Deschutes has always been one of my favorite breweries, by quality of output, attitude, business style, and setting. The unavailability of their beer on the East Coast is painful, but something I understand and respect.
So I was pretty happy when I apparently got on their mailing list for samples a couple weeks ago. A box from Deschutes showed up at my maildrop, and I just couldn't wait to rip it open and see what they'd sent. There were two beers inside: the Cinder Cone Red seasonal and the relatively new Green Lake Organic Ale. What with all the mess and fuss in the last two weeks, it was last night before I had a chance to pop the Cinder Cone with dinner (gnocchi with chicken sausage, red bell peppers, and fennel).
Cinder Cone is a bemedalled and well-reviewed beer, and the reasons why were apparent from the get-go. The aroma was energetic, fresh, and nostalgic: this wild West Coast ale freshness was one of the things that hooked me on American craft beer way back in the mid-1980s. It blossomed with green hops and juicy esters, a beer that grabbed me by the hand and said 'Let's go, let's drink!'
I did, and that's where I went off the rails with this one. The first gush in the mouth was great, delivering on the promise of the aroma with shovelsful of that hop character and fresh beer character I'd found so beguiling. But after it came a heavy-handed rush of caramel malt, accompanied by a grainy, husky dryness -- an addition of roasted barley is probably the source -- that could have been an asset if it had been less insistent. It was almost enough to make me angry; this beautiful promise crushed by an overplayed hand.
I'm not used to Deschutes doing stuff like this; the other beers from them that I love are balanced, drinkable, and brilliant. I'd blame extreme beer, but I don't really think it's to blame. I'd guess it's just over-exuberance. I will admit that I'm baffled by the popularity of this one, but that's what makes craft beer wonderful: something for everyone. Thankfully, Deschutes has something for me, even if it's not this one. I'll try the Green Lake soon.