Here we are on another first friday of the month. Time to drink some local brews as specified by the host of this month’s installation of The Session. This month’s theme is Local Brews. The general idea of this month’s theme is to point visitors to the beer/brewery/region that represents the best of what the local area has to offer.
Bend, OR is smack-dab in the middle of the state and is home to several breweries including an obvious choice of focus for this theme – Deschutes Brewery. They’re the brewpub in town that sports the long line of framed GABF medals as you head down the hallway toward the bathrooms. These guys have a production brew-house away from the pub that produces the beer that allows them to achieve their distribution goals.
The brewpub is located downtown and has about 15 handles pouring year-round, seasonal, and one-off beers. There’s also usually two beers on cask at any given time, and a single special handle called the X Tap. This is usually reserved for something the brewers are playing around with like a Lavendar Pale Ale or Lemongrass Wheat. There’s a 12 barrel system that’s always got something going. For a comprehensive list of what’s currently on tap, check out the brewery’s Now Pouring page.
In the spirit of The Session, my wife and I headed down to Deschutes for dinner and a pint. I was pleasantly surprised to find a rare favorite on tap. The Mirror Mirror barley wine. This was brewed quite a while ago, and while I still have a few in the cellar, I can’t bring myself to crack one quite yet. This is what the 2005 vintage bottle says:
This unique barley wine is the happy result of our brewers’ patience and hard work. Brewed in early 2005 and then aged four months in French oak wine barrels, Mirror Mirror has a lusciously layered profile with hints of raisin and oak – perfect for slow sips and fireside conversations.
Despite the cheesy marketing-speak of “fireside conversations”, this is one damned good barley wine. The raisin and oak are very prevalent, but are leaned up against a fantasticly-assertive malt/hop presence to achieve a fantastically balanced overall profile. I had this with a smoked meat and cheese apetizer platter and couldn’t have been happier. It was a fantastic meal. It’s so very nice to have a place in town where you stop in for a pint and find this waiting for you on tap.
Just two blocks over from Deschutes is another brew pub that has brought a GABF medal back to Central Oregon – The Bend Brewing Company. While they don’t have as many irregular beers going, their Brewmaster, Tonya Cornett, has produced among the best Oregon beers I’ve ever tasted.
The BBC won their GABF medal for the Hop Head Imperial IPA. Two years ago, she pulled out a bourbon barrel Imperial Porter that blew my mind. A perfectly balanced, assertive blend of two things I love … big porters and bourbon. A lot of people do the barrel aging thing, but to get such pronounced flavors, and have it not tip over in any one direction … the girl’s got tallent.
My not-to-miss, probably-will-be-on-tap recommendations (depending upon your style preference):
- Inversion IPA, – Deschutes (assertively-hopped, classic Northwest IPA)
- Cask Bachelor Bitter – Deschutes (easy session cask beer that’s just way too easy to drink)
- Nitro Obsidian Stout – Deschutes (excellent roasty stout)
- Black Butte Porter – Deschutes (widely distributed and super-tasty … definitely don’t pass up if porter’s your game)
- Elk Lake India Pale Ale – Bend Brewing Company (another solid NW IPA … bring on the hops)
- Outback Old Ale – Bend Brewing Company (chewy, malty, raisins, caramel … yum!)
And, of course, if you see anything in the seasonals that sounds good, take a chance or ask for a taster … these people know what they’re doing, and are more than happy to hook you up.
Now I think it’s time to go raid the cellar for a bottle of Deschutes, The Abyss to finish off the evening. Cheers!