Last night we had our annual vertical tasting of Deschutes' Jubel Ale. This being our fifth winter in Portland, we had five different years of Jubel to try.
Before going into the details, some history. In the winter of 2003, we had only been living in Portland a few months, but we already had a regular neighborhood pub night going, usually Mondays at the Lucky Lab. My next door neighbor, Dave, was excited when that year's Jubel Ale came out, and after a taste (or two or three) I understood his point of view. It's a delicious, dark, sweet, spicy winter brew.
Dave and I were buying cases of it at a time, and somehow it got into my head that I would save a case every year, and every year break out a six-pack from earlier years, to keep a five-year "beer ladder" going. There have been ups and downs with that program -- the case of 2004 I put down seems especially terrible -- but in my stubbornness I have persisted, and here we are in 2007 with five different years to try.
The 2003 Jubel Ale certainly seemed to be a standout, and each year it still is one of the best-tasting. I have high hopes for 2007, it seems to me to be at least as good as 2003. And the 2006, which didn't drive anyone wild when it was fresh, tasted very good this year after aging for a year. One reason the 2004 might be bad is that I bought refrigerated 12-packs and then stashed them in the basement. Last year we decided "ferrous" was the best word to describe it. It tastes like iron, or blood, or a mouthfull of pennies.
Being the lazy blogger that I am, I invited dozens of people over for the vertical tasting, and put out sheets of paper for them to mark their comments on. That way, all I have to say is that I rank them in this way: 2003, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004. Surprisingly, at least some of the tasters this year liked the 2004. I'm not ashamed to say that I thought it tasted as bad as ever.
Here are the anonymous, sometimes dubious, but often insightful comments of this year's tasters:
- More stoutish
- A bit sweet, molasses, rich
- Porter/stouty, like mushroom hunting in the fog
- Smooth, cherry(?), balanced hops
- Nutty, sweet... chestnut essence
- Super full flava
- Sweet! (Dude!) Sweet! (Dude!)
- My favorite
- Silky smooth pajama
- Sweet, nutty, but with a bite at the end
- Tastes like a tree, or sap, a little molasses or tar
- Flat, metallic, spoiled
- Bitter -- not so good
- Fruity, light metallic, similar to '05
- Butter love
- Flat -> in a good way
- No bitterness/Not too sweet
- Spicy -- a bit metallic(a)
- Hoppyish taste -- more "fresh" tasting
- "Middle of the batch" tonight -- not notable but OK
- Crispy critter
- Sweet, chocolate-like
- The winner according to Gypsy
- Like the '04 but sweeter, smoky like the sausage
- Whole lotta hop
- Definitely hoppier than previous years
- Tinny taste
- Big opening flavor, mellows with a slight bitterness
- Smoooth butt
- Tastes brand new, not as complex as other years, but kinda easier to drink
- Good balance of hop and malt, but lost the spices
- Clean tasting -- distinct flavors -- balanced
- Thick but still hoppier than the old school '03
So there you have it. I don't know what to make of "smoooth butt" or "simpleton", but generally you get an idea of peoples' opinions of the different years. Happy Holidays!