On Thursday I (along with a group of other local media folks) was invited to Deschutes Brewery for a special VIP brewery tour and media event. I was entirely unsure what to expect beforehand, and as it turned out the Brewery had set up a special tasting for attendees beforehand, presented by one of the senior brewers Jimmy Seifert and marketing manager Jason Randles.
While the brewery tour was great (particularly so due to main tour conductor Aaron), it was the tasting that was the main event of the evening. For each beer tasted, Seifert talked about the making and history of the beer, and there were interesting nuggets of information to be gleaned along the way.
Here’s the lineup, along with some notes:
Mirror Pond Pale Ale: The Brewery’s flagship beer, one of Seifert’s all-time favorites. There’s not a lot that needs to be said about Mirror Pond, although I found it interesting that it is apparently made with all Cascade hops—I would have thought there was a mix of several.
Green Lakes Organic Ale: The Brewery loves this beer, even though it’s more problematic to brew than other beers—due to it’s certified organic status. For instance, not only do the ingredients need to be certifiably organic (or at minimum in the case of hops, salmon safe), but they have to properly prep the equipment before brewing to remove the residue of previous (non-organic) batches—things like vacuuming out the grain conveyors.
Twilight Ale: The breakout summer seasonal—actually one of Deschutes’ most popular seasonals—the hop schedule for Twilight is most interesting. They want to get lots of hop flavor and aroma into the beer without making it bitter like an IPA (“clean” beers are what the Brewery strives for), so to get that with Twilight there is hardly any first-hopping (merely 4 pounds per 150 gallons), no second-hopping, and a ton of third hopping (finishing and aroma hops). And then more hops are added to the whirlpool (the stage where they’re separating hops from the wort).
Jubelale: This year’s version of Deschutes’ most popular seasonal, bottled and being packaged right now and planned for release in late September (around the 20th). Even though it’s early, I have to admit it’s really drinkable right now. Seifert confirmed that each year they tweak the recipe, and talked about molasses and vanilla bean (you can taste the molasses really nicely). A lot of East Kent Goldings hops goes into Jubelale, and to maintain the freshest possible hops (which have to be harvested the previous fall, remember), the Brewery splits full bales of hops into quarters and then seals them in nitrogen to preserve them as long and as fresh as possible.
Hop in the Dark CDA: Seifert talked about how this was a frustrating beer for the brewers to make, as they went through 22 test batches before finally releasing the bottled version—and it took the first 16 to even get close to what they wanted. Normally, it only takes 4 to 5 batches to dial in a recipe. The technique they finally settled on is cold-steeping all of the dark grains to extract the flavors they want without the harsher components that clash with the hops.
Black Butte XXII: This year’s Reserve Series double Black Butte Porter that was famously dumped due to chocolate problems in the bottled beer. Some 3000 cases of this beer were lost, amounting to about $250 thousand. Seifert was the lead brewer on this beer, and for this to happen he likened to “your kid flunking out of school.” The real tragedy is that it’s a fantastic beer, brewed this year not only with coffee and chocolate but with orange peel and chili peppers (pasilla negra chilies, to be exact). The only BBXXII to be found is on tap at the two Deschutes pubs.
The Dissident: Several bottles of 2008′s sour wild beer (the first wild yeast the Brewery ever used) were opened, which gave Seifert and Randles a chance to talk about this year’s version of The Dissident, which will probably be coming out in November. (Though with wild beers like this, that’s not set in stone.) Two years of age on this beer have been fantastic, the nose is full of cherry fruit notes and the ascetic tartness have mellowed. Seifert was also the lead brewer on this beer, and he humorously stated that in convincing [lead brewer] Larry Sidor and [owner] Gary Fish to brew a wild beer, he had them agree not to fire him if something bad happend (like the wild yeast infecting the rest of the brewery).
Incidentally, the 2008 edition of The Dissident is exceedingly rare to find any more, so if you come across any bottles, grab them up. I happen to have a bottle in my closet, and when this year’s version is released I’m planning a side-by-side tasting.
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