Caldera Brewing Beer Review


It’s been said that you can’t judge a book by its cover. As a career racist I reject that sentiment outright, but it’s usually true when you limit the scope to actual books. You can’t legitimately forge an opinion on “Wuthering Heights” by just the title, apart from disliking it for making you wonder what a wuther is. The idiom also breaks down a bit when publishers use imagery on their bestsellers that is so corny that you can likely divine what the central message of the book really is:

sarah palin



oogyOnce upon a time this kind of snap judgement was perfectly fine to impose on canned beers. Such packaging was reserved for the dregs of the beer populace, much in the same way an Ed Hardy shirt signals an incoming douchebag. However, thanks to advances in can linings that no longer infect beer with a characteristic foil taste, that trend is getting bucked rather quickly. Award-winning breweries are now embracing the multiple advantages that come with aluminum packaging:

chartCaldera has been canning their beers in Oregon since 2005 without the need for mainstream acceptance, but I’m guessing they’d really like some. Capitalism makes people funny that way.

Ashland Amber (5.6% ABV)

ashlandIt seems like these days every beer has something to prove. If they aren’t threatening to beat your sobriety into oblivion, they’re dousing your tongue with some kind of hop-toxin. Worse, I’ve totally bought into the hype. I can’t even pick up a beer these days unless it more or less threatens to fuck me up for life. The Ashland Amber (AA) stands in stark contrast to that trend. It wishes only to swaddle your tongue in biscuity goodness, gently caressing it with caramel and subtle nutty notes. The hops in the AA glide in, merely tickling your tastebuds with grapefruit and soft botanical notes.

Unfortunately, I think it took not being extreme to a bit of an extreme. I guess you could say the AA is the Extreme of extreme, provided you were far too old to be writing on the Internet:

extremeThe balancing hop note at the end is too attenuated, even for an amber ale. Further sandbagging things is the can I cracked was undercarbonated. It wasn’t flat, but not too far from it either.

The whole experience was like losing your virginity to a well-intentioned, but clearly bored prostitute. Which still counts.

Grade: B-

Pale Ale (5.5% ABV)

paleThe thick, webby head of this dark straw beer suggests a hearty pale ale awaits me. After being thoroughly mollycoddled by Caldera’s amber ale, I trust this will be precisely the wake-up call I crave, at least until iHome develops this prototype design I sent them:

clock“The alarm clock guys can dock EVERYTHING in”

The aromas don’t really kick things off like gangbusters. It has sort of a watery cracker smell. So like this I guess:

aquaYou see? Racist.

The flavor profile on this pale ale favors citrus and grass. It’s got a weird tannin flavor akin to a strong tea that doesn’t work for me, but it finds some shelter in the context of a beer that’s supposed to nip at your mouth a bit.

As with the amber, there’s a pretty strong malt component to this, but sadly this one is just as flat. The experience just doesn’t feel animated. It lacks the punch I was hoping for overall.

Grade: B-

IPA (6.1% ABV)

ipaCaldera’s IPA is a golden amber brew with a thin, foamy head. The nose is hop-forward, with a flowery, spicy feel overall.

As hoped, the flavors in this one definitely jump out more than they did in its cousins. The hops in this one carry an oily arrangement of grapefruit and spruce that resonate without making your tongue feel like its been dragged through a field of mentholated sandpaper. It has a grainy sweetness, but it’s not too pronounced. There’s the lightest tickle of carbonation in this, but it’s disappointingly flat again.

I don’t get it. I made a graph just minutes ago that certified beyond any doubt that cans are superior. That officially makes it Science. So how is it that every offering I’ve had from these guys seems like it didn’t survive the road to my liver?

Bonus points for full flavor, but this doesn’t bolster my confidence in craft canning.

Grade: B+