Sneak Peek: We Taste Deschutes Brewery's Four Opening Offerings

By Lorna Juett in Food on Dec 13, 2012 8:40PM

Via Deschutes Brewery

Deschutes Brewery’s eastward expansion is rolling right along, and we had a chance to taste four of their opening offerings, Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Black Butte Porter, Chainbreaker White IPA, and Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale. Here’s a preview of what to expect when the brand launches here Jan. 7.

Mirror Pond Pale Ale, described by Deschutes Brand Ambassador Erick Frank as the brand’s “ubiquitous and classic pale,” and as the “golden retriever of pale ales,” it leads the Deschutes charge into Illinois. Brewed with only whole Cascade hops, lovers of Bell’s Two Hearted will find comfort in this beer, along with a slightly softer taste. This is also the beer likely to be most coveted by homesick Pacific Northwesterners.

Black Butte Porter was the first beer sold at Deschute’s Bend, Ore., brewpub. Smoky, bitter, and chocolaty, this easy-drinking porter has been known to convert even non-beer drinkers to the dark side. We enjoyed its simplicity, and certainly could see why this unchallenging (in a good way!) beer is the number one selling porter in the country.

Chainbreaker White IPA was described to us as a “brand new style,” a cross between a Belgian wit and a hoppy pale, brewed with German Hefeweisen ale yeast and three kinds of northwest hops. Deschutes hopes this beer takes the market by storm, but it seemed that the flavor of the hops was too subdued, with the yeast taking a foremost position on the palate, and the IPA label a misnomer. Also, the style didn’t seem all that revolutionary, as there is one very notable hoppy wheat beer in our market: Three Floyds Gumballhead. Granted, Gumballhead lacks the Hefeweisen yeast profile that sets Chainbreaker apart, but Chainbreaker lacks the hop profile that makes Gumballhead one of the most popular beers in Chicago. It will be interesting to see how Chainbreaker will sell against that established competition.

And finally, the first available seasonal offering is Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale, quite possibly the easiest-drinking non-reserve beer we tasted. With a forward, malty, bready, sweetness and orangey hops, it really exemplifies the balanced flavors that Deschutes Brewery touts as their major claim to fame, and it makes for an easy-to-drink pale that will sate those of us who are tired of wrecking our palates with overly hopped beers.

Deschutes also plans to reward loyal drinkers with their other seasonal beers later in the year including, the Twilight Summer Ale, and their winter Jubelale. We can also anticipate reserve beers from their barrel-aging program, including Abyss Stout and the Black Butte reserve line, and the arrival of a soon-to-launch session ale, the 3.8% ABV Deschutes River Ale.

Of course displaced Oregonians are excited, but why should Midwesterners get pumped? The answer is in the beer itself, and the established history of the brewery. “We’ve been brewing beer for 25 years,” explains Deschutes Digital Marketing Manager Jason Randles, “so we make really quality, balanced beers. We’re also bringing four beers to launch with, and we pretty much make a beer for every beer drinker.” After what we’ve tasted, we tend to agree. While these four beers aren’t seriously pushing the boundaries of what a beer can be, they are all very drinkable, balanced, and delicious specimens.

Does Deschutes Brewery fill any holes in the Chicago market? Unlikely. But we won’t hear beer drinkers complain when they start popping up in stores and on draft lines next month.