Pardon me for grouping, but I've got a pile of reviews cluttering my inbox, so here's a twofer on a couple of second-tier beers from first-tier breweries.
Anniversary Pilsner - Deschutes
Deschutes celebrates its 18th with a summer special in their Bond Street series. You may know this beer under its previous (and future?) name--Pine Mountain Pils. It took gold in last year's GABF in the European-style pilsner category, sort of the European Bud category--but with predictably more character (akin to Bitburger, for example).
Deschutes' version certainly looks the part. It is certainly one of the palest beers I've poured out of a bottle of Oregon craft brew--misleadingly of an industrial lager hue. As with an industrial lager, it has a nice head and effervescence. Actually, if you don't have the same visceral reaction I do to extremely pale lagers, it's quite attractive.
But somewhere in the transparent depths resides a true Northwest beer--hoppy, hoppier, hoppiest. It's a pilsner for beer drinkers who like IPAs and wish they had a tin-can beer they could tolerate. It is in fact a mildly-alcoholic beer, but it packs a lot of spicy Saaz bitterness. I'm shocked it won anything at the GABF--it's the kind of beer the folks in Colorado usually scorn with a dismissive "way out of balance." It is, and that's good.
(And thanks to Stumptown Girl, who offered the beer as a housewarming gift.)
Hops: "mostly" Saaz; malt: 100% pilsner malt.
Jasmine IPA - Elysian
A lesser brewery, experimenting with dried jasmine petals, might simply dump them into a regular beer. Not Elysian, which leaves Immortal IPA alone and creates a wholly new recipe for its Jasmine variety. That's a good start, because Immortal's a bit rugged for the delicate essence of jasmine. But perhaps even the toned down recipe Elysian uses here is too brawny.
It's a straightforward-looking beer--a typical golden with a relatively quickly-dissipating head of fluffy white. The nose is floral, as you would predict, but rather mildly so. It's readily detectable (someone would identify it who didn't know it was the Jasmine IPA), but it's mild enough that it comes across as generically floral.
The flavors are even subtler. Malt notes come forward and, appropriately, hops take a backseat so as not to overwhelm the delicate floral essence. Still, the jasmine merely accentuates the malt, commingling in the palate, to seem like a flavor by-product of malts. A nice beer, but something of a novelty. I would love to see how jasmine would compliment a lighter beer, likesay a kolsh or helles bock.
Hops: Chinook, finished with Glacier and Amarillo; Malt: English Pale, German Munich, plus small amounts of German Carahell and English Crystal; Original Gravity: 1.062; Alcohol: 5.6% abv; Other: jasmine flowers added to the boil and hopback.