THOUGH MANY BEER fans nationwide might first associate Deschutes with their stalwart Black Butte Porter or rarefied The Abyss, it is the regular old Mirror Pond Pale Ale that the Oregon brewery calls their most popular. Evocative of both English and American tradition and mild-mannered at 5% ABV, Mirror Pond is a comfortable continent-crossover that also doubles as Deschutes point of entry for new craft fans.
When poured aggressively Mirror Pond generates a fluffy head that pauses for a time at a finger’s width before subsiding to a thin layer. Its color is an appealing caramel tinged with red, a few shades more orange than the red on the bottle’s label. Clarity is very high, though effervescence is understated and only prominent in the early going. Aromas are rather mild–paler stone fruit with a bit of cream when the head is strong, then some light crystal malts for a bit of biscuit and neutral grain. Hop aromas are of classic Cascade (this being Oregon, after all): somewhat soft, floral, a bit of grapefruit and nectarine. Smooth.
Regrettably, the first impression on the palate is not so much smooth as simply underwhelming. Final gravity is estimated around 1.013, quite in line with the style, so ‘watery’ is likely a better descriptor than ‘thin’ for its mouthfeel. One advantage of such a neutral foundation, though, is that Cascade’s nuanced flavors have plenty of room to unfurl; unencumbered and unhurried over a few pulses of bitterness, they are floral at first then increasingly leafy. The hop aroma becomes more citric as it warms and eventually some signature of alcohol and phenols develop in the finish. Also later comes a touch of cidery tang as an aftertaste–not exactly sour but still a little unexpected.
Perhaps this bottle was simply a poor showing, especially considering Mirror Pond’s broadly positive reputation. But until evidence proves otherwise, this beer is easy refreshment that’s just too transparent to inspire deep draughts.
Served: 12 oz bottle best by 11/08/13