The thing that first drew me to pluck Deschutes Brewery's Pinedrops IPA off the shelf the was the packaging. Because, let’s be honest, isn't that a big part of how we all pick out new beers—like how, before Spotify, everyone used to just occasionally buy whichever CD had the coolest cover art? Something about the combination of forest and lime greens, with the red neck against the brown bottle acts as a mild soporific if I stare at it too long. It's the beer label equivalent of a winter Land's End catalog.
But, much like when I was 10 years old and bought Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet due entirely to its cover's Star Wars-ish iconography, I wound up being extremely pleased with my purchase. Deschutes—the Bend, Oregon-based brewery behind the best-selling porter in the U.S., Black Butte, as well as the seemingly ubiquitous Mirror Pond Pale Ale—isn't known for IPAs. But Pinedrops is a complex, unique American IPA that should at least earn it a respectful nod from some of its IPA-obsessive West Coast neighbors at festivals and conventions.
This beer is maybe the most refreshing IPA I've ever had. There is none of the heaviness or sticky mouthfeel you get even with session IPAs.”
Appearance and Aroma
The beer is honey-gold and a bit cloudy. The primer-white head dissipates quickly, leaving a thin layer that is constantly replenished by the tiny champagne bubbles that rise up from the base of the glass. After a few minutes the live yeast added to the bottle begins to settle out. Considering the name, I expected the aroma to remind me of hiking through the groves of Ponderosa pines above Hell's Canyon. But it reminds me more of hiking through an apricot orchard eating a lemon shortbread cookie. It's floral, cloying and a touch malty.
The taste is where the pine resin shows up as advertised, announcing itself with an immediate salvo of astringent bitterness—a sensation akin to drinking grapefruit juice. It's so piney at first it almost tastes mentholated. The hop profile is a murderer's row of conifer-redolent bittering varieties: Nugget, Northern Brewer, Chinook, Centennial and Ekuanot .Deschutes' site still calls the latter "Equinox," but the varietal, formally known as HBC 366, had to change its name due to a trademark dispute. The bitterness is further sharpened by the aforementioned fine carbonation that stings along the tongue. The beer mellows at the back end, and some of the maltiness present in the nose asserts itself, but that too relents, while the bitterness lingers.
This beer is maybe the most refreshing IPA I've ever had. There is none of the heaviness or sticky mouthfeel you get even with session IPAs. It drinks more like a Bitburger or Bohemia or name your preferred German-style hoppy pilsner. Considering I wrote much of this review on a day when all-time heat records were shattered all over Los Angeles County, that characteristic did not go underappreciated.