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.
Kevin Stewart keeps an eye on his latest creation
Photo by Branden Andersen
By Branden Andersen
Hidden away in a residential district off of Redmond’s main street, Smith Rock Brewing is not on Central Oregon’s brewing grid. For now, that’s the way co-owner and co-founder Kevin Stewart likes it.
“We’re just a neighborhood place,” Stewart said. “As long as our customers are happy, we’re happy.”
Smith Rock Brewing opened in November 2012 with a homebrew kit in a house-turned-restaurant. Located 3.5 miles from its namesake, the half- barrel brewery currently only brews enough to keep a couple of its beers on tap, but, an expansion is under way. Stewart is upgrading to a 3-barrel system, with hopes of one day distributing.
“If you look at what we’re doing, we’re not built to be huge,” Stewart said. “We’re on the north end of Redmond, and we’re way lower key. We’re not trying to compete with Cascade Lakes.”
Stewart met his wife, Danielle, in Southern California, where they both worked in the restaurant industry. Kevin, a restaurant equipment manager at the time, said both Stewarts knew they wanted to run their own restaurant one day.
Around five years ago, the Stewarts, along with Danielle’s brother and his girlfriend, weren’t finding beers that matched their palates, so they started homebrewing with beer-making kits. Kevin built a system fit for 22-gallon pots, giving them the capacity to brew enough for two couples that love beer.
Soon, word got out about the Stewart’s beer, and the possibility of opening a place became a reality.
“Friends will tell you they love your beer,” Stewart said. “But the question is, will they pay four dollars a pint for it?”
It turns out the Stewarts felt comfortable enough answering that question to open their own brewpub. They settled on a location in residential Redmond, in a space that was formerly an Italian restaurant. Stewart reinterpreted the previous decor and gave it a stucco-filled southwest feel, accentuating the outdoors focus and national park-themed wall hangings.
Stewart said the experience has been exciting, but not always easy. Danielle’s brother and his girlfriend, who once worked at the brewpub, are no longer actively involved.
“It requires long hours, no pay, and a generally tough life,” Stewart said about owning and operating a restaurant and brewery. “We absolutely don’t blame them.”
Stewart tries to keep at least two Smith Rock beers on tap, which can vary depending on the season and what Stewart wants to try brewing. Their loosely-defined year-round offerings consist of 8am Pale Ale, a smooth easy drinker; and Morning Glory IPA, brewed with an eye on Boneyard’s RPM IPA, with Centennial, Cascade, Citra, Sterling and Magnum hops. The brewery has also produced beers ranging from a cream ale to a Cascadian Dark Ale.
Going forward, Stewart said he’s excited about the expansion and the prospect of putting out more beers. The idea is to keep their consistent beers available, while trying more experimental styles and continuing to produce great food.
“We’re so small, we really can experiment with different styles and have fun with it without huge cost to us,” Stewart said.
“We came in at a good time,” Stewart said. “The beer industry is growing around us and we’re getting regulars from our area to keep coming back. It proves our theory: Provide good food and good beer, and people will know through word of mouth. We’re going to grow at a gradual pace, and we’re okay with that.”
Smith Rock Brewing
[a] 546 NW 7th St., Redmond
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