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Vail Red, White & Brew: Deschutes celebrates hops

Vail Daily staff reportsVail, CO Colorado
Vail Daily reviewer says Hop Trip has a very forward hop flavor, but completely lacks the bitterness and aftertaste that turn many people off from hop-centric beers
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Deschutes Hop Trip Pale Ale, $5, 22-ounce bomberMaybe reading the Hop Trip back story got my mind primed to think in the following terms, but everything about this beer strikes me as being fresher than Bel-Air royalty. It smells fresher, tastes fresher and even looks fresher than any beer you’ve ever come within 100 miles of. Young yet cultured, crisp but soft, seemingly untouched though masterfully crafted, this pale ale is poetic fermentation in motion.If you’re not curious about the Hop Trip narrative, you should be – it’s a unique and ambitious piece of brewing initiative. In short, the enterprising folks at Deschutes collect 5,000 pounds of Oregon Crystal hops straight from the ground, diverting them from their normal path into the drying kiln after harvest. They then drive these fresh hops straight to the brewery – where the kettle has been preheated – and start brewing with massive amounts of the freshies, adding a modicum of dry hops to up the bitterness quotient of the finished product.The result is something I’d never even imagined was possible. Hop Trip has a very forward hop flavor, but it’s completely lacking in the normal bitterness and aftertaste that turn many people off from hop-centric beers or – as they do with me – make people want to drink them only on certain occasions. No, Hop Trip is a beer for every tick of the clock or flip of the calendar, its alluring amber color and light body are equally fit for a post-powder party or a sexy, summer soiree. The label speaks of citrus and pine, but what this beer really smells and tastes like is the great outdoors – undiluted, untainted and undoubtedly fresh.The only downside to this outstanding cerveza is that you can’t buy it in six-packs, but I sure as shooting recommend you buy at least one bomber to discover – if nothing else – the full potential of hops. This is a product and a process I think every brewery should aspire to, but I’d be surprised if anyone could pull it off as finely as Deschutes has.While no local liquor stores are carrying this beer yet, West Vail Liquor Mart, Avon Liquors, Pier 13 Liquor in Eagle-Vail and Eagle Ranch Wine & Spirits all expect to be getting this beer in stock in the next week or two. – Aaron Butzen, Daily staff writer2007 Soledad Winery Big House Red, $8.99-$12.99Someone once wrote that when Quentin Tarantino decided to launch “Pulp Fiction” with Dick Dale’s attention-grabbing guitar classic “Misirlou,” he had no choice but to make a great film. For some reason that comparison came to mind when contemplating “Big House Red” which, though it lacks a smacky slogan like “The wine so big it tamed the West” or some such thing, nonetheless makes some this-better-be-good promises with its name alone. Its label is so busy that I couldn’t even figure out if there was a vintage year anywhere, although it does inform us that this wine has everything but the kitchen sink thrown at it: Syrah, Sangiovese, Barbara, Tannat, Grenache and Mourvedre. So, is this unholy amalgam successful or is it simply too busy being cute – or all things to all big-red lovers? Was it “Pulp Fiction” or a lesser Tarantino – “Grindhouse,” perhaps? It took the second glass before I warmed to it; it was so bright and acidic when first unscrewed I thought it was going to eat through my cheap Ikea wine glass. Once it opened up, though, it’s easy enough to see how this could be a good staple unlikely to find enemies at the dinner party (and there’s always one). This’ll stand up to the strongest meat or pasta dish with its bold, fruit-forward character and unabashed berry-mongering. For all its complicated blendy-ness, it’s a simple enough pleasure on the palate and a reasonable buy at $??. Reach for it when you simply can’t decide on another red or you are, in fact, trying to please everyone but those hopeless Pinot Noir-ites. You can find this wine at West Vail Liquor Mart, Avon Liquors, Eagle Ranch Wine & Spirits, Riverwalk Wine & Spirits in Edwards and Pier 13 Liquor in Eagle-Vail.- Alex Miller, Summit Daily Editor2007 Murphy-Goode Sonoma County Chardonnay, $17Chardonnay is one of those wines you either love or hate. I rarely meet someone who’s indifferent to chardonnay, that is if the person is a true wine drinker. I happen to fall into the latter category, but I can still appreciate the qualities in the wine that those who really enjoy chardonnay are drawn to. The 2007 Murphy-Goode Sonoma County Chardonnay, at $17, offers plenty of those qualities. The wine is smooth and complex – something that I think chardonnays often don’t achieve until in the $20 and $30 ranges.The grapes come from Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley, with about 20 percent of the fruit in this vintage coming from mountain vineyards, which, according to the winery, accounts for the intense fruit flavors.The nose is oaky, like typical chardonnay, due to its 78 percent oak fermentation process. The oak is accompanied by vanilla and nutmeg.There’s peach and apple, both on the nose and the palate, adding a nice balance to the wine’s rich and creamy texture. A taste of pear comes through on the finish, keeping the wine’s fruit structure in tact. Rich chardonnays are typically paired with rich foods – think cream sauces, smoky meats, pork and rich seafoods like lobster and scallops. This wine would stand up quite well to dishes like these, especially creamy pasta dishes. The Murphy-Goode’s 2007 Sonoma County Chardonnay is smooth enough to drink without food, but food definitely enhances the wine’s characteristics. I found the oak to be rather overwhelming when drinking the wine on its own, but again, I’m not a fan of chardonnay mostly because of that reason.The wine is definitely as bright as its winemaker claims – with a beautiful texture that the winemaker claims to taste like apple pie in a glass. I don’t know about that, but for a chardonnay, it’s all right. You can find this wine at West Vail Liquor Mart.- Lauren Glendenning, Daily staff writer


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