Cascade Brewing can trace its history to 1998 with the founding of Cascade Brewing Company at the Racoon Lodge in the Southwest hills of Portland. Art Larrance, one of the original founders of the Portland Brewing Company, and Ron Gansberg, formerly of Bridgeport Brewing, teamed up to create this new project that was distributed locally under the “Racoon Lodge” name. I’ll have to admit that I didn’t find their beers to be very interesting. You’d often see the beer sold as a “house” beer with a custom tap handle.
Well, things started to change in 2005 when Art and Ron began looking into ways to differentiate themselves from the new breweries constantly opening. They decided to create a barrel-aging and sour program. they decided to focus mainly on Lactobacillus bacteria as their souring agent so they could leave more mouth-feel and residual sugar. Brettanomyces tends to leave a very dry beer (You can read about these microbes here). Within a few years, they started getting noticed with medals at GABF (Great American Beer Festival). They were now on the map.
The Vlad The Imp Aler won Silver at GABF in 2009. They describe it as: “This strong NW sour is a blend of strong blonde quads and tripels aged in oak and Bourbon barrels, then further blended with spiced blondes and left to condition for an additional five months.” (The above was taken from my review of the Vlad the Imp Aler 2009 vintage).
I posted my review of the 2009 about the time Cascade Brewing announced the release of the 2011 and was excited to hear about the timing. I acquired 2 bottles: one for immediate review and one to lay down for a few years. Last time, I didn’t drink the beer “fresh” to have a real comparison of what the aging does to the beer. With the 2011 vintage, I’ll be able to document it’s progress from a baseline.
Appearance: Orange/light amber, beige head with solid retention. Light haze.
Aroma: Pepper, vanilla, lemon, spicy, sherry vinegar, white balsamic vinegar, light funky notes.
Taste: light vanilla/bourbon finish, orange and lemon creme, slight woodiness, wine notes, candied pineapple, cinnamon. A nice sweet/tart balance.
Overall Impression: Again, this is an exceptional American-style sour. It certainly lives up to the reputation set by the 2009 version. I’ll leave it to you to decide if the $30 bottle price is worth it.
Availability: Limited availability in some stores. You can still get some from the tap room and possibly from their online store. You can find their online store by following the link at the top of the page to the brewery website.