Why, you may be asking, is she writing about beer on a site that is supposed to be related to history and nature. Well… beer is a big part of Bend’s history.
The history of beer in Central Oregon
Earlier this year, the High Desert Museum had a great exhibit about brewing. It was a temporary exhibit and it has closed but I can still share part of what I wrote about the exhibit. Here is an excerpt:
“The exhibit follows the history of brewing with an emphasis on activity in the Central Oregon region. What started out as saloons set up in tents has evolved into brewpubs that can be found throughout the area. Brewing slowed down during the Prohibition period of 1920 to 1933. Prohibition actually started four years earlier in Oregon due to the protests from some of its residents. Many women that participated in the temperance movement were upset by the bad influence alcohol had on their lives. At one time, there were breweries in nearly every Central Oregon town.
After Prohibition ended, new businesses opened that served a wide variety of alcoholic beverages. Grant’s Brewery Pub located in Yakima, Washington, was the first craft brewery in the northwest. It opened in 1982. In 1983, after a series of legislative measures passed it became legal to produce and sell beer from independent breweries in Oregon. Craft brewing started in Bend in 1988 when Gary Fish opened Deschutes Brewery. As craft beer became more widely accepted, other breweries opened in two successive waves of activity that began in the 1990s. There are currently 26 breweries in the area with five more rumored to be opening in the not too distant future.
Why is this area such a hotbed for brewing beer? One answer is in the water. Water has a profound influence on the taste of the beer. Local beers are created from glacier-fed aquifers and waters in the Bridge Creek watershed near Tumalo Falls. The relatively soft water from this source goes through very little treatment. Another factor important for brewing in this area is the availability of barley and hops. Barley is sometimes referred to as “the soul of beer”. Local growers are starting to plant barley crops and, just as grapes grown in a certain region impart a unique taste to a wine, locally grown barley will create beers with a Central Oregon flavor.
The breweries have helped the local economy by creating more jobs and increasing tourism. Visitors can sample beers from over a dozen breweries as part of the Ale Trail and get prizes for completing it. Large containers known as “growlers” can be filled with local craft beers at several filling stations. The breweries also believe in giving back to the community and they play a major role in philanthropic endeavors.”
One of the big beer-related events that takes place every year here is the Bend Brewfest. Today is the last day of the four day event. This is the 12th year for Brewfest. I went there for two days this year. Am I a beer expert? No, but you don’t have to be to appreciate the event. This year there were over 180 beverages from 71 places. Yes, you read that right. This included a variety of beers, meads, hard ciders, and a few wines. Some of them are available at the X-Tap station where you can sample very limited runs of drinks for a half an hour or until they run out.
Details about the event are found in the event booklet handed out at the gate or available online at http://bendbrewfest.com/ .You get a mug with five tokens for $15. A token buys you a 4-oz. sample of your choosing. Additional tokens are $1 each.
The booklet explains the differences between the various types of beer. There are explanations of the many kinds of ales, kolsches, lagers, pilsners, porters, stouts, wheat beers and wits. Lists and maps show where you can find the various types at the event. There is also a longer list in the back where you can put your ratings.
Since I am not an expert, here is a sample of my ratings: Meh, Okay, Good, Hoppy! and Yummy!! Pretty technical I know.
Before partaking in any alcohol at this or similar events, make sure you have a way to get home safely. Either have a designated driver or use one of the many taxi services listed in the event booklet. Also remember to eat while you are at Brewfest and drink plenty of water to hydrate yourself.
There is a little secret to enjoying a wider variety of beers at these events. Dump it. Most events take place outside and you do not have to drink all of the beer. You can – discreetly – dump some of it out. This event has a place to rinse out your cup so you can dump the extra beer there.
Entertaining descriptions of beer
The booklet has brief descriptions of just about every beverage there. Some are very entertaining. Here’s a funny one from Goodlife Brewing in Bend, OR about its beer called “Comatose”:
“Mother Nature’s seasons are amazing, where all her creations flux between an existence in winter’s comatose state, spring’s colorful fling, summer’s hot dance and fall’s laid back swing. The creative juices and musicians jump from an unconscious, winter mindset and spring you to think concerts, road trips and campsites. One sip of this beer will get your blood flowing as you jam to your favorite tunes!”
Then there are more descriptive ones about the many ingredients and processes used in producing a beer like this one from Santiam Brewing in Salem, OR about its beer called “Pirate Stout – Rum Barrel Aged Coconut Stout”:
“A blending of many rum barrels makes each batch unique. Balanced by blending varying ages with fresh batches to create a stout enjoyed in any season. Finished with coconut chips just prior to packaging.”
Still others are short but sweet. Here’s one from Stung Fermented in Portland, OR about its mead called “Standard”:
“A balanced sparkling mead that dances dryly on the tongue.”
Most of these descriptions also give you two numbers associated with that beverage. They are the ABV and IBU. ABV stands for Alcohol By Volume. IBU stands for International Bitterness Units. The event booklet describes beers with an IBU of less than 20 to “have little to no apparent hops presence” while over those with greater than 45 IBUs “offer a more pronounced hops flavor and bitterness”. I have found the IBU number does not always reflect how hoppy a beer tastes.
You may think that you don’t like a certain type of beer but if you go to one of these events, you may change your mind. Be sure to sample several types. What you find may surprise you.