Deschutes Brewery is one of those Oregon breweries that gives Oregon such a good reputation in the craft beer scene. Personally, I’ve had a bit of an affinity for their beers for quite some time and to be honest it’s in part because of this reputation – I’ve only had a couple of their releases, but I would go to pretty great lengths (and personal cost) to get a hold of some of their limited offerings even though I’ve never had most of them. The Dissident is a limited release with a lot of clout. Like most of Deschutes’ limited releases here in BC, this comes at a high monetary cost as well – nearly double the cost of a similar brew from Driftwood, which is already not exactly cheap.
The Dissident has been released every second year – 2008, 2010, and 2012 so far. Sour ales tend to be finicky to produce, as they must be quarantined from other ales to prevent contaminating the delicate balance that results from such spontaneous reactions that produce this sort of beer. In addition to being high maintenance during production, there is a not insignificant aging period required as well. These factors both add to the cost as well as the rarity.
With the 80/20 rule applied to this beer, it is 80% a sour cherry “malt beverage” and 20% French oak wine barrel aged “malt beverage”. The closest beer I would say I’ve had to this is Driftwood’s Belle Royal, also a sour cherry ale. This was both my thought before having the beer, and after having a taste as well.
The aroma of tart and sour cherry is evident as soon as the seal is broken, before the cap is even all the way off. It is very characteristic of this style, and this particular beer has even slightly stronger scent than I’m used to. The smell is primarily sour cherry, but not overly sweet – there is fermentation and funkiness in the smell, a little hint of oak as well. It is very lactic and acidic. The beer pours a copper / amber with a fizzy head that dissipates quickly and noisily.
Taking a sip, it is a hit of sourness combined with cherry sweetness, but I think the sweetness has dulled in the 8 or 9 months this beer as been cellared. It finishes fairly dry. The oakiness is definitely present towards the end as well; there is a dry woodiness note at the end. This has a sharpness that the Belle Royale did not, like comparing an extra old cheddar vs. just standard cheddar. The sharpness is very similar. There is lots of vinegar here, almost more than I’d like.
Oh, I forgot to mention something, something that I didn’t even know when I opened this bottle and drank the first little bit of the bottle. This brew is 11.4% ABV. I think I figured out where that sharpness I was talking about came from – this is a big, big, big beer. I was a little worried I’d held onto this bottle a little longer than I should have but upon closer inspection, this 2012 reserve bottling has a “Best AFTER” date of Aug 20th, 2013 – a mere 3 weeks away, but I’m still premature apparently. I do have another bottle hidden away that I will revisit over winter to see whether or not this beer was at its prime or still before its prime.
In the end, I’m totally satisfied with this beer but not necessarily blown away. I wouldn’t say it’s head and shoulders above a Belle Royale – in fact, I’d say they are pretty close to equal for me. The Dissident is definitely a bit more powerful and possibly a little more complex, but not necessarily more enjoyable. However, both are amazing beers and I give them both very high marks, or at least I would if I gave marks.