The Brew Site

Tuesday Tastings: Pinedrops, Lunch Break, Summer SMASH

I skipped a couple of weeks of Tuesday Tastings mostly because of the CBC, but I’m back this week with all Oregon beers of the “Pale” variety that are all quite tasty.

Deschutes Brewery Pinedrops IPA

I received bottles of Pinedrops plus a Hydro Flask “True Pint” a couple weeks ago, and sampled a Pinedrops out of the True Pint to give it a test run. So this review will comment on both.

Pinedrops is definitely a “Northwest style” IPA, with 6.5% abv and 70 IBUs. It’s also a bit of a throwback IPA style to a time when our NW IPAs were lighter with less tropical-fruit-floral and were heavier and with more bitter hop emphasis—in fact, part of the goal was to capture the essence of pine trees:

This lively IPA delivers a crisp and light malt body with ample citrus and pine notes from Chinook and Equinox hops. Inspired by the aromas and silence we experience when exploring the scenic pine forests just up the road from our brewhouse.

The True Pint is kind of cool but as you can see in the picture, affords absolutely no visual cues as to how the beer itself looks, just the foam. The Hydro Flash double-wall vacuum insulation (basically, like a thermos) seems to keep cool. You can see from the shape it’s really little more than a shaker pint so you don’t get the best aroma quality, and while it does hold 16 ounces, it’s measured if you fill right to the rim, with no foam. So I won’t use this every day (or most days) but it would be a good addition for camping and similar.

Pinedrops IPA itself, well I do enjoy this beer, and like I said, it’s a bit of a throwback in flavor. Caramelly crystal malt, a pitchy resin bitterness, not as much fruit and yes, it smells piney and hoppy. I have of course had this beer before and I like it; perhaps not as much as, say, the brewery’s Fresh Squeezed IPA, but this is a suitably “Oregon” beer. It’s fairly balanced and finishes very clean as most of Deschutes’ beers do, not too cakey or sweet from the maltiness.

Now I just need to drink this out of a proper glass for the best aroma characteristics…

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Breakside Brewery Lunch Break India Session Ale

Whether you love or hate this so-called “India Session Ale” style—I personally quite like them, though don’t see the need to put the “India” marketing term in front of everything (unless I’m ironically creating a new style)—Breakside’s version is pretty delicious. This year-round beer is 4.7% abv and 28 IBUs. Their description:

Lunch Break is our hop forward session beer, built for enjoying any time of day. Whether you call this beer a Session IPA, American Pale Ale, India Session Ale, Mini IPA, or something totally different, we know that you’ll find this beer to be full of juicy, classic hop flavor with just enough malt backbone to keep things in balance. We reserve some of our favorite hops–Simcoe, Amarillo, Cascade and Centennial–to use in this beer, which gives the aroma a heady mix of lemongrass, orange marmalade, grapefruit, pine and resin. Hop heads who seek a big punch of hops in the nose need look no further!

Appearance: Clear orange color, poured a big fluffy white head. (Picture is a vigorous pour, not infected/foamy.) Bright, and turns nicely gold in color when held to the light.

Smell: Fresh and resiny hop aroma, plummy citrus fruit, very “Northwest.” Not overwhelming but brings nice fresh hops to the forefront.

Taste: Light, juicy, toasty malt balanced with a casual hop bitterness and juicy (reiterated) hop fruit flavors washing over the tongue. Really well-melded, with bread crust, mango, lemon peel, and earthy bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Light-bodied with a noticeable malt backbone and juicy character in the finish.

Overall: Very good, one of the best-balanced examples of the ISA style I’ve tried.

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Portland Brewing Summer S.M.A.S.H. Pale Ale

This is another recent arrival the brewery sent me, just last week in fact. Yes, I do think April is too early to be heralding summer beers, but unfortunately it’s driven by demand and distributors afraid of losing shelf space and tap handles, so here we are. On the other hand, I enjoyed this beer, and despite being nominally classified as an American Pale Ale, I think it works much better (and really well) as an English Pale Ale (English Summer Ale?) which crystallized for me as I was drinking it. With 5.6% abv and 35 IBUs it’s not terribly big and would be a good hot weather drinker.

Incidentally SMASH means “Single Malt and Single Hop” and they say, “One hop and one malt combine for a dazzling display of a rich, bready malt base with lush pine and citrus hop notes.”

Appearance: Bright copper, super clear, with lacy off-white head that presents as wispy foam.

Smell: Green and lightly-resined hops, with touches of fruitiness but more earthy. Very clean, minimal malt, bready nose. Foam is slightly soapy.

Taste: Minerally malt graininess in the backbone, firm and slightly steely (lightly roasted?). The hops are clean and mellow, a bit earthy with a note of herbal tea. Strikes me as having a classic English Pale aroma and flavor.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied with a clean, toasty finish.

Overall: Really good example of a classic English Pale Ale after working through it. Plus it drinks easy, like a session beer.

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