This Week in the Mercury


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My Oregon craft Beer Month: Drifting

Posted by Patrick Alan Coleman on Tue, Jul 21, 2009 at 7:00 PM

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As I write this there are scientists trying to track down the Higgs-Boson particle, the holy grail of physics that explains why matter has mass. Me? I’m just trying to figure out what the fuck that flavor is in the beer I’m drinking. Important? No. A challenge? Yes.

Something I’ve learned during this month of tasting is that more complex beers are much easier to pick apart and write about; their dynamic flavor profiles give the palate a place to cling as the beer progresses. The problem with clinging, though, is that eventually it becomes tiresome. I know that for most of my life I’ve been happy with a lazy beer palate—not giving two shits what’s in my pint. As long as it had alcohol, and it was cheap, I was good to go. Give it to me cold, and give me a whole bunch of it. I’m not tasting it now and I just hope to be drunk enough not to taste it when I’m wrapped around the toilet at 3 am—a true lager savage.

Of course that’s the extreme, but there are plenty of people who go that route every night. On the other hand, there are those who like to give their palate a work-out; the true beer geeks who like to sit around and discuss what’s happening in their mouths when they drink. Sometimes their conversations can sound like two people discussing the contents of their crisper, but it’s really no different from other geeks. No matter what your specific geek-out is, you will have a language you’ll use to communicate with your fellows. Particle physicist geeks speak of Large Hadron Colliders and gluons. Star Trek geeks speak in Klingon. Beer geeks speak of esters, diacetyl, mouth feel and finish.

Then there are those in the middle, the laymen. These are the folks who like beer, but would rather not drink the cheap domestics (because they taste like ass). These folks know a bit of the language, they know they want something more uniquely produced, but don’t want to delve into the ephemera and search for the rare or bizarre. It’s the same with me and comics. I dig what I dig, but I’m probably never going to go to Comic-con, and I’m probably never going to search out a special rare first edition. Also, I’ll read a Stephen Hawking book, but I’m not going to take a physics class.

Luckily there is Stephen Hawking, and Alan Moore for the non-commital comic aficionado, and Widmer for the beer fan just shy of geekiness.

Widmer has done a great job of catching the craft beer laymen with brews that are flavorful enough to be interesting, but not so interesting as to be intrusive. Their latest, Drifter pale ale, seems to continue in that vein.

Drifter is a bit fruity with a very subtle hoppy bitterness. There is plenty of citrus and pine on the nose that resolves in the mouth as pink grapefruit and strawberry balanced with understated malt. It begins a bit bright and aggressive, but mellows into a lingering finish. At least that’s what I noted on my second pint.

My first pint was a whole different experience. For some reason or another my first pint had big unpleasant astringent notes that reminded me of the smell of cat urine. Oddly enough that cat urine “flavor” happens frequently enough to be one of a set of standard flavors used in the beer tasting lingo. The Drifter was the first time I’d experienced it. I didn’t get it on my second pint and I have not experienced it drinking Drifter previous to this month, so honestly, I’m in the dark about the anomaly.

On the whole, I’d say that Drifter will appeal those casual craft beer drinkers. There aren’t any big revelations. But if you’re not searching for it, who needs the Higgs-Boson?

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