“Nugget, Citra, Azacca, El Dorado, Chinook…”
“2-Row, Munich, C15, Golden Naked Oats…”
Mundane details. Every beer’s got ’em. Many go on for pages, like the fastener list for a space shuttle. But only ONE word matters, in choosing a beer, and it’s none of those. Quantity, in beer ingredients, does NOT = Quality, in any sense.
14 things listed above. Of those, only nine are ingredients. And yet…this could well be the elements of a spell cast by Merlin (whom I played twice on stage, to glowing reviews, I might add, with my usual modesty); an enchantment that slips up on the unsuspecting drinker and entraps him/her almost instantly. BEWARE. It’s insidious. You could be well into your third can of this stuff before you even realize that it’s…one of the best things you’ve tasted in years…
That’s how easy and satisfying and – dare I say this in its best possible sense – addictive the new Deschutes Lil’ Squeezy Juicy Ale really is. Not heroin addictive or even my own ice cream addictive but more like addicted to a cool breeze and a hammock between two palm trees and Someone with you who makes your blood run faster. It’s not a can of Love, okay? Not suggesting anything as sappy and moonstruck as that. It may not even have profound implications upon your life, unless you count the very real possibility of being absolutely ruined for other summer ales, but it also might. Because that decades-long, exhaustive, often feckless quest for that perfect thing to drink all summer is OVER. Piss on the dogs and call in the fire, Bubba!…okay, that came out backwards but you get the idea: It is no longer a question of whether The Great Summer Ale exists. It’s only a question of whether you live in a state where Deschutes in distributed.
Lil’ Squeezy Juicy Ale (and Deschutes and I may talk about the placement of that apostrophe later…or not. Whatever…) is the precocious gum-popping, bad-girl, racy, slightly slutty, afternoon-detention hall lil’ sistah, of course, of Deschutes Fresh Squeezed, which is also quite juicy enough to have it qualify as a new produce category. But, unwilling – as always – to Stand Pat on…well, anything, Deschutes decided to push that dripping envelope past all reason and…Voila! – Lil’ Squeezy! (“L’il”?)( Hello?)
Now, for anyone who is not conversant with “juicy”, as applied to beer: there is no actual fruit juice, pulp, zest, or material at all in juicy beers…unless there is! It’s a lot confusing and more than a little crazy that we’re living in a time in which fruit beers, formerly the province of oddball Euro breweries, have spread like kudzu and infiltrated US breweries like some sort of kindergarten flu virus. The European ones, like Lindeman’s and Liefman’s and Brasserie Belle-Vue and the wildly screwy Floris, (a subsidiary of the eccentric, brilliant Brouwerij Huyghe, a Flanders brewery that makes beer out of stuff like cactus, chocolate, honey, ninkeberry (huh?)(me neither), iguanas, flannel shirts, and auto parts), (Okay, I made up those last three…) have history and a following and many have an off-center brilliance that make them irresistible to cranks like me, who normally sneer and spit at low ABV, unchallenging fruit-infused light beers.
But the other side of “juicy” is hops-derived fruitiness, the expression of the vast array of fruit flavors of which many hops are capable. Lil’ Squeezy employs exactly zero additions of actual fruit but is oozing mixed fruit flavors: mango, tangerine, pomelo, lime, lemon, star fruit, kiwi, yuzu, and tree fruits like apricots, peaches, and Bosc pears. It’s buttressed with a backbone of creamy malts that somewhat civilize its very assertive hops and mute a tiny bit of bitterness, with a texture that gives the beer a lovely viscosity that glides over the tongue like glycerine. The subtle spice notes, mainly from the flamboyant, Northwest-y Chinooks, give the finish a bit of needed Edge and makes a fine foil for that tidal wave of fruit. The intensity of this ale is definite but not so pronounced that craft beer newbies will wince at the muscle of it and, for all that flavor, starts and stays light and fresh and an absolute hedonistic, wallow-in-it pleasure to sit, sip, and chill with.
I’ve raved like a fuggen lunatic about Deschutes beers for the entire ten years that The Pour Fool has existed and never have had to manufacture enthusiasm for or really even wrestle with what to say about anything that wound up in these pages. I’m NOT a total sycophant for Deschutes, however. I’ve declined to review a total of five beers, in ten years, the latest a current release, and I have been constantly ragged upon for gaudy scores and flowery prose. To those who have done the ragging, my standard answer is this: “Just saying what I think, dude.” And that same honesty compels me to say this about Lil’ Squeezy, a beer that is SO fundamentally unlike the Deschutes ales I usually get sideways for that it’s almost not even the same species…
This may be one of the most timely, most beautifully conceived, most expertly executed, most surprising, most cleanly flavorful, most wildly and compulsively drinkable, and most purely delicious ales I’ve ever tasted from The Folks On Simpson. No, it is NOT, adamantly, the prodigious, jaw-dropping, near-profound experience of tasting a Black Mirror or a Dissident or The Abyss (still the best liquid of any type I have ever tasted) or the absolutely immortal, soul-satisfying Jubelale, but it is brilliant in an entirely different, contemporary, crest-riding way: it speaks to what the primary trend in today’s beer scene is right now, and does it in a way that totally honors Deschutes’ own tradition of craftsmanship and unerring judgment, in harmony with what younger craft fans clamor for this moment, in pubs everywhere.
And at just 5% ABV, it’s a beer you can drink repeatedly without wearing out its welcome, sit and analyze if that’s your tune, and even get your Hops Fix, in a broad and comprehensive expression of what using hops at all is about. I don’t know who’s responsible for the recipe for this ale but they have done something here that invites comparison with a musical composition, as much as with making beer. Those nine ingredients mentioned above are a near-magical combination of brewing skill, heads-up cultural awareness, and Knowing What Not To Do. Lil’ Squeezy is a gorgeous little, ass-whuppin’ masterpiece and is going to be added to my own refrigerator’s beer stash regularly, all summer long. 99 Points