Back when I first started drinking craft beers, a buddy of mine told me to be careful around the Red Hook: “They should’ve called it Right Hook,” he said, alluding to it’s strength. I never seemed to get rolled by Red Hook the way my buddy suggested and at the time, I didn’t even know what an ESB was but it has been a staple of the NW scene for quite a while now, introducing other styles and I believe have now joined a kind of beer conglomerate with Widmer.
There’s a strong scent of sulfur, stronger than any of the other beers. Lager like, it reminds me of beers I sniffed growing up while bringing something to my Dad.
That sulfurness hits first in the flavor, too and it’s a bit displeasing on the tongue. The malts show up quickly but not soon enough and there is a quirk at the end, as though the sulfur is pulling a Lazarus moment on me.
This beer is also the least challenging of the ones I’ve revisited and the most like a lager, something I would have gotten in the 1980’s on a whim, just to see if I should break away from the Rainier I’ve been sneaking from Old Man Kopra’s fridge…
I can’t say I’m impressed or convinced to get more Red Hook. This beer is there for someone else, perhaps someone who needs a gateway into a larger world but doesn’t want to actually take a risk.
But it is not for me.
Shortly after I moved to Portland, a friend who had taken the leap months before myself introduced me to Rogue’s Dead Guy ale. He said he liked to fuck with people by telling them “I like to suck on a Dead Guy.”
Marketing departments: call him. Hell, it’s not any less distasteful than discounting your beer the day after the US kills Osama Bin Laden…
Let’s move on though. Bygones. What matters now is the now and in the now I have some of Rogue’s Dead Guy and if that isn’t their best known beer, then it’s got to be pretty damn close.
Tiny weird story: after posting this photo to my Flickr, some Rogue PR human asked me to add it to their Rogue group photos. But…I really don’t think I’m a joiner, in that sense. The sense that I might be a shill for someone’s product for free. I mean, hey, if they want to pay me…
Malty, very malty. This is supposed to be an alt, or so I’ve read. Certainly doesn’t smell like a pale or IPA, with a sweeter, honeysuckle-esque nose to it. The malts kick in right away though, caramel spread over ice cream in the flavor. I’d have to say that’s the biggest difference between the Dead Guy and the Mirror Pond.
Otherwise, this is just a super clean beer that’s sweet enough to appeal to many palates. I may not always dig on the way Rogue markets their beer but I can’t say I object to the beer itself.
As one of the oldest craft breweries in Portland, Bridgeport is probably as well known as Widmer, at least around the Pacific NW. What’s different is that Bridgeport is known more for their IPA than for a more welcoming style, if you will. Bridgeport can still run hit and miss but in the past few years, I have to give them credit for occasionally mixing it up in the brewing realm, even if they aren’t getting everything right.
The IPA has a solid, strong, piney nose. Surprising for a drink that’s meant for the masses. The bitterness doesn’t linger initially but it does start to stick around after a little while, offering a solid bite. Still, that bite doesn’t seem to go overboard, even after drinking half the beer.
Then I realize: this is what makes it a broader, commercial beer. It’s got the initial sting of a NW IPA but not the lingering knockout of one.
But would I drink it again? Yeah, actually. It’s still a little thin but by golly it’s a decent IPA and should go on the list of ‘backup beers’. (Beers that, if all else fails, one gets because you know they will taste decent.)
This 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.
The first time I ever had Widmer’s hefe was about twenty years ago in a bar in Spokane called Ichabod’s. I couldn’t believe I was having a beer with lemon on the side; That Just Seemed Wrong. The bar has since burned down, the owner convicted of arson, I believe, just as my notions of What Seems Wrong with a beer have also changed.
Though I still oppose a fruit side, I won’t let that prevent me from enjoying a good beer.
With the move and my current supplies of homebrew rapidly dwindling, I am compelled to purchase beer and so instead of wondering why the gods kill, I instead have decided to use this opportunity to go back, check out the beers that I cut my teeth on and helped introduce me (and many others) to the world of microbrewing.
The nose is faintly skunky, a little like a lager might be. The middle isn’t thin; the wheat presence holds it together for certain and the finish is actually fairly dry, a bit like white wine. I can totally see how this may have been designed to have a lemon added, as the citrus could play off the wheat balance and then mesh with the dry finish.
Still, I can’t quite enjoy this beer. I feel like it ought to be bolder, stand firmer. I shouldn’t think: wow, I get putting a lemon in this beer!
Beer isn’t ice cream-better with additives. Beer is steak: you do it right, you can have it on its own. I guess that hasn’t really changed for me.
Verdict: not something I’ll go back to very often.