We have recently been blessed with two new brews from one of the Northwest's best, the Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon. On the seasonal front, they've introduced Buzzsaw Brown Ale. Billed as a milder take on their highly regarded Black Butter Porter, the name is a nod to Bend's sawmill-laden past. This lightly hopped, malt-driven ale reminds me most of vanilla wafers. Silky smooth and creamy, it goes down ever so easy. Inversion IPA is a permanent and worthy addition to the Deschutes line-up. The hops are the driving force here. As if a trio of American hops weren't enough, Deschutes dry-hops this brew to provide even more kick. With all that, it's a remarkably balanced IPA with a soft caramel malt character softening the hop bite. With its crisp citrus finish, this just might be the perfect spring brew that will segue nicely into summer.
Lagunitas Brewing Co., in Petaluma, California, is responsible for some of the most esoteric barley-based beverages being bottled today. Their motto says it best: "Beer Speaks, People Mumble." All you have to do is read one of their labels to see that they don't take themselves too seriously. They do, however, make some very serious brews. Their Imperial Red, a 22-ounce limited release offering, is a reprise of their first ale made back in 1993. It's a big but nicely structured brew, with a refreshing hop bitterness nicely meshing with lightly sweet malt. At 7.6 percent alcohol, this large format presentation should be carefully consumed.
Speaking of large format, if you've ever been tempted to pick up one of those five-liter mini-kegs but stopped short when faced with the sobering fact that the beer must be consumed in one sitting, there's good news from Heineken. The problem with most mini-kegs is that they are nothing more than a very big can with gravity feed and no pressurizing system. Thus the beer goes flat over night. They're designed for parties or picnics, not long-term storage in the fridge. But Heineken's mini-keg is the real deal, with a CO2 system that delivers a steady one bar of pressure. Easy to tap, the pour is near perfect sporting just the right head of foam. The flavor is crisp and lively with a nice bit of citrus on the finish and none of that skunkiness that can characterize bottled Heineken. It's said to have a 30-day shelf life, but mine went dry after a couple of weeks. Go figure.