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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Hard Reviews: Full Sail LTD 03 and Ninkasi Radiant

[Note. For about ten minutes, my post appeared in a wholly scrambled format--a technical glitch with some precedent. I wrote it last night, and somehow its digital tenure overnight in The Dalles scrambled things. It's now fixed.]

For quite different reasons, I've been avoiding reviewing these two beers. Let's start with the Full Sail, which I liked a great deal. It's a pretty straightforward German pils--a softer, less aggressive style than its Bohemian forebear. At least the problem there is my own failings.

LTD 03
The difficulty here is in describing the beer in a novel way. It is a pretty classic version of the style, differing in only a couple, also quite traditional ways, from the standard. LTD 03 is hopped with Sterling, a cultivar mainly of Saaz, and bearing most of the very classic Saaz character--but with just enough floral German parentage (one-eighth) for you to smile in appreciation. It's a wee bit strong for style at 5.6%, but you have to account for local tastes. It is a leggy blond with a gentle perfume and is exactly what you hope it will be. Beyond that, I got nuthin to tell you. Good stuff.

Moving on to the harder one, telegraphed by a few comments on yesterday's post. I have had this beer twice, once at the Brewers Games, and once from a bottle a few nights ago. I had no real opportunity to study it in Pacific City--just gulp it down appreciatively. From the bottle, well ... Eugene, we have a problem.

(But first, a necessary parenthetical. In yesterday's post I also mentioned that Ninkasi's line-up is one of the only intact family of beers I know. Jamie Floyd likes to brew big, booming ales that are almost winking stereotypes of an Oregon beer--fruity and saturated with hops. You could say they're all the same, but for Ninkasi fans, favorites are spread out pretty evenly among the different beers. They're variations on a theme, but they are variations and everyone loves that theme. I've heard critics deride them as a one-trick pony, but I don't share this view in the least. You could as easily dismiss Frank Boon if that were your sole criterion.)

That out of the way, to Radiant. The problem here is not the recipe. It's aptly named; the beer seems to exude an inner warmth. The balance between a rather sweet, caramely body and the usual thick hopping produces the sense of liquid sunshine. The problem: there was a lot of diacetyl in the glass I had from the bottle. If there was diacetyl in the one at Pelican, it was so mild that I didn't notice it in the hurlyburly of the day--and in any case, at levels that low, it would be a permissible or even welcome note. And although some commenters claim (anonymously, which demonstrates a lack of courage, if not candor) other Ninkasi beers have had diacetyl in them, I've never tasted it.

Let's hope the bottle was an anomaly. I'll keep sampling it and report back in a few weeks.


  1. Jeff, I had the same experience with the Radiant, diacetyl. It was overpowering. I noticed it in the Spring Reign too but I was able to overcome it.

  2. Diacetyl has been a big problem with Ninkasi for about a year now. And it's very hit or miss. Half the time the beers are fine and the other half have big diacetyl issues. It's sad and frustrating when you're a fan of the underlying beers.

  3. Jeff, I'm not sure I buy your Ninkasi / Frank Boon 'one-trick pony' comparison. Ninkasi makes fairly typical Northwest style ales. Frank Boon is one of the few remaining traditionalist brewers of a threatened historical style. Big difference.

  4. The Doctor agrees with kealoha. Ninkasi has become a hit and miss experiment in diacetyl sensory. We'd like to same, "Gee... that's a shame," but none of the Wort crew has ever been a big fan of Ninkasi beers. Even without the diacetyl many of the beers tasted a little sloppy and disjointed.

    Based on these reports, DW still wonders is this how you want to categorize the NW beer flavor, Jeff? Sloppy with hit and miss diacetyl due to poor conditioning? ;-}

    DW would prefer categorizing the NW FLAVOR by the likes of some old standbys: Full Sail & Bridgeport. But, since we have breweries like Hair of the Dog, Cascade Brewing and Roots, all of which are brewing outside of the brewing box, it would almost impossible to pinpoint a NW flavor, style or faction. I guess we can say Oregon brewing is EVOLVING... Hmmmm.... Where did we hear that before?

    So... Are we evolving or are we trying to create a distinct NW beer niche culture??

  5. This is not a judement but an observation- I mean that. There are different ways to approach the craft beer business. One is like McMenamins- focus on the marketing and let quality come second. The other, is to let the integrity of the beer come first- and let that drive your sales. Now, in tasting the Ninkasi beers, I'd say they've chosen the second approach. Not sure it's even realistic to see growth like they have had maintain the quality of their beer. Of course, the argument can be made that if they're selling it, then it must be fine enough. Though, I'm of the opinion that most beer drinkers don't buy on quality. So what does that mean about my proposed second approach to the craft beer business?

  6. I dumped my radiant bomber after half a glass, it was that unpleasant. VKDs up the ying-yang, and I don't even consider myself sensitive to diacetyl...

    spring reign was better. the keg of tricerahops at fredfest was awful.

    I remember being blown away by the quantum pale when it was still brewed at mia and pia's. that's the beer I still think of when ninkasi is mentioned. I hope to god that Jamie is taking these issues seriously, and can crack some heads and get his production line straightened out. I see the current product on shelves as harmful to ninkasi's reputation.

  7. Ümit Oyun

    Diacetyl has been a big problem with Ninkasi for about a year now. And it's very hit or miss. Half the time the beers are fine and the other half have big diacetyl issues. It's

  8. Pilsner is my first choice in beer.

    Informed by Michael Pollan and others, I strive to be a locavoire. I was very pleased with Full Sail, LTD 03. I have consumed several 6's and look forward to sampling a tap at the brewery.

    I place FL_LTD03, third on my list of favorite 'local' pils, a bit of Jung synchronicity, there, me thinks. Number 2, for me, is Heater Allen [requires de-weighting price, but, we are talking beer].

    Number One, for me, is Bayern Pilsner of Missoula, Mont. Local if you regard 600 miles as a day's drive. With Bayern Pilsner I can imagine/recall a mid-summer sunset over Zupspitz.

    Und, Full Sail LTD 03 is true to the nature of pilsner. ? What more can you say ?

  9. There's quite a few well made Pilseners available from America and abroad. Some of our favorites would be from Victory, New Glarus, Moonlight, Capital and Sudwerk breweries. Of course it depends if we're talking German or Czech Pils... ;-}

  10. I experienced diacetyl with spring Reign multiple times. At times it was subtle and not even a bad addition to the beer. Other times it was pretty strong.

    I like the Ninkasi "family" of beers as you put it, and am confident they'll work it out.

  11. I don't think it's just the bottles of Radiant that have this problem. I had a pint at Henry's Tavern this evening at it was definitely noticable; I might even say it dominated the other flavors of the beer.

  12. BUTTER F'N BOMB. I haven't had a good ninkasi beer in over a year.... they are dead to me. Jamie thinks he's a rockstar but makes shitty beer... anyone remember the spring reign at the cask fest? Wurthers wants their butterscotch recipe back!