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TPFNo, I’m not gonna tell the whole sordid story.

Let’s just leave it at this: Because of a very strange set of circumstances, I’m a little behind the curve in doing what is probably my favorite product review of this or any year. As some of you may have noticed, reviews of individual beverages, lately, fall under the category heading of “SIPS“: Short Informational Product Shots. In the years to come, SIPS will be the click on The Pour Fool that will get you to shorter, more succinct reviews of products with tasting notes and a little bit of background. Short, hopefully sweet, and far less time commitment than reading the typical The Pour Fool screed.

But not Jubelale. Jubelale gets its own post, all alone…featured…respected…loved.

Deschutes-Jubelale-Festive-Winter-Ale-2014 (1)If there is any beer in the world that I know intimately, it’s Jubelale. I had my first one in 1993, bought on a whim from the old Larry’s Market in Lower Queen Ann in Seattle, just because I liked the name. I bought two cases that winter and was still drinking it at the end of March. That’s been the story for every year since: I buy at least a case, case and a half; usually more like 2+. And that’s not to mention the times I get it on tap, which is basically any time I find a tap that’s pouring it.

Jubelale belongs to a small continuum of winter seasonal ales that are built according to the rough blueprint laid out by Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome: dark-roast flavors well short of the chocolate/coffee/Molasses continuum of Stouts and Porters. A dash of warm spices that echo mulled wine, spice cakes, and holiday pies. Malty richness and bright, floral/citrus hops. Sierra Nevada “Celebration” is in that group. Ditto for Hopworks “Abominable”, Ninkasi “Sleigh’r”, Full Sail “Wassail”, Pyramid “SnoCap”, Odell “Isolation”, Oakshire “Ill-Tempered Gnome”, Great Divide “Hibernation”, and dozens of others. No, they are not all the same basic style. Ninkasi Sleigh’r is technically a dark Alt. Most would be classed as “Strong Ales” and were, until “Winter Warmer” became the accepted term. All have in common that they contain alcohol sufficient to the task of that warming business and are usually dark to or past the shade of a glass of Coke. They tend to be a tad ruddy; some outright red. Whatever, they’re my favorite collection of seasonals from any part of the year and, for 21 years, now, Jubelale has been their king.

JubelTulip2Jubelale is a mouthful; a dark, mellow, malty ale that covers that bottom end flavor spectrum with black cherries, caramel, subtle baking spices, figs, grilled bread, roasted grains, a hint of molasses, and touch of baked apple. If that were the whole story, I’d still be writing this review quite contentedly, every year. But what Deschutes did, from the git-go, was inject this brilliantly drinkable bottle of Comfort Ale with an lurking edge of hoppy citrus and sweet herbs. Think of a piece of dark cherry spice cake that’s garnished with twists of candied orange peel and glazed with lemon curd. There is usually a pinch of pepper lingering in the background and, in 2014, that moves a bit to the fore, along with a really lovely shot of blood orange that meshes perfectly with the bracing bitterness. In the glass, Jubel is a deep, rich, red-brown; a color not unlike a glass of cola with liberal doses of chocolate syrup and Bing cherry juice blended in. DO NOT let all the verbiage about richness lead you to believe that Jubel – or most of the other Winter Warmers – are heavy, ponderous beers that leave you groaning; impossible companions to a big holiday meal. A major part of the charm of these beers is their relative lightness versus Stouts, Barleywines, and big Porters. You can have two or three in your long family afternoon/evening, and not feel like you need to be carted out with a forklift.

Your Fool with an Old Friend

Your Fool with an Old Friend

It gives me such pleasure, every year, when this stuff hits my porch, and I always approach it a little nervously. What if it’s not as good? Make no mistake about this: Jubelale, like every other craft beer, is not made like BudMillerCoorsPabst. There is no fervent homogenization, no rabid adherence to a just-so flavor profile. Ingredients for beer are natural. They grow in the soil and are affected by heat and rainfall and soil composition and dozens of other factors. Little things will be different, from year to year. Hell, for that matter, one of Deschutes greatest virtues is that they will tweak and tinker. The Abyss is sometimes radically different. Hop Trip almost always is. The differences in Jubel are usually more subtle but, someday, the folks on Simpson Avenue, down there in Bend, may decide to re-think it in some wholesale way and I just hope two things: That I’m open-minded enough to try it and try to adapt and…that it’s at least as good as what’s come before it. This has been done: Sierra Nevada made some major changes to “Celebration” and pulled it off admirably. And that’s what great breweries do. fact, In fact,¬†Jubel 2014 IS a bit different in its edgier, more assertive hops profile, giving it an even more pleasing balance of malts and resins.

This is a certified American Classic; has been ever since it was first brewed. If you’re a beer lover and have never tried it, you haven’t properly earned that “Beer Lover” name tag, yet. It’s such a critical part of American beer lore, such a brilliant grace note to your holiday festivities, such a freakin’ treat…such a wonderful, magical bottle o’ beer.

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2 thoughts on “Deschutes Jubelale 2014: A Little Extra Jubelation!

  1. Pingback: Deschutes Jubealale, 2015 Edition: #BestJubelYet | ThePourFool

  2. Twice a year I get really really excited about a seasonal release. One is Abyss, which is miserably difficult to find here in Socal, and the other is Jubelale, which I am delighted to easily find and purchase by the case. This year I think is interesting in how different it seems than last year, which was to me much more concentrated and sweeter. You note this and I also hope they stay close to the formula. What you describe as pepper moving to the fore really stands out, and 2014 also tastes a lot drier. But glorious and complex and intentional.

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Speak yer piece, Pilgrim.

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