Tag Archives: Deschutes

Ordinary Brews: Mirror Pond

Now we’re on to the second of the Deschutes ales: Mirror Pond, their best seller.

Nose is a little skunky. This doesn’t seem right but it happens across multiple bottles. The rest of the beer is quite light but it also moves very quickly across my tongue. The flavor of malts and hops are hard to pick up. The finish is faintly bitter but the lingering flavor is less citrus or pine and more of that skunky flavor that the nose provides.

I’m wondering if I got a bad batch, or an old one. Or one that perhaps sat on the dock for a little too long. After the quality of the Black Butte, this is surprising.

Final note: the last beer in my sixpack tasted more appropriate. The nose had some pine notes, the finish was what I expected in bitterness and the skunky quality that I’d gotten in the other beers wasn’t nearly so pronounced. There’s still something a little awkward on the finish and this leads me to conclude that this particular sixpack had something go wrong. Nonetheless, based on the beer I bought, I couldn’t recommend it, with the caveat that this beer might’ve gone bad due to circumstances beyond the brewer’s control.


Ordinary Brews: Black Butte Porter

When I asked Deschutes what their best selling ale was, they said it was Mirror Pond but added that their flagship ale was Black Butte Porter. Well, why not have both then?

So I start with the flagship ale, and this is a well earned flagship beer. It’s working an interesting tension, because as a dark ale-and make no mistake, in the glass it looks like a place that light flees from-the expectation is that it will be heavy and dense.

Instead, Black Butte is very light. The toasted notes from the malt are absolutely present and forward in the nose but the beer itself doesn’t beat you over the head with it. Some chocolate in the middle, a coffee on the finish to keep anything too sweet from lingering and creating a sourness, all in all it’s just a nicely put together beer.

I want to say this falls in the Robust Porter category, because of the dryer, roastier coffee flavors involved. While being a pretty light beer on the tongue, there’s just enough body to suggest that it’s a bit more than the Brown Porter style. But I definitely like it and would say Black Butte has more than earned it’s place on the store shelf.

Where I Want To Go: Hawthorne Hop House

It’s been a long weekend, ladies and gents. I’m gently sunburnt and far more bearded than I’m generally comfortable with, so I’m constantly rubbing my throat as I type at the Hawthorne Hop House to drink a Dopple Dinkle Bock from Deschutes.

The beer arrives. Banana. So MUCH banana. Who said this was a good idea? I supposed there’s some flaming banana quality there, meaning I can taste dark fruit flavors in here but the description suggests a malt profile from Germany with PNW hops and there isn’t a trace of that in there.

It’s so off, I ask the waiter to check the beer. It seems like a mispour; so many Belgian influences; fruit, a bit of fig, sweetness, etc and it just doesn’t seem right! But apparently it’s the right beer.

Now, it isn’t an undrinkable beer.  Not at all. But the gap between what I ordered and what I got isn’t an easy one to jump. This beer isn’t what it should be, so what is it? Well, it bears more resemblance to a Belgian dubbel, both in flavor and strength and I just don’t know what to do now. I can’t recommend this beer, because it doesn’t deliver on what it says it is. On the other hand, it’s not a bad beer, so…you should try it?

On the upside, the waiter was extremely kind and more than willing to replace the beer if I wanted but I decided to delve further into this one and figure it out, rather than send it away.

Interesting things are like that; let’s look into them further. Even if they are failures.

Where I Want To Go: The Vern

I’ve come to the Vern because I need to be at a dive bar. It is a day for hating everyone and dive bars are excellent cover for just such activities. Plus, there is nobody here. Seething against the species is a good solo activity.

Of course, the bartender is a super friendly, almost jolly dude in a Social Distortion tee. He’s making the execution of my general irritability towards humanity more difficult than it should be. And, there’s Iron Maiden’s Ace’s High on the jukebox and no self-respecting metalhead can despise Iron Maiden.

On top of all that, there’s a pretty swell selection of beers too. How the hell is a writer supposed to compose screeds about how everything is fucked and it should be if there is good beer, agreeable atmosphere and Iron Maiden?

Despite the selection, I go for a Mirror Pond. I don’t want to challenge myself today with a beer I need to describe: Mirror Pond is my default beer because it’s good and I don’t have to try and make it interesting.

This is about the time AC/DC’s Hell’s Bells comes up and I have to reconsider my feelings towards wishing the Earth would burn.

Despite all that, I feel like dive bars might be good hideouts for a few weeks. I doubt I’ll sustain this malaise for a long time but divey bars are just good joints to hide in and I think I’m in need. They are what they are, stripped down and uninterested in pretending. The last thing that a good writer and a beer advocate should be interested in is pretense.

Beer is nearly done. Let’s try and find another dark space to meet in for next week.

Where I Wanna Go: Montavilla Station

Huh. I’m clearly still a bit rusty on the blogging thing, since I had something ready to post on Friday and clearly forgot to hit the “Publish” button. Ah well. Onward!

I’m at the Montavilla Station, on the recommendation from a commenter a few months ago. I was wary coming on a Monday because of football but I’m in luck: it is pretty low key tonight.

I like football but I like it at home, or on fortunate occasions, in person. I don’t really see the point of going somewhere to watch tv and ignore people but perhaps I just have trouble getting into the spirit of things. It wouldn’t be the first time that accusation has been leveled at me.

The upside of the Station is that it has some dive bar character: music posters near a small stage and 45s on the wall, a really lovely station for alcohol, lots of wood…and wood paneling, which still holds the stain of cigarette smoke and gives me a sense of how old it is.

The regulars are here though: speaking a partial code I have no cypher for, laughing and commenting and using the phase ‘booty up!’, which the bartender is kind enough to tell me is in reference to the boot she’s wearing to protect her Achilles. We have a short conversation about how important it is to run or walk, so your brain can just zone out and process crap and she tells me how she’s looking into other exercises because “I ain’t wearing stretch pants during the winter.”

I guess that is a bad thing for some reason, but I respect the statement. She’s got standards, damnit.

I’ve sip my Deschutes Red Chair, a nicely balanced pale, the kind of thing I expect from Deschutes, because my choices are limited. I have choices, though, mostly Widmer and Deschutes on the craft end: about what I’d expect from a dive bar.

It’s about this time a fella in a Zelda shirt comes in for a pint of PBR. Bartender tells him the can costs the same and he gets 2oz more, because the glasses (with a Coors Light icon) are cheater pints.

“Anything with a logo on it,” she tells me, “is 14oz instead of 16, and they still try to call them pints!”

Sigh. Still, awesome bartender is awesome. I could consider becoming a regular with cool people like this serving, if I didn’t  have such wanderlust. Both for place and for beer, now that I think about it. I just couldn’t come here every week and drink Deschutes, you know?

New To Me: Bar Maven

For the first, and perhaps only time in this series, I get to go someplace that isn’t just new to me but new to the area.

Bar Maven used to be Knuckleheads, a biker bar that lasted about two years and before that was…some other biker bar, I think. It’s been scrubbed clean and is now reformed, no trace of motor oil, bluesy bar rock, chrome or overt manliness that might have dominated previously.

I get a Deschutes Chainbreaker IPA and the lady has a Session ale. My beer is interesting but odd, with an aroma like smoked lavender in the nose. I like it but it’s not for everyone.

It’s nice here, in a way that most bars in this area aren’t. The advantage of starting over after gutting the biker pedigree out, I suppose. There’s art for sale on the walls, the music isn’t too loud; it could almost be a date place. Hell, for my purposes it actually IS a date place. As a result, I spend a little less time absorbing the atmosphere than I do socializing with my girlfriend but we both agree that we’ll come back.

It is, I will confess, the kind of space that I hoped would open up when I moved into this area. It suggests that this area is trending upwards and will provide more interesting things to do in the future. Which is awesome.

But. But. I think of those dive bars I’ve been to and honestly, while they weren’t for me, they weren’t Mos Eisley, you know? They give this area some character and make it an interesting place now. They provide a home to someone, someones who make the world an interesting place. I would hate to see all of them disappear.

There has to be a way for the nice and the grimy to reasonably coexist. I live in a city: I expect weird people, homeless teens, men in suits that cost more than I make in a month, women who look at me like the underling that I am and all the other weird shit that comes from being in an awesome place. If I wanted to live in a city that had walls to keep the plebes out, I’d go to Europe.

But there has to be a way to provide a little something for everyone. Maybe Foster will be a cool template for how to get that to work.

7pm The Chat Up

From the Twitterverse last week, a contact told me about the Deschutes/Hopworks India Red Lager, which on paper sounded amazing. In practice, it’s just kinda bland. The bitterness is too rough on the end, not enough body or sweetness so what this has going for it is that it’s a red lager with hops.

India Red LagerThat’s just not enough for my tastes. I don’t know why but I seem to be unable to find a beer I can recommend, lately. But, you play game, sometimes you lose.

It’s a lucky night for me, otherwise: the owner is sitting at the bar and there’s a space next to him, so I can sit down at the bar and write, in addition to chatting up the barkeeps too. We talk beer, customers, tipping and service and the friendly competition that can exist when good beer places exist near each other. In this instance, I’m told about a new beer bar near Roscoe’s to check out. Awesome to me: I can hit it and tell you about it later this week (I hope. Maybe next week.)

I’m also informed that the staff at Bailey’s is going to do some work at the Commons, brewing an ale for the anniversary event, which is super cool! (And, given last week, nicely serendipitous.) There’s a suggestion that it will involve cucumbers which is…very interesting.

I have to admit, this India Red Lager is getting a little better as it warms up. Maybe the hops help it survive the warm up period better than a lager would? More likely, the malt is able to make itself known…but damned if I know. It’s a little better. Still not great.

Hanging at the bar helps remind me why I like being here.  Everyone is friendly and laughing and teasing each other: From my perch, there’s not a non-contemplative frown in the place. (There’s a guy working on something in a corner, intently focused on his laptop, face thoughtfully disapproving of whatever he’s looking at.)

Good times, as my sister would say: good times.

I bought this II

Deschutes NWPAI guess the title for these are rather silly: I bought anything that wasn’t brewed myself. I don’t have it in me to steal beer.


Today’s beer is Deschutes’ Red Chair, billed as a NW pale, it smells like the best part of being in a brewery; malty and hoppy and maybe just a suggestion of yeastiness. It’s hard to explain fully unless you’ve been to a brewery but put a hint of breadiness in and you’ve probably got it.

I’m glad this is a seasonal because it tastes some good. The piney hop bitterness at the end is a strong finish to this ale, which has just enough maltiness to it to keep it from going off the rails. I’d probably drink this year round if it was available, so I’m glad it isn’t. I’d go broke!

Revisiting: Deschutes Mirror Pond

mirror pondThis beer is frequently a classic for me and always on the ‘go-to’ list. Except in Portland, I never need to go to it, because there’s always something I haven’t had and should try.

So here’s Deschutes’ Mirror Pond and it’s still fairly tasty. The nose is a little skunked and I’m not sure why: hop scents of citrus or pine are barely present which is a touch disappointing. Still, the beer is very, very clean and just the kind of thing to go with the pub food staples: fries, nachos, meat-based somethings. There’s a solid floral bitterness on the finish that’s soon wiped away by the effervescence of the beer, good to stave off grease or other overwhelming flavors that are brought about by salt and/or meat.

I don’t think I’m looking to trade away this classic from the go-to list but I also recognize that its stability is what drives me towards other beers: if I know what something does already, I’m more curious about what I don’t know.