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Friday, September 05, 2008

Review - Deschutes "The Dissident"

“You do not become a ''dissident'' just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society.”
--Vaclav Havel.
Why "the Dissident?" Is Deschutes serving notice that they are now taking up a most unusual career of brewing exotic beers? If so, it is not because they have been cast out--no brewery has boasted more success of late than the boys from Bend--but because they are casting themselves out. The label suggests something of mid-century rebellion, with its spareness, the rising crow. It could be a handbill to a Sartre play. But enemy of society? Not with this beer.

The Dissident is brewed to the style of a Flanders brown, and in the "provision" strength of Goudenband. To a pretty large beer, Deschutes added candi sugar and Montmorency cherries, resulting in a beer of 8.8% alcohol. It starts out with a sour mash (I think), and two varieties of brettanomyces are used (Bruxellensis and lambicus) as well as a lactobacillus culture. (That's a lotta funk.) Finally, 20% is aged in pinot/cab oak barrels. The entire batch has been aged 18 months.

Tasting Notes
As you can see from the picture, it's a bright brown, with reddish highlights. The aroma is not as funky as Liefman's--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 strength of the beer helps bring the flavors together, and I imagine the age is a huge help, too--though alcohol is not a major flavor note. The result is a beer that is neither heavy nor overly sour. It's inviting enough that you could swill a fair quantity before realizing what a whollop it packs.

It is a triumph of a beer. The brewery clearly put a huge amount of thought into this beer, not to mention time and money. None of that guarantees success, though. Yet I found The Dissident to be the measure of an authentic oud bruin in every way. The style is a very high bar to clear; in fact, I don't know of any American brewery to even try an authentic Liefmans-style old bruin. But Deschutes has cleared it, and the bar didn't even wiggle. A great beer and a very impressive effort. Let's hope this isn't the last batch we see of the Dissident.

Original Gravity: 1.090
ABV: 8.8%
IBU: 30
Malts: pilsner, acidulated, Munich, caramel, crystal
Hops: "Czech" (presumably Saaz), Tettnang, Hallertau
Adjuncts: dark candi sugar, Montmorency cherries
Yeast: brettanomyces bruxellensis, brettanomyces lambicus, lactobacillus culture
Methods: sour mash, 20% aged in wine casks (pinot/cabernet)
Availability: Extremely limited. As I write this (9/5/08), you can get some at the breweries in Bend and Portland. Don't delay, supplies won't last long.

Update: The good news is that The Dissident is still available at the brewery in Portland. The bad news? There's one fewer case.

Update 2: I forgot to include the sour-o-meter reading for the Dissident. Call it a three.


  1. I hope there's still some left when I fly up to Portland, next month.

  2. Wow! There is so much out of place rhetoric being used here, between the term Sour Mash and the use of Cherries as being an authentic Oud Bruin... I don't know where to start questioning and where to start researching your post!

    I think I'll wait till I taste the beer before I make any remarks....

    Yes! I'm holding my tongue and checking my brewing files before I comment!

  3. I thought this beer was announced as being 11% abv in the press release??
    I was going to object to that being authentic as that is ridiculously high but now i hear its 8.8? which one is right?

  4. Doc Wort, who's main joy in beer appreciation is fact correction, may have his way with this "rhetoric"*, but two points. The term the brewery used in its "cheat sheet"--which the barkeep graciously showed me--was "sour wort." I tentatively used the phrase sour mash, hoping that this distinction would be clarified.

    The beer is clearly a cherry-infused old bruin, like Liefmans kriek. The base beer is, according to the sources I could locate, accurate down the line. The addition of cherries is far from heterodox. That's why, in a previous post, I reviewed both Liefmans' Goudenband and kriek.

    *Since we're correcting facts, "criticism" is the appropriate term; rhetoric is the art of persuasion.

  5. Where to start? You keep digging yourself deeper....

    I started answering, but didn't want to bash you on your own site... I've decided to post my thoughts on my own blog. Feel free to check it out!

    Expect some honest statements!

  6. Pedantic trolling aside, I had the good fortune of sampling The Dissident at the pub in Portland on Friday and - regardless of the appropriate descriptors - found it an extraordinary beer. Amazingly well-balanced, delightful on the palate and just the right hint of sour. A triumph.

    Apparently others think so as well judging by the number of cases I saw walk out the door.

    Kudos to Deschutes for both the beer and the balls to try it in the first place.

  7. Dr. Wort seems like quite the egomanical jerk. If you're so lousy, why does he bother reading and commenting on your ineptitude?

  8. I challenge both you and Dr Wort to a Beer Appreciation challenge. Each of you would receive 6 beers from a neutral judge from anywhere in the world, any style, and nothing more. Your goals: Describe what you are tasting, what type of hops, yeast strain, barrel aged, style descriptions, as much info as you have in your brains. A neutral Poll and each of your answers (blind of course) can be placed on each of your blogs and John Foyston's neutral blog allowing beer blog fans to vote on who gives the most accurate descriptions. At the end, the beers will be revealed in both of your blogs, along with each of your descriptions and a description.

    Two Beer Bloggers enter, one beer blogger leaves as champion of Oregon blogging!!

    Jeff, your knowledge and VERY easy win will take Dr Wort down a notch or two and shrink his ego.

    Are you ready to get it on??

  9. I don't know if Jeff A. is ready to take on my BJCP Nationally-sanctioned tastebuds, unless he's willing to accept that my 20 years of being an almost-All-knowledgeable beer expert will crush his antidotal media credentials. The only rational I can think he would have for contesting me, is that he's really wanting some of that old beer blogger camaraderie (that I've been filling his comments pages with for months), and that he's finally willing to admit that my passive-aggressive screed has all been in fun!

    I'm not really an asshole, I just play one on teh internets! ;}

    So here's my plan: Some guy that we both don't know (which is about impossible for me since I have many, many, many friends in the beer world) will pick two beers, then I'll pick four beers that have been sitting in my basement for so long that the caps are about to rust off, and Jeff A. can take his big money that he makes from being a hack blogger and buy the four most obscure beers he can find (which I've all tried, so it doesn't matter) and we'll finally meet face-to-face for a drink-off! Of course, I'm such an imposing force in the world of beer, I wouldn't be surprised if Jeff A. tries to chicken out of this, so don't be surprised when he comes up with a reason to avoid me. Beware his Dis-Information!!!! He's trying to dupe all of you!!!!

  10. Hoo-boy, things are getting wild and wooly on the internets. I would encourage everyone to give Doc Wort a break here. All are welcome to slag the blogger. I'm a big boy. We all have our opinions, though some of us are more gracious about offering them.

  11. doctir wert,

    I'm not insulted by your moronic patter... I'm used to dealing with children, I have some of my own.

    ...and Jeff's correct.... We all have a right to our opinions. I think we still have Freedom of Speech in this country? Do you think all the men that signed the Declaration of Independence agreed with each other on every subject or were equally politically astute? I know some were more assertive than others.... ;-}

    Of course, while Dr Wort and Jeff were dueling it out in the colonial pub, doctir wert was drunk in the corner mocking them for his own simplistic entertainment. Solving nothing, but what fool does... ?


  12. Not Jeff, just you. And I believe insulting the insulter is a sign of being insulted, or at least acting like a child. If this concept evades you, at least I can take simplistic pride in knowing your skin isn't hard to get under.

    OK, Jeff. doctir wert is retired. Let the drinking recommence!

  13. As posted in the last blog, take the challange, make it public so I can come out and laugh and have a brew and lets see who knows there stuff.

    I love a fair "fight" and can't wait for this is it goes down.....

    So what do you say?

  14. So what do you say?

    Oh good god, that's the last thing I need to do. My credibility's already low enough, isn't it?

  15. Oh come on Jeff, not even for sh$ts and giggles? I know many of both of your readers would love to see this if for nothing more than to see you two yuck it up and shake hands, now that would be a sight!! I could even set it up, I know a few local beer guys and could get a spot for you both that is neutral ground, I'll even do the beer picking and line up a gag prize. Now how can you say no to that kind of fun!

    Just stiring the pot! But honestly i would love to set this up and have some fun with it.

  16. Your not non-bias enough Mark...

    Maybe we should see if Santa Claus is available to be an impartial referee. ;-}

    We can get Beaver-Boy and Mark together to set this up.... One advocate from both sides...
    BTW, what happened to Beaver-Boy? He dropped this bomb and then disappeared....!

    Can we please hold back the hops on some of the entries! At this point is my drinking career, too many hops gives me the shits. Moving to Oregon didn't help! Of course, I don't speak Flemish, so I couldn't move to Belgium. That's a country in Europe for those who are geographically challenged... ;-}