Black Butte XXVI: Oregon Cranberries

Posted on: June 23rd 2014

Deschutes Brewery Black Butte XXVI

You never know who may walk into the pub and change the direction of a beer.

Some nothing special weekday in Bend, I was asked to come out to meet some enthusiastic fans of our beer, who also happened to be home brewers. When I got to their table, they were happily enjoying a couple classic pub burgers and frosty pints (I was somewhat jealous). It was evident that the enthusiastic one was the son of the father/son pair, Joe Bussmann: a beginning homebrewer and lover of craft beer. As he proclaimed his love for the beers, how they like stopping in on their trips to Bend, and how he is starting to homebrew, his no bullshit father, George Bussmann, was giving him the old “yaaa…yaaaa” look. I asked what brought them over and they said they were cranberry farmers from Sixes, Oregon and they were out here on business.

Did the beer gods/ fairies/ special feelings bring these guys to our door? I had just watched an OPB special on the cranberry harvest in Oregon and had just been thinking about how cool it would be to use Oregon cranberries in a beer. I asked them all about their farm, how much fruit they produced, and would they be interested in talking about trialing some of their cranberries in our beer?

Turns out they produce a LOT of cranberries and their fruit mostly ends up in juice for the big names you know. Oregon cranberries are especially prized for their flavor and especially their deep color. Needless to say Joe was overwhelmed with excitement and I walked away from the table, Bussmann Cranberries business card in hand, feeling super pumped.

Oregon-Cranberry-Harvest Black Butte XXVI: Oregon Cranberries Brewery

Not much time later, Joe was back at the pub hand delivering 100 pounds of cranberries and they were beautiful. We trialed them in a holiday beer called” Oh Crananabaum”. Did you try it?

I kept in contact with George, who had quickly come around to the place of utter excitement with the thought of this relationship being built, and the possibility of their fruit being used in a larger bottled release. As he put it, “Joe’s got us all excited about this, the whole family out here on the farm – with a little bit of don’t screw this up in his tone.” They are a true blue family run operation, and I could hear the pride in his voice as he mentioned that the farm was GAP certified, and uses sustainable agricultural practices.

With the R&D of our Black Butte Anniversary series mainly coming from the Bend Pub, it was a no brainer for me to trial some cranberry additions to nail down amounts that would be delicious in our upcoming 26th Anniversary release. With the generous amounts they gave us we were able to perform a number of trials and decided that Bussmann Cranberries and Theo Chocolate were going to be the main specialty additions to this beer.

In the trial stages we noticed that through some freezing, and maceration, the flavor extraction and color increased dramatically (obviously, right?). But with 20,000 pounds of cranberries slated to go into this brew, the logistics were getting complicated. Luckily, we made a connection with Oregon Fruit Products, our introductory meeting also taking place at the Bend pub over some beers, and they agreed to put some R&D effort into packaging the Bussmann Cranberries into a more user friendly package… pump-able Oregon Fruit! Something that would light up the eye of any brewer.

Our Black Butte XXVI is proof that beer brings good people together, AND that we learn from some of our mistakes. Figs and Dates I’m looking at you.

– Veronica Vega, Assistant Brewmaster