The Session #7: Brew Zoo

The SessionThis month’s Session is being hosted by Rick Lyke, who came up with the "Brew Zoo" theme:

Have you ever noticed how many animals show up on beer labels? We have lions and tigers and bears, plus various birds, reptiles, fish, assorted domesticated and wild animals, plus a few mythical creatures. For whatever reason brewers have a tradition of branding their beers using everything from pets to predators. The Brew Zoo will celebrate these lagers and ales.

Your assignment for The Session #7 is to go on a beer safari and help stock our Brew Zoo with animals large and small. This is one hunt that even PETA should not protest.

[The basic rule is that either the brewery or the beer must have a real live creature in its name. We will also allow beers with prominent animal label art (think Geary’s Ale from Maine and its Lobster) to be added to the Brew Zoo.]

It’s also being dedicated to Michael Jackson, the Beer Hunter:

With the passing of Michael Jackson, Beer Blogging Friday founder Stan Hieronymus and I have decided to dedicate next week’s event to Michael’s memory. His influence on beer journalism and beer appreciation is a great gift that he gave to all. Here’s to The Beer Hunter.

Hear, hear. It’s safe to say that without Michael Jackson, much of this whole beer-blogging-writing thing wouldn’t exist as it does today, and I doubt whether such a thing as The Session would have taken off as well as it has. Here’s to Michael Jackson, the Beer Hunter.

Cascade Lakes BrewingFor the Brew Zoo, I’m focusing the spotlight on Cascade Lakes Brewing, for several reasons. First, many of their beers feature animal names in them, and their labels have stylized, anthropomorphic-cartoony depictions of those animals, so they are perfect candidates. Second, I haven’t really shone the spotlight on Cascade Lakes as much as I have other local breweries (particularly Deschutes, who has been the subject of two previous Sessions)—it’s time they get highlighted.

Three of Cascade Lakes’ beers are bottled for general distribution, and they are all "Brew Zoo Beers": Rooster Tail Ale, Pine Marten Pale Ale, and Monkey Face Porter. The names of all three have a dual definition (aside from being animal-themed) as well, which I’ll mention with each beer.

Rooster Tail AleThe Rooster Tail Ale is a what I would classify a Blonde Ale at 5.2% alcohol by volume and is the brewery’s flagship beer. It pours extremely clear with a fluffy white head over a light, golden yellow body. On the nose there’s hints of toasted biscuit, raw wheat, corn, and what seems to be a slightly skunky hop—in fact it reminds me of a European lager more than an ale. The taste is toasty, a little doughy, and wheat-like light malt. Bitter in the hops—a tad earthy, a tad spicy, and understated.

It’s light and crisp with an edge, and is a nice, drinkable session beer, and it’s been part of the brewery’s lineup since 1994. The "Rooster Tail" name refers, of course, not just to the animal but to the descriptive term given to the "tail" or plume of water kicked up by boats and water skiers—or snowboards in powder, for that matter. Both activities are found in abundance in Central Oregon, known for its outdoor recreation opportunities.

Pine Marten Pale AlePine Marten Pale Ale is named after the animal—but it’s also the name of the mid-mountain lodge on Mt. Bachelor, the local ski resort. This ale is a light copper-orange color, also very clear with nice white head riding atop it. Aroma-wise, it’s malty and full of caramel and toffee, with a fruity undertone.

The malts are light and toasty and are the defining flavors with this beer; there’s toast, biscuit, light caramel notes throughout. This is not nearly as hoppy as a "typical" American Pale Ale; this is much more in the English style with an emphasis on the malt and sweetness—perhaps like a Mild, although the 5.1% alcohol tips just above the Mild classification. Pale Ale will do. The hops are there, soft, pleasantly floral, in the background. Pine Marten is light, smooth, and effervescent on the tongue.

Monkey Face PorterEven though Monkey Face Porter has a monkey on the label, it is in actuality named for a prominent landmark and climbing feature at Smith Rock. This Porter is 5% alcohol by volume—slightly lower than the other two—and everything about this beer says chocolate and coffee.

Its color is a nice, inky dark brown—opaque and the color of dark roast coffee. It smells of heavily roasted malts and oily dark bittersweet chocolate with a tinge of smoke. When you take a sip you immediately notice this is a dry ale, full of roasted coffee beans and burnt chocolate malt and dark cocoa, and possessing a little bit of an oily, smoky character. It’s medium-bodied and well-balanced and very dry, but not too bitter. This Porter screams "social beer," meant to be enjoyed with friends on the deck in the evening—or in around the fireplace during the winter.

I’ve reviewed Monkey Face Porter before, too; you can read that here.

So, we have a rooster, a marten, and a monkey to contribute to the Brew Zoo. I’m sure a rooster and a monkey will show up elsewhere, but I’d venture to say a marten is fairly unique, so I think this was a successful "hunt" overall. Hopefully one the Beer Hunter would appreciate.