederick Brewing company, the makers of Blue Ridge Amber, which I loved, and has been reviewed right here on previously. I do not think that this beer compares to their amber—which has been conspicuously absent from my refrigerator for quite some time now.

Overall, this is a decent winter ale. I don’t feel that it compares to the fantastic Jubel Ale from Deschuttes, but it’s a fine option for a change. Go ahead and let it warm up a bit before getting too far into it.

White Hawk IPA

White Hawk IPA pours aromatically, hued yellow from the bottle, but slightly cloudy. The inviting scent is tempting me to taste a swallow. This beer has the sharp bite associated with India Pale Ales, with perhaps a slightly more burnt and fruity flavor, making it somewhat complex. The head dissipated fairly quickly, leaving a nicely integrated carbonation behind. I find the bitterness to be a little on the strong side, but I am sure that over time it would grow endearing.

This ale originates from the Mendocino Brewing Company in Ukiah, CA. Browsing their website, I get the feeling that these are people who really enjoy beer. In particular, I think they enjoy their beer, but not exclusively. Oddly, a link to this particular selection was not obvious. However, their information on their brewing process is interesting.

As I consume more of this Ale, I become more aware of an underlying sweetness, not the syrupy sweet of some beers, but a subtle woody sweetness, pleasant to the taste, yet elusive. The bitterness has tempered itself somewhat against this sweetness, though still present through the swallow and into the aftertaste.

I recommend this beer fairly highly. I believe that it is one which will appeal strongly to particular tastes, it is very much in the IPA vein, which tends towards a bitterness more strong than many other beers. If you are looking for something new, give this one a shot.

Homebrew #1 part 2

Finally! The beer is ready to be tasted. And I don’t mean the stray cheat that I’ve been sneaking since last weekend, but it should be sufficiently aged at this point. So, here I go. The pour yields a thick creamy head, with slightly uneven bubble distribution. Whatever that means, just calling as I see ’em. The ale is fairly dark, and slightly anber-hued. So far, so good. The aroma is is distinct with that unfiltered scent so often associated with homebrew…perhaps slightly unpleasant to those new to it, one quickly becomes accustomed, possibly even nostalgic with it.

Taking my first sip (of this bottle), I am struck by how yummy this beer is! Sadly, the head mostly dissipated while I wrote the above paragraph, but that is only a slight detriment. The beer definitely carries a bitter flavor, but it washes away quickly like waves at low tide, leaving little aftertaste.
At first I thought there was something pleasantly peculiar about the flavor of this homebrew, and I think I’ve got it: there’s practically no caramel flavor. Beauty! That means that I could drink this all night. And I’m not saying that just because it’s mine and you can’t have any (unless you call me soon), but because it really is a quite tasty beer. It’s not up there with some of the others that I’ve reviewed, but for a reentry into homebrewing, it’s more than satisfying. And I will not claim this recipe as my own, as it came from a kit, as detailed in the first installment of this article some weeks ago.

All the info about where I got it, what kit it was, the various excitements surrounding it, can be found in the first article. I’m ready to give another a go…another kit this time, I think I’ll hang around the beginner level until I have the easy stuff…mostly cleaning, timing, and resource management…until I have it down pretty well.

In the meantime, I’m gonna finish this badboy up and drink the other one I stashed in the fridge.

Blue Ridge Amber Lager

Blue Ridge’s amber lager pours a nice, amber hued beer. The head dissipates quickly, making the fine carbonation of this beer visible. The aroma complements this tangy beer nicely, of which both the scent and flavor have a home-brewed element to them.

The body of this lager is full, introducing itself immediately to the tongue with a rich sweetness, and leaving behind a gentle bitter aftertaste. All the while, the flavor is integrated nicely with the carbonation. The effect is quite pleasant, acually.
As I travel nearer and nearer to the bottom of the glass, I am finding that I ejoy this lager more and more. The initial sweetness, while still present, is less syrupy (never overly so!) than I’d thought at first, has given was to a more complex texture, something of a porous liquid riding slightly above the tongue, exciting parts on its journey through the mouth. This is a truly interesting beer!

Blue Ridge Amber Lager is brewed by Frederick Brewing Company in Frederick, Maryland. They’ve been around since 1993. The amber lager has been recognized with several awards, and I’m thinking deservedly. Here’s a few: gold medal at World Beer Cup (2000), bronze at Cheers Magazine’s One World Beer Festival (1997), bronze at the World Beer Cup (1996), and it silvered twice at the World Beer Championships (1994, 1995).

If you haven’t decided to try this tasty treat yet, you’re probably reading the wrong article. It really is nice. Sad part is that it’s not readily found in stores in these parts of the woods, though I’m actually having thoughts of ordering it.

Catamount Pale Ale

My eyes grew wide at the first drink of this Pale Ale. A nice full flavor, complemented by its mild fruitiness makes for a fine, smooth drink. A gentle bitterness from fine Cascade hops blends well with with the pale malt, making an all-around pleasant beer. The color of this beer is, as implied by the name, quite light hardly even darkening the glass.
The light, fresh qualities of this beer make it a fine choice for any occasion. I suggest that it would make a great companion to outdoor events, be it relaxing on the patio, barbequeing, for after sports, or at the lake, you won’t go wrong with this one.

Catamount Brewery is proudly located in Vermont, as evidenced by the bold Enjoy Vermont on the labels of their beers. Catamount was purchased by Harpoon Brewery in 2000, and I’d say that the folks at Harpoon made a wise decision…though I haven’t yet tried any of their beers.

Overall, I strongly recommend Catamount’s Pale Ale. I’ll be reviewing the Porter in a few days, so we’ll see if that holds up as strongly. I’m looking forward to it though. In the meantime, I think I’ll have another Pale.

Rogue Mocha Porter

A smooth pour to a dark, frothy head. This beer promises a richness that it doesn’t quite achieve. The bite focuses towards the tip of the tongue, and the aroma is not full enough to be complimentary. The flavor is pretty good, though I believe it more likely to appeal to a Starbuck’s denizen than a beer lover. There is a slight hint of mocha, but limited character is apparent here. I feel that this one is a disappointment from the Rogue brewery. I have enjoyed many fine pints of theirs, whether at the brewery in Newport,OR or at one of the finer watering holes, and hate to turn anyone away from them because of this negative review.
I need to make the disclaimer that I have always preferred the Rogue beers on draught over their bottled brothers and sisters. Some beers are like that. Definitely not an offensive beer, this porter goes down pretty smooth, with a very fine carbonation.

Rogue is a fabulous craft brewery, but this porter leaves me flat. Off the cuff, I’d reccomend their Younger’s Special Bitter, the Arrogant Bastard, ortheir classic Shakespeare Stout, or if you’re looking for a porter, dig into
Black Butte Porter
from Deschutte’s Brewery out of Bend, OR.

Homebrew #1 – English Special Bitter

This isn’t really my first time homebrewing. But it sure felt like the first time. It had been probably 8 years or more since my last foray, and I’ll say now that it didn’t go particularly well. Overzealous and underequipped (I recall transferring the brew from the carboy into a waste basket I pulled from a dumpster and sanitized), I gave a go at malting my own barley, and made a huge mess everywhere. No details on that, sorry. The beer itself came out pretty nasty, not one to share with friends, and I don’t believe that I even finished them all myself. ugh.

Anyhow, flashing to the present, I received every major component of a homebrew kit from my buddy Sean and his wife Andreea (sp?). This setup was so basic, it really took effort to screw up. There isn’t even any wort to boil…just water!

So, all was going well, equipment sanitized (in the shower, of course!), I added the boiling water to the malt extract/hops goo inside the carboy, then the cold water, then the yeast, and then the cork. The cork I had on the lock was just a wee bit too small, and trying to form a seal, it ‘whoomped’ on past the threshold and didn’t look back. So, that’s my sercret ingredient for this batch.

Tonite I left work early to hit up the local homebrew shoppe (Let’s Brew!) who must think that all homebrewers are unemployed with those crazy hours…my brew was ready for bottling. I picked up some bottles, caps, and a capper (purchased!), and cruised home to watch 24. Great show. Bad mean women.

Time to get crackin’, everything went way too smooth in the bottling process. My new 10 dollar capper was a dream, the siphon siphoned, and the waters boiled. Now I have 47 bottles of Olde English Bitter (Muntons Gold, specific gravity ~1.012-1.013), a coupla empties (beer-making fuel), and a nasty carboy that I’m going to get in trouble for leaving soaking in the bathtub.

The next few weeks can’t go fast enough.