Beer Sherpa Recommends: Cask Deschutes River Ale
Last week I glanced up against the subject of cask ale, and by chance I managed to end the week by encountering an actual glass of the stuff when I had dinner at Deschutes. Bend's finest is one of the last refuges of cask ale in the city, and you can always find two handles devoted to it when you stop in. Rarely, though, do they offer something in the English mode--a low-alcohol, low-hop session beer. As a traditionalist, I love these the best. (Though Ron Pattinson, when he was in town a while back, swooned over the Fresh-Squeezed IPA on cask. It was also on cask last Friday, and I admit I was impressed. Still think the flavors don't go through the full transmutation of smaller beers, but still, mighty impressive.)
I have never had much success convincing people hat 4%, 28 IBU beers are the pinnacle of cask accomplishment, and I may not convince you now. But do me a favor, and drink a pint of real River Ale and see for yourself. (I have no idea if it's still on or how often it comes on--but let this stand as a plea to the brewery to do it often.) The wonderful thing about this beer is that it is 100% American. It's got the classic pale-and-caramel malt base and a troika of juicy American hops (Nugget, Crystal, and Cascade). On cask, the body seems to swell; it's full and rich. The hops are zingy and zesty in that unmistakeable American way. When you swallow, the malts turn golden in your mouth, departing with the essence of honey. It's a lovely duet--American beer, English package, all in perfect harmony.
Make it a point to try this beer if you ever see it there again. I know, I know--IPAs and all that. But I just can't believe you won't be transfixed.