Yes, I said “finished up the bottles” plural: unlike many high-gravity, high-octane beer releases that make the news of late, Deschutes River Ale bucks the trend by clocking in at only 4% alcohol by volume to be a true session beer. In that regard it can be considered a replacement for the brewery’s no-longer-brewed Cascade Ale (née Cascade Golden Ale), which was their defacto session at 4.5%.
But there’s more behind it than that, at least based on the early test batches and marketing that went into this beer (at least my impression of it): see, Bend is a town that loves it outdoor activities, and a favorite summertime activity here is floating the Deschutes River (which runs through the center of town). So part of the intent behind producing a lighter, easy-drinking but still flavorful beer is to give those summertime river-goers something to drink that wouldn’t kill you after spending a day out in the sun.
The Deschutes River is also the brewery’s namesake, and this beer is brewed in part to honor it, and with projects like Deschutes Brewery’s river conservation initiative and their river recordings, this beer becomes a natural extension of their local efforts.
It’s a good, drinkable beer too. It pours a clear, bright copper color with a nice white head and lacing. The aroma presents a nice hoppy character (albeit light) with, to my nose, a very English-style hopping, earthy and lightly spicy. (The website lists a solidly-American hop pedigree of Cascade, Crystal, and Nugget however.) There’s also a light, cereal-grain malt character in the nose which is appealing.
That cereal character carries over into the flavor and is punctuated with a nice nuttiness on the tongue, and while it’s light and a bit thin (unsurprisingly) there’s a decent crisp hop bitterness from the hops that balances it out. I still get the impression of English hops despite what the profile says, but I really like the earthiness that comes out. Hints of caramel are floating around there too. The body is very light and thin, I’d go so far as to say a bit watery, but it’s got a crisp snap in the finish.
This is definitely an easy-drinking beer and really nicely flavorful for being so light—I think fans of session beer will certainly enjoy this one.