Impasse Saison
Crux Fermentation Project
6.6% ABV

Crux uses open fermentation to brew this style – in the tradition of saison in the making, from the farms of the French-speaking region of Belgium - but with an ever-so-slight Northwest Twist of hoppy deliciousness. Crux Fermentation Project is out of Bend, where the craft breweries threaten to outdo one another in quality and creativity, bringing the term “craft” to a whole new level and enticing beer geeks throughout the globe to flock to this small Oregon town. This brewery seems to pay attention to all details, including sexy, minimalist label and, arguably, the best name for any brewery in the world. Ever.

Impasse pours a hazy, golden straw with a hearty, four-finger head, characteristic of the style, which mellows to a quarter-inch foam, lending to excellent lacing. The robust aroma is of pear cider, characteristic of Belgian yeast with a strong spiciness and a slight funky citrus. With medium body and strong carbonation which accentuates a well-integrated slight bitter hoppiness, the flavor is otherwise sweet, melting into fruity cider, orange and tangerine, transitioning to a strong spiciness that dominates and lingers throughout, and finishing with a lemon-rind bitterness. Estery goodness.

This tastes like something you would find at the end of the rainbow. Crux does it again.

Worthy Brewing (Bend, Oregon)
Powder Keg Winter Ale

7.1% ABV, 65 IBU
Centennial, Cascade, Chinook and Columbus hops

According to Worthy Brewing, this is a “festive IPA”, which seems about right – robust, but not quite an imperial. Apparently, this one was dry-hopped – not once, but twice, lending to a fresh hoppy, resinous and lingering flavor without being overly dominant.

Pours a brilliantly clear deep amber with a nice copper hue and a two-finger head. Not a lot of head retention or lacing. Fragrant, piney and slightly floral hops aroma with a touch of honey and caramel malt. A lot more caramel malt in the flavor, smoothly fading into a decent amount of lingering pine and citrus bitterness. A lot of pine. A medium body and resinous feel that lingers on the palate. Overall, a really nice, drinkable beer. Not super-complex, but well-balanced – erring on the side of a piney IPA. Good for the price and worth a try.

To read more about this beer on Worthy's site...

Reserve a case.  Drink one now.  Put the rest in the cellar.  Repeat for the next five years.  Or ten years.  Or twenty. Do a vertical tasting.  You will not be disappointed.

Drink it in front of a fire. 

Pair it with your favorite bourbon or scotch.  Pair it with an amazing cheese.

And send me one too.

I fell in love with this beer in 2008 and have bought a case nearly every year since.  Alas, I have very little self control and it is, therefore, all gone.  I wish you better luck, my friend.

I will let Deschutes tell the story themselves:

We wanted to give you all a heads up to let you know that The Abyss 2013 launch is set for November 14th at our pubs in Bend and Portland. From 11 am 'til close, enjoy samples, snifters and special food menu items made with this dark and delicious beer. Take home bottles and swag for yourself and your craft beer loving friends and enjoy vertical flights from previous years to compare to the 2013 version. 

Don't live in Bend or Portland? Be on the lookout for The Abyss at your local grocery stores, liquor stores, bottle shops, pubs and bars that carry Deschutes Brewery's specialty beers all year round. A limited amount will be shipping out to all 23 states in our distribution footprint from our brewery warehouse the week of November 18th. Please ask for it at your favorite craft beer locations and watering holes and if you are having a hard time locating this beer, try using our beer finder tool.

Haven't heard of The Abyss? This imperial stout is filled with dark malts, brewers' licorice and black strap molasses and is then "dry hopped" with vanilla beans and cherry bark making it rich and complex. Top that off by aging this precious liquid in bourbon, Oregon oak and pinot noir barrels for a taste you will never forget. Age a bottle upright in your cellar (or dark, cool closet) for a year or two...or three, and enjoy with food, friends and family!  And be sure to tune in to our website and social media channels on the 14th for a behind-the-scenes look into The Abyss.
Yes, I know: I'm late.  Lauelwood's Megafauna was released in July but I first had a chance to try it only recently at The Hop and Vine this past Sunday for the final event of Killer Beer Week.  I'd heard the buzz about Megafauna...there was a lot.  Honestly, I was a little burnt out by then with the big, bold Northwest imperial IPAs.  They'd all started to blur and become conflated in my mind, all having a similar character: a powerful, intense bitter finish with a heavy, bready malt backbone - attempting to strike some tenuous balance, but becoming like syrup as they warm.  There would be one ideal and quickly fleeting temperature for these beers, at which point the malt and hop characters were perfectly balanced. Serve it too cold, and it was just bitter, serve it to warm and it was like drinking from a can of malt extract.  And my question always was: why?  What are they trying to hide with so much of everything but no space for nuance or complexity?

I will now apologize for thinking Megafauna would be another one of those.  How wrong I was. 

From the Laurelwood website:
This beer takes its name from the oversized animals of the Pleistocene Era, or Ice Age. Large saber toothed cats, hairy elephants, sloths the size of buses roamed the frozen tundras. Everything was big and/or hairy, with extra horns, tusks, teeth, etc. A tough time to be fighting for survival…Like those massive animals, this beer is huge with hop aroma and flavor. We used several new aromatic hop varieties to get a layered and hop oil soaked beer which, unlike the frozen tundra, isn’t bitter, and finishes dry. The Aroma and flavor are layers of Pine, citrus and tropical fruit and the beer is a pale gold. We hope you drink it in good health and keep warm.
9.5% ABV / 140 IBU / O.G. 20.5° Plato
At 9.5% ABV and with a whopping 140 IBUs, one would think this beer could be compared to the big, hairy beasts of the Pleistocene era.  But I would compare it more to a hummingbird: deceptively delicate, but powerful. It pours a pale gold with a lighter body - definitely NOT loaded down with those bready, syrupy malts.  The aroma is floral, citrusy and FRESH.  My friend described it well: it's the smell of opening up a fresh bag of hops.  And the flavor is similar: complex with fresh hops throughout - floral citrus, fresh fruit and pine and a very well-integrated, delicate and balanced malt profile.  Not overly sweet, a dry finish - and you would never know it packs such a punch as there's no discernible booziness at all.

Because Laurelwood brewer, Vasilios Gletsos, is a pretty good friend of mine, I think I haven't given him a fair shake because I didn't want to be biased.  But after recently trying Laurelwood's Pumpkin Ale - one of the only pumpkin beers I've ever liked (the other one being Propolis Mabon Farmhouse Pumpkin Ale, or Alaskan Pumpkin Porter for a delicious spiced chocolate take on the pumpkin beer) - and now Megafauna, I'm now, objectively, convinced: Vasilios is a master.  You need to keep an eye on Laurelwood because there will surely be more great things to come.

As of Monday night, Megafauna was still on tap at The Hop and Vine, so go out and get some before it's gone!
Me, enjoying Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti
Congratulations to all the winners of this year's Great American Beer Festival (#GABF13)...

I just wanted to send a special shout-out to all the Oregon breweries who were able to get in this year.  Both Colorado and Oregon took home a lot of medals, illustrating that these two states are both at the apex of the craft beer renaissance. 

There were also a lot of great breweries from all over America - some of which (like 3 Floyds, which I've always wanted to try!) don't get distributed to Oregon.  BOO!  Last night, I was lucky enough to enjoy the gold medal winner for the Chocolate Beer category: Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti.  Delicious, and certainly no surprise.

You can see the full list of winners.
Or the full awards ceremony on the Brewing Network.

Or you can check out my summary of all our Oregon friends who won.  You guys rock #craftbeer!

Check out this excellent twenty-minute documentary by David Panton entitled Oregon Brewed.  A little bit about the history and reasons why there's so much great craft beer in Oregon...plus more from my friend Vasilios, head brewer of Laurelwood, among others...

#craftbeer #pdxbeer #beer #oregon

The Overall Take

These are three great IPAs, all very different.  The importance of temperature on beer is never as well-illustrated as it is with IPA.  When it's cold, the hops is the dominant characteristic but as it warms, the malt can overpower, changing the balance of the beer entirely.  There's that sweet spot for every IPA, where the true intended balance comes out and it can be fleeting.
    I liked the rich fruity malt character and complexity of the Deschutes, but it became overly sweet as it warmed.  The Double Mountain, as expected by a single hop IPA, lacked complexity.  The Breakside at first didn't stand out to me as anything other than a really good representation of a big, bold Northwest IPA but was certainly the best balanced overall.

Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA - Bond Street Series

Citra and Mosaic hops, 6.4% ABV
Pours a bright amber, quite a bit darker than the other two but crystal clear.  Good head retention, nice lacing.  Nose is malty with a touch of grapefruit.  I let it warm up a bit so the malt character really comes out in the flavor, but it's not as overpowering as I thought it would be.  Some nice rich fruitiness and good complexity.  A hops bitterness that really sneaks up on you and then -BAM!  It has a warm booziness that I wouldn't expect for a 6.4% ABV beer, but I like it.  As it warms, some nice rich tropical fruit flavor comes out but it veers to the side of malt sweetness.

Breakside IPA

No IBU's, no ABV and no information about the beer on the bottle
A bit of chill haze which clears as it warms, this one pours a nice amber color with lower head retention than the other two.  Nose is malty - less malty than the Fresh Squeezed - with some fruitiness.  This is a big beer.  Flavor is malty and bready with a bit of grapefruit.  Very representative of a Northwest IPA.  At first I was thinking that this one didn't really stand out to me - that maybe I'd had too many bold Northwest IPAs, but as it warmed up a bit, I realized that this is probably the most well-balanced beer of the three.  Definitely a good one, but I would have liked some information on the bottle.  That's one of my pet-peeves though.

Double Mountain Cluster

Cluster hops only, 7.3% ABV, 85 IBU
A little hazier than the other two, it pours golden with great head and retention.  Nice lacing.  Nose is fruity, grassy, spicy.  Really nice fragrant floral notes that I really like.  Flavor is herbal and citrus with a strong bitterness.  Lighter body than the others.  Not as complex as the fragrance indicated, but that's to be expected from a single-hop IPA.  It's definitely a good beer if you like the powerful bitterness of an IPA.  Mellows out and becomes more balanced as it warms and the malt comes out.
Looks like we have a lot great Oregon Breweries ready to take home the prize this year!  If I've forgotten anyone, it wasn't intentional...please feel free to let me know.  Chastise me if you will.
Oregon Brewers
Alameda Brewing Co.
Barley Brown's Brew Pub
Base Camp Brewing Co.
Bend Brewing Co.
Boneyard Beer Co.
Breakside Brewery
Coalition Brewing Co.
The Commons Brewery
Deschutes Brewery
Double Mountain Brewery
Gigantic Brewing
Hopworks Urban Brewery
Laurelwood Brewing Co.
Logsdon Organic Farm Brewery
Mash Tun Brewpub
Oakshire Brewing
Old Town Brewing Co.
Pelican Brewing Co.
pFriem Family Brewers
Portland Brewing Co.
Rogue Brewery
Sasquatch Brewery