Bend Brewing Company – Bend, Oregon

My wife and I were in Bend this past weekend for some hiking and adventure.  We don’t make it to Bend very often, so part of that adventure was to find a brewery to visit.  In this case we were looking for one that also served food.  There’s a couple great places in town like Boneyard that have a tap room but no food.  Not knowing the area that well we figured we’d save for later the adventure of finding a local cart, cafe, take out place etc, to grab food at and then take it to a place like Boneyard.

We ended up not actually eating at Bend Brewing, since we had had some heavy snacks at the McMenamin’s Old St Francis school while we were there completing our McMenamins passports, but we still stopped in to try the beer.  We decided to split their taster tray, so we could try everything.  The BBC taster is 10 5oz pours which includes everything they have on draft at the moment.  5 of them are standards and 5 of them are rotating seasonals.  The tray is a little pricy at 18$, however once you realize that 50 ounces is the equivalent of slightly more than 3 pints, it’s well worth it.  The five standard brews we had were the High Desert Hefeweizen, Metolius Golden Ale, Elk Lake India Pale Ale, Outback Old Ale and Pinnacle Porter.  The Hefe is an American style, so it doesn’t have the spicy, fruity notes of the German style, but still was a good wheat beer. The IPA was really incredible with a good mix of piney and citrusy hops.  I like the pine but it can be overpowering, and I love the citrus hops, so this was a great balance.  I can see why it’s their most popular beer.  The other beers were also good, if not remarkable.

The five seasonal brews on the tray were the Outback X Strong Ale (a riff on the Outback Old Ale), Big Bad Russian Imperial Stout, Baltic Porter, Eclipse CDA, and Ludwig German Pilsner.  The RIS and the Baltic are both pretty similar, strong notes of dark dried fruit and full of alcohol, clocking in at 10% and 10.5% respectively. The Outback Strong was similar to the old ale, but a brighter flavor and more upfront.  The CDA was pretty good, dark roast with piney hops and the German Pilsner was nice and clean with a little bit of fruitiness, mostly apple.

The interesting thing once we got there was I was shocked I’d never heard of them.  They brew some really great, award winning beer.  And not just local festivals, they have a wall full of awards from the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup.  With so many breweries in this state, it’s impossible to keep track of them all, but I was surprised to have not at least heard of such a prestigious brewery.  It’s tucked away on a corner in downtown Bend, but it’s well worth finding! The taproom over looks the Deschutes river and also Mirror Pond.  (A couple of names that should be familiar to fans of one of the larger Oregon breweries, who also calls Bend home).

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Saison Reviews

I had recently grabbed a couple of bottles of beer at local bottle shops and realized I was collecting Saisons, which is a style I really enjoy.  I ended up drinking them on consecutive nights, so this is what I think about them.

Saison d’Etra – Mazama Brewing (Corvallis, OR) – 6.3% ABV, 25 IBU

This beer pours a nice golden color with a nice thick white head.  As I drank it it had a great characteristic Belgian lace in the glass.  The aroma of this beer just jumps out at you, especially the peppercorns.  The flavor has the nice saison yeast characteristics, as well as a nice floral/herbal note from coriander and a caramel/cotton candy like sweetness.  This beer has a LOT going on.  Really, really enjoyable. With the addition of the orange peel, coriander and peppercorns it really straddles the line between a saison and a Belgian wit, but very well made.

Rank – 4.5 (of 5) stars: Really incredible, one of the best Saisons I’ve had.

Three Eyed Raven (GoT) – Ommegang Brewing (NY) – 7.2% ABV, IBU Not Listed

This beer bills itself as a “Dark Saison” and it pours a deep brown with a nice reddish tone to it.  This beer was extremely foamy with a thick off-white head.  It’s in a cork finished bottle, and likely bottle fermented, so be careful to not pour it too vigorously. The beer as a nice spicy aroma as would be expected for a saison.  The flavor is nice and clean, with the good Belgian characteristic.   Not sweet like the Mazama but still enjoyable.  I’ll be honest that I bought this beer mostly for the bottle and the label, but it’s actually quite good.  A nice well made saison.

Rank – 4.0 (of 5) stars: Good and drinkable.  Great bottle is a bonus.

Organic Belgian-Style Saison – Hopworks Urban Brewing (Portland) – 6.6% ABV, 18 IBU

This beer pours a light straw yellow with a thick white head.  The aroma has a little bit of spice, and a little bit of Brett-like farmyard.  The flavor has a good spice to it and a little bit of sourness.  The mouthfeel is a little thin, and while the beer is not “bad” it just seems to be missing something.  Not a lot going on in the flavor department, which I would expect for a Belgian.  It does say “Belgian-style” so perhaps it’s not intended to be perfectly “to style”.  Enjoyable but just not world changing.

Rank – 3.0 (of 5) stars: Good, just not great.  Missing some intangibles.

Traveling Yeti meets Thirsty Sasquatch

Well, this was destined to happen.  They opened a place called the Thirsty Sasquatch and I had to go there and see what it was all about.  The Thirsty Sasquatch opened a couple of weeks ago North of the river in Vancouver.  Vancouver is starting to be influenced by Portland, especially in the areas of microbrewing and microdistilling, but still has a feel of it’s own.  The ‘Squatch is a taproom and taproom only.  They serve beer and hard liquor with a focus on whiskey.  They don’t serve food, but they encourage patrons to BYO and also have menus to a few local places that will deliver, including a Mexican restaurant that’s right next door.

Inside, it’s a little bit smaller than I was expecting, just a handful of tables, and it was mobbed when we showed up (not that that’s a bad thing).  We managed to snag a spot at the bar which was fashioned from a slab off a log with knots and stumps and all.  We both ordered a beer flight to try several things.  They offer pints, smaller pours, and the flight samples of the beers and full shots (1.75oz) and a “flight” taste (0.75oz) of the whiskeys.  The beer flight was four samples, and the whiskey flights according to the menu are “usually” four, but you can mix and match as you like, including just getting one, which we did.  You can find the taplist here. Nearly all the beers are from Oregon or Washington, with a couple currently from Epic in Utah and a couple from AleSmith and Alpine Beer in San Diego, CA.  The list changes often so be sure to check before you go.

The staff behind the bar is very friendly, with lots of suggestions including pairing of some of the beers and whiskeys.  We got a small pour of beer and a half pour of one of the whiskeys to give it a try and they paired together quite well.

Overall, it was a good experience and probably somewhere we’ll return to.  One of the newest taprooms in the area and it seems to be doing really well so far.