Deschutes Dissident, 2.0

Ah, the wild yeasts. They impart an intense, sour flavor, so we think of them as "wild" in a subjective sense. But although strains have now been isolated, they remain wild in the more accurate sense: they are feral and untrained. Put them in your beer and you take your chances.

From outward appearances, the first edition of The Dissident went just as planned. That beer was a rousing success, debuting as a lush, fruity beer and maturing into an intense, deeply layered beer. Version two point oh appears to have been more cantankerous. I didn't track the number of times I heard official or unofficial mention of release dates, but they began long before Deschutes finally settled on November. One can only imagine that the brewers were zwickeling samples off barrels and cursing their naughty brettanomyces for not getting on with the show.

So today, when I encountered the 2010 vintage, I wasn't surprised that it was a markedly different beer. Keep in mind that we must compare the just-released beer with the just-released beer of 2008. Here's what I wrote about it:
The aroma is not as funky as Liefmans--there's none of that skanky brett, but rather a sweet chocolate and sour cherry-accented nose. As it opened up, the astringency of the sour diminished a little and the cherries muscled their way in. It is a lovely and approachable beer. I find the three major notes of the beer come together in very nice harmony. The body is creamy and rich, with malt notes contributing a brown sugar/biscuit base. Onto this are balanced the twin flavors of tart/sweet cherries and the sourness of the yeast and cultures.... The result is a beer that is neither heavy nor overly sour.
This year's version is almost none of those things. Even before I put my nose in the tulip, I could smell the leather of the brett right away. There's a bit of chocolate, too, but mostly brett. The palate follows suit. In '08, the wild yeasts hadn't completely dismantled the sugars, but in this one, they're well on the way. It is thinner and far drier, and the malt and cherry notes have given way to that austere quality brettanomyces eventually produce.

I was surprised to see that this version is listed at 10.5%; the '08 was 8.8% at release. If Deschutes used the same recipe, that would be a huge difference. Perhaps the brewery felt the '08 was released too green, but I suspect not. That beer was so lush and complex--and it was so nice to try it "green" (to the extent barrel-aged beer can be) before watching it evolve. Also, the unpredictably late release date also suggests there was a reason they didn't put it out earlier. (Wild yeasts don't do the same things twice.)

It's very difficult to compare this beer head-to-head with the '08; they're quite different. This beer, with its more advanced brett character, will appeal to fewer people. The more sour a beer gets, the more people it loses. On the other hand, sourheads may appreciate this vintage more.

You have to go try it; as always with sour ales: your mileage may vary.