Loving Deschutes, Firestone Walker and Fremont

I do not do this near often enough, so I want to pass on some of my current beer love which was prompted by a lovely lunch down at the pub yesterday.

Deschutes

Just want to give a shout out to the Deschutes Bend Public House, and Andrew in particular, for a grand lunch yesterday. Had a tasty salad and tasted 3 amazing beers and also had a taste of the production Pacific Wonderland on draft (3rd version for me; 2nd favorite).

Salad on plate, 2 taster glasses of beer, a pint of beer and a pint of water.

Black barleywine on left, Kaizen Cream Ale almost gone, and a pint of The Oregon Tr’Ale IPA

Stopped in for The Oregon Tr’Ale IPA and had tasters of Kaizen Cream Ale and Black Barley Wine. All were exquisite. The Oregon Tr’Ale is a collaboration between several local breweries (The Central Oregon Brewers Guild) for the American Hop Convention held just recently in Bend. It uses Mecca Grade malt and experimental hops from the Willamette Valley.

Deschutes, et al. The Oregon Tr'Ale bottle label

All photo credit belongs to Deschutes Brewery. Borrowed (and slightly cropped) from this tweet: https://twitter.com/DeschutesBeer/status/821881154349441024

Andrew always takes great care of me and I sincerely appreciate him and all of the staff at the Public House. Cheers!

Deschutes Brewery Bend Pubic House brewhouse on The Abyss 2016 release day (16 December 2016)

Deschutes Brewery Bend Pubic House brewhouse on The Abyss 2016 release day (16 December 2016)

The other two shout outs I want to give are to the two breweries I wish I were far closer to: Firestone Walker and Fremont.

I think of them as roughly equidistant—as in, far removed from here—but I guess they are not, in a stricter sense. According to Google maps (various routes rounded) it is ~700 miles to Paso Robles, CA (our main FW destination) from Bend or ~800 to Buellton, CA (my desire but not wife’s) and only ~330 to Seattle, Earth for Fremont.

Firestone Walker

We (the wife and I) have been loving Firestone Walker vintage beers—the “boxed beers”—since just after getting to Bend in 2012. We buy more FW “prestige” beers each year than Deschutes, since before now there simply were more FW ones (which we love) and now the Big D [my moniker for Deschutes; they are comparatively “big” in the craft beer world] is stepping up with The Abyss variants and more Pub Reserve series and such. Our taste buds and other sensory apparatus love it. Our pocketbooks do not.

Bottle, snifter full of beer, and box for Firestone Walker XX Anniversary Ale

But Parabola, Stickee Monkee, Sucaba [on hiatus this year], the Anniversary blends, Helldorado, Velvet Merkin, highly lamented Double DBA …, even the recently late and lamented Wookey Jack (perhaps my favorite black IPA/Cascadian dark). I have also loved the Luponic Distortion series. Um, where is #4 though?

Back of my wife's head taking a photo of Firestone Walker Helldorado glass and bottle with her iPad

Sara taking a picture of 2015 Helldorado blond barleywine

But those boxed beers from FW?! Oh. My. I have 47 checkins of FW beers in Untappd and they are mostly variants of the boxed beers.

Full snifter, bottle and box of 2014 Sucaba Barrel-aged Barley Wine No. 004

Fremont

Another brewery we have come to love for the same sorts of reasons is Fremont in Seattle [20 checkins]. They are masters of barrel aging and spicing and I will rarely say that of the first and, until now, never of the second.

Bottle of 2015 Coffee Edition Bourbon barrel-aged Dark Star oatmeal stout

Bottle of 2015 Coffee Edition Bourbon barrel-aged Dark Star oatmeal stout

I have had the pleasure to experience [their beers] Bourbon Barrel Abominable [B-Bomb], barrel aged Dark Star and their assorted variants. And I hope I am justified again this year but regular Dark Star Imperial Oatmeal stout in 12 oz cans, available for two months a year, is my go to again this year. I got a case last year but asked my guy to get me two this year. This would be my daily go to beer if I could have it year round. As it is I buy it in quantities nothing else compares to. Except perhaps the wife’s Oskar Blues Ten Fidy. Her go to beer.

I have also simply adored a few of Fremont’s fresh hop beers. Packaged fresh hop beers! I can only imagine how transcendent they would be at their own pub.

Bottle and two glasses of 2016 Rusty Nail Imperial Stout with cinnamon, licorice and smoked barley

2016 Rusty Nail Imperial Stout with cinnamon, licorice and smoked barley

Prairie Artisan Ales

I also want to throw a bit of love at Prairie Artisan in Tulsa, OK [8 checkins]. We have had a few things out here and they are lovely. A friend did point out the trend to incapacitating ABVs to which I had to agree, especially since even I made it in reference to one of their beers. But I consider a non-brazen 12-12.5% beer to beer fair game as long as you know what you are getting in to. We prepare for that scenario. We live that scenario.

I simply adore their labels, by the way.

Bottle and glass of Pirate Noir at BTBS

But Apple Brandy Barrel Noir, Vanilla Noir (as a non-fan of most beers with vanilla), and Pirate Noir? Simply amazing beers.

I have a second Pirate Noir, which I just had in last few days, to try in future; currently slated for 4th quarter this year. I had the Apple Brandy in July via a bottle brought home from Corvallis Brewing Supply (Love you folks!). Doubt I’ll ever get to try it again. My checkin comment was “Tastes like chocolate-covered apple brandy. It does.” That cracks me the heck up. I assume that was a good thing at the time.

Bottle and glass of Apple Brandy Barrel Noir

Untappd 2500th unique

I am one unique beer away from 2500 unique checkins on Untappd. I have decided it will be the Firestone Walker 2015 Parabola barrel-aged Imperial Stout. Not sure why I haven’t checked it in already but no worries; I will tonight after work.

Screenshot of my Untappd profile page showing 2499 unique checkins

Recap

So big love and thanks to Deschutes Bend Public House, Firestone Walker, Fremont and Prairie Artisan. I could definitely see myself spending lots of quality time at both Firestone Walker’s and Fremont’s pubs. Some day we will get there. Or so I tell myself anyway. Mighty glad though that they are distributed here.

Just wish they were closer so I could drop in and hang for an afternoon every once in a while.

Deschutes Mirror Mirror 2014 release

Today is release day for Deschutes much-anticipated Mirror Mirror 2014 Reserve barrel-aged barley wine. It has been 5 years since it was last released. This past Dec 20th I had some of the 2009 Mirror Mirror at a Solstice Barley Wine Night party we had at our place and it was quite tasty so I was definitely looking forward to this release.

Mirror Mirror 2014 Release barley wine at Deschutes Brewery barrel works

Mirror Mirror 2014 Reserve barley wine at Deschutes Brewery barrel works

The same friend who brought the 2009 Mirror Mirror to our barley wine party, the ever personable Jon Abernathy, invited me as his +1 to an invitation-only media event held yesterday at Deschutes barrel works, celebrating the release of the Mirror Mirror 2014 Reserve. We got to chat with founder Gary Fish and barrel master and brewer Ryan [sorry, failed to catch his last name].

Deschutes founder, Gary Fish, and barrel master/brewer Ryan, talking to us about the Mirror Mirror 2014 Reserve barley wine

Deschutes founder, Gary Fish, and barrel master/brewer Ryan, talking to us about the Mirror Mirror 2014 Reserve barley wine

They talked about Mirror Mirror, the Reserve Series, the new Pub Reserve Series, the barrel works, upcoming plans for beers, and answered questions while we sampled the new 2014 Mirror Mirror. Next we tried some of the first Pub Reserve Series beer Big Red. And finally we got to try some future Not the Stoic right out of the rye barrel it is aging in. It was a grand time, the beers were all world class, and I learned a lot. Thanks, Deschutes and Jon!

Deschutes Brewery barrel works, cold side

Deschutes Brewery barrel works, cold side

Deschutes Brewery barrel works, warm side for sours and those beauties needing warmer temps of 70 degrees

Deschutes Brewery barrel works, warm side for sours and those beauties needing warmer temps of 70 degrees

Mirror Mirror 2014 Reserve Barley Wine was the first of the Deschutes Reserve Series and was previously released in 2005 & 2009. It was “born of a double batch of Mirror Pond Pale Ale, [and] is an inspired barley wine ale layered with intriguing nuances. Explore the latest incarnation and enjoy its delicious complexity in every sip.” It is 11/2% ABV and has 53 IBUs. It is brewed with English malts and Cascade and Millennium hops. Fifty percent was aged for 10 months in oak barrels that once held Oregon Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, and Malbec wines. [All info from the one-sheet they provided.]

Mirror Mirror 2014 Reserve barley wine

Mirror Mirror 2014 Reserve barley wine

I hope to get about 5-6 bottles of this and sit on them for 6-months, 1 year, 2 years through to 4-5 years. I expect quite delicious things to develop. I suggest you get to one of the pubs and try this fresh on draft and then put aside a bottle or two for at least 6 months. Keep in mind that even Deschutes recommends waiting a year as the bottles have a “Best After” 24 February 2015 date on them. I’m willing to “sacrifice” a bottle at 6-months to see how it is developing but my main interest in this vintage is in the 1 to 5-year-old range.

The Pub Reserve Series was quietly released at the end of last year. These bottles are only available at both of the pubs and the breweries’ tasting room. “It’s no secret that our brewers love to experiment in the pub brewhouses, and this new series celebrates that passion with some never-seen-before, single-batch brews. First up is Big Red, a double Cinder Cone Red, aged in Cabernet and Syrah barrels. The next pub Reserve beer will be Planète Rouge, a blended sour red ale – releasing March 24, 2014.” [All info from the one-sheet they provided.]

The Big Red, an Imperial Red Ale, is shaping up quite nicely already. We had a sample at the Deschutes Pub on 31 December when it was released and picked up a bottle for some light aging. It has a “best by” 1 Dec 2014 date and based on how it has already matured I think I’ll give it another 3-4 months. If you are interested in this you had best grab it soon at either of Deschutes pubs in Bend or Portland or at the tasting room at the brewery.

After they discussed the Pub Reserve Series, I asked Gary and Ryan if the Portland Pub beers would be available at the tasting room. They clarified that these beers are brewed in both pubs, in this case barrel-aged, and then shipped to the brewery where they are blended and then bottled for sale. So they truly are a collaboration between the two pub brewers. I know I need to learn more about the Portland pub brewer but we adore Veronica Vega and her Bend pub beers!

The Not the Stoic will be a barrel-aged, Belgian-style quad, due in April if I remember correctly. It is aging in several different barrels and we got ours straight out of a rye barrel. I hope once it’s blended some of those rye notes remain, along with whatever other intriguing notes they get from the other barrels.

Not the Stoic straight out of the rye barrel

Not the Stoic straight out of the rye barrel

Again, thanks so much Deschutes Brewery and Jon for including me.

Oh yeah. We each got to bring a bottle home.

And as final photo teasers here are some true beauties to salivate over in your dreams while we wait for some future release:

The Abyss Imperial Stout. But is this 2014 or 2015?

The Abyss Imperial Stout. But is this 2014 or 2015?

 

Pub Imperial Bitter sitting in a spanish sherry cask. OMG! Please let me find this at the Bend pub whenever it is released.

Pub Imperial Bitter sitting in a spanish sherry cask. OMG! Please let me find this at the Bend pub whenever it is released.

 

 

Deschutes Brewery University: Barrel-Aged Beer event

On 6 Nov. we attended the Deschutes Brewery University: Barrel-Aged Beer event with 6 of ours friends. We got there a little early and Sara was able to grab a table so all 8 of us could sit together. The room was pretty full so I assume they had sold all 25 seats.

We tasted 8 different barrel-aged beers; four were from Deschutes, one was a collaboration between Deschutes and Hair of the Dog, and three were from other breweries. Hors d’oeuvres were served about midway through the beer sampling.

We also got a presentation from Jacob Harper, the barrel master at Deschutes. The beers were arranged in the order he figured was lightest to heaviest, but was slightly complicated by the fact that four were sours so they were placed at the back half.

We began with the Calabaza Blanca from Jolly Pumpkin (Traverse City, Ann Arbor and Dexter, Michigan). It is a light wheat/white ale hybrid that was slightly sweet and slightly sour. I thought it was fairly tasty but would not want to drink it in quantity or frequently. ~5% ABV. I gave it 4 stars.

Next was Ale D’or Fort from Deschutes, which I had never heard of. Turns out it was brewed for a special Oregon beer festival (missed the name) last year where all the brewers took a particular Brettanomyces yeast strain from Unibroue and competed with what they produced from it. It was light, almost wine-like, a strong gold which had been aged in French Pinot barrels. No carbonation. It tasted a lot like Ashton’s Fresh Hop London Strong Gold without the fresh hops, which is to say, amazing. 9%+ ABV. 5 stars.

Third was Deschutes’ Black Butte XXIV, which we have had a fair bit of and of which neither of us would tire of ever having. I have three bottles in the Cellar. It is an Imperial porter with dates, figs, chicory and other bits for flavor. 20% was aged in bourbon barrels. We were told that next year they plan on aging 50% of the batch in bourbon barrels, which will up the ABV a few %. I think everyone present let out a loud and appreciative “Oooohhh” at that. 10.8% ABV. 5 stars+

Fourth, and the last non-sour, was Deschutes’ The Abyss (2011). I have been really wanting to try this as this year’s version is being released today. It is an Imperial stout that used licorice and molasses in the kettle. It was 28% barrel-aged (11% Pinot noir, 15% bourbon, 2% raw Oregon oak barrels). It is relatively the same each year. My first reaction was a thoughtful “Hmmm.” I didn’t want to be hasty but I was definitely underwhelmed. It has a chocolate taste late in the mouth. It is tasty but I have to say it is no Black Butte Porter XXIV. 11% ABV. I gave it 4 stars and am hopeful for this year’s batch. It won World’s Best Stout & Porter at the 2012 World Beer Awards, which in my humble opinion it does not deserve. A damn fine beer it is but Black Butte XXIV Porter is better and Midnight Suns’ Berserker Imperial Stout blows them both away.

With any luck we will be one of the lucky few at the release party today to get in on the vertical tasting of 2008-2012 batches of The Abyss. Perhaps I’ll revise my opinion then. [Turns out they have moved up the time when the limited flights will be available and it isn’t looking good. We both questioned this on Twitter—mostly as to what time they really were being served—and got an interesting reply back so we’ll see.]

Fifth, and the first sour, was Tart of Darkness from The Bruery (Orange County, California). It was a sour stout made with cherries and aged in oak barrels. It tasted much lighter than it looked. 5.6% ABV. 4 stars.

Next was The Dissident from Deschutes, which we have also had recently and of which I have 2 bottles in the Cellar. It is made every other year and uses a secondary fermentation with Brettanomyces. Currently made in batches of 200 barrels they are aiming to begin producing it every year. 11.4% ABV. 5 stars. This won World’s Best Oud Bruin and Americas Best Oud Bruin at the 2012 World Beer Awards. World’s Best? I don’t know but it is certainly one of the finest sours produced outside of Belgium.

Next to last was Sang Noir from Cascade Brewing (Portland). Pretty darn sour. Light and thin but very sour. Cherries. Aged in French oak and bourbon barrels. 9.5% ABV. I gave it 4/3 stars. For me it was a 3 but I wondered if I were judging it too harshly since it had pushed past my acceptability for sourness.

Last was The Collage, also from Deschutes. We have also tasted this since being here and have a bottle in the Cellar. It comes from a collaboration with Hair of the Dog (Portland) and is a blend of Deschutes’ The Dissident (but unsoured) and The Stoic (a quad we are still waiting to try) and Hair of the Dog’s Fred  (10% ABV Golden Strong ale) and Adam (10% ABV; their 1st beer). It is 100% barrel-aged in 6 different types of barrels. Hair of the Dog uses a peat malt. It is tasty, no doubt, but it seems all the work is over much for the end result. 11.6% ABV. 4 stars.

I must say, though, that I am definitely looking forward to tasting Fred and Adam and other Hair of the Dog beers some day.

After the tasting we were still hungry so we moved downstairs for some dinner. Sara and I shared an Ashton’s Fresh Hop Strong London Gold which was excellent but perhaps not the best idea after all those other strong beers. And I had even been finishing a couple of Sara’s that she did not. I really felt it the next day!

It was, of course, election night and some of those at our table had been (::grumble:: understandably ::grumble::) refreshing their phones all evening as returns came in. During dinner we learned of a couple states’ equal marriage bills passing, Colorado’s passing of their marijuana bill, and of the reelection of Obama. Many people in the pub seemed genuinely happy at much of this but there were definitely groups of assorted sizes who were not. “Sorry if our reasonably joyous celebrations were disturbing you.” No, honestly, I’m not. Deschutes County is a lot more red than I ever might have imagined before moving here. I can see it now but I still find it hard to believe.

All in all, it was a tasty and enjoyable evening.

One of my favorite lines from Barrel Master Jacob Harper was one of the reasons why one might want to barrel-age a beer: “To add mystique to an already good beer.” I’ll raise my glass to a little mystique!

 

[This post, Deschutes Brewery University: Barrel-Aged Beer event, originally appeared on habitually probing generalist on 15 November 2012.]