Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Review: Cinder Cone Red Ale (Deschutes)

Cinder Cone Red Ale holds a special place in my heart as one of the beers, along with Mirror Pond Pale Ale, that got me into craft beer in the first place.

Cinder Cone means spring has sprung. It means the time has come to unearth the backpacking gear and to think about heading to Utah for the weekend. It means hope remains in the nascent baseball season.

Cinder Cone has returned to the shelves for its annual seasonal appearance. It's available fairly widely; most well-stocked liquor stores in Colorado should have it. I wish it were like chiles, and I could freeze some for the long, Cinder Cone-less winter. Sadly, I doubt the taste would hold up.

As the name would suggest, Cinder Cone is a red ale, and in this, it has plenty of competition. Pinstripe Red Ale from Ska is the best-known local offering, but there is also Steamworks Lizard Head Red Ale and Durango Amber Ale. Not to mention the other out-of-state offerings, such as Stone Levitation.

Cinder Cone is brewed with Amarillo and Tettnang hops, along with caramel malt and roasted barley. Both Cinder Cone and Stone Levitation tend toward the hoppier end of red ales, as befits the West Coast breweries from which they come. Levitation, in particular has a piney resin taste that is quite different from Pinstripe, which has a maltier taste. Here's a comparison of a few red ales:

Cinder Cone: 5.4% ABV, 55 IBUs
Stone Levitation: 4.4% ABV, 45 IBUs
Pinstripe Red: 5.2% ABV, 42 IBUs
Lizard Head Red 5.6% ABV, 25 IBUs
Durango Amber: 5.5%, 19 IBUs

The list above taught me a little about my own tastes; I clearly prefer reds on the hoppy side. Cinder Cone has a deep and inviting flavor, suggestive of hops. The flavor profile is much stronger than in many other red ales.

Cinder Cone is brewed by Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery. Deschutes is best known for its impressive session beers like Mirror Pond and Black Butte Porter. Lately, it has moved into some of the most adventurous brewing territory in the country with special releases like The Abyss, an imperial stout that is among the best of its kind, and The Dissident, an arresting Belgian-style sour.

Cinder Cone Red Ale is not unlike many other reds. It just happens to be exceptionally well done. When one wants a break from the usual offerings, Cinder Cone is an excellent choice. B+

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