July 17, 2013

Summer League Side Trip: Rediscovering Deschutes

In 2011, I spent two weeks driving across the United States with my friends Mike and Bryan. I had wanted to see this country from the ground for a long time so the trip was literally years in the making. Eventually, I came to view it as almost a rite of passage of being an American. I've known other people who have taken similar journeys and I think everyone I know who has made the cross country trek took a few weeks after college before starting their first real job. I waited until I was 43. Oh well!

Our trip across the continent took us on a northern route to the Midwest cities of Cleveland, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Kansas City; through the South Dakota badlands to the town of Deadwood in the Black Hills; on to Yellowstone National Park in the Rockies; and then over the Cascade Mountains to Seattle before ending up in Portland, Oregon and flying home. It was truly one of the great trips I’ve taken. We saw so much that will stick with me for the rest of my life before we likely cheated by taking a plane back home. If I ever do anything like that again, maybe I’ll fly out to Oregon and drive east to D.C. through the south.

On our way across the country, we tried to sample local craft beers in each city we visited: Great Lakes and Thirsty Dog in Cleveland; Sun King in Indianapolis; Schafly in St. Louis; Boulevard in Kansas City; Moose Drool in Yellowstone; and Pike Place Brewing in Seattle. Despite all the great beer we had on our way across the nation, the trip’s real beer destination (because every good trip needs a beer destination) was our last stop of Portland. And the best beer we had in Portland, hands down, was at the Deschutes Brewing Company Pub on Northwest 11th Avenue. It was so good that in the two nights we were in town, we visited the place both nights.

Since we left Portland two years ago, I’ve been craving Deschutes’ Hop In The Dark and Chainbreaker White IPA beers weekly (ESPECIALLY the Chainbreaker). Both beers are what I would call hybrid beers, applying a hop character to beer varieties that are not traditionally heavily hopped. They are, in my experience, unique among beer varieties and it totally works. They are both absolutely delicious.

As of right now, Deschutes distributes as far east as Illinois, which means I can’t find their beer near my home in Washington, D.C. I noticed a Deschutes bar takeover here just a day late last year and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. But Las Vegas is west of Illinois, so while I was out there for NBA Summer League I decided to look for some of what I’ve been craving these last 24 months, with the help of the Find Our Beers section of Deschutes’ website.

So all these words I’ve written essentially amount to a love note to Chainbreaker White IPA. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m just saying, that's all. I found some in bottles at Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay a couple of hours after touchdown and had two with a make your own bison burger (American cheese, chopped jalapeños, jalapeño bacon and chipotle aioli if you must know) as soon as I sat down at the bar.

Chainbreaker was perhaps not the perfect pairing with my burger considering my choice of toppings but it was wonderful nonetheless. The beer is a Belgian style witbier which is hopped like an IPA. So where a typical witbier, which I don't drink that often, finishes a little weak and watery in my experience, leaving just a vague yeasty aftertaste, the hop finish on the Chainbreaker adds a finish which is robust and totally in contrast to the rest of the taste of the beer. I savored those two beers, knowing that I could always go back, if I had to, for more. I didn't, as it turned out, but I know where to find it. And next summer, I might just do that unless Deschutes finds a way to distribute to the east coast. I'm still looking for some more Hop In The Dark.

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