Food & Drink » Winesipper

Beer Guzzler

Bigger is better

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To my taste, too many American craft beers are over the top: big, rich malt-loaded monsters that attract attention to themselves like a ball hog on a high school basketball team--all flash but no outside shot. So the "bigger" here refers to size, not flavor. We're talking 22-oz. bottles--enough to share with a friend or to have a nice second pour for yourself.

Three of the big bottles sampled are from Oregon, including microbrew standout, Deschutes. To celebrate their 18th anniversary, they have created a European-style pilsner that's smooth and creamy with a nice hit of hops and oh-so-clean citrus on the finish. Would have made a great summer after-you-mow-the-lawn brew, but it has enough stuffing for the segue into autumn. Go rake the leaves then sit back and enjoy.

The eccentric folks at California's Lagunitas make no apologies for their freedom-loving, pursuit-of-happiness lifestyle, so it comes as no surprise that they dedicate a brew to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention's seminal debut album. Freak Out, adorned with a full-color rendition of the album cover, is a heady, hop-driven brew with a touch of spice and lemon zest on the finish. Backed by lightly toasted wheat flavors, this is a clean, well-balanced effort that even Suzy Creamcheese would love.

The next brew, Vesuvius from Oregon's Full Sail, bills itself as a Belgian-style golden ale. While I enjoy Agatha Cristie's novels with Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, I am not so fond of his country's exceptionally spicy, overtly rich brews. But this version is a nicely subtle take on the style. Fairly lean, with a soft herbaceousness and a light bit of wintergreen, it features pleasant hints of green apple and pineapple on the finish.

And just in time for Halloween, Oregon's Rogue offers their Dead Guy Ale in a glow-in-the-dark 22-oz. bottle. It has a fairly bold malt profile, but it's perfectly balanced by bright hops. Finishes just a little sweeter than I like, but overall, a very good brew with a warming profile that's perfect for the holiday and the cooler fall weather.