By Gail Oberst
A large and enthusiastic crowd gathered at the popular Broken Top Bottle Shop in Bend, despite the season’s first huge dump of snow and sub-freezing weather. The group of men and women unbundled and hunkered down to do the work before them: Taste Central Oregon’s winter warmers and choose their top 6 favorites.
They proved to be up to the task!
Broken Top Bottle Shop owners Diana Fischetti and Jason Powell joined in the fun – Diana on the tasting end, with Jason helping me get water and dump buckets to thirsty tasters. The shop, open less than two years, has already become a hub of beer activity – hosting everything from live music to thoughtful meetings with beer as the topic, and everything between. The shop has up to 15 beers on tap and a huge assortment of bottled beers from all over the world.
As we mentioned last month in the December Perfect Pints review of similar Oregon beers outside of Central Oregon, winter warmers and holiday ales are not a style, but a loose category of craft beers that aim at warming the heart and soul during chilly and wet weather. The Oregon Beer Growler team leaves it up to the contributing brewer to decide what fits -- and the variety of contributions was broad -- from rich reds to barrel-aged browns.
During the tasting, BTBS customers chose the following beers. All beers were donated by the local breweries, blind-tasted by consumers and then revealed after the score sheets were turned in.
Looking for 2013’s favorites? See 2013 FAVORITES.
Cascade Lakes Slippery Slope, Bend
6.4% ABV, 50 IBU
Brewer’s description: One smooth, wintery ride! Our full-bodied brew uses crystal malt and generous amounts malt and generous amounts of Cascade hops to produce a well-balanced seasonal ale. Tasters said: “Rich but not too.” “Good and hearty.” “Great on a snowy Bend day.” “Good and warming! Makes me want to drink more.”
Silver Moon Darkside Stout, Bend
6.4% ABV, 50 IBU
Brewer’s description: Robust, smooth, dark and delicious. It’s a stout-lover’s dream. Tasters said: ”Caramel!” “Hoppy start, smoky flavor, bitter end.” “Rich, coffee.” “Dark chocolate.” ”Almost black, but fruity. Yummy!”
Bend Brewing Scottish Heart, Bend
7.75% ABV, 35 IBUs
Brewer’s description: This rich, full-bodied ale has been aged over a year. Its flavor is dominated by a complex caramel sweetness with roasted malts and is underscored by a mellow hop presence. Taster’s said: “Now this is warm! This brew warmed my bones with one sip.” “A bit of baked bread flavor, but not too much.” “Spices!” “I’d pair this with a nice Italian dinner.” “Smooth, mild and molasses.”
Bridge 99 Rock Crawler Red, Bend
7.2% ABV, 42 IBU
Brewer’s description: Citrus hop notes from Cascade and Chinook added at 4 times during the brewing process. Malts include two-row, Munich, Crystal 40 and rye. Tasters said: “Would taste good after shoveling snow off the drive.” “A gentle smack that flows down my throat.” “Toasty liquid bread.” “Crisp and clean.” “Quaffable!”
Three Creeks Rudolph’s Imperial Red
8.5% ABV, 55 IBUs
Brewer’s description: This 2013 vintage of our annual winter release was brewed with 8 specialty malts, Bravo, Centennial, Crystal and Chinook hops in the kettle balance the candy-like malt sweetness while a dry hop blend with amarillo hops adds a fruity aroma Tasters said: “Drinkable smooth finish.” “Classic winter, hoppy and spicy.” “Rich and lots of body.” “This would be great all winter long.” “The Russians are coming. The Russians are coming.” “Taste’s good for a long time!” “Stoke the fire and sit back with this one.”
Crux Banished Freak Cake, Bend
10.5% ABV, 35 IBU
Brewer’s description: This barrel-aged oud bruin ale has a brunette hue derived from roasted Belgian aromatic malts. Fruity esters are augmented by lemon and orange zest. For a further twist, Brettanomyces induced secondary fermentation flecked with sour cherries, raisins, cranberries, figs, dates, and currants for a mildly acidic ale. Tasters said: “Is it barrel-aged?” “Cherries?” “This would be good with dessert!” “Honey? Cloves? Apples? I taste apples! I’d drink this with pumpkin pie.” “Is it from another planet? I taste flavors from all over the galaxy!”
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.