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.

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

I’m a beer sage

epicsageI love herbal beers but I particularly think sage works wonders in the right beer. But good luck pitching a story about the so-narrow-it’s-nearly-two-dimensional field of sage beers. Unless there’s a hook, a peg, an angle. Hence, I waited months until I figured CraftBeer.com would want something on Thanksgiving beers, especially ones to suggest that aren’t flavored like pumpkin pie! And since a good stuffing mix and turkey brine includes sage, well, here’s a round-up of beers so sagey, they’re sagacious.

Rare (Unless you’re there)

House Beer Crates_Thaddeus-T

(Photo by Mat Trogner of Allagash Brewing Co.)

this story for All About Beer, I take a look at some breweries’ most rare beers. No, not the kind that enjoy a super limited release and wind up being traded as “whale bait” on trading sites, but the ones that are readily available provided you solely drink it fresh at the source. These aren’t the one-off rare iteration beers but, quite often, the recipes no longer in favor for a wider audience but the brand’s diehard fans would have a conniption if no longer brewed.

Oregon Collabeerations for 1859

Illustration by Brandon Loscar

As Ben Dobler, a brewer at Widmer Bros, elucidated: “Some (collaboration beers) play on the strengths of one partner, some play on the strength of both partners, sometimes we take a big leap of faith and try something completely out of our wheelhouses.”

Hoppily Ever After

This isn’t really a Portland Monthly story, but when I was contacted by the same publishing company to write a story about beer weddings, I had to accept if only to say I’ve been published in Portland Bride & Broom. It ended up being a fun story to think about and organize, even though I was given tons of direction on that end. What can I say? I love love. And beer.

Beertown USA: Bend, OR

For the reboot the Beertown USA travel feature in the latest issue of DRAFT (Mar. 2013), they asked me to not just list and summarize the best spots to hit in the small, high desert/quasi-mountain town of Bend–a city bursting with 20 breweries for its 80,000 residents–but to gear three separate itineraries for three distinct types of visitors. It’s a bit trickier than it sounds. Especially because I think most breweries in town would appeal to most beer tourists. But still, an assignment is an assignment, and a challenge is a challenge. I ended up with dividing the beer and other destinations into those for “outdoor enthusiasts,” those with “kids in tow,” and folks who deem themselves “locavores” or just really want tasty vittles.

Ale Apothecary

In my first real contribution to Ezra Johnson-Greenough’s New School Beer Blog (Feb. ’13), I decided to sort of workshop the entry I was writing for Oregon Breweries knowing it was a rough draft for the book that wouldn’t be published for nearly two years to come. It also enabled me to publish the story long before the print magazine whose photographer severely delayed my interview with brewer Paul Arney despite my huge time crunch.

The Ale Apothecary will never be a spot on the well-trodden/sloshy Bend Ale Trail. It’s ten miles out of downtown way up in the mountains. There’s no pub. No merch wall. Founder Paul Arney is a man who, after 15 years at Deschutes working his way up to assistant brewmaster, set up his own brewery and has the finished Finnish kuurna to show for it.

Birth of a beer

To kick off 2011 in All About Beer (Vol. 32, Iss. 1) I looked at how beers today are conceived quite differently than when beer itself was still being created. Many generations and scientific breakthroughs later, some brewers strive to recreate traditional styles while others run shrieking from them. Authenticity versus innovation (or authenticity plus innovation) are factors allowing so deep a field of brewers to give birth to new beers.