Namaste For A Beer: A Beercation To Beervana Pt. 5
Portland, Oregon, known to many beer geeks simply as “Beervana” A journey to this beer-centric city has been on my beer bucket list for years. This summer’s beercation blog series, “Namaste For A Beer,” is all about learning about the craft beer culture that has been alive and well in Oregon for decades. My travels will lead me on a pilgrimage of sorts to Portland, the craft beer crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest. My beercation purpose is threefold: to meet great people, drink great beer, and understand what the Oregon craft beer culture is all about. For this purpose, my route will lead me through Tillamook, Newport, Corvallis, Eugene, Bend, Hood River, and finally, Portland.
Bend Day 2
Last night’s arrival in Bend showed me the best & worst of what I would see in this fabled beer town. As I talk with people, I learn that Worthy Brewing isn’t really a homegrown Bend brewery. A dude who won a class-action lawsuit from California started Worthy and there is a ton of money behind it. That makes sense and makes me happy that Worthy is not the norm in Bend.
Today will hopefully give me a better understanding of what the Bend beer scene really is. I am hoping for more of an organic and authentic and less of a Chili’s feel. I think the feel and quality of Crux Fermentation Project will be more of what I will find in Bend. The itinerary for today is ambitious, I have my sights set on 5 stops. But first, I need some coffee. I decide on a little place that happens to be located on Minnesota Ave. called Thump Coffee.
Thump is a neat little place and the coffee is strong. I sit at the bar seating that faces out on the street to watch the busy morning unfold before me. Lots of passersby heading to their various destinations. Bend has a fun energy to it and it seems like the people of this town are perpetually happy. It is either the coffee, beer, or the weather, and I am hoping to enjoy all three today. I am caffeinated and ready to continue the beercation.
My first stop of the day is a quick one. As I discover when I arrive, Boneyard Brewery only does sample pours at their brewery. I find out that in a few days, they are opening and brewpub location where one can order a full pint if they want. I am a little disappointed, but also happy that I still get to try what they have.
As I taste their pilsner, IPAs, and pale ale. I am sad that I cannot stay for a whole pint. Their beers are sensational. The pilsner is crisp, clean, and enjoyable. The 3 IPAs I have are the Eeepa, Hop-A-Wheelie, and the RPM. If there is a place where you could spend all day drinking IPAs, Boneyard is it. They showcase hops with nuance and balance. Of the 5 beers I sample, the Incredible Pulp Pale Ale is my favorite, by far. It has so many juicy and tropical fruit notes in it and then a nice modicum of bitterness in the finish to round out the taste. I have to say that if more breweries in MN brewed pale ales like this, I would be a bigger fan of the style.
The two dudes working the taproom are extremely helpful in giving me suggestions of what else to enjoy in Bend. I note their suggestions and continue sampling. There is definitely a biker bar vibe of this place. Lots of skulls adorn the place and their branding is edgy and recognizable. Since I can’t have a full pour, I say goodbye and head on to the next stop.
Deschutes Brewing Company
A delicious pint of Black Butte Porter put Deschutes Brewing Company on my radar many years ago. Deschutes is a big reason why people flock to Bend for beercations. I had to see the place where craft beer started for Bend with my own eyes. The footprint of Deschutes expands farther than the original place that the brewery was built. It boasts a state-of-the-art pilot system that specially designed for them. They have storage in a warehouse across the street and now have a secondary brewery on the East Coast to make sure everyone can get their beer as fresh as possible.
I always like to get the beer where it started and that is why I am here. I know that there are many other pub locations that Deschutes has in Bend and Portland. Because of the timing and itinerary of the day, I am foregoing the tour. I pop into the tasting room and order up some beers that are taproom only exclusives. The tasting room features a lot of seating for those waiting for their tour and a bevy of excellent Deschutes merchandise.
I went with a combo of familiar and new tasters to wet my whistle. Of my favorites, I think that the Pacific Wonderland Lager is up there for its crisp and clean nature. The breadth of lagers I have enjoyed so far on my trip is evidence of a resurgence of this simple yet majestic style. The Pacific Wonderland is proof that Deschutes brews world-class beer. On the other end of the spectrum, the Obsidian Stout on Nitro is a decadent dash of brilliance. Smooth and roasty, it is the perfect way to cap off my taster tray.
Other beers of note that are new to me are the Dubbel Thumbs Up, a Belgian beer that has great raisin and caramel flavors, but needed more of a dry finish at the end to really impress me. The Cosmic Pils is along the same line as the Pacific Wonderland in its body and character. The Cosmic Pils has a cracker malt flavor that I enjoy. The Black Raspberry Sour Ale is a delicious blend of sweet and tart from the berries used. I like that if drinks very refreshing and would be something I would order again.
I am happy to check Deschutes off my beer bucket list. To see the quality and variety of beers that they brew after so many years is inspiring. I can see why they have stood the test of time and trends in craft beer. I suggest adding Deschutes to your beercation bucket list because you will be impressed with the new beers they brew.
The Ale Apothecary
In order to make up for the fact that I missed De Garde Brewing, I am hitting The Ale Apothecary. The description of the brewery intrigues me because they do all spontaneously fermented beer. Their beers age in barrels for a minimum of a year. They are bottle conditioned for 6 months using local Oregon honey as priming sugar. The tasting room has a unique and inviting feel.
I assume that the welcoming nature of the taproom has much to do with Norah and Kirsten, who expertly explain the beers they are pouring. The beers are poured out of bottles and it is quite a treat! I start out with the OJ Dan cask, a farmhouse ale with a ton of freshly squeezed orange juice notes. The OJ Dan is an artistic amalgamation of tart, acidic, and sweet flavors that blend superbly to make this an outstanding beer. It almost seems silly to start with a beer that is as close to perfection as it gets for me, but I guess I will continue drinking their other offerings.
The El Cuatro is next for me. El Cuatro is a maltier beer that is aged in a brandy barrel. What makes a beer like this enjoyable to me is that the bugs in the beer make it a challenge to pick out the sweetness from the brandy barrel and the dark fruit and caramel from the malt. I love a beer that makes you think and challenges the palate. This beer is my second favorite because of all the different things it has going on in it.
The third beer I try is Bizzaro La Tache, a funky and hoppy sensation. By now, I am starting to really not feel so bad about not getting to DeGarde because I feel like I am having a wonderful experience in Bend. As I am sipping away, I notice a couple of guys that were at Crux last night. We say hello and I assumed that one of them is from Milwaukee, WI, because he has a very specific Brewers shirt on. We get to talking and they are also on a beer trip down to California. We compare notes on places to go in Bend and our lists are practically identical.
They head off to their next stop and just on cue, the owner and brewer, Paul Arney stops over to ask how I am liking the beers. I try not to sound too nutty, but I am so impressed by the depth and complexity of each one. He asks if I want to take a look in the back and see all the barrels, so I grab my camera and try not to skip. There is row after row of barrels that are resting peacefully and doing their thing. Paul tends to these wooden vessels as a shepherd tends to their flock. There is no set timetable for the beers to be ready. The beer decides when it is ready. No doubt, this is why the vintages from The Ale Apothecary feverishly sought after.
After the tour, settle up my tab and say goodbye. My visit to The Ale Apothecary echoes closely my visit to Funkwerks back in 2015. Because of the attention to detail and passion behind spontaneous fermentation, The Ale Apothecary is in the same class as the GABF gold medal-winning Funkwerks. I enjoyed my stay, but it is time to walk around the building and see what GoodLife Brewing is all about.
Almost every beer geek I consulted for my trip said that GoodLife Brewing Company is a stop I need to make. GoodLife’s beer list spans the style wheel from low octane lager to barrel aged stout. I go for some middle of the road ABV tasters. What sticks out to me right away is that this is a place I would hang out if I lived in Bend. The staff is welcoming, engaging, and funny. The beers are all well-made and flavorful. Once I get into the pretzel, I realize that I would enjoy anything on the food menu, as well.
Six tasters in total and I can honestly say I would order a full pour of every single one if I had more time and a spare liver. My favorites are the Helles, the Zwickel Bier, and the Sweet As! Pacific Ale. The Helles and Zwickel Bier each have a crispness that only makes you yearn for more. The malt is of a bready character, with a touch of honey in the Helles while the Zwickel Bier almost has a light citrus kiss to it.
The Sweet As! Pacific Ale is refreshing and I can see how it won a GABF Gold Medal in 2017. It is balanced and refreshing with a perfect hoppy finish that is pleasing to my palate. Just when I think I am done the server pours me a little taste of their 7th-anniversary barrel aged stout. What a way to finish off a brewery visit! Dark, velvety, and decadent, this beer is a delight. Almost like a wonderful dessert after a good meal, it has roasted malt, dark chocolate, and bourbon.
Sitting at the bar and watching lots of people come in and order beer and food, the staff doesn’t miss a beat. They are joking around with each other and that provides a fun and relaxed vibe. I also notice a handful of industry people stopping in; a sure sign of a quality brewery. It is time for me to get a little closer to home, however, and I settle up and set a course for me last stop of the day.
Bend Brewing Company
I end my day with a proper meal and a few more tastes of Bend. Because of its proximity to my Airbnb and beautiful spot on the river, Bend Brewing Company is my final destination for the day. I order up a round of fish and chips and a taster tray. I am going to be honest, after 4 breweries, my palate is more than just a bit fatigued. I am hoping the breeze and peaceful passing of the ripples on the water will invigorate me.
I can see how Bend Brewing Company has stood the test of time as the second-oldest brewpub in Bend. Their beers are good and the food is equally enjoyable. The fish and chips are crispy and flaky served with a bright and flavorful coleslaw. Out of the five beers in my taster, the Tropic Pines IPA is the clear favorite. This IPA is balanced with tropical flavors of pineapple, grapefruit, and orange flesh. It finishes with a decent hop bite which I have come to love out here on the West Coast. My second favorite is the Big Bad Russian, a 10.5% Russian Imperial Stout. Although I guess where I am at in the day it is more of a Relaxin Imperial Stout. Thank you and don’t forget to try the veal. Such big roasty flavors in a smooth and velvety body make it a great way to relax and sip my way into the night.
Lots of energy here. The server is fantastic and constantly checking in on me. There are kids playing bags in the grassy area that leads down to the water. So many families here enjoying the sunshine that is slowly retreating to recharge for tomorrow. There is also a myriad of dogs on the patio. Not only do you have to be wary about getting a decent beer buzz, but you might get your leg humped by one of the 4-legged visitors.
In my state of euphoria, I realize that I am relaxed. The pace of travel is slowing down and I am able to literally soak in all the wonderment that a beercation provides. Despite my palate fatigue, my soul recharges with every sound of laughter and merriment of those around me. I am thankful that tomorrow is another full day here in Bend to adventure and explore. Today’s brewery stops have shown why Bend is a revered beer destination for so many.