Winter Beer Tasting

When I started this blog, I imagined many things. Looking into the future, I foresaw a site bristling with reviews of every beer and brewpub in Oregon; I promised myself glorious prose; I envisioned hosting regular tastings. In my reveries about that latter point, I saw the emergence of a professoriate of the palate, a council so wise and powerful it dictated the preferences of an entire state.

It is with this prologue that I announce the second Beervana tasting, which I conducted on New Year's Eve. A yin to this summer's pale ale tasting yang, we sampled seven dark winter ales. That time, if you recall, the difficulty was that the beers all tasted too much alike to identify. But winter beers are a whole different mug of grog, right? Whoo boy, is that ever not true. They are different enough to distinguish subtle differences, but as far as lining them up to the memories of the same beers in our minds--no chance. So it appears that our wise council is a bust.

Nevertheless, some interesting findings did emerge.

Tasters and Method
As before, we had a person who was not participating pour out the bottles into glasses marked 1-7. From these we all slurped and sipped, medievally, insensitive to germs. We took notes, tried to assign a name to each number, selected a favorite, and then subjected ourselves to the horror of learning how wrong we were. The panel (call us The Chastened) consisted of five seasoned palates with a combined expertise of several decades of beer swilling.

Tasting Notes
Although we all sucked at identification, it was interesting to see how similarly we all described the individual entries. Clearly, we were tasting the same beers and were well-enough equipped to agree on what they tasted like.

Beer 1 (Fish Brewing Winterfish)
Grapefruit hops, fruity. Light-colored, some alcohol.

Beer 2 (Full Sail Wassail)
Floral, smooth. Rich brown. Roasty. Piney hops.

Beer 3 (Golden Valley Tannen Bomb)
Unfortunately, this was a bad bottle. It was sour and fetid-smelling and easily garnered everyone's vote for "worst." Having had a couple bottles already, I know it's not a characteristic of the beer itself. Dunno what happened. It did, however, yield the most amusing quote: "That's the weirdest, grossest beer ever--I can't stop drinking it."

Beer 4 (Deschutes Jubelale)
Creamy, great head. Apples? Deep red. Lots of caramel.

Beer 5 (Dick's Double Diamond)
Sharply bitter. Aromatic. Creamy. Noticeable alcohol flavor.

Beer 6 (Pyramid Snow Cap)
Deep copper. Aggressive. Plummy and sweetish.

Beer 7 (Ebenezer)
Coppery-red. Creamy and gentle. Mild.

Except for the Tannen Bomb, we found these all to be pretty fine beers. However, when people were pressed to name their favorites, three came out the winners. With two votes each, Dick's Double Diamond and Deschutes Jubel took highest honors. None of us had ever had Dick's, so factor that in. (Points for novelty? Who knows?) Pyramid Snow Cap picked up the final vote--and by a person who thought it was Snow Cap and who thought he liked Snow Cap the best.

Join us next time for our "Beers that are very different from one another" tasting, wherein we attempt to recapture our identification mojo....