Sunday, August 28, 2011

Brew Tour: Bend, Oregon

On a recent visit to the beer rich city of Bend, Oregon, I had the pleasure of visiting and tasting beer from three (of eight) breweries. My interest in visiting (aside from the beer) was for the mountain biking (which is superb by the way) as well as the hiking, photographic opportunities, and the lovely weather ;]

Bend, Oregon is a mecca for beer lovers. In a city of just over 80,000 residents there is one brewery for every 9,000 people. The Bend Ale Trail as it's called, is comprised of eight breweries. During my two-day excursion, I was able to visit three of them.

Last time I passed through Bend was in 2004 and at that time I was not of drinking age. As Deschutes Brewery is one of my favorites I thought I'd make a three day roadtrip and make the six hour drive south from the Seattle area. Arriving into the city the first stop I made was to the Deschutes Brewery Public House. Monday nights are inherently packed as I found out, but I was able to sneak in to avoid a nearly hour long wait. I sat at an awkwardly shaped table off to the side of the bar, bought a taster and a burger and got down to business. On the list were plenty familiar names: Black Butte Porter, Obsidian Stout, Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Green Lakes Organic, Bachelor Bitter, as well as plenty of new names (I had been told they featured lots of new beers you can't find anywhere else except for at the Public House). Some of the unknown names: Horse Ridge IPA, Chainbreaker White IPA, Pilgrim IPA, Scooby's RYE.P.A, Twin Pillars Strong Ale, and Solace Rose. Over the course of two-days I would sample each one.

Notables include: the Chainbreaker White IPA, Horse Ridge IPA, The Stoic (Belgian-style Quadrupel), and Solace Rose. I enjoyed many others but these are the four that really stuck out to me. Hands down my favorite was the Solace Rose, in fact my last stop before heading home was for one last pour of this delicious and unique brew (the story behind it's production to come later).

Speaking with my server about the various brews, she informed me that Deschutes is looking to bottle the Chainbreaker White IPA (the other White IPA Deschutes had on tap was the collaboration beer done with Boulevard Brewing Company, named Conflux No. 2 (Boulevard's version is named Collaboration Number 2 and you can read about that beer here)). The Chainbreaker is what I would expect a White IPA to be. The light spicy body from the witbier base comes through and the hops dominate the finish. It's a perfect hybrid of the two styles, both are allowed to shine through and it is a very drinkable beer.

Horse Ridge IPA is a definite favorite. While there on my second day, it was the go-to beer for most guests entering the Public House. It's a well-hopped malty smooth brew. Despite the high IBU's, I didn't find it in-your-face hoppy. That deserved points in my book as any lover of American Pale Ale's could enjoy this one just as easily as any devoted hophead.

The Stoic is really something on an entirely different level. Highly complex, highly alcoholic, it packs a whopper of overlapping flavours; the layers definitely run deep in this one. To break this beer down, a Belgian Quadrupel is a beer that has been fermented four times. That is initial fermentation, secondary fermentation, tertiary fermentation and quaternary fermentation. Each successive fermentation will usually require the addition of more sugar and in some cases an extra dose of yeast. This is what allows these brews to achieve the high complexity and typical high strength (ranging from 9 - 13%). They typically feature low carbonation, heavy or syrupy bodies, notes of dark or dried fruits, and little or no head retention. They've been brewing these kinds of beers for hundreds of years in Belgium and the foundation can almost certainly be attributed to that of Belgian Monks who used to brew strong beers as a means to combat the effects of fasting (when beer was thought of as literally a meal in a glass). The other Belgian styles you may have seen, heard, or consumed are Dubbels and Tripels (literally twice fermented and triple fermented brews) but as far as strength and complexity is concerned, the Quad takes the cake. Deschutes has actually taken the complexity to the next level by adding Pomegranate and aging this beer in both Oregon Pinot Noir Barrels (wine barrels) and Rye Whiskey Barrels (origin unknown). Which undoubtedly lends additional depth to the already complex brew. Notes of red wine and whiskey present themselves near the finish and at 11% it is definitely a force to be reckoned with, and luckily for us, they have released this one in 22 oz bottles. Get it while it's hot!

The last selection I have decided to discuss is the Solace Rose. This one was my favorite for so many reasons. The first reason is because it is a Flemish Style Brown Ale (sour ale) and I love sour ales. Secondly because the story behind it is just phenomenal. The original beer for Solace Rose utilized Pale Malt (a bit of Crystal Malt was added for color) and the red tinted brew was aged in Oak Pinot Noir Barrels. To sour the beer the brewers used four different strains of Brettanomyces or "Brett". Brett is a yeast disliked in the wine industry but loved by the brewing industry because of its souring properties and its ability to "infect" the oak barrels winemakers like to age their wine in. The story continues as the brewers then blended all four beers together and the result was less than desirable, the beer was not very sour and contained far too much barnyard-like flavour and aroma. It lacked the sourness they were looking for and so enter the Black Weiss. The Black Weiss was a dark ale brewed with Weissbier yeasts. It was released to a not so enthusiastic crowd at the Public house in Bend, Oregon. Needless to say it was never a big seller. As the story goes there were some extra barrels of the Black Weiss left behind in the cellar and after 26 months, the beer had over-soured. Realizing that their original goal had not been achieved the brewers decided to blend the soured Black Weiss with the originally intended sour batch and voila the Solace Rose was born (it takes its name from Roeselare, one of the strains of Brett used in the original production). The original red hued brew changed into a more brownish colored brew and thus it was decided it did indeed fit the bill for a Flemish Style Brown Ale. I can only hope that perhaps they try and produce this again or consider regular production. I've been informed that the Deschutes Brewery sour beer program is just beginning to get its feet wet so be on the lookout for more things sour from Deschutes in the future. Has anyone else had the pleasure of sampling Solace Rose and thought it was amazing?

In any case, that was Deschutes Brewery. You can also take a free tour across the river at the Mountain Room and sample four of their beers! The next brewery I visited (just a mere 2 blocks west of Deschutes Public House on Newport Ave is Bend Brewing Co. To be honest, I went there because I heard that on Tuesday they serve pints for $2.75. I wound up sampling four of their brews. Their Old Ale was the solitary stand out. It's a style not often seen here in the US and reminded me of brews I'd seen and tasted in England. In all honesty I thought their Porter was standard issue. They had their Imperial IPA on tap as well: the Hophead, but after putting away half a pint, I couldn't help but feel something was amiss with the brew. The fourth beer I sampled was their Black Diamond Lager. Unfortunately I was not impressed by their incessant need to compare it to a Negra Modelo, and to complete the ensemble they serve it with a lime wedge. A Mexican style dark beer? My rationale being that if I wanted a beer that tasted like Negra Modelo, I might as well go buy myself some Negra Modelo. And I'm still not a fan of sticking fruit wedges on the sides of beer glasses, regardless of the style. The fact of the matter, it all comes down to personal opinion. While I rate Bend Brewing Co middle of the pack, someone else may rate it top of the pack.

The last brewery (sorry, no photos) I was fortunate enough to visit was Ten Barrel Brewing Company. When I visit a brewery, I usually like to sample several of their brews, perhaps even order a sampler, but I was extremely short on time and I was my own designated driver so I settled for sampling two. I am in no way saying this is an adequate review of the place and their beer but I can say that I thought the sandwich I ate for lunch was downright delicious. And their vanilla infused IPA I was fortunate to sample was just enough to keep me intrigued and wonder what else they had under the hood. I ended up taking a full pint of their S1nist0r Black Ale, which was exactly what I was craving at the time. Not full bodied, not light bodied, right in the middle, with just enough smooth roasty malts and tingly carbonation to keep me interested and my taste buds satisfied. It was a very drinkable Black Ale. And despite my trying only two of Ten Barrel's offerings I can say that I would definitely return and sample the rest of their brews.

In retrospect the city of Bend, Oregon will remain one of my favorite travel destinations. It is a mecca for beer lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. I may have only sampled brews from three of the eight breweries (I hear more are on the way) but there are many options and you are sure to find something that suits your tastes. Whether you arrive during the winter, summer, spring or autumn, Bend won't disappoint :]


FMROMERO said...

i am planning a short trip to south western Oregon coast. Can you recommend a couple of breweries?

Zach Hoyopatubbi said...

Well right off the bat I can recommend Rogue Ales Public House in Newport. If you're not going to be passing through Newport you should be, Rogue is definitely something you won't want to miss. The only other brewery I know of further south on the Oregon coast (correct me if I'm wrong) is Wakonda Brewing Company in Florence. I don't know much beyond that. Should you decide to head east after your tour of the coast you might find yourself in Medford and there you'll find Southern Oregon Brewing Co. Suppose that's all I have for you. Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

Great post! I'd love to see it featured on the Bend page on Dwellable. Please check out the blog section and/or email me [inna at dwellable dot com] if you're interested. Thanks!