This past weekend, I went on the Barrel House Tour at Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon. The brewery offers several tours including public tours, private tours, and this one, where you learn specifically about barrel brews.
You begin and end the tour in the Bend Tasting Room & Beer Garden. As you can see, it’s full of visitors there to taste the brewery’s iconic beers.
On the tour, you walk to a nearby warehouse where you’ll see some of the ingredients used to make their beers. Deschutes Brewery currently sells their products in 32 states and a few countries. Black Butte Porter is their most well-known beer, but there are three dozen different beers, and a couple ciders, available at the tasting room location.
Deschutes Brewery sources their materials from a variety of locations. They acquire most of their hops from the Yakima Valley in Washington state but also from parts of Oregon. The large white bundles on the left side of the picture below are full of hops.
This family and employee owned company uses mainly regional ingredients, but purchases malts for certain brews from as far away as Belgium.
One of the reasons Deschutes Brewery started brewing here is the quality of the water. Though other breweries must filter their water, the water here requires little filtering. The brewery uses 80,000 to 100, 000 gallons of water per day to make their delicious beers. Due to their efforts at improving operations, they used one million fewer gallons of water last year.
Barrel House Tour
After learning about the basic brewing process, we walked to the far end of the warehouse, where they store the barrels. Rows of stacked barrels age the beer for six months to three years.
In the back corner, you’ll see several larger barrels, big enough to walk into. I could see how repurposing them into saunas, complete with a lingering scent of a good barrel aged beer, would be a good idea. 😉
There was also one very tall wood barrel in this section.
The metal vats in this area are each named after a movie character. Here are three of them. Can you guess the movie they’re from? There’s a big hint at the end of this post, plus the answer.
The barrels themselves hold many types of alcohol before they’re used in the barrel brews. Barrels may have held wine, rye whiskey, brandy, bourbon, or tequila. The barrels come from local distilleries, such as Crater Lake Spirits, and places much farther away. Though usually used only once, we sampled one beer from a second time barrel.
We sampled several beers while on the tour. I loved a couple of the sours we tasted, but they’re not for everyone. We had five people on our tour and the tour guide offered samples for a variety of tastes.
I like how they repurposed this barrel into a bar on wheels. The brewery sells the used barrels and staves on their website
One of my favorite beers was a type of Abyss. It was a sour aged in a tequila barrel. Yum! The beers available for purchase may not taste exactly like what you have sampled since they are still aging.
And the answer is…
Here’s a picture of one more metal brewing vat. Now do you know which movie the brewery honored?
The Big Lebowski—a movie unlike any other, just like the barrel brews on this tour.
Barrel House Tour participants get 15% off purchases of beer and other items in the gift store. We purchased a couple of four-packs of barrel-aged beer and, of course, a t-shirt.
I walk past this brewery once a week but had never taken a tour there. Consider going on tours in your area, even when you don’t have visitors. I’ve seen the country on backcountry hikes and snowshoe adventures. I’ve tasted local foods on foodie tours and seen local art on roundabout tours. Please support local businesses while learning more about the place you call home.
For more about the history of beer in Bend, see my Bend=Beer post.