May 3, 2015

Back at it Oregon -- 2015 Part 2

In the last part I reviewed my playtime in Portland and Hood River and now it's on to Bend. We spent a week in Bend--actually staying in a time share in Redmond just north of Bend. Last trip we conquered the Bend Ale Trail so this time we came equipped knowing what we wanted to enjoy and gave ourselves the opportunity to relax and just enjoy the scenery and the beers we wanted to revisit. The time share where we stayed was, like much of central Oregon, covered in juniper trees full of juniper berries ripe and at arm's length away. I plucked a couple ounces of berries and brought them home. I'm not sure what kind of beer I will brew with them but it's something to mull over (no pun intended).

10 Barrel Brewing

I have mixed thoughts about the 10 Barrel acquisition by AB InBev. Apparently so do people in Bend. After the acquisition, I'm told, the Bend pub dried out but people slowly came back. When we visited it was crowded and there were no protesters to be found. Bend is serious about its local-first attitude so I wasn't too surprised by people scurrying away after the acquisition and a little surprised that they were moving on like nothing had changed. The beers were still good. I still enjoyed the Night Ryed'r rye porter and cucumber berliner weisse. My wife tried out their peach pepper berliner weisse and although it wasn't what I was in the mood for it was an interesting beer. I wonder if all of the AB InBev acquisitions are coming out with more pumpkin and peach beers to spite the parent's advertising.

Good Life Brewing

We enjoyed a few of the beers at Good Life last year and decided to come back and revisit some beers. They have upgraded the taproom to a more service-forward model that featured fewer Good Life beers and more guest taps. I'm not sure if the decision to serve less house beer in the taproom was motivated by a desire to sell more beer to distribution (or a need to fulfill distributor orders) or attempting to improve sales through diversification. It looks as though a distillery is moving into the space as well--probably contracting wort production from Good Life--so that will be an interesting development. This trip we revisted the 29ers brown ale which is somewhere between an English and American brown ale and tried out G 2 imperial IRA collaboration with Terminal Gravity. We thought the G2 was a little thin and flat in malt flavor so we made a blend of 25% 29ers and 75% G2 and that made an excellent beer. I saw the waitress eyeballing us during our blending and she didn't seem to find it amusing.

Crux Fermentation Project

Crux has made good use out of the old ARCO transmission station they converted to a brewery and even if you don't like the beer the food made in the tiny kitchen in the corner is worth the trip to the Old Mill district. We revisted the Banished Freakcake oud bruin and hefeweissen but had a better time gulping down the black IPA American stout Let's Get Roasted and Banished wild golden sour ale collaboration with Crooked Stave. The golden sour ale was very interesting. When first served the flavor was somewhat muted with a cider-like taste. As it warmed the cider flavor mellowed into golden raisin and showed off more complexity with funk and oak. It's hard to say I've seen a beer change so much over the course of warming. I realized all of the beers at Crux are served way, way too cold. You really need to order a beer and give it a good 10-15 minutes to warm up to really enjoy it.

Boneyard Brewing

Boneyard makes interesting use of the taproom which only serves samples (or a flight of samples) or fills growlers to go. No pints are served and no bottles are sold. Growler fills are reasonable, particularly considering they are draft only and growlers are the only way to get their beer without drinking at a bar. Boneyard is best known for their hoppy offerings although they are no slouches to other styles such as their Backbone chocolate espresso stout or their habanero-infused rojo beers. We put down a full growler of Armored Fist imperial black IPA and a growler of Notorious triple IPA. There is good debate whether Notorious is better than Pliny the Elder at its own game and I tend to agree. There, I said it.

Deschutes Bend Pub

The Bend pub is Deschutes' original location where the pub continues to brew mostly pub exclusives including one of the original Deschutes beers, Bachelor Bitter, which can only be found at the Bend pub. The Bend pub produces an interesting line of beers in addition to offering the standard line up, including Bad Attitude baltic porter, Ranch House saison and a smattering of IPAs with new hops like Clemintina IPA with clemintina hops. The Bend pub also features cask ales and I sucked down a couple Bachelor Bitters on cask that were really pleasant. I also enjoyed Chucklehead, a berliner weisse with spruce tips, fir tips and juniper berries. It was nicely balanced and tasted a lot like my hike along the Deschutes River smelled. I also developed a solid half and half with Obsidian stout on nitro and Inversion IPA. All the roast of Obsidian with the herbal, woodsy hop character of Inversion.

One thing I find wise about Deschutes is that they interrelate some of their bigger beer offerings with their staples, for example, Mirror Mirror barleywine is based on Mirror Pond Pale Ale. It allows the brewers to work with the ingredients and flavors already known in the beers they brew every day and makes cross-selling the bigger beers easier for people who are already familiar with the core line up. This is true for Jubel 2015, recently released, which takes the winter ale Jubelale to greater proportions into a 10% ale with intense caramel, raisin, fig and spiciness that is reminiscent of Jubelale but also doesn't feel like it's just a scaled up version.

Following this same vein, Deschutes also releases bigger beers that are pub exclusives, brewed at the pubs and generally only available for sale at the pubs. This includes current release (with dwindling supply) The Specialist that takes Bachelor Bitter to barleywine status (imperial bitter, according to Deschutes) and then aged in a combination of bourbon, pinot and sherry barrels. It is wonderfully malty with a clear barrel influence. The pinot barrel is the loudest but the bourbon is in there adding caramelly sweetness and the sherry is rounding out the fruit flavors in the beer. I've seen reviews come down on this beer that it isn't terribly impressive but I think those reviews are wrong and will be absurdly wrong after a year or two of aging.

I'll put up a third post on this trip with some brewing info gleamed from the Deschutes production facility and my glorious trip to Ale Apothecary.


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