Here at Deschutes Brewery, we love beer. No matter the color, flavor, alcohol content, or origin, we are willing to give it a try. This attitude, this willingness to step outside the box and try things others aren’t interested in, has created brews that are original in their styles and flavor, such as The Abyss, The Dissident, Red Chair NWPA, and Hop Henge Experimental IPA.
“As far as ingredients and recipes go, we can try pretty much anything we want,” says Paul Arney, head brewer at the Bend Public House. “Thanks to Gary Fish (owner) and Larry Sidor (brewmaster), and their commitment to quality, we are able to try unconventional methods, which often result in a delicious beer we never could have discovered.”
Access to four brewhouses doesn’t hurt either. The Bend pub, with its 12-barrel English style system, is better suited for developing more traditional ales, such as Bachelor Bitter, Rooster Cream Ale, and test batches of the reserve series like Black Butte XXII. Cam O’Conner, head brewer at our Portland Public House, works with a 20-barrel German brewhouse and can create incredible lagers and more traditional German beers such as Miss Spelt Hefeweizen. Using these smaller brewhouses to test materials and develop recipes gives Deschutes an advantage in churning out creative new beers to satisfy our thirsty customers. Once a recipe has been dialed in, it can move onto the 50-barrel JV brewhouse or 150-barrel Huppmann system, both located at our production facility.
Keeping with our unconventional methods, Deschutes Brewery uses some innovative ingredients to keep taste buds intrigued. “We have been working with Theo Chocolate in Seattle for Black Butte XXII test batches. They are the only organic, fair-trade, cocoa nib to chocolate bar factory in the country, extremely high quality,” says Arney. “The addition of fresh Seville orange with the chocolate in a beer, we may be the only brewery around to try that. We’re also doing chili pepper experiments, to see what kind of spicy flavor attributes we can get from that.” Other chili beers have been experimented with at Deschutes, such as Ancho Oh Be Joyful, which was a huge hit in the summer of 2009.
Other beers brewed with unconventional ingredients have been found at the pub, such as Phil’s Trail Ale which has the surprising addition of Meadowsweet. “This herb smells just like snowbrush, which grows wild here in Central Oregon. On an early morning out mountain biking on Phil’s Trail, you can just smell the snowbrush in the air. We wanted this beer to have that quality,” says Arney.
Bold and hoppy brews such as Hop Henge, an 8.75% experimental IPA uses cane sugar instead of more malt to create balance but allow the five pounds of hops per barrel to power through. Doc Holliday, a Belgian brown was fermented with huckleberries for a mild tartness, and the Plum Bob uses traditional English Pale Ale ingredients, other than the addition of plum extract which adds a funky zing to the flavor.
“With that beer, we wanted to try and get sourness without oak aging,” Arney says between sips of the tart concoction.
Barrel aging is another tool which is becoming more common to create new dimensions of flavor and also evoke a sour aspect in beer. Deschutes now has hundreds of oak barrels in their library, some stained with bourbon and pinot noir. Wild yeast, such as lactobacillus or brettanomyces, resides in these barrels and over a year or two’s time will transform a beer into a mouth puckering treat. Additions of fruit, such as cherries in The Dissident, create a balanced beer that is flavorful and satisfying.
Deschutes continues to lead the industry in high quality, inspired beers. Check the pubs and the website for release parties and to find out what’s pouring near you.
– Laurel Bennett
Deschutes Brewery Bend Pub Server