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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Deschutes Jubel 2010

In terms of beer appreciation, nothing prepares you quite as well as home brewing. It allows you to become familiar with the way ingredients express themselves, and also to identify off-flavors. One of the skills you develop as a home brewer is tasting beer at various stages of maturation and extrapolating about what it will taste like in finished form. A home brewer can transfer a week-old batch of beer and determine a great deal from an ounce of warm, flat, under-fermented liquid. (Bad home brewers, like me, are also excellent at ignoring what we know. I've got a batch of old ale in the basement that's been aging for 3 months in the bottle, and when I had one last week, still convinced myself that it would come around ... eventually.)

Jubel 2010
All of which is to say that Deschutes' latest Reserve Series beer, Jubel 2010, is a work in progress. Last night I had a goblet with a local beer geek and video maven--who can identify himself or not, as he prefers--to discuss an overly ambitious idea I have for a brewing documentary. (Side note to arts patrons: email if you want to get in on the ground floor. Producer credits available!)

Jubel 2010 is a decade-later echo of a souped-up version of Jubel the brewery bottled back in 2000 (and which its been releasing on tap as "Super Jubel"). For my money, calling this beer Jubel is a little misleading. Regular Jubelale is 6.7% alcohol and has 60 IBUs and is one of the best examples of a winter warmer available--a perfect balance of malt, hops, and alcohol warmth. Jubel 2010 is a barleywine-strength 10%, but actually has five fewer IBUs. Because hop bitterness is a relative measure--the more malt you have, the less you perceive a given amount of bitterness units--this means Jubel 2010 is waaaaay sweeter. It is in no way a winter warmer. At this stage, it reminds me a great deal of a ruby port. Lots of grapey, fruity sweetness. (It was aged in pinot barrels.) The sweetness doesn't quite cloy, but like some sweet liquors, snuggles right up to the line. I had a 10-ounce goblet and felt that that was plenty.

I give Deschutes credit for producing a beer that is drinkable at release. Jubel 2010 is a creamy, gentle digestif-type beer that is perfectly approachable right out of the gate. So far, the reaction on BeerAdvocate is uniformly positive. But in my home brewer mode, what I taste is a beer that hasn't yet become its final self. As with this winter's Abyss, Jubel 2010 is stamped with a "best after" date, and I encourage people to take that seriously. Strong, dark beers age well, and Jubel 2010 should dry out a bit more and allow the alcohol to come forward to balance out the sweetness. I would hope that the strong grape note will recede a bit, too.

I still have yet to pick up bottles from the store--$11 is a lot for a single beer--but I'm encouraged that in a few years' time, I'll be glad I did. It's fine, but Deschutes wants it to wow. With beers like this, patience is the final ingredient.


  1. I haven't cracked a bottle yet, but when I tried it on draft at the pub (also with a videographer along!), I found it ready to drink.

    Last year I struggled to finish a goblet of Super Jubel, but I think a year in pinot barrels did a world of good for it. Maybe another year or two in the bottle will improve it even more, but it's drinkable now. I sure wouldn't keep it 10 years (hint, hint).

  2. Maybe I'm just strange, but I don't like the Pinot Barrel and beer combo. It just tastes wrong to me. Tastes like drinking a beer after a Pinot hangover. Scotch barrel, Whiskey barrel, Congac Barrel, Port Barrel and others work much better for me.

  3. I dont know about aging it to let the alcohol flavors come out. Alcohol flavor fades over time so it would just taste sweeter. Unless maybe its bottle conditioned then it might dry out a bit but I dont think it is.

  4. Hugh, I totally agree. Pinot barrels are tricky. The wine comes out and gives the beer a pronounced sweet note that's hard to overcome. I wonder if more highly-attenuating yeast strains or better matches with beer styles will result in a good match.

    SA, yeah, I know what you mean. Maybe saying alcohol isn't the right thing; but somehow the "stewing" process tends to benefit high-alcohol beers once they age.

  5. Had it on draft a few weeks ago and enjoyed it quite a bit, though it would have been nicely served with bourbon aging rather than pinot. I think I will pickup a bottle or two for the cellar.