I don't ever recalling having back-to-back beers as divergent as my first two Dick's. My introduction came in our winter ale tasting, when two tasters (me included) identified Dick's as the tastiest. Then came one of the least impressive IPAs I've had from a NW brewer. So, a good brewery with an off beer or a bad brewery with a lucky recipe? This is the riddle I went to solve last week when I went and got three more from the brewery: the flagship Dick Danger, a bitter, and a seasonal tripel. A worthy troika that would test the brewery's mettle and solve the riddle.
A brewery can't necessarily choose a flagship--sometimes the flagship chooses a brewery (ask the Widmer's). But, when that flagship includes the word "danger" in the title, it raises the ante. Unfortunately, there's nothing whatever dangerous about this beer. It has a pleasing nut brown color, and a mild sweet hazelnut nose. If the nose and appearance are mild, the palate is ever more so. Everything is mild--malt, hops, body. It has almost no character. It isn't a bad beer, but there's nothing whatever to distinguish it. Danger? More like Safety Beer. Rating: Average.
With Best Bitter, I begin to conclude that Dick's has naming issues. That style is more than a mild session, but hop character should be subdued. Not so here--this is a hop-forward beer that's bitter enough to be an ESB, though at 4.5%, too light. More like a pale ale. Not to belabor the point, but it's the old grammar thing--fine to break the rules if you know 'em. This seems like a brewery that doesn't know the difference between a best bitter, a pale ale and an ESB.
So, the beer: it pours a dull amber, and has a mild hop hop aroma. Much nicer than Dick Danger. The hops here are pointed, but not overwhelming. A sharp, resinous hopping. More body and some added malt character would push it to the next category. Rating: Good.
The pick of this litter is the Tripel, which is also the most traditional. It is golden-orange, cloudy, and features a poor, snowy-white head, all authentic-looking. The aroma is sugary-sour, also akin to the classic Trappist models. These early indicators don't quite hold out through the flavor, but this is still a good effort. The elements are all there--alcohol, yeast character, sweetness, and a touch of funk. They aren't quite as assertive as the originals and fail to cohere into beers like those that hail from Belgium. Not surprising--those breweries have literally centuries of collective experience. Give Dick's another decade, and maybe this will have matured into a more exceptional beer. Still, you could do a whole lot worse. Rating: Good.
In the final analysis, Dick's seems like a young brewery learning its craft. (It's not: they've been around since '94.) Some of the beers are great, others are mistakes. None of the beers I tried had off-flavors; the failures are in sophistication of recipes. I won't turn down a Dick's in the future, but I probably won't go out of my way to find their beer, either.