It occurs to me that beer ratings are largely arbitrary. To the one, no, I’m not talking about Platos, ABV, SRM, IBU, or anything like that. But, rather, to consider the beer scores: A sour beer can score in the 90s for Category Seventeen, but it’s still a sour beer. As a hophead, my score for beers is much different, focusing on various ales—namely IPAs—than we might find in a fan of the hints of coriander and what counts for citrus in a Belgian. And no, I cannot explain the lager phenomenon.
- Label: Jubelale
Brewery: Deschutes Brewery
Location: Bend, Oregon
I’ve been waiting for this. We always wait, anticipate, this.
Jubelale is a Deschutes blue line, a beer to carry us through the autumn and winter. As with all seasonals, the character and quality varies from year to year. While Jubelale is consistently a good beer, tinkering with the recipe and variations in the hops harvests have placed it variously in the spectrum, from appreciable to outstanding. Once upon a time, Jubelale was my standard for measuring beers.
This evening, I was delighted to find Jubelale on the shelves of my local grocery store. I have not yet tasted the delicious brew. Excuse me for a moment, that I might pour myself a round, and we can undertake a review in real time.
The nose is slightly floral but with a hint of caramel; present without a doubt, but obvious about its subtlety. Perhaps there seems a sense of contradiciton about that, but nothing about Jubelale is straightforward. Visually, it is a striking dark ale, red verging toward brown, with a slightly golden head.
The first thing that strikes my palate is the balance. In truth, I prefer something a little more bold. But as the tongue conditions to the brew, it starts to pick out the components. Indeed, the balance of Jubelale’s flavor is very nearly moving, both literally and emotionally. The hops are present, the malt is present, but neither aspect defines its flavor spectrum. The slogan on the bottle is, “A Festive Winter Ale”, and it is true that Jubelale is certainly festive. Perhaps that is where my expectations run awry, for the nearest thing to a complaint I might offer is that the beer is not as—and I hate this word, anyway—robust as I expect. But that’s just the thing; if it was as robust as my mind always imagines it, Jubelale would be a very heavy beer. Rather than slugging it out for my attention, the hops and malt seem to sing in a wonderful harmony, dance to a mythic synchronicity.
The final outcome is such that I can only look forward to our next trip to Oregon, which should be in the next month or so. Deschutes has a brew pub in Portland, which will make for a fine stop along the way. That is, I can’t wait to taste this beer out of the cask. Properly handled, Jubelale could easily stand toe to toe with any number of fine English beers, and here I’m thinking of York Brewery.
Pair this with beef—burgers, fajitas, steaks, whatever—white fish, pasta with white sauce, pizza, buffalo wings. I’d probably choose something lighter with a marinara, but even though the malt stands out in the bouquet as I drink it down, and the hops in the aftertaste, I really am hard-pressed to think of a meal this wouldn’t work well with. It would make an excellent compliment to lentil-bacon soup, and probably wouldn’t clash with the outstanding salad I had at 1331, a gastrobar in Grape Lane, York: “toasted goat’s cheese in sesame seeds served on a bed of radicchio & red chard leaf with a raspberry mustard dressing”. Seriously, Jubelale is one of the most diverse beers I’ve ever encountered. Festive, comfortable, and above all, welcoming. Once again, it defies my expectations.
To the folks at Deschutes Brewery, salud. I would raise my glass, but it’s empty. Time to pour another.