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Here’s how it works, here at The Pour Fool:

1) Some brewery, winery, distillery or PR form thereof sends me a sample of something and I try it and bliss out and you read about it on this website. OR…

2) I run across something in a taproom or tasting room or buy something on a whim, bliss out, and you read it here.

That’s it.

And out of both those options, no more than maybe 18-20% of what I sample gets me excited enough to write about it. I decline so many things that I keep a form letter on file to use to say no. Occasionally, for some producer I really admire, I’ll message them and explain why I’m not writing it up. Deschutes, for example, has sent me more samples, over the years, than anybody. I sent a decline message twice, out of over 100 beers. And one time, it was because the bottle I tasted got damaged in transit. They sent a new one, I retried it, and blissed out. Shit happens.

Double Mountain Brewing, of Hood River, Oregon, is another producer who sends me stuff. Two years ago, roughly, they went into cider and I can honestly state that they immediately became one of my top three favorite cideries in the PNW. They make a crab apple(!) cider that just knocked me askew, an Arkansas Black cider that I would drink anytime.

And they have made some beers that I consider irreplaceable: Vaporizer, Killer Red, Hop Lava, Kolsch, IRA…and several one-offs that I dearly loved.

But it’s been a while since you saw DMB here and it was not because they stopped sending beers. Sometimes, I’ve tasted something and thought, “Nah, just missed it, damnit.” I root for these guys because I like them, personally and as a company. But once (a beer I’m not gonna name), I poured one down the sink. Double Mountain does not always hit it squarely on the nose.

BUT…when they DO nail it, by God, it is well and truly spiked and sealed and delivered. Yeah, I have some philosophical differences with ’em. Their stance on cans kinda wears me out. I know their reasons for not using them and I respect their decision but cans are back to stay and declaring “We will not!” just hampers their efforts and changes nothing in the larger marketplace.

But, over the past two weeks, I got two from DMB that NAILED IT and I mean with a freakin’ sledgehammer.

The new Double Mountain “Splendor”, a single-hop IPA using a new hybrid variety from The Experimental Hop Breeding Program, is a flat-out stunner, a dank, fruity, floral ale that sneaks a delicious, crisp stratum of vividly bitter edginess into an ale that will likely become a favorite of PNW HopHeads just for its marked differences with almost any other hop out there. The firm but unobtrusive malt backbone gives this beer a creaminess and heft that many IPAs lack and its near-perfect balance and subtle acids make it a great food pairing, as well. I don’t know how long Splendor will be around but if you see that pretty, colorful label on a shelf, GRAB IT and meet a new hop bud-dy who promises to be around for a long time. 95 Points

Never ones to take a lot of holidays, Matt Swihart, Matt Coughlan, and crew at DMB ventured also into another of their occasional collaborations, this time with my Tacoma homies, the mammoth E9 Brewing. About ten years ago, E9 worked out of a TINY little annex building next to the old Tacoma Engine House No. 9 fire station that has now been a pub, since 1973, and then brewpub. Tacoma’s first craft brewery, a 7 barrel system, was added in 1995 and blossomed when a young, ambitious brewer named Shane Johns came on to change the paradigm of a brewery that formerly just worried about keeping its own taps filled. Starting with a program of sour/Brett/Barrel-aged/Belgian-style ales, E9 evolved steadily until, today, they sport a literal international reputation and have even hosted the prestigious Zwanze Festival.

In recent years, buoyed by the success of the sours and wild ales, the owners of E9 built the brewery a new, sprawling facility and barrel room about two miles from the firehouse pub and Shane started gradually remaking the core beers to update them, especially their IPA roster, to the new millennium. Ales like “Puppies vs. Kittens”, “Vertigo”, “Swords and Sorcery”, “Realize Real Lies”, and “Paradiddle” have all sent HopHeads reeling and it kinda figures that, teamed up with a brewery whose own best efforts have usually been IPAs, the result would be good, maybe great, maybe even startling.

Double Mountain/E9 “Hi Friend!” IPA is great AND startling. It combines foresty herbaceousness, pink grapefruit, tangerines, subtle florals leaning toward honeysuckle and jasmine, a dash of stone fruit, and a bitter orange edge that recalls St. Joseph’s Aspirin for Children. It’s bright and nicely bitter and cranks the refreshment knob up to eleven. Again, no telling how much of this there is around but what is there is well worth a search and some driving.

It’s great to see Double Mountain alive and thriving after The Year of The Plague! As senses reawaken, apparently so does the spark of collaboration and with this gorgeous stuff, Double Mountain and E9 both have something to immediately get us excited about. “Shane has been quietly making some of the best beers in the PNW for years,” says Matt Coughlan, DMB’s head brewer, “And I’m honored to have the chance to work with him. We wanted to bring something that we would sit down and have a few of while catching up. Hi Friend! is just that.”

That’s the spirit, this is the result. Git Sum. 97 Points

Speak yer piece, Pilgrim.

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