The holidays are gone, but the cold weather is just starting to really kick in. Fortunately, a few new brews that are perfect for the winter weather have just arrived in the valley. Two from the Bend, Ore., standout brewery Deschutes put the emphasis on the hops, which is no big surprise for a Northwest brewery. The third is a unique ale from the venerable Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Deschutes Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale
What makes this a Northwest pale ale? If you guessed bigger hops, take a bow. This copper-hued ale with a thin head weighs in at a hefty 60 International Bitterness Units. Still, it's a beautifully balanced brew with a nice combo of aromas: floral citrus, sweet malt, fruity hops. This brew goes down smooth and easy, with creamy malt, lively but not overly bitter hops, and touches of grain, blood orange and pine. This pick is delightfully delicious.
Deschutes Hop Henge Experimental IPA
This frothy ale is a translucent gold in color with crisp, clean, heady hop aromas backed by bright citrus, biscuit and malt. This one is surprisingly well behaved for a brew that's rated at 95 IBUs. Yes, the hop profile is big and bold, but it's only moderately bitter, with the creamy, caramel-laced malt and sweet tropical fruit keeping things in balance. The persistent finish offers soft pine and citrus zest. This beer is a solid effort in a 22-ounce bottle.
Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye
Last year's version left me asking, "Where's the rye?" Apparently, they were stockpiling it for this year's brew, which is a lovely, honey brown pour with a two-finger head that fades quickly. The resiny hop and dried grain aromas are soft and subtle. The rye kicks in on the palate, coloring it from start to finish and is surrounded by layers of pine, bitter hops that grow in intensity with each sip, and reserved malt and citrus.