Carbo Loading with Mirror, Mirror from Deschutes Brewery

A lot of big, bold runners and beers have come from Oregon.

The state has a long, powerful distance running tradition. In the 50’s, University of Oregon coach Bill Bowerman trained Bill Dillenger to set American records in the 50’s, before Dillenger retired from racing and became Bowermen’s assistant, finally taking over as head coach in 1973. Both revolutionized distance running training, and produced numerous All Americans. Such as the brash, iconic Steve Prefontaine who held the American records from the 2,000 meters through 10,000 meters the day he died in a car accident in 1975, at the prime of his running career. And the obsessive Alberto Salazar, a strong 5 and 10 kilometer runner on the track, who moved up to the marathon and in the first marathon he ever ran, the 1980 New York Marathon, defeated a strong field that included Boston Marathon champ Bill Rodgers in his first marathon he ever entered. Salazar went on to a number of New York and Boston marathon victories in the early 80’s, before it is widely believed that his high, 180+ weekly training mileages finally took a toll on his body. Then there’s Phil Knight, who co-founded Nike with Bowerman by selling shoes at Oregon track meets in the early 70’s, and became one of the world’s most powerful businessmen before retiring in 2004.

Oregon has a great brewing tradition, too. One of my favorite breweries is the Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon, and I’ve long enjoyed their Mirror Pond Pale Ale. So when I discovered they’ve amped up the Mirror Pond Pale Ale into an oak-aged barleywine called Mirror Mirror, I knoew it was something I had to try. Deschutes Brewmaster Larry Sidor had this to say on the Deschutes Brewing website page descrbing this brew. “I’m really looking forward to this version of Mirror Mirror because it is not only an advancement for this beer, but it also shows the evolution of our knowledge related to barrel aging and how the whole Reserve Series has developed.”’

I’ve enjoyed Sidor’s creation a couple times now. Pouring it into my tulip glass creates a foamy light tan head floating on the dark tan brew, with an citrus aroma. It has a rich, creamy malty flavor with an orange-dominated citrus character, and a little pine-like bitterness which becomes more pronounced as it warms. I can taste a little oak from the barrel aging, and at 11% abv, the alcohol is a detectable. It’s complex, yet easy drinking barleywine.

Carbo Loading with Napa Smith Lost Dog Red Ale

I’ve been to Napa Valley a couple times, and actually enjoyed the time spent there. The whole place does seem like a giant foodie amusement park full of elitist snob appeal. But believe it or not, you can actually find some places among all the glitzy wineries that aren’t about extracting lots of money from free spending tourists, but are about the wine. You can even find wine in Napa Valley which is actually worth what you pay for. The place does have some redeeming qualities.

More good news about Napa Valley is that a brewery recently opened up at the south end of the valley, in Napa. Since it’s own by the Smith family, they decided to call it Napa Smith. Who is this mysterious Smith family? Their website doesn’t say. But whoever they are, they hired legendary Don Barkley as their brew master, who has 30 years craft brewing experience, which is a long time considering many craft breweries haven’t even been in business half as long.

Last fall when in Napa, I picked up a bottle of their Pale Ale. Sorry to say, it was rather underwhelming. It seemed rather weak and watery, and just not that interesting. I was surprised, and after seeing some positive reviews of their beers, figured maybe I got a bad batch or a bad bottle. Seemed like Napa Smith was worth giving another try.

I’m glad I did. I opened up a bottle of Napa Smith Lost Dog Ale that hit me right away with a strong fruity aroma dominated by grapefruit. The flavor with more of the same, rather fruity dominated by grapefruit, although I was picking up a little apricot. It’s rather malty, but for all the malt and fruitiness, very little sweetness. There’s a little hop bitterness and a slight astringency at the end. I found this one rather smooth and fresh tasting.

I also tried Napa Smith Amber Ale, which seemed very rich and malty for the style. The malt had a slightly roasted character, without any real sweetness, and the brew had a dry finish, with very little hop presence.

Maybe I need to get to Napa more often. And they do have this nifty little marathon