Bend, Oregon…no matter what anyone says, my vote for the mythical (and mostly bogus) title of “Beer City USA” – besides the presumptive winner, San Diego – would have to go to this explosive brewing mecca, out there in the arid middle of Oregon’s High Desert. It is certainly, even including SD, the most per capita great brewery nexus in the country and the only real challenger is the far more tiny Hood River, Oregon, about 150 miles up Oregon Route 97. One quick scan of the breweries located in Bend makes the case eloquently…
A few years back, the beer world came together to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot (Beer Purity Law) promulgated in 1516. The atmosphere across Bavaria was festive. Breweries touted the Reinheitsgebot during their tours, museums staged exhibitions about the edict’s history, and beer enthusiasts began a fresh round of debate about the relevance of this centuries-old writ.
Four hours east of Munich as the RailJet flies, the Viennese were marking a milestone anniversary of their own, albeit with much less fanfare: 175 years of Vienna Lager. Even if no museums commemorated the fact, and even if the media resonance was akin to the sound of one hand clapping, Vienna had good reason to celebrate its contribution to the culture of brewing. Bottom-fermented beer had been produced for centuries in Europe’s Alpine regions, but it wasn’t until Anton Dreher, owner of the Brauhaus zu Klein-Schwechat, brought together technological advances he learned in Britain and Bavaria that he was able to produce the first lager beer that could be brewed year-round. That happened in 1841. Up until then, Vienna’s top-fermented beers had a poor reputation: a dark brown, turbid, and frothy concoction that contemporaries dubbed “recht miserabel.” (I probably don’t need to translate that.)
I’m already getting a ton of emails, asking if I’m going to go ballistic – as I did with 10 Barrel and Ely**an – about New Belgium selling out to Kirin/Lion. Yeah, I do pretty splashy snark and they’re fun to read. Fun to write, too…
“…When twin brothers Chris and Jeremy Cox (10 Barrel Brewing) decided to brew their own beer, they were co-owners of a successful bar and grill in downtown Bend, Oregon. They didn’t have any direct experience brewing, but told anybody who’d listen about their deep passion for craft beers and their determination to break into the industry. That, as we see graphically now, was all bullshit. What the Brothers Cox were after was a Big Payday; a rosy dream of building a disposable enterprise that would eventually catch the eye of some huge mega-corp who would back a truck up to their loading dock and shovel dollar bills out the back until they buried Jeremy and Chris Cox in a sweet dream of Caribbean beaches and cold drinks with little umbrellas in them and hot and cold running babes.”
Deschutes “Jubelale” was first brewed in 1988. 2019 makes the 31st edition of this ale and every single year, without fail, I have tasted this stuff, gotten all gooshy, and bought a minimum of three cases, to get me by until July or so. No, I do NOT care that the hops recede after a while. No, I do not care if it was supposed to be consumed in a couple of weeks. No, I do not, as one reader suggested, back in 2011, think it’s “icky” when the hops fade. And, NO, let’s stipulate that it is not designed to be an age-worthy, lay-down beer. But it IS a seasonal beer and I have done everything short of bribery to try to get Deschutes to make it year-round.
No dice. “Seasonal, dude,” they have gently repeated, about, ooooh, twenty-two times, now.
OKAY…The Pour Fool is changing a basic paradigm and doing it…right now.
I’ve stated before, on Facebook and Twitter, that a major brewery from the Midwest had become a part of the Seattle market and the more I tasted their beers, the more I was bummed that the lofty rep was built on beers that I found uniformly “Meh“. I did, of course, not name names, because I have NEVER used names in complaining about ANY brewery, in the almost 11 year history of The Pour Fool. I never even wrote anything mildly critical about any specific brewery, winery, or distillery. And I could have.
RANT WARNING: Our daughter dropped into a small Washington brewery last weekend. She texted me and asked if I knew about it. I didn’t know much, so I went to their website. Seeing their logo, I instantly found a Problem: it was almost a direct, point-for-point reproduction of the logo of a large East Coast brewery. As they’re not in a large urban area, I assumed it was a simple mistake and sent the owner an email, explaining the situation. I was even nice about it.
The response: A ton of whining about how hard it is to run a brewery and how he has a family to feed and how I appeared to enjoy “wasting people’s time.”
Cider…I admit I have never been a huge fan, especially – My God! – of those bland, boring, low-ambition ciders that are basically just apple juice, quickly fermented, filtered, and bottled. It took me YEARS of tasting – for my old job as a partner and product buyer for the first extensive online beer/wine/liquor website – to even begin to appreciate most ciders. But then, ciders back then were NOT especially interesting, at least the ones our distributors carried. The very first cidery that knocked me for a loop was SeaCider, on Vancouver Island, and after that, Eaglemount, here in Washington. Then came a string of moderately compelling ones; nothing that ever rose to the status of Wow!
I’ve now posted on this website several hundred times and, in maybe a dozen of those, I’ve claimed I was “going to try to make this brief“…
You could live in Las Vegas for fifty years and you will never find a prop bet that is more of a sure thing than, “Steve Body will fail at ‘making this brief’ “.
I don’t have the Succinct Gene, much as I would like to. Robert B. Parker is one of my all-time favorite authors and he will succinct the ass off a thing. Not me. I’m spiritual cousins with James Lee Burke, another brilliant author who would never settle for fifty words when five hundred will do.
So, when I say I’m going to try to make this brief, the smart money is on giggling.
Mundane details. Every beer’s got ’em. Many go on for pages, like the fastener list for a space shuttle. But only ONE word matters, in choosing a beer, and it’s none of those. Quantity, in beer ingredients, does NOT = Quality, in any sense.
One of the FAQs of The Pour Fool, out of several thousand emails, in our first ten years, is this one or variations thereof…
“Can you help me understand hops? I know what they do but there are so many of them that I can’t keep them straight. How do they taste? Are they about more than bitterness? What’s the deal with these things, anyway?”
Well…how much time do ya have? This is a HUGE subject.