Top 10 Bend Area Beers of 2022

I was asked to author my 10 favorite beers of the year for Bend Source Weekly. My first draft clocked in at 1,500 words because I gave a fair amount of thought (and background info) on each one. But my word count is a firm 700. After a couple rounds of edits, I got it down to 1,050 words, meaning I’d shed 350 but still had 350 to go. While those first 350 are now lost to the ether, I’m re/pre-printing the list here at the mid-way point just so folx could see I didn’t just write 60 words per phenomenal beer.

By my best guesstimate, each of Central Oregon’s 27 breweries released, on average, at least dozen beers in the past year, meaning we had no fewer than 350 local beers to choose from. I confess, nay, lament, I did not try them all. (That said, drinking a new beer each day in 2023 is quite a tempting challenge.) So take this list of my 10 favorite Central Oregon-brewed beers with a grain of salt (that’d be right at home in Spider City’s Kaffir Lime Sea Salt Gose or Cascade Lakes’ Salted Caramel Porter) 

  • Funky Fauna Artisan AlesThought I’d Something More to Say (Wild Saison). While saison is possibly the world’s most elegant beer style—it’s simultaneously rustic and cosmopolitan—the big tent style is woefully overlooked and under-represented among Central Oregon brewers. That was, until this Sisters-based brewery went all-in on them when it launched a year ago. Funky Fauna has released nearly 50 versions of “wild saisons,” meaning they’re fermented with a native cultivated and propagated yeast strain. Some of the beers feature colorful fruit, one even featured butterfly pea flowers that turned it a gorgeous shade of purple, but there’s no beating the delicate complexity of an oaked saison that conjures notes of wild grasses, tangy herbs, and the terroir of locally-grown and malted grains embodied in a beer like …More to Say. It’s only 4.5 percent alcohol yet packs a tremendous amount of flavor that, like many a saison, may be the ideal beverage to pair with gourmet or quotidian meals alike.
  • Deschutes BreweryExperimental 1320 (Fresh Hop IPA). Late summer hop harvest is arguably the best season for beer drinking. It’s not that every fresh hop beer is delicious, but therein lies the beauty and wonderment because they are difficult to hit the bull’s eye but when you do, they’re phantasmagorical. When Source Weekly contributors blind taste tested a slew from this year’s crop,  Deschutes Experimental 1320 struck my taste buds as smacking of fresh pineapple veering into POG (pineapple orange guava) territory with that tell-tale freshie finish like chewing on flower stems (in lieu/luau of a tiny parasol.
  • Spider City Brewing, Spicy Goat (Serrano-Pineapple IPA). Spider City’s line of hazy IPAs in its “deer” family and clear, West Coast IPAs in its “goat” family are solid hop-delivery vehicles. But Spicy Goat is also a capsicum delivery vehicle courtesy of serrano peppers. It’s spicy but not spiiiicy. To temper the heat, a sweet, juicy wave of piña, which brings out the tropical fruit note from the hops, conveys enough dank and juicy vibes as if swept up in the Pineapple Express current. Chili beers may be a tough sell but IPAs aren’t so this beer was a welcome way to bring the heat to a nice, cold beer.
  • Bevel BrewingBlack Ace (Cascadian Dark Ale). Every time I sit around thinking how much I miss Cascadian Dark Ales, locally dubbed CDA and colloquially dubbed Black IPA, I perk myself up with a trip to Bevel. Perk is an apt verb considering CDAs drink like an stout-IPA combo proffering espresso notes from dark roasted malts and piny notes from PNW hops. As Bend’s rare yet typically year-round CDA, Black Ace (7.6 percent) is par for the course.
  • Cascade Lakes BrewingResurgence (Gin-barrel-aged IPA). Gin barrels are difficult to come by for brewers (because most gins never see the inside of a barrel). Courtesy of Redmond’s gin-centric Gompers Distillery that produces an Old Tom (oaked gin), Cascade Lakes obtained an empty cask and, instead of filling it with a more expected sour ale or imperial stout, ameliorated Revival IPA by maturing it in an Old Tom barrel for seven months that playfully married the gin’s botanical top notes with Centennial and Idaho 7 hops’ resinous flavors for a fascinating result that would be equally welcomed by hop heads and G&T fanatics. 
  • 10 Barrel BrewingGindulgence (sour ale). At brewery behemoth 10 Barrel, the niche imprint TinyHaus serves as a creative output for brewmaster Tonya Cornett. This sour beer was imbued with peach, chamomile tea, and—most critically—gin botanicals (primarily juniper berries) to create a refreshingly complex, slightly sour ale that scratches the itch of a fruit beer, a hard kombucha, and a gin gimlet. 
  • Van Henion BrewingSchwarzbier (black lager). Before even turning one, Van Henion illustrates what a wide world of flavors—and colors—Germanic lagers encapsulate. Schwarzbier simply translates to black beer and this sub-five-percenter expertly pulls off boasting a light body while bursting with dry, astringent, dark roasted malts that lend burnt toast notes atop clean, noble hops. It’s a rare sipper that works well in brisk winter or on warm summer days.
  • Porter BrewingInfamous (Extra Special Bitter). The “bitter” family of ales have become endangered, but even its strongest member, ESB, is far less bitter than IPA. At 5.8 percent ABV and 39 IBU (International Bitterness Units), Porter’s Infamous ESB is a delectable platform for English malts and hops. Its malt sweetness and floral bitterness packs toffee bottom notes, woody, floral top notes, and comes wrapped in a warming—but not “warm” cask-conditioned ale.
  • Deschutes BreweryKanpai Crispy (Rice Lager). Forget the olden days when craft breweries shaded macros for using corn or rice in their lager grist; these adjuncts have gained traction among most breweries and perhaps never showcased better than in Japanese-style rice lagers. This 4.8 beer is dry, refreshing, and crushable AF. I dare say it’s the best beer for floating (and great for aprés ski or, if you’re one of those who can’t wait til you’re off the lift, during).
  • Crux Fermentation ProjectYaamco (spiced winter ale). While Crux’s Bochi Bochi vied for my vote as best rice lager, the fermentation project’s 6.7 percent Yaamco—it’s a yam beer brewed in a former Aamco station—ran away with my vote for best winter warmer. Picture a malty brown ale like Crux’s Dark Snap, then augment it with roasted yams (over a pound per barrel), orange peel, and the holy trinity of baking spices: cinnamon, ginger, and clove. Suck it, egg nog, winter has a new snowy sipper.

Covering Bend’s first new brewery in years for the Hell of it

New breweries usually means new IPA factories. Which, TBH, is part of the story of Bend’s Van Henion Brewing, the first new brewery in town since way back in 2019. But the real driver behind the new brewery (which is housed in an old brewery and founded by its old brewers) is that they’re focusing on German lagers like Munich-style Helles. What’s German for huzzah?

Dana and Mark Henion. Not pictured: John Van Duzer.

Funky Fauna is Central Oregon’s first new brewery in YEARS (well, two)

Many months ago, someone mentioned hearing about a new brewery in the works. I had no details other than it would be opening in Sisters, about a half hour outside of Bend, and that it was from someone who’d briefly worked at Spider City Brewing, which does a good job of brewing beer styles from around the world. Except, from what I’ve seen, Belgian saisons. So imagine my delight, as a devout saison lover who has precious little in the way of locally brewed examples of the style to choose from, that Funky Fauna Artisan Ales would be a saison-centric brewery. Here’s my profile on ’em in Bend Source Weekly.

All the IBUS, None of the ABVs

OREGON HOP SPRINGS

The concept of “Dry January” took off a decade ago and finally landed on my radar a few years ago, but as a beer writer, what use have I of non=alcoholic beverages to write about? It turns out, when these soft drinks are hopped, I’ve got at least two occasions to cover ’em. The first was in Drynuary 2020 and then again Drynuary 2022 with a local (to Bend) twist. Here are some great hoppy N/A beverages for a thirsty nation via The Takeout and here’s some available to Central Oregonians via Bend Source Weekly.

Winter Warmers from my Winter Wonderland

It seems every month offers something new I’m completely pumped about getting to experience for the “first” time as a full-time Bend resident. Certainly, even in Portland, Bend breweries are well represented so it’s not like these are all new to me, but whereas Portland winters are usually dreary, Bend winter is cheery. There were snowmen on every block until the snow turned back to rain these last couple of days. But I won’t let that rain on my parade. Or my batch of favorite “winter warmers.” I tried to limit this round-up to just five, but I sorta snuck in a pair from five different local breweries. Sue me.

SUBMITTED

Bend’s Bitter Truth: ESB-TID

For people who cut their teeth on the early styles of craft beer such as British bitters, can you believe that in late 2021 there are SIX such bitters–the trinity is ordinary, best, and extra special or ESB–on tap or even better, on cask, in Bend right now? Even if you’re an IPA lover, or especially if you’re an IPA drinker and want to taste the original bitter (that’s actually not all that bitter by comparison), order an imperial pint and you’ll see why I’m ESB-Til I Die. Click the link for my latest in Bend’s Source Weekly.

JULIE CRAFT

Every Mixed Tape and Play List Starts with the Violent Femmes

Almost from the first of dozens of mixed tapes I made for friends (and myself) back in the years when an adolescent me made mixed tapes, I’d kick them all off with a different Violent Femmes tune. That idea followed me to college where, during my years of broadcasting on our college radio station, every single show began in the same fashion. Somehow, I only saw them live a small handful of times unlike, say, Flogging Molly, who I’ve easily seen a dozen times beginning with the in-store they did at a punk rock record shop when their debut album came out.

So imagine my delight in having them both perform here in Bend on the same bill (along with another band I really dig, Me First & the Gimme Gimmes). So, despite the preponderance of my stories for Bend Source Weekly covering beer, and nearly all the rest rounding up doughnuts so I can continue to write off all my doughnuts, I pitched my editor on previewing the Femmes show. This story reads more like a love letter and by far the best part about it was having a stranger at the show recite my opening line, “If nothing else, the … Violent Femmes have ensured that (we’re all) able to count to 10.”

Beer review: 10 Barrel’s Riding Solo

10BarrelRidingSoloAmong my myriad New Year’s Resolutions for 2016 is to do more beer reviews. Between the samples I happily receive on my doorstep, beer travels that find me at different breweries across strange, new lands and just happening upon a new offering at some local watering hole, I want to ensure I’m paying good attention to what I’m drinking.

Seeing as a delivery guy just dropped off a bottle at 6:30 on a Saturday night, clearly it’s time to begin drinking. The beer is from 10 Barrel in Bend (not the 10 Barrel pub in Boise or Portland or the recently-announced forthcoming one in Denver). It’s called Riding Solo and it is, as the name suggests, a single-hop pale ale. Comet hops to be precise. Not that you’d possibly know that from the label copy. It reads: “We could talk about this single hop, but we’d rather talk about Benny, the brewer behind this pale ale. 4 years ago Benny was on the fast track working for a large brewery, and then it all came crashing down. He made a bad choice, climbed the wrong building in Bend and found himself in the clink without a job. We hired him the next day and he has been crushing it ever since. One brewery’s loss is another brewery’s gain. Cheers to the man behind the beer.”

Man is that a strange way to market a beer that theoretically has some educational aspect to it. It shows drinkers the aromatic and flavor profile of the nearly extinct Comet hop, a USDA varietal that I’ve personally never encountered. And anyone who buys this beer won’t know that they’ve had it. (Unless they are compulsive about every beer they try or read my oft-neglected blog religiously.)

Upon cracking the crown I was met with an herbal whiff and I’m only half referring to reefer. At first sip, I was struck by the spicy, dank bitter beer—like a skunk smoked a spliff cut with black pepper and dried grapefruit peel. It falls into the garlic’n’onion descriptor, too. Although they call it a pale ale, it’s orange in color and at 6.8% ABV and 67 IBUs it presents itself like an India Red Ale in malt and hop character. In fact, the spiciness makes it taste like there’s some rye malt in the grain bill, but doubt there actually is because then they’d probably have called it Ryeding Solo.

Bend, Oregon > Bend, Belgium/Brazil

Bud Apricot Crush?

Bud Apricot Crush?

Opinions are like assholes AND beer: Not only does everyone have one but some are industrially large while others are artfully crafted.

The news is still sinking in that adorable, warm, fuzzy 10 Barrel Brewing, the homegrown brewery in the quaint, high-desert town in Central Oregon, has been acquired by beer behemoth Budweiser (ABI). The name 10 Barrel had already become outmoded considering the company ramped up to a 50-barrel system in Bend while keeping its original 10-barreler for R&D, added a 10-barrel pub in Boise, and will soon open the doors to its Portland pub* with a shiny new 20-barrel system thereby brining the total to 90 barrels already. Combine this with AB-InBev’s and it’s something on the level of 10 Million Barrels (give or take a few hundred million in overall volume).

Whether you, dear reader, personally take the “Sellouts!” side or fall into camp “Good for them,” and whether your BuyLocalism will lead to you never buying a drop of beer from this brewery now under the Bud-brella or you think that crowd’s just butthurt and it won’t affect your purchasing decision since good beer is good beer no matter who cuts the paychecks, one thing is clear: Oregon beer will never be the same again. Exactly the way it was never the same again when they bought a 30+% minority stake in Widmer Brothers and the Craft Brew Alliance. In other words, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Just ask the folks who worked at and drank beers from Chicago’s Goose Island, New York’s Blue Point, Hawaii’s Kona, Seattle’s Red Hook, and, undoubtedly, Anywheresville, USA’s next AB takeover.

*Even more than my curiosity how this will impact the forthcoming Portland outpost, I’m more curious how other brewers in the tight-knit community of Bend brewers will handle this in the short and long term. Naturally, in the now, they’re all ShockTopped, er, shocked. But will it really have any implications for them, financially? The original and graddaddy, Deschutes, is already tracking to brew 2 million barrels by 2020. Worthy just opened with a hefty pair of deep pockets. Add in Boneyard and those four already factor into Oregon’s 14 largest brewing companies. The money’s already there. We still call it “quaint,” but beer is already big business in Bend, also home to a few others.**

**Ale Apothecary, Below Grade, Bend Brewing Co., Bridge 99, Crux Fermentation Project, Good Life, North Rim, Oblivious, Old Mill Brew Wërks, Old St. Francis (McMenamins), Platypus,  Rat Hole, RiverBend, Silver Moon, and soon a few more, not counting their neighbors throughout Central Oregon.

In the end, unless the guys from St. Louis, er, Leuven, Belgium, er, São Paulo, Brazil decide to expunge the firepit, revoke the welcome sign to dogs, stop serving kids meals on frisbees, and turn the beer from delicious to disastrously flaccid like some others in their portfolio, this game-changing news will, ultimately, result in a collective yawn like the one yawned every time a beer geek gets his mitts on one of the various bottles of Bourbon County Stout. Or, locally, Widmer Bros. Marionberry Hibiscus Gose.

Y’know what else this means? The Big Boys are really, really paying attention to what Oregon breweries are up to. And they, like us, like what they see.