By Jon Abernathy
For the Oregon Beer Growler
This past November Deschutes Brewery unveiled its latest project: a new 2.4-hectoliter (approximately 2-barrel) pilot brewery, tucked into a space next door to the tasting room at the production facility in Bend. The system, a state-of-the-art, fully automated brewhouse manufactured by Esau & Hueber, of Germany, came online in May.
Diminutive by production standards — the imposing conical bottoms of the brewery’s ten 1,300-barrel fermenters loom overhead — the pilot brewery, nevertheless, is more advanced than many other similarly sized systems.
It features two kettles and whirlpools, and allows for splitting a batch of wort into two for boiling in order to compare different varieties of hops in an otherwise-identical recipe, for example. In addition, there are 12 single (2.4-hectoliter) fermenters, one double fermenter and six brite tanks.
The software that runs the system is the same that runs the main 150-barrel production brewhouse, so it’s well-suited for training brewers. And the automation reduces the amount of hands-on tinkering with a batch, as well as allowing for precise fermentation temperature control.
Deschutes spared no expense in developing the pilot brewery, according to R&D brewmaster Veronica Vega. “I'm proud to work for a company that invests this much on research,” she said.
Assistant brewmaster Chris Dent oversees operations on the pilot system. By the year’s end he estimated that they had brewed 40 batches on it, and they are brewing four times a week.
The experience has been a valuable learning opportunity. Asked about surprising or unexpected results with test batches: “I’m always amazed by the influence of vessel geometry and design on flavor impact,” Dent said. “We’ve started splitting brews into the two kettles and it’s really driven the impact of system variances home. Even very slight differences in the vessels are creating differences in the brews that we have to account for in our trial design.”
Deschutes has long used its brewpubs in downtown Bend and Portland as pilot breweries to develop recipes and test batches of beer with the drinking public. It makes sense: from a scale perspective, it’s cheaper and more efficient to trial a 10-barrel batch directly at the pub than a 50-plus barrel batch in production.
For instance, the brewery famously made 23 versions of a Cascadian dark ale between its two pubs before finalizing the recipe for Hop In The Dark. More recently, the original Hop Slice, introduced in 2016, went through eight to 10 recipe iterations before Deschutes settled on the final beer.
The pilot brewery, however, won’t just be used for recipe development; there’s a real opportunity for researching technique and the relationship among ingredients. An upcoming project designed by Vega will examine yeast and hops.
“Studies such as this one give us the knowledge as brewers to expand the horizon of what’s possible in beer from a flavor and aroma perspective,” said Dent, “and really pairs well with a lot of the more analytical research on the interaction of yeast with hops that’s being done in the industry.”
Vega has several projects she’s excited about for the pilot system: “Continued native yeast experimentation, hop aroma impact due to yeast selection and continued flavor trials in American sour beers.”
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Several of Central Oregon’s newer breweries are opening tasting rooms to showcase their beer.
The most recent one to start serving the public is The Vault Taphouse and Kobold Tasting Room, which began operating in downtown Redmond in July. Steve Anderson, founder and head brewer, designed the renovation of a decades-old building and adjacent open space into a pub and beer garden.
“In the 1930s and 1940s, all these old buildings had their own vaults,” said Anderson, “because people didn’t trust banks.” The vault in the taproom is now a walk-in cooler.
Anderson will continue to brew at his home in Bend on his original 2-barrel system, licensed in 2015. The Vault Taphouse will feature eight Kobold beers and 14 taps for other local offerings, including a cider and a couple nitro beers. The counters, tabletops and bar in the taproom were made from restored pine slabs from a cabin on Lake Cavanaugh in Washington that belonged to his wife’s grandfather. Acid-washed steel used as wainscoting adds to the rustic look. Inside and out, the business seats about 100. Westside Taco Co., an award-winning food cart founded in Los Angeles, has opened another in the beer garden space.
Chronologically, the next newest taproom is The Ale Apothecary in Bend, which opened in May. The unique, small-batch brewery — with its wild-fermented lagers aged in oak barrels — was launched in 2011 by former Deschutes brewer Paul Arney.
While the brewery itself is still on Paul and Staci Arney’s wooded property about 10 miles west of town, the need for more storage prompted they move into a small warehouse space in town near GoodLife Brewing. Even while creating room for barrels and bottled inventory, there was enough space left for a tasting room that’s run by Nora Smith and Kirsten Schopen. Both of their spouses, Jared Smith and Connor Currie, are involved in the brewing. “The idea for a tasting room was in the ether,” said Schopen.
Four vertical sections of the old bay doors, now replaced with an efficient roll-up garage-style opening, separate the tasting and inventory areas. They added handcrafted wooden tables, barrel stave stools and beer barrel hanging lights. There’s also plenty of room for Arney to display his family pharmacy relics — three generations of pharmacists’ collections — which also inspired the name of his brewery.
The popular vintage beers are aged up to 18 months in barrels and a year in 750-milliliter bottles. Usually, the tasting menu includes three or four different samples at $6 a 4-ounce glass. Or, tasters can purchase a bottle to sample and take out. “About eight out of 10 customers buy a bottle,” Schopen said.
“We have one of the flagship beers for tasting — the Sahalie or La Tache — and we might have a new bottle release with a couple others. We like to mix it up for the locals,” she said. “Still, many of the people who come here and know about Ale Apothecary are visiting from someplace else.”
The Ale Apothecary is one of those breweries that becomes a destination worth seeking out due to word-of-mouth, whether that’s in person at a bottle share or via a podcast. There was little-to-no pre-marketing for the tasting room, just a sign on the door that faces an alleyway saying it was coming.
The Bridge 99 Brewery tasting room opened two-and-a-half years ago when founder Trever Hawman moved the brewery out of his house to the current industrial location in northeast Bend. Amazingly, all of the 18 beers on tap are Bridge 99 brews. Amazing because brewers Hawman, partner Rod Kramer and Richard Anthony still work on the original 2-barrel system. That will change early next year when a new 15-barrel brewhouse is installed.
“With that system, we will have the capability to do 8-barrel, 15-barrel and double batches,” said Hawman. The major expansion will double the total space from 3,500 square feet to 7,500 with additional storage and a bigger seating area in the tasting room.
Hawman and others make a wide variety of beers. “We don’t really have a flagship, but the IPAs are bestsellers,” he said. Also popular are the barrel-aged red and porter, both resting in Bendistillery Rye Whiskey barrel for three months. One of the more unique brews Bridge 99 offers is an Irish ale made from a 100-year-old family recipe that one of Hawman’s former carpentry clients brewed with his father. The beer calls for buckwheat honey from Ireland, a dark, nutty honey the Irish made when Britain cut them off from sugar. Hawman wanted to recreate the recipe as close to the original as possible and also uses European malt and Irish ale yeast.
Hawman handles all sales and distribution to 40 or so accounts. “Our growth has been organic and steady. Word-of-mouth is our primary marketing,” he said. “We’re looking to expand into Portland and maybe Washington.”
And in case you were wondering, the brewery is named after a Forest Service bridge over the Metolius River.
The Vault Taphouse/Kobold Tasting Room
245 SW Sixth St., Redmond
The Ale Apothecary
30 SW Century Drive, Bend
Bridge 99 Brewery
63063 Layton Ave., Bend
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The harvest this year at Mecca Grade Estate Malt was more about the future than the present.
After harvesting a full 300 acres of Full Pint barley and overproducing in 2016 to fill up its storage, the farm and malthouse outside of Madras grew by just 40 acres this year.
But in that same field were 30 different selections for The Next Pint Project, a partnership with Oregon State University for breeding a new variety of barley that will eventually be used by Mecca Grade. (The Full Pint variety was also bred by OSU.)
It was the second of a three-year program. Last year, there were 130 crosses planted at the farm, whittled down to 30 this season based on a variety of factors, eliminating strains that didn’t work out.
After this year’s harvest, the field is down to eight, with the goal of selecting one variety that the farm will produce moving forward, according to co-founder Seth Klann.
“The selection criteria will be based on finished beer for that variety,” said Klann. “We’re looking for something bred exclusively for our conditions in Central Oregon, our irrigation, and hopefully we find some sort of unique flavor, because that’s what it’s all about.”
Barley is often an afterthought for breweries, but Mecca Grade — which raises its own barley and also malts it on the premises — is trying to change that. Most malt for brewing in North America comes from a few large producers. But by farming its own unique barley and malting it, the business is creating a niche for itself in the craft brew industry.
“Because we’re an estate malt house, people ask us ‘Well does all your stuff come from your own farm?’ And I answer ‘Yes,’” said Klann, who runs the farm with his father. “And I think it surprises a lot of people, because even other craft malt houses are having to source from all over the place.
“So everything comes off of our own family farm. And I know that it limits production, but on the other hand the only people that are invested in it are me and my dad,” Klann continued. “We’re not set up to have explosive growth and become this huge thing, and I know the brewers we work with don’t want that either. So as long as we can keep things slow and steady and putting out really rare reserved malt, that’s what we are going to do.”
The list of brewers and beers using Mecca Grade’s malts is constantly growing. (You can see a full lineup on the website.) The Ale Apothecary in Bend now makes all its beer with Mecca Grade malt. Yachats Brewing on the coast uses it for about 95 percent of its beer, according to Klann.
This fall, you’ll see beers using this year’s harvest at Hood River’s pFriem Family Brewers and Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, Klann said. Deschutes Brewery, which has produced several beers using Mecca Grade’s product, has another beer in the making that will feature the farm’s crop.
“We’re going through the process of getting all of our barley certified Salmon-Safe, and that’s been big for Deschutes, and it’s been big for Crux [Fermentation Project],” Klann said.
But Oregon craft breweries are not the only destination for Mecca Grade’s malt. About half of it goes to California; its pilsner-style malts are being used in hazy IPAs.
“Our malt is definitely not cheap, and I think in Oregon the price is going up, but it kind of prohibits people from experimenting with better and more local ingredients,” Klann said. “But down there the price has already gone up, so people are just kind of chasing after the next secret ingredient for making better beer.”
Beer makers as far away as Allagash Brewing Company in Maine have also used Mecca Grade.
If you’re looking for Mecca Grade malt for your homebrew, you can find it at retailers in Portland (F.H. Steinbart Co.), Bend (The Brew Shop) and Corvallis (Corvallis Brewing Supply).
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Roger Worthington, owner of Bend’s Worthy Brewing, seamlessly blends his interest in art, space, science, brewing, renewable growth and more with the newest addition to his business — a 50-foot tall observatory.
Named the Hopservatory, it’s on the southwest end of the ever-expanding pub. The Worthy Garden Club, showcasing hops and barley onsite, has partnered with Grant Tandy from the Sunriver Observatory to offer public tours. The addition features a 16-inch reflecting telescope and a smaller refractory one.
“The goal is to raise scientific literacy and educate visitors about big and unwieldy concepts like space, size, time, distance and speed in our solar system and beyond,” according to Worthy’s website.
“Our Garden Club marries heaven and earth,” said Worthington. “Our mission is to promote planet earth.” He hopes to give visitors a new perspective on the cosmos and a new appreciation for our home. “It’s ridiculous to think that we can populate another planet ... it’s not a good use of our resources.
“I reach 1,200-1,400 people a day here in the summer,” said Worthington. “Why not have them look up — look through a telescope at the sky — have them view the stars and planets and suns and moons and all the magic up there and get some perspective on our home here?”
Currently, tours are offered at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays. Online reservations are recommended since space is limited to 20 people. The $5 fee goes to Worthy Garden Club’s education programs. Observatory manager Tandy is on hand for open viewings without registration 9-11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Scheduled tours begin in the appropriately named Transporter Room, situated between the Beermuda Triangle bar and the Hop Mahal banquet room. This space features mosaic tiles on the floor depicting celestial wonders, and the colorful curved walls of Venetian plaster represent the center of the Earth rising to the stars. Several TV monitors play educational videos about astronomy.
From here, a guide leads visitors up the adjacent spiral staircase that winds around the observatory that will eventually be covered with hops. On the second floor, guests pass the new Star Bar, which opened June 6 for customers 21 and older.
The next stop is the control room: a dark, quiet, cool area that feels like a library. Here guests watch a video by Jerry Niehuser from the Sunriver Observatory that helps put the light year distance from Earth to assorted planets in a relatable context. Niehuser talks about how long it would take an email to get to us here from Mars and other planets, which would be as long as 500 years in some cases.
After another hike up the spiral staircase, the guide opens the door to the dome and telescopes. On the night I went, two students at Central Oregon Community College led the session, showing us a star cluster, Saturn and a nebulae. After everyone had a turn looking through the telescopes, the group went outside to view constellations. Despite some surrounding light from nearby buildings and a light cloud cover, we clearly spotted several with the aid of the guides.
“We’re able to see things here that you can’t at Sunriver, even though they have more telescopes and more powerful ones,” said Worthington.
The Hopservatory is also available for private tours and as an add-on for large parties. If they sky is overcast on your scheduled date, the Worthy Garden Club offers “cloudchecks” to be used on a better viewing night. Ultimately, Worthington hopes people will come not only for a beer, but also for enlightenment.
“We’re all in this Earth lifeboat together. We can choose to work together and fix it,” said Worthington.
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The totality of August’s full solar eclipse is just going to miss the craft beer mecca of Bend.
But if you want to watch the rare event take place for yourself and then enjoy a tasty Oregon brew, it’s just a short jaunt to the north to Madras, Redmond or Sisters, which all lie in the totality’s path Monday, Aug. 21.
The biggest planned event in Central Oregon is the Oregon Solarfest in Madras. The small High Desert town is almost directly in the center of the eclipse’s route, giving viewers the longest possible glimpse.
The meat of the event is camping, live music and a surrounding festival with activities galore. Four Bend breweries are sponsors: Crux Fermentation Project, Deschutes Brewery, Silver Moon Brewing and Worthy Brewing Company. A beer garden is planned, but the lineup of brews you can try is not yet available. However, Wild Ride is working with Cascade Lakes and Silver Moon on a collaboration for the festival, appropriately named “Wild Cascade Moon.” For more info and tickets: oregonsolarfest.com.
Since the full eclipse will fall somewhere between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. in Central Oregon, most breweries and pubs won’t yet be open. But you can watch the sky show and talk it over during lunch with a beer right after — provided you can get anywhere in traffic.
There are no breweries in Madras regularly open to the public; for that, you’d have to travel south to Redmond. That’s the home of Wild Ride Brewing, Smith Rock Brewing Company and Cascade Lakes Brewing Company (served at 7th Street Brew House.)
The weekend before the eclipse is the first-ever Redmond Brewfest. The event at American Legion Park touts 300 different beers from more than 75 breweries. It takes place Friday and Saturday, Aug. 18-19. Live music, including Larry and His Flask, is featured.
If you want a prime view of the eclipse, Madras is the spot to be. The sky will go dark there for about two minutes. In Redmond, the event will last less than 40 seconds.
Be warned if you head to the area though: A lot of other people have the same plan. According to The Bulletin, the number of people in the region is expected to be double the norm. Law enforcement is preparing to deal with the surge, but area roads — particularly Highway 97 — may have a difficult time accommodating all the traffic.
If you’re just into the beer and not as much the eclipse, the safer bet is the annual Bend Brewfest, which takes place a week and a half earlier, Thursday Aug. 10 through Saturday, Aug. 12. Organizers moved it up a week from its usual dates because of the eclipse.
Want to get a view of the eclipse while also enjoying a craft beer in another part of Oregon? You’re in luck.
· BREWVANA is hosting tour that begins at the Oregon State Fairgrounds for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s Solar Eclipse Viewing Party. Then it’s off to Vagabond Brewing for lunch followed by a tour of Crosby Hop Farm.
· Albany, Salem and Corvallis in Willamette Valley are in the path of the eclipse and have several breweries.
· The chance of clouds is higher on the Oregon Coast, but there are breweries in the path of the totality in Depoe Bay, Lincoln City, Newport and Pacific City.
· Baker City and Ontario also boast breweries that will be the last in Oregon to experience the eclipse before the event continues east into Idaho.
· Be sure to call ahead to make sure the brewery you want to visit is open.
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