Deschutes Brewery, one of the great breweries of the country and a personal favorite of ours, has finally come to the D.C. area with distribution in the District and Virginia and soon in Maryland. Located in Bend, Ore., a winter skiing and summer hiking destination, Deschutes is named after the nearby Deschutes River and many of its beers are named after regional landmarks. Deschutes is coming to the area as a result of a collaboration on Zarabanda, their new spiced Saison beer, with Chef José Andrés, owner of several area restaurants including the Jaleo restaurants in Bethesda, northern Virginia, and D.C.
Deschutes is one of the older craft breweries in the country having opened as a brewpub in 1988 by CEO and founder Gary Fish, expanding into a 50-barrel production microbrewery in 1993. In 1988 the brewery produced a total of 714 barrels of beer. In 2015 they expect to produce 320,000 barrels, making them the sixth largest craft brewer in the country with a potential current capacity of 600,000 barrels. Deschutes is in 28 states and D.C., mostly in the West and Midwest, plus Pennsylvania.
The brewery is the second largest user in the county of whole cone hops rather than pelletized hops and bottle conditions all of its beers. Deschutes makes nine year-round beers including Black Butte Porter, the best selling craft Porter in the country, Mirror Pond Pale Ale, a gold medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival and their largest seller, and Obsidian Stout, the best selling stout in the country and voted the World’s Best Stout at the 2013 World Beer Awards. Obsidian is the Brews Brothers’ “desert island” beer.
Three seasonal beers include Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale, declared the World’s Best Beer in 2012 at the World Beer Awards, Twilight Summer Ale and Jubelale, a strong holiday brew. Deschutes also brews six interesting IPAs in their Bond Street Series, including two fresh hop ales, and has a Reserve Series which presents bigger, bolder beers such as The Abyss Imperial Stout, Mirror Mirror Barleywine, Not The Stoic Quadruple, and annual anniversary versions of Black Butte Imperial Porter.
The brewery donates $1 for each barrel sold, to national and local charities ranging from assisting children in need to environmental causes. Some of these donations are used by the Deschutes River Conservancy to buy one billion gallons per year of water rights to keep the river flowing. The company is partly employee owned.
The initial beers released in the area in November were Black Butte Porter and Mirror Pond Pale Ale, the two flagship beers, plus Fresh Squeezed IPA, all on draft, and bottles of Mirror Mirror and Black Butte XXVI, their Imperial Porter which changes ingredients each year. The Abyss arrived in December and the spring seasonal Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale is expected shortly.
Black Butte Porter (5.2 percent alcohol by volume, ABV) has a delicious aroma of chocolate and roast presaging a medium roast and moderate chocolate front which continues into the middle. The roast ebbs a wisp in the finish with the chocolate dominating and a noticeable touch of bitter hops. The bitter hops grow slightly in the aftertaste and, together with the chocolate, linger. Ratings: 9/9.
Mirror Pond Pale Ale (5.6 percent ABV) has a floral, melon and grapefruit nose. The subdued grapefruit front elevates somewhat in the middle, all nicely balanced by a malt backbone, which remains into the finish. In the aftertaste the moderate grapefruit character comes to the front as the malt fades. Ratings: 7.5/7.5.
Mirror Mirror (11.2 percent ABV) begins with a fruit compote bouquet of raisins, dark fruit and bitter hops. The medium raisin front with hints of plum and prune are joined by a light sweet malt in the middle. The finish adds a note of alcohol which increases in the aftertaste while the fruitiness persists. This beer will improve in complexity with aging. Ratings: 8.5/8.
Zarabanda (6.7 percent ABV) has a lime, yeast, pepper and lemon nose. The modest lemon and lime front melds with a muted peppercorn and restrained yeast in the middle. These flavors continue in the finish and last through the aftertaste. The beer would seem to pair well with a variety of foods and would bring out the flavors. Ratings: 8.5/7.5.
Fresh Squeezed Ale (6.4 percent ABV) has a ruby red grapefruit sweetness with whiffs of mango and peach. The delicious sweet malt front extends into a genial grapefruit middle. The tropical fruits found in the nose emerge in the finish and quickly dwindle in the aftertaste as the grapefruit resurfaces and lingers. Ratings: 8/8.