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Cascade Lakes Roundup 

How is Bend's second oldest brewery stacking up?

Named after the collective bodies of stunning and cold water in our mountains, Cascade Lakes Brewery is celebrating 20 years. With few things as beautiful as a mountain lake and few drinks as enjoyable as fantastic beer, how good is the Cascade Lakes lineup after two decades of business?

Currently, Cascade Lakes is brewing about eight beers. I poured four:

Blond Bombshell is a blonde ale. Though this brew predates the "session beer" catchphrase, that's the current category where it belongs, with only 4% ABV and 26 IBUs. It's light in every respect. Medium-light body is the boldest characteristic, aside from its Marilyn-inspired cartoon pinup label. It's light on the hops and malt with a faintly sweet and short finish.

20" Brown is one of the few local brown ales. American brown ales are bold beers with plenty of toasted malt and hop flavors. 20" Brown is true to style, but barely so. It's quiet. The balance isn't quite there either. The hop bitterness tends to fight with the smoother malt flavors, rather than the pleasant contrast that the style is known for. Overall, it's OK for people seeking a lighter representation of brown ales but this one isn't Geek Worthy.

IRA has a great label featuring the famous Flaming Chicken—or Rising Phoenix—roundabout. Unfortunately, as a stand-alone beer, the compliments end there. At 6.8% ABV and 78 IBUs, this IRA is like a maltier version of the unbalanced Northwest IPAs of the early 2000s. IRAs are best when the caramel malt flavors are strong enough to stand alongside the bold hops. That's how these beers achieve balance. That doesn't happen in this IRA. Try this beer with a nice fatty steak and the flavors all fall in line. By itself, take a pass.

20th Anniversary IPA is quite refreshing. Rather than fight over who can add the most IBUs, Cascade Lakes produced a nicely balanced beer. At 6.4% ABV and 82 IBUs, this IPA is softer than many other local versions. The floral hop aroma is followed by a moderate malt flavor and lingering piney hop finish. Closer to English-style IPA than the Northwest hop frenzy, this beer was the right choice for an anniversary celebration.

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