As we approached Bend I gave the address of the Deschutes Brewery to Samantha, my trusty GPS. Well, normally she’s trusty. Usually, Samantha does well, directing me to where I need to go with little confusion. And after I had just given her a good review to my dad, Samantha did something unexpected, she led us astray.
We were under a time crunch which made me even more concerned about Samantha’s ability to locate the brewery in time. 4 pm was the last brewery tour of the day and it was about 3:45 pm. Samantha screwed around a bit and I am pretty sure at one point she didn’t even know what she was doing. Familiar with what a brewery should look like, I spotted Deschutes and we arrived just in time. We parked and I swiftly walked to the brewery to ensure we would have a spot on the tour (it may have looked like a light jog to an on onlooker).
Prior to our tour departing our guide, Mark was serving up tasters of the on tap brews. I was quite pleased however my dad informed Mark he was not pleased with the fact that there were no hard ciders available (my dad does not drink beer… I’m not sure how we are related). Mark and my dad exchanged some friendly banter about the lack of cider and I tried to interject humor where I could when I thought the dwelling on cider had gone too far.
Our tour began while Mark led us into the brew house giving us the basics of craft brewing. Mark asked if there were any home brewers on the tour. Although I had obtained my brewing kit I had not started brewing so in an attempt to not come off as a poser, I kept my mouth shut.
Mark showed us the key ingredients of beer showing us examples of the different grains and letting us taste hops. Deschutes uses a leaf hop as it provides more flavor over the pellet hops. Mark opened a refrigerated room with a week’s worth of hops… if you’ve ever tasted Deschutes beer you would not be surprised that the room was large and full of lots of hops awaiting their chance to flavor the beer.
We moved on to the next room where the grains and hops were added and boiled to perfection creating wort. Today they were brewing Inversion, an IPA.
The next stop would be a brewery worker’s dream, or at least a dream of mine, the tasting room. In order to maintain quality control employees, after a rigorous test of their tasting palate, are allowed to taste test the beer. Tasting is done in the morning around 10:30 am when your palate is best (meaning you haven’t eaten a bunch of onions or garlic and can’t taste anything – or maybe that’s what you had for breakfast I don’t know… or mean to judge). The employees come into the room and taste the different beers. No communication between the employees is allowed as one’s opinion may influence another. I thought this tasting task would make work much more enjoyable although highly unlikely it would be implemented at my workplace.
We moved on next to the fermenting room. After we had a quick lesson on what happens in this room we admired the rows of large fermentors as they created my soon to be consumed beer.
An always impressive sight in any brewery was our next stop, the bottling room. The bottles fly by on conveyor belts as they are filled with beer, capped, labeled and boxed awaiting their next destination before reaching my fridge.
We stepped out of the production area into a room filled with artwork. Not just any artwork, but artwork used for the labels of the past Jubilee Ales. If you are not familiar with the Jubilee Ale, it is Deschutes’ winter ale. Each year local artists submit their artwork to adorn the bottles and boxes of the seasonal brew. It is an interesting concept that the owner of the brewery developed, giving a platform for the artists to get their artwork seen by many and gives the beer drinker each year a new collectible tribute to winter.
Mark asked if anyone had tasted the Jubilee Ale before. I raised my hand proudly and said: “I practically live off of it”. I’m not afraid to admit it even if the group laughed, hopefully with me, not at me. I also live off of their Red Chair, Mirror Pond, and Twilight Ales as I seasonally rotate throughout the year. Mark mentioned that Black Butte Porter and Mirror Pond keep the brewery lights on… I would like to think I have a hand in that… You’re welcome Deschutes 🙂
Our tour finished back in the tap-room where Mark spent some more time trying to convince my dad that he will like at least one of the beers he poured. Mark was wrong much to his (and my) dismay. I got a chuckle out of Mark when I said to my dad “you know there was a time when I didn’t like beer either” and then I made a funny face at my dad implying that he should just succumb to his dislike and everyone would be happy, including him.
Although I could have spent more time in the tap-room and gift shop I knew we needed to get going. It was already 5:30 pm and we still had a 4.5-hour drive ahead of us and dinner was waiting. I reluctantly said goodbye to the brewery but not before filling up a 2-liter growler of an unreleased new beer, the River Ale. It would be arriving in grocery stores soon but I walked out of there pleased with the fact that I had a beer no one else did (well at that time!).
Samantha stumbled again as she lead us out of town. Her inconsistency was starting to annoy me and made me wonder if perhaps while on our tour she had stopped in at the tasting room as that could be the only explanation for her lack of direction. No thanks to Samantha we eventually found the highway and drove off towards southern Oregon.
If you would like to take a tour of the Deschutes Brewery they are located at 901 SW Simpson Ave, Bend Oregon. Tours are free and offered at 1, 2, 3 and 4 pm Pacific Standard Time.
To throw Samantha a bone – there is a Deschutes Brewery and Public House located in Bend as well (you will see signage for the “brewery” – but it’s actually leading to you the pub). The brew pub is located at 1044 NW Bond Street. We did not go there but I heard they have some pretty tasty food and I, of course, will vouch for their beer!