Borders Line: My Beercation To Bend, Oregon

I traveled to Bend, Oregon, visited several microbreweries and drank all of their beer. Allow me to tell you about it!

On the way to Oregon, we had a few hours to kill at the Salt Lake City airport, and we killed them at the Squatters Brewpub. Squatters was established in SLC in 1989 and began as a small brewpub before expanding to three locations and a microbrewery. The eco-conscious company is committed to buying locally from farmers and suppliers.

I ate the Bastard’s Brat, a local Colosimo Bratwurst steamed in the brewery’s Captain Bastard’s Oatmeal Stout, with craft sauerkraut and house-made mustard made from the Chasing Tail Golden Ale. The baguette was soft and delicious, the brat was perfectly flavored by the stout, and as a mustard connoisseur, I hasten to assure you that the mustard was delicious, if a little too watery. I eat a lot of sausage (shut up) and the brat wasn’t planet-exploding amounts of awesome, but it was very good.

My first beer was the American Wheat Hefeweizen. This unfiltered hefeweizen features the typical light banana and clove notes, as well as a faint citrus taste (heightened by the lemon I squeezed into it). It’s pale gold in color, quite hazy with a thin head. Pretty standard for the style, tasty but nothing spectacular. It’s 4% ABV—actually, all of the Squatters draught beers are, because that’s the limit set by Utah state law. Lame!

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I tried the cutely named Polygamy Porter next. I really dug this one: nice chocolatey, roasty, malty flavor, medium in body and surprisingly drinkable for such a dark ale. It’s pretty well carbonated with nice lacing from the tan head. It’s true what they say—why have just one? 

By the by, the man with the sickle beer-naming wit is Greg Schrif, the founder of the Wasatch Brewery and Brew Pub, started in 1986. He’s now the managing partner of the Utah Brewers Cooperative, which was formed when Wasatch and Squatters Brewery combined forces in 2000. Together the two labels now make about 30,000 barrels a year with around 25 different types of beer and seasonal brews.

Next, we dove into the six beer sampler. Don’t judge us! Our next plane was too tiny to handle sober.

Clockwise from top left:

The American Hefeweizen was first, but I already told you guys all about that one.

Chasing Tail Golden Ale is made with English barley and hops. I actually don’t have a very strong memory of this one, other than it makes great mustard. The beer’s a little weak in taste and aroma for such a saucy name.

The Provo Girl Pilsner is brewed with German Magnum hops and lagered for 30 days, leaving it imminently easy-drinking, a little sweet and citrusy with some malt notes. It’s got a very lacy head and a light, evenly balanced mouthfeel, making for a great summer beer.

Next we have Captain Bastard’s Oatmeal Stout, which tasted exactly like every other oatmeal stout you’ve ever had. Brewed with hops and oatmeal, roasted barley and a combo of malts, it was solid, if not stunning.

The Full Suspension Pale Ale is an unfiltered, “northwest” style pale ale. That apparently refers to a PA that’s pushing the limits and entering IPA territory, using a bounty of northwest area hops such as Cascade and Willamette. It’s dry-hopped and very crisp in taste, light-bodied and easy on the mouth.

And finally, we have the Organic Amber, which has pale and caramel malted barley and aromatic hops in it, leaving a very nice blend of malt and hops. It’s got a deep body and complex taste. This was my second favorite after the Polygamy Porter.

A few days later we took the brewery tour in Bend, which was really fun. A cute dude drove us and a few other beer-inclined folks around in a van. We drank, we snacked, we made friends. It was a golden day that grows increasingly fuzzy in my memory, so forgive me if I don’t remain quite as detailed through the entirety of our voyage.

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We started with the biggest brewery in Oregon and the fifth biggest microbrewery in the country, Deschutes. Deschutes (pronounced deh-SHOOTS, after the river in Oregon) was established in 1988, and it’s a massive operation.

Get a load of these tanks! They’re part of the 131-barrel brewing system.

This is the taste-testing room. People with much better job karma than you or I sit in those chairs, drinking beer that’s passed to them through the little windows. The small lights on the wall are so the testers can hold up their glasses and judge the color and clarity. Sometimes the brewers will intentionally give the beer a wrong taste or aroma to catch the beer tasters off guard. 

Deschutes has the most impressive bottling line I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see it in action while we were there, but just looking at the massive, unused machines was mind-boggling. 

After the tour, we retired to the public tasting room, where we were allowed five tastings.

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The Black Butte Porter is probably Deschutes’ most popular beer, with good reason. At 5.2% ABV, nicely hoppy, very creamy and with a giant head, this is a super tasty brew. It’s the best-selling porter in the United States!

I also tried the Mirror Pond Pale Ale, at 5% ABV. This is a hazy, malty, pale ale with a citrusy hops taste in the back. This is the Deschutes flagship or “house beer,” meaning it’s always on tap and it appeals to the largest group of people due to its easy drinking and mild taste.

Next, I enjoyed the Inversion IPA, a really terrific beer. It’s very big and hoppy in taste, with lots of citrus notes. If you like a good, hoppy IPA, buy this beer if it’s within your means to do so.

I then tried the Green Lakes Organic Ale, which is somewhere in between an amber and a pale ale with organic malts and hops grown especially for preservation purposes. This beer was decent, medium-bodied but not very complex.

My last beer at Deschutes was really special. Hop in the Dark is the first black IPA I’ve ever drunk, and oh man, it’s delicious. It’s got a coffee, malt and oats taste under the bitter hoppiness with a great head and a very memorable mouthfeel. This is a sensational beer. The reason I’ve never had a black IPA is because it’s a super new style. The BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) hasn’t even officially categorized it or named it—should it be called a Black IPA, a Cascadian Dark or something else entirely? (Cascadian Dark, obviously. That sounds rad.) One of my favorite breweries, St. Arnold’s in Houston, has declared this the style for their Divine Reserve beer to be released sometime in Fall 2012. Texans: get it when you can!

After visiting the largest microbrewery in Bend, we stopped by the tiniest. And man, Boneyard Brewery is so, so tiny! The newly established brewery is so named because the owners cobbled together their brewing system through found and recycled parts (some from Three Floyds Brewing), a very smart alternative to purchasing one’s own incredibly expensive brew system brand new. I wish I’d taken pictures of their brew system, but I didn’t and the website is bereft of usable pics. Each tank is named after the person who sold it to Boneyard, rather than using boring old numbers like most breweries. The brewhouse is the size of a garage—a small garage—and the tasting room is just barely double the size of what you see here.

(Don’t mind me and my super German in-laws.)

Here I had the irritatingly named Girl Beer, a tasty wheat ale with a slight cherry finish. It’s not overwhelmingly cough syrupy like some cherry wheat beers (are your ears burning, Sam Adams?). It’s got a light head and a pretty strawberry blonde color. I was inclined to not order it because I found the name so obnoxious, but whatever, I like the occasional fruity wheat beer. Sue me.

Next I tried the Black 13, a very malty, roasty brown ale with big coffee notes. It’s a strong beer, very rich and dramatic.

My third beer at Boneyard was the Bone-A-Fide Pale Ale, which was quite hoppy and bitter. It’s moderately carbonated and really pretty great. I love that Boneyard uses such a tiny, cobbled-together operation to create some really terrific beers across the board.

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Our third stop was at Silvermoon Brewing, established in 2004 (I believe? Details are growing fuzzy.) This is a small brewpub with a typical bar atmosphere that masks a fairly large brewing operation.

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Here, we all shared three pitchers. I selected Andre Le Geant, a Belgian Trippel that’s 9.4% ABV, because I do not fuck around. This beer had a nice, golden color with a bit of coriander taste and a surprising head on it considering the alcohol content. Very tasty and drinkable despite the booziness factor.

Someone else in the group selected the Hop Fury IPA at 6.8% ABV. This wasn’t quite as hoppy as one would hope for with that name. It was pretty malty in fact, but with some nice bitterness at the end.

Our third pitcher was the Badlands ESB (Extra Special Bitter). This was tasty but not outrageously so. It was 4.5% ABV and very easy-drinking.

And finally, we stopped by the Goodlife Brewing Company, the newest brewery in Bend. Goodlife was established in…2011! They have TONS of room to expand; the tour guide explained that when they were purchasing the property, several established brewery owners advised securing much more space than they currently use so they won’t have to move to a new location as they grow.

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Here I only had one beer, because it turns out that I am not invincible. The Mountain Rescue Pale Ale presents a well-balanced taste of malt and hops at 5.5% ABV. And that is literally all I remember about it. But Goodlife’s biergarten is lovely, and we feasted on desperately needed hummus, sausage, cheese and olives. It was a gorgeous end to our afternoon, sitting in the bright, breezy Oregon sunshine.

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There you have it. You guys asked for more beer stuff, and I’m at your disposal! Tune in soon for What’s In My Beer Fridge, a semi-regular feature where I’ll go through my fancy beer fridge (the fridge is not fancy; the beer is) and talk about some specialty beers we’ve procured. I’ll also do a feature called Ask The Beer Expert, in which you kids can ask all your homebrewing and beer appreciation questions and my husband, a certified beer judge and decade-long homebrewer, will answer them!