Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Deschutes Jubel 2010

I originally bought this beer around a year and half ago and based on the "best after" suggestion on the label: 1/29/11, decided to age not one, but a few of them.  After months of continuously pulling it out of my cellar only to remember the best after date and putting it back, I'm finally ready to open my first bottle of it. 

Jubel 2010 is classified as an American Strong Ale and for those not familiar with the style, I'll define it a bit.  An American Strong Ale isn't really a style per say, but a category encompassing very strong and generally dark beers, usually over 7.5%, but vague enough in nature to fall under any distinct style of beer.  As such, BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) does not recognize American Strongs. You may find that some have similar qualities to Barleywines, Scotch Ales, and Old Ales, meaning big heavy bodies with strong malt flavors, but distinctly hopped with American style aroma hops, which gives the category it's name.  It's not uncommon for them to be barrel aged as well.  Since they can really run the gamut and are difficult to nail down, you can often drink one without even knowing.  In fact, I'm guessing most of you in Southern California have sipped quite a few Stone Arrogant Bastards without ever realizing that it's a Strong Ale.  

The story behind this Strong Ale from Deschutes is an interesting one.  20 years ago or so, someone tried to steal a keg of their winter seasonal, Jubelale, but wasn't smart enough to realize that full kegs are heavy, and carrying them in the snow isn't fun.  They found the keg burried in the snow, half frozen, and found that having frozen all the water off left for a super rich beer, a "Jubelale on steroids," as they called it.  In tribute to this beer, they tried to recreate it in 2000, aging the beer in Oregon Pinot Noir barrels and again in 2010, giving the beer it's "Once a Decade," moniker.  

It pours a deep brown embedded with red hues.  Not much head here, but the retention is decent  Aromas of bright berries, very much like a barleywine with maybe the slightest hint of cocoa lying underneath.  Not nearly as hoppy as I was expecting.  The flavors are barleywine like in the malts, sweet raisins and brown sugar.  The back end ripples with a subtle combo of cocoa and hops, just enough bitter and sweet to leave you with a wonderful aftertaste.  The body isn't as full as maybe you'd expect from such a dark beer.  The presence of the heavy 10% alcohol is detectable, but not overwhelming and the beer maintains a fine line of drinkability.

The beer actually drinks much more like a red wine than a beer and there's just a hint of that pinot noir flavor.  It reminds me a bit of a cross between Palo Santo and a barleywine, however, the flavors aren't nearly as ambitioius in their complexity.  That's not to suggest they're bad, far from it.  There is a starkness to the amount of flavors your palate detects in this beer that makes me think about the simplicity of beer itself.  This strong ale succeeds by saying, "less is more,"and focusing all of its efforts on cultivating the richness of each of its flavors, few in number though they may be.  I have to admit, as I'm getting deeper into this it's becoming a bit more boozy, but not at all taking away from the overall drinking experience.  You may want to be here next time I open one of my other 3 bottles, because until 2020, they're going to be hard to find.

Jubel 2010: ****

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