Received: Deschutes Jubelales for 2014

The first Jubelales of the season from Deschutes Brewery arrived yesterday, heralding the onset of winter seasonal ales:

Deschutes Brewery Jubelale 2014

(At least they didn’t arrive in August like they have in years past!)

This is a classic and one of my all-time favorite beers from Deschutes. As the accompanying info sheet notes, this is the 27th bottling of this beer—and it was the first beer ever bottled by the brewery, way back in 1988. They bottled in used 750ml champagne bottles, directly from the taps.

The label is a work of fabric layering by Lubbesmeyer Studios here in Bend, definitely a unique process. Deschutes has a paragraph about it on their site:

This year’s label by Lisa and Lori Lubbesmeyer features original fiber artwork showing two people sledding in a playful winter landscape. The twins’ artwork was created through their unique method of layering and overstitching with fabrics. During their artistic process, they exchange the pieces, allowing the imagery to emerge spontaneously. The fracturing of shape and saturation of color occur layer by layer – allowing the texture of the fiber to build the imagery as they’ve responded to each other’s work. The final piece was meant to capture the essence of the lifestyle we all enjoy here in Central Oregon.

Keep an eye out for Jubelale hitting the shelves this month.

Dragon’s Gate Belgian Wit

Dragon's Gate Belgian WitWhen we visited Walla Walla this past June (read a bit about that here, with some related reviews here and here), one of the beers I picked up was Dragon’s Gate Belgian Wit, a 750ml corked bottle I found at one the downtown specialty shops. Dragon’s Gate Brewery is located in the nearby Oregon town of Milton-Freewater—or rather, outside of it, on a farm on the Oregon-Washington border—and their beers have been mostly confined to the Walla Walla valley area, so I couldn’t really pass up the opportunity for it, despite the bottle costing a relatively spendy $16. (I am thrifty; I have a standing rule that I won’t (usually) spend over $12 for a single bottle of an unknown beer.)

Dragon’s Gate occupies a fairly unique spot in the Oregon brewing pantheon, both by being located in far-eastern Oregon and by being located on an actual farm. Their own site blurb about themselves reads:

A farmhouse nano craft brewery located on the Washington and Oregon border in the Walla Walla Valley wine country. Our definition of a nano-brewery? Small, artisanal, handcrafted ales brewed 1 barrel at a time (while keeping our day jobs!). We brew Belgian inspired and specialty style ales that are complex, full-bodied, and unfiltered. All batches are hand bottled, then go through a process known as “bottle conditioning” which allows carbonation to occur naturally through secondary fermentation. We brew using only the finest ingredients and utilize hops that are grown on our 10 acre farm.

They offer up a variety of styles, though sadly I was only able to find their Belgian Wit. It’s 5.5% alcohol by volume and here’s how they describe it:

A “white beer,” this Belgian wheat beer has smooth mouth feel, grainy flavor, and massive head retention of wheat malt meets dry and phenolic Belgian witbier yeast and the tart, enticing character of coriander and bitter orange peel – very complex and delicate. An appealingly crisp, dry, and refreshing alternative to an American wheat beer.

Appearance: Pale golden, slightly hazy, with a fluffy white head that was maintained nicely throughout the session, fed by a steady stream of bubbles.

Smell: Spicy notes—savory spice, the coriander and bitter orange peel are there, along with cracked pepper. A touch of a soapy note. Raw wheat berries. Phenolic type aromas are muted.

Taste: Mellow, neutral wheat body with a creamy feel and character, tempered by orange peel and pith. Oily-ish bitterness coming from that peel. Very mild spices with the peppery coriander note coming through, perhaps a touch arugula-like. Bready/doughy, perhaps under-attenuated.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied with a creamy, thick-ish feel on the tongue.

Overall: Lacking the “brightness” for me that a Witbier should have, both in spices and effervescence in the mouth. Drinkable and a decent wheat ale by itself, though I think perhaps under-attenuated which lends to the heavier mouthfeel that mutes the spice characteristics.

Untappd. BeerAdvocate: 4/5 (1 review). RateBeer: 3.3/5 (1 review).

The Session #91: My First Belgian

The SessionYesterday was the first Friday of September, and though we just came back from a terrific conference that celebrated, among other things, collaboration among bloggers, I did not have a post ready for this month’s edition of The Session—the monthly collaborative beer blogging project where we all write about a common topic. (To be fair, this week I’ve been immersed with reviewing page proofs of the book, which is rather time-consuming.)

This month’s Session was hosted by Breandán Kearney of Belgian Smaak, and he suggested the topic My First Belgian.

The rules are that there are no rules. There is incredible opportunity at your fingertips; whether it be to write about the first time you tried a Flemish red brown ale or the time you got your taste buds around a traditional Belgian witbier.

But if you have never tasted a Belgian beer, don’t worry. Now is your opportunity to jump in at the deep end. Have you found an excellent Saison amid the current global trend for producing this dry and thirst quenching traditional summer farm ale? Have you ever drunk a Speciale Belge which took you by surprise? Or perhaps you love being soured by lambics, geuzes and faros.

He goes on to offer up a wide variety of examples and suggestions, essentially inviting everyone to write about Belgian beer in some form.

Our aim here is to explore, discuss and hopefully celebrate the ways (if any) in which this fascinating beer culture has personally impacted on each of you, the passionate beer blogging community.

Lindemans FramboiseI’ve been drinking beer for a long time—much longer than I’ve been blogging about it, or even keeping notes on what I’ve been drinking. So in all honesty, I cannot recall just what my first actual Belgian beer was—though if I hazard a guess, I would say it’s just as likely as any that it was Lindemans Framboise (raspberry lambic). I remember reading about lambics in Papazian’s books at the time and was impressed with the story of the open, wild fermentation taking place in old buildings, open to the elements, with cobwebs, dust, bugs and more floating freely throughout the brewery. And then to taste the amazing flavors coming from the bottle that Lindemans had concocted, it was a revelation—miles beyond the American-made fruit beers of the time, tart in a crisp and appetizing way—it was the first glimpse into the rich and deep brewing culture Belgium has to offer.

There have been other revelatory Belgian beers over the years: Saison Dupont, Chimay, Trappistes Rochefort, many more. And watching the American craft brew culture grow and be inspired by the beers of Belgium over the years has been amazing as well—I think it’s fair to say that of the various foreign influences that have impacted American beer, the most significant have come from Belgium, whether in the direct emulation of styles or in the melding of Belgian characteristics with other existing styles (Belgian IPA comes immediately to mind). But when it comes back down to Lindemans, that’s a tough beer to beat. I know, purists will object that it’s not a proper lambic because it’s infused with fruit syrups and is more akin to soda pop than lambic… or something. Ignore that; it’s a Belgian beer brewed by a Belgian company and you’ll be hard-pressed to find another fruit beer as well received by the general drinking public as Framboise.

And that’s kind of what Belgian beer is about, at all levels.

“Bend Beer” book cover and release date!

First of all, there’s this:

Bend Beer: A History of Brewing in Central Oregon - cover

Click to embiggen

That is the front cover to my forthcoming book, Bend Beer: A History of Brewing in Central Oregon, the one I’ve spent the first half of the year researching and writing. It looks great, due in no small part to the beautiful photo taken by my friend Gina Schauland (who also works at Deschutes Brewery).

And there is an official release date! October 21, 2014 is the day! You should be able to find it in major bookstores and of course online at both History Press and Amazon.com as well as other online retailers. Mark your calendars!

Received: Portland Brewing Noble Scot

This came in from Portland Brewing yesterday:

Portland Brewing Noble Scot

Their fall seasonal, Noble Scot Scottish-style Ale. Available through October 15 in 22-ounce and 12-ounce bottles (as well as on draft), it’s 6.5% abv, brewed with “2-Row Pale, Smoked, Carapils, Roasted Barley, Melanoidin” malts and Northern Brewer, East Kent Goldings and Willamette hops. Should be a nicely malty and hopefully slightly smoky amber ale. Good style for this time of year (the mornings have gotten nippy!) so I’ll enjoy drinking these.