“You do not become a ''dissident'' just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society.”Why "the Dissident?" Is Deschutes serving notice that they are now taking up a most unusual career of brewing exotic beers? If so, it is not because they have been cast out--no brewery has boasted more success of late than the boys from Bend--but because they are casting themselves out. The label suggests something of mid-century rebellion, with its spareness, the rising crow. It could be a handbill to a Sartre play. But enemy of society? Not with this beer.
The Dissident is brewed to the style of a Flanders brown, and in the "provision" strength of Goudenband. To a pretty large beer, Deschutes added candi sugar and Montmorency cherries, resulting in a beer of 8.8% alcohol. It starts out with a sour mash (I think), and two varieties of brettanomyces are used (Bruxellensis and lambicus) as well as a lactobacillus culture. (That's a lotta funk.) Finally, 20% is aged in pinot/cab oak barrels. The entire batch has been aged 18 months.
As you can see from the picture, it's a bright brown, with reddish highlights. The aroma is not as funky as Liefman's--there's none of that skanky brett, but rather a sweet chocolate and sour cherry-accented nose. As it opened up, the astringency of the sour diminished a little and the cherries muscled their way in.
It is a lovely and approachable beer. I find the three major notes of the beer come together in very nice harmony. The body is creamy and rich, with malt notes contributing a brown sugar/biscuit base. Onto this are balanced the twin flavors of tart/sweet cherries and the sourness of the yeast and cultures. The strength of the beer helps bring the flavors together, and I imagine the age is a huge help, too--though alcohol is not a major flavor note. The result is a beer that is neither heavy nor overly sour. It's inviting enough that you could swill a fair quantity before realizing what a whollop it packs.
It is a triumph of a beer. The brewery clearly put a huge amount of thought into this beer, not to mention time and money. None of that guarantees success, though. Yet I found The Dissident to be the measure of an authentic oud bruin in every way. The style is a very high bar to clear; in fact, I don't know of any American brewery to even try an authentic Liefmans-style old bruin. But Deschutes has cleared it, and the bar didn't even wiggle. A great beer and a very impressive effort. Let's hope this isn't the last batch we see of the Dissident.
Original Gravity: 1.090
Malts: pilsner, acidulated, Munich, caramel, crystal
Hops: "Czech" (presumably Saaz), Tettnang, Hallertau
Adjuncts: dark candi sugar, Montmorency cherries
Yeast: brettanomyces bruxellensis, brettanomyces lambicus, lactobacillus culture
Methods: sour mash, 20% aged in wine casks (pinot/cabernet)
Availability: Extremely limited. As I write this (9/5/08), you can get some at the breweries in Bend and Portland. Don't delay, supplies won't last long.
Update: The good news is that The Dissident is still available at the brewery in Portland. The bad news? There's one fewer case.
Update 2: I forgot to include the sour-o-meter reading for the Dissident. Call it a three.