Deschutes The Dissident: 11.4% abv
Background: Well, here we are with another special review. A coworker of mine donated this beer to our cause and for that we are greatly appreciative. We of course took advantage of that by writing a review on it. Deschutes Brewery doesn’t show up in Michigan, but that doesn’t mean they’re the new kids on the block. Deschutes was founded in 1988 in Bend, Oregon. They distribute to 18 states, and are the 11th largest brewery in the U.S. Now we’re talking. Founder Gary Fish named the brewery after the nearby river, which can be well noted on their emblem. This particular beer is the Dissident, 2013 vintage, which is a Flanders-styled brown ale, sour and tart in character. This is a wild yeast beer and according to Deschutes, they use Brettanomyces (a type of yeast often known as the “Brett”) as their catalyst. Deschutes claims this to be a brewing “challenge”, as it is fermented in isolation in pinot noir and cabernet barrels with a lot of favoritism and special treatment. We recall that cherries were part of the mix too, here. So this is obviously a complex and well-cared for beer. The fun question is next. What does it taste like?
Nose: The nose starts off with a good mixture of spices and fruits, with some anise, cinnamon, gingerbread, allspice, and some red grape flavors. There is a slight hint of dark cherries, but it certainly isn’t as prominent as one would think. The fruitiness includes tart green apple, with some yogurt-like creaminess and some confectionary sugar notes that come through. It is a sweet, mellow sweet smell that lulls you into an arguably questionable sense of security. There is a very sweet red wine character that comes through, probably due to the cab and pinot aging.
Arrival: The arrival starts of tart with some sweet lemon flavor to it, with definite cherry tartness up front. To compliment these two flavors, there is a sense of tart green apple to bring up the arrival even more. There is almost a carbonated lemon-lime soda flavor that comes through as well. There isn’t much sense of grain or oak, but it does pack the initial tartness of a sour candy. There is a very faint hint of agave in the arrival present, which adds to the syrup-like sweetness.
Body: The agave that was found in the arrival slips into the body with some presence, along with the tart fruit notes, but gives way to some spicy notes that were found in the arrival as well. There are some notes of cherry and blackberry that come through, with slight hints of red wine and dark grapes. There is a little bitterness and a subtle creaminess that come through in the body, with just a small subtlety of pepper. There is a little bit of Christmas spice character that goes along with this beer, but it is very minute.
Finish: There is, from the nose, a sense of sweet red wine without any sense of dryness to it. There is a really dominant sense of creaminess in the finish, which is in good contrast to the fruity character that resides in the beer. The tart apples, cherries, blackberries, and other flavors reminiscence of a Sangiovese. The finish is about medium in length and not terribly complex, but it does finish off smoothly, and convinces you that you are not actually drinking an 11% beer. Don’t let it fool you though. That will end you up in a ditch.
Final Comments: We’ve had a small number of sour beers in our time, and by far, this strikes me as one of the more unique, complex ones. That being said, it isn’t mind blowing, and the finish definitely loses some of zest that the nose and arrival mounted up. It isn’t hard to drink, but I can see how if you like hoppy beers, this could really get to be a bit sweet over time. This strikes me as a cordial-type beer, and is a great thing to share with friends. It does show incredible promise that sour beers don’t have to taste just like grape juice (I’m looking at you La Roja), and with a little more complexity and less tartness dominating the flavor, this could truly be a home run type beer. We enjoyed the spiciness and unique qualities that aren’t normally found in beers of this style. As far as Deschutes goes, this is a great first impression of them and we look forward to the opportunity to try more of their beers.
Why you’d buy it: This beer is a great learning experience and you don’t mind a mixture of sweetness, tartness, and mild spices
Why you wouldn’t: You don’t like tartness