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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Beers of Summer - Deschutes Twilight

Look down the list of beers Deschutes offers, and you will find the standards of the British ouvre: pale ale, porter, stout, brown. Another traditional style, and one of the three Deschutes first brewed, is bitter. That's a noun, not an adjective:
bitter (n) - An English term for a well-hopped ale, most often on draught. Although examples vary widely, the name implies a depth of hop bitterness. There is usually some acidity in the finish and colour vanes from bronze to deep copper.
By "depth of hop bitterness" one should not read "bitter," which is rather confusing, given that hops are bitter and the name of the beer is bitter. Bitters (noun) are, nevertheless, not particularly bitter (adjective).

They are, in fact, the first in a triumverate stretching through best bitter and terminating and extra special bitter (ESB). Bitters are the sessions of the bunch, weighing in at 3.5 - 4% abv. Best bitters are stronger 4-5% abv, and ESBs positively robust at up to 6% abv. So a traditional bitter will have a layered hop profile, with lots of aroma and flavor to go along with noticeable (if not agressive) bittering.

A good bitter is hard to make, and one of the best was Bachelor Bitter, Deschutes' first (and still available at the brewery). It morphed into the less interesting and bottled Bachelor ESB (which is probably confusing at the brewery), and for years Deschutes has offered no bottled bitters for those of us on the west side of the Cascades. Until Twilight.

Tasting notes
Pours out a slightly hazy honey with a fluffy head. The aroma is a delicious bouquet of scents--floral hoppiness, caramel sweetness, and a touch of peppery spiciness. I wasn't at all surprised to learn it was dry-hopped with Amarillos. (Amarillos are the hop of the moment--all brewers seem to have fallen in love with them. They have a grinding, raspy quality typical of high-alpha hops I don't find pleasant in high concentrations, but as a dry hop, Amarillo is dandy.)

As for the palate--well, Twilight is an impressive follow-up to Bachelor Bitter. They have hedged their bets, giving it a bit more oomph than is strictly legal for the style. Yet even at 5% it has impressive creaminess. The brewery employs four hops (only the Amarillos are identified), and the flavor is layered right through the aftertaste, as the volatile dry-hopped aromas waft around your mouth.

Although clearly a session, it has the gravitas of a larger beer. The image of a well-engineered 4-cylinder car came to mind--small engine, big performance. Deschutes has the knack of creating exceptional beers that wow drinkers without overwhelming them. The kind of beer you hold up, halfway through your third, and remark, "Damn, that's really a good beer." I imagine that if you took a half rack to a party, everyone would congratulate you on your good taste. Consider it a recommendation.

Hops:Three unknown varieties and Amarillo dry hopping.
Malts: Unknown
Alcohol By Volume:5.0%
Original Gravity: Unknown
BUs: 35
Other: 2003 GABF Gold Medal in the bitter category



  1. that's i want a beer.

    hey, speaking of bitters, the McMenamins brewed some hellish concoction called the "Nebraskan Bitter" (or "Nebraska Bitter") was foul. i fell for the name twice before i realized it wasn't actually a bitter, just a pils rip-off. tasted like Bud which may have been why it was named after Nebraska - i assume they drink alot of macros in the midwest.

  2. It's Nebraska Bitter, brewed first at the Fulton Pub on ... SW Nebraska Street.

    I have no idea why you didn't like it--it is one of my favorite of the McPubs' beers. Generally a classic example of the style--fruity, light, and Cascade citrusy. But the McBrothers' brewers have quite a lot of hand in their brewing, and pub-to-pub variation is common. I think you'd like Nebraska Bitter if it were well-brewed (it's like a slightly lighter version of Mirror Pond), so I'm gonna go ahead and guess it was a bad batch.

  3. i think the taps were skunky actually...the Rock Creek Tavern is where we drank it and they occasionally have issues with the taps, it seems. some of my favorites have not tasted right from that pub.

  4. Usually it seems they need to fire the dishwasher at Mcmimimims, or maybe they just did. I was going to contest the 'pils rip-off' description yesterday. But my wife had one at Blue Moon last night that did have something similar to that rubbery pilsner spunk, like Urquell, but I think it was accidental. I agree with Jeff, the Nebraska's is usually pretty good, but a variety of factors carry the potential of ale destruction.