Great service report: Imperial Yeast and Casey

I want to take an opportunity to give a shout out to Imperial Yeast (Portland, OR) and in particular to their rep, Casey Helwig.

Casey came and spoke during the education session of our monthly meeting of COHO back in April of this year. One of the owners also came with her but she handled all of the presentation and ~98% of the questions. I took a lot of notes that night but have sadly been unable to find them.

The main thing I remember was how seriously impressed I was by Casey that evening. She did an excellent job, which I tried to let her know before I left but she was engaged with others answering even more questions after the meeting ended so I was unable to do so.

My first beer, Path of Totality SMaSH pale ale used their A01 House yeast and my second, Time and Tide: A Romance of the Moon, used their A10 Darkness. Both seemed to do a great job right out of the can. They both kicked off to a rocking primary fermentation. I have tasted Path of Totality but it is not yet fully carbonated. Clean with some light esters (fermented at 67F). Time and Tide was last tasted on bottling day so questions remain. I have not detected any off flavors from either so far though.

While I was working on recipes for my third batch, another pale ale, and fourth batch, a big barleywine, I was running into trouble getting the yeast I wanted.

I was trying to get some A15 Independence for my pale and also trying to figure out which would possibly be good for the barleywine. My local homebrew shop had ordered my previous two cans but they have a glut of other Imperial yeast on hand right now and are not ordering currently. With the weather so freaking hot here (and elsewhere) it is not the time of year for mail ordering yeast. Or the time of year for much homebrewing in these parts perhaps (Casey’s suggestion).

So on 3 August I asked some questions on Imperial’s contact form about where/how I might source some A15 and about suggestions for the barleywine. Within an hour, I got a phone call from Casey. She spent at least 10 minutes on the phone with me chatting about yeasts for both of the beers.

Sadly, yet not unexpectedly, she couldn’t help me source the A15 but we ended up agreeing that for what I was trying to do with the hopping in the pale that A04 Barbarian and its stone fruit esters would probably work nicely. That one, Annie Jump Cannon pale ale is still in the fermenter but boy did it get off to a rocking start.

She also gave me four suggestions for the barleywine. My thoughts are still open on this one but I am seriously considering using one (or more) of her suggestions.

So, in many ways, I have little empirical evidence for how the Imperial yeasts have worked in these recipes. I accept that. This shout out is more specifically about the great customer service—even to homebrewers—by a young company putting out, as best I can tell, a solid and very useful product.

Their yeast is all-organic—only organic yeastery in the world (for now)—and comes in convenient, keep cold until use, small cans that have double the amount of yeasts cells as the liquid yeast competition. This means that for normal gravity beers you can skip the yeast starter step and still provide plenty of yeast. Yes, a can does cost a bit more than a smack pack or vial but it is nowhere near twice as much, perhaps 30% more.

For now, I am sold. I certainly will try Wyeast and White Labs yeasts at some point, and hopefully others as more yeasteries arrive, but Imperial has allowed me to feel good about giving my wort plenty of healthy yeast in an easy manner. They have also provided me with education and spent good time on the phone chatting with me. That means an awful lot to me.

By the by, I did tell Casey right away once she called that she impressed me at the club meeting. Wasn’t going to blow that chance! [Thank you kindly, Mark’s mind, for remembering.]

Thank you, Imperial Yeast. And thank you, Casey.

Beechum and Conn – Experimental Homebrewing

Experimental Homebrewing: Mad Science in the Pursuit of Great Beer by Drew Beechum and Denny Conn
Date read: 01-18 October 2015
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cover of Experimental Homebrewing by Beechum and Conn

Paperback, 240 pages
Published 2014 by Voyageur Press (an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group)
Source: Deschutes Public Library

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: The Basics
  • Chapter 2: Recipe Design
  • Chapter 3: Splitting Batches
  • Chapter 4: Equipment Nerdery
  • Chapter 5: Off-the-Wall Techniques
  • Chapter 6: Favorite Experimental Styles
  • Chapter 7: Conventional Brewing Ingredients
  • Chapter 8: Experimental Ingredients
  • Chapter 9: Evaluating Your Experiments
  • Chapter 10: The Experiments
  • Acknowledgments
  • Resources
  • Works Cited
  • About the Authors
  • Index

I definitely enjoyed this book and will be getting myself a copy once I start brewing. And let me say, this book has me seriously considering how to make that happen, soon.

Even if you do not want to go down some of the more experimental roads in this book it is great placing the entire context of the brew day (and more) into an experimental framework. The book can teach you a lot whether or not you ever get near an alternative ingredient.

Highly recommended; even if you don’t enjoy every bit or it isn’t entirely relevant to you I bet you’ll find something to really make you think about your brewing.

As a beer blogger, the almost inevitable question people have when they hear this is “Do you brew your own beer?” I’m kind of tired of hearing it. Is that, honestly, the most interesting question most people can think of when hearing “beer blogger”? ::sigh:: [This is in no way a negative comment re homebrewing but this “direct” link between writing about beer and brewing your own seems mighty tenuous to me. There are far more beer drinkers than beer brewers.]

That said, I am doing something about the not brewing. I have taken an all-grain brewing class (Tim Koester through COCC; great) and have helped a couple friends once or twice. I have been meaning to help them more and they have offered up brewing days but, for assorted reasons, I have not made them.

I believe I have finally figured out a system that will work for me; or, at least, part of the system. Now I am trying to find out all the answers I need to get the correct equipment the first time. Fermentation temperature control is still a mostly open question but it is ultimately solvable and I have a good idea what that’ll take.

To show how serious I am, I joined the American Homebrewers Association yesterday. I (we, really) have been members of our local homebrew club COHO for a couple years. This Thursday I am going to help a guy brew on a system much like I’m considering to a) help and get experience and b) pester him with questions and acquire observation(s) of his process.

So, back to the book.

Introduction
“Close your eyes for a moment …” (7).
Contains an short intro; About Our Process which lays out the scientific method [Question, Hypothesis, Prediction, Test, Review and analysis] and how to apply it to brewing, What We’ll Discover shows that there are questions homebrewers have that aren’t those of any ongoing research, and Keeping the Experiment Alive where they bring up the accompanying website http://www.experimentalbrew.com/ and their community of IGORs “(independent group of researchers)” (9). That is, you are encouraged to join the experimental team.

Chapter 1: The Basics
Lays out their basic assumptions and a minimalist guide to all-grain brewing and one for extract brewing, including equipment lists; Small Batch Brewing (One Gallon B.I.A.B.) which is the bit that really got me thinking; A Brew Day with the Experimentalists runs through a brew day but, in essence, since they live 844 miles apart you get two views on Preparation, Mashing, Sparging, and Boil. The chapter ends with the “Most Important Tips” from both of them.

Chapter 2: Recipe Design
Before they teach you how to play with recipes they strip things down to “the bare essentials” (23). The authors show us “a tasty beer that lacks focus and is needlessly complicated, like its creator” (25). It’s a DIPA using 6 malts and 8 hop editions of 7 different hops. So, we get a SMaSH blonde, Pils and barleywine. If you’ll allow the stretching of a SMaSH by the addition of Belgian candi syrup then you even get a Belgian quad. With a little more purposeful expanding from beyond our minimalist constraints we get an oat beer, and a simplification of that troublesome DIPA. There’s The Recipe Roadmap with Denny which discusses thought processes and just getting on with trying the thing you’re thinking; experimentally, of course. Unless you are lucky enough to create a perfect recipe the first time and have your processes nailed you need to run experiments. A several page section Chris Colby on Recipe Design [former editor of Brew Your Own magazine] follows. After a little discussion on fooling your nose and mouth we get a white stout recipe.

Chapter 3: Splitting Batches
This chapter is all about the various ways and reasons to split a batch of beer. That simple; yet, quite helpful.

Chapter 4: Equipment Nerdery
Both authors list their “Basic Build-out” equipment list under the headings Planing the Brew, Yeast Management, Brew Day, and Fermenting and Packaging. Toolbox suggestions and storage ideas follow with tools for cleaning and sanitation, temperature checks and “science” coming next. Instructions for a “Cheap ’N’ Easy Mash Tun” and for a “Cheap ’N’ Easy Fermentation Temperature Control,” along with making a draft hopback (Randall), and thoughts on RIMS and HERMS and playing with a Raspberry Pi are included. Tips on chilling are also included.

Chapter 5: Off-the-Wall Techniques
Adding flavor via teas and tinctures, using that hopback, canning starters in advance, brewer’s invert sugar recipe, Eisbeer technique, dry hopping, Brett, blending beers, soda pop and more, along with a few more relevant recipes, constitute this chapter.

Chapter 6: Favorite Experimental Styles
Wheats, IPAs, tripels, sessions, porter, and saisons are the star of this show with a couple experimental variations on each presented.

Chapter 7: Conventional Brewing Ingredients
Thirty-two pages covering the four basic ingredients of beer, along with a section on Sugars, and information on assorted techniques as applicable.

Chapter 8: Experimental Ingredients
Here we get information on produce, spices, coffee, vanilla, chocolate, caffeine, mushrooms, meat, peanut butter and candy and how to use them.

Chapter 9: Evaluating Your Experiments
Tasting beer, some science of tasting, finding tasters, types of tests and an example of running a tasting comprise this chapter.

Chapter 10: The Experiments
Experiments for the mash, the boil, fermenters (materials & shapes), yeast, wort prep, fermentation, pre-packaging, packaging, aging, and serving are all included.

An example of a mash experiment is “No or low sparge: Can you skip the sparge step altogether? Or sparge less? Some brewers swear by no sparging to make beautifully smooth beer for a few dollars more malt” (213). This one is of intense interest to me as I am considering going mostly the no sparge route.

First wort hopping and hot side aeration are a couple of the boil experiments, with aeration being an example from wort preparation. Most of these experiments have a code number so it can be found in the IGOR section of the book’s website. This allows you to run the experiment and to join in the discussion of how it worked (or not), of what difference you found. Collaborative science in action. All in the name of beer.

Acknowledgments

Resources
Lists some useful looking websites and a couple books with those being mostly standards.

My final comments

Recommended. I enjoyed the book and although I doubt I’ll ever be putting a pepper near a kettle or fermenter there are a lot of great ideas and good info on how to implement them. Try your public library first if you want to have a gander at it before buying. That’s where I found it.

Beer Lover’s Gift Wish List 2014

This is my 2014 Beer Lover’s Gift Wish List which consists of things I am recommending for assorted reasons. Some I own and/or have used and some I have not. I will make it clear which is the case.

[Note: Having ordered something from this list as I constructed it over the last couple days has reminded me why I need to post this earlier if I am going to. Some of these cannot arrive before Christmas at this point but some can. There are also many other, and more appropriate, gift giving opportunities than Christmas.]

1. First up is something we bought personally from the creator at Fall Fest in Bend. We had been looking for a bottle opener that fully respects bottle caps and was ergonomic to use. Beautiful is also a definite plus.

Bottle opener by SJ Woodworks

Bottle opener by SJ Woodworks

Bottle opener by Steve J. Bonora of SJ WoodWorks  $18

It works beautifully. Here’s hoping it lasts a long time.

2. BottleTrade has several things but tshirts mostly. My favorite tshirt is the Hop Medley one. But my favorite item is the His & Her Stout Glasses. Check out that while you can get one or the other, you can also get a pair in all four possible combinations of His & Hers. That’s sweet and should be supported for that reason alone. I have a pair on order and maybe some as gifts too. They will arrive late for Christmas at this point but it is “the thought ….”

3. Educational and reference tools abound. The Cicerone Certification Program has several useful items that any serious beer geek who is trying to improve their knowledge base should appreciate.

I have a set of the Beer Styles Profiles Card Sets and I am also in the process of completing the Road to Cicerone German Course. Either that or the new British and Irish course would help anyone wanting to know more about the styles of those countries and certainly help anyone studying to become a Certified Cicerone.

4. Sadly I cannot afford to be a member of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas but I am certified by them as a Beer Steward.  Their web store has loads of useful times from educational to entertaining and many items are on sale now until the end of the year. We have both the Flavor Wheel and the Defects Beer Wheel. We haven’t had a chance to put them through their paces yet but look forward to it.

The Flavor Wheel is the official flavor wheel as developed by M.C. Meilgaard, et al. for the American Society of Brewing Chemists, the European Brewing Convention and the Master Brewers Association of the Americas.

Beer drinker, homebrewer, professional brewer, brewery worker, bartenders, etc.: all should be familiar with this tool and, more importantly, its terminology and organizational structure.

5. I have been meaning to write about Michael Kiser and his Good Beer Hunting blog/website for a good while now and just haven’t managed it. Check him out. Seriously. Just leave here now and check him out. His shop is full of quality as is his writing and photography. No doubt his podcasting and events are too. I have the issues of Mash Tun and a print of the Hunter Gatherer by Andrew Wright.

I do not have a Beer Peen Hammer but “Good God!” if you’d like to get me one. Check out that post.

6. Perhaps stocking stuffers for next year: Hop-infused lollipops made from locally grown hops – cooked in small batches and hand poured LolliHOPS™ from Yakima Hop Candy. 

7. Our friend Bend Brew Daddy takes excellent, collection worthy, photos and he has a calendar out for next year. Photos of Central Oregon beers and breweries here and the Rest of the World here.

8. Beer Hunter: The Movie Michael Jackson on DVD. Is there anything else to be said? I do own and have watched this and the “special features.” Worth seeing for all beer geeks; worth owning for many of us.

9. Home Brew Club Membership. A homebrew club membership could be just the thing for the budding homebrewer or someone considering it. Sara and I are members of our local club, COHO.

According to the All About Beer 2014 Beer Lover’s Gift guide there is currently a promotion on AHA membership. Join or buy a gift membership (reg. $43) for $43 and get a free book.

10. Beer books.

Bend beer Bend beer: a history of brewing in Central OregonJon Abernathy; The History Press 2014WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Our friend Jon Abernathy’s Bend Beer was recently released. This is what I have had to say about it here so far.

“It is currently “the definitive” book on brewing in Central Oregon, but I know even Jon wants more answers to some things. There is more he could not fit due to space constraints. Such is book authorship.”

Vintage beer Vintage beer: a taster’s guide to brews that improve over timePatrick Dawson; Storey Publishing 2014WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder

My review of Dawson’s Vintage Beer.

“Vintage Beer by Dawson is an excellent introduction to cellaring beer. It is a quick read that will also bear close studying and better note-taking. Production values are high and it is well-edited.”

Cheese & Beer Cheese & BeerJanet Kessel Fletcher; Andrews McMeel 2013WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Any fan of good cheese and beer should own, and make use of, this book. We picked up our copy from the author at a signing and tasting at the Deschutes Brewery Bend Public House.

Tasting beer Tasting beerRandy Mosher; Storey Pub. 2009WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

My review of Mosher, which I consider the core book in the Beginner’s Beer Library.

“Synopsis: This is an excellent introduction to beer, beer culture and history, and the tasting (not simply drinking) of beer. Highly recommended!”

11. Magazine subscription. All About Beer and Beer Advocate are probably the two leading beer magazines in the US. Both are worth reading regularly if you like to keep up on what’s happening in the wider world than your own backyard. I subscribe to both.

12. Spiegelau glasses. We have one of the IPA glasses which we got as swag at a Sierra Nevada tasting at Broken Top Bottle Shop and Ale Cafe. It does lovely things for the aromas of hop forward beers. That is enough to affect, and improve, the overall taste of these beers. It is not a massive contribution but it works. The glass itself is fragile and hard-to-clean (I handwash my glasses) but I haven’t broken it yet.

I would definitely like to try the new stout glass. [Link found via 2014 All About Beer guide but was well aware of the glass’ existence.]

13. $300 Yeti Hopper 30 cooler. OK. Honestly. I have no experience of this or any other Yeti coolers but having looked at their website I definitely want one! This could be most useful when buying beers on road trips to get them home at reasonably stable temps. It certainly could have many uses but that would be our most likely use case.

14. For other ideas see the following (some items on my list came from these):

  • All About Beer 2014 Beer Lover’s Gift Guide. As I said, got a few ideas and a few links from here.
  • 10 Gifts for the Serious Homebrewer from The New School. There are some seriously useful items on this list. I won’t waste your time and point you at the 1st part as it was mostly (80-ish%) stupid products. I’m hoping their upcoming 3rd list is better.

There you have it: my most recent list of ideas for gifts for beer lovers. There is always my Beginner’s Beer Library page for ideas as it evolves. No promises on how quickly that is, though.

Bend’s “Healthy Beer Culture”

NB: This post is my entry in this quarter’s #beerylongreads, hosted by Boak & Bailey’s Beer Blog.

NB2: This post is a response to “SIGNS OF A HEALTHY BEER CULTURE?” at Boak & Bailey’s Beer Blog. That post is over a year old now but for some reason the other day I was attracted to exploring that question locally. How well does Bend and Central Oregon’s “healthy beer culture” meet their criteria?

Preliminaries

A couple of weeks ago (12 Nov), Boak and Bailey tweeted a link to an earlier post on healthy beer culture in response to The Beer Father’s “provocative post,” “Which Side Are You On?”

[One should check out both of those posts and their lengthy comments. There is some carping but there are a lot of valuable thoughts too.]

Here are the tweets for reference:

That last archive retrieval prompted by @TheBeerFather’s provocative post: http://t.co/iRIv8ObcJu

From the archive (October 2013): signs of a healthy beer culture http://t.co/ZENKHDnq2F

I saw a great reply to the “Which side are you on?” question. I thought it was good because it helped me formulate my thoughts, and more eloquently expressed them: that I’m not choosing a side and that I hope to avoid anyone who has chosen any side. Perhaps it was in one of those comments; I don’t remember.

I do place myself along a spectrum, one that is most likely multidimensional, and give myself permission to move around that space. Historically, my beer drinking shows that change happens in which beers I consume. I also recognize that people choose, and often even like, different things than me and that that is, and should be, beyond questioning.

This post though is to address how Bend does on this heuristic, or at least my little spot in Bend. Which means, your walkability and public transit options may well be different than mine or you may live farther from downtown.

First, their caveat:

“Perhaps inevitably, there’s an obvious UK-bias in the way we’ve approached this, and in how we’ve worded the list, although we did our best to avoid it. We’ve also used lots of deliberately vague terms — don’t ask us to define ‘decent’! (Or ‘beer culture’…)”

Bend and Central Oregon

Bend is a town of ~82,000 in the so-called High Desert of Oregon. Being in the eastern foothills of the Cascades we are in the rain shadow and thus get little precipitation. We do, though, have a couple beautiful rivers, including the Deschutes River which runs right through town. We have world-famous rock climbing formations nearby and many other outdoor recreational opportunities.

Bend started as a way point, then gained a few ranches, and then spent many decades with two huge lumber mills. That ended a couple decades ago and tourism, primarily outdoor tourism, has been king since. Currently, beer tourism is a significant and growing portion of local tourism dollars. Beer goes with everything that goes on here, indoors or out. We also host several international sporting events, mostly of various kinds of bicycle racing, but also skiing and so on. There are times of year when we have less visitors but we always have plenty of them.

This list of the region’s breweries [found in the sidebar] is the most accurate and up-to-date. You’ll see we’re pretty well set. [Note: those are breweries, most of which have a taproom also because … most are brewpubs.][If you are particularly interested in the history of brewing in this region, then notice also in the sidebar the book, Bend Beer: A History of Brewing in Central Oregon, recently written by Jon Abernathy and the compiler of that most helpful list.]

Of that list, and in my opinion:

One is not really in business and I’m not convinced it ever was although the wife and I poured two of their beers at our 1st Bend Brew Fest.  OK, they have a license and every once in a while one or two is available somewhere, either at a local homebrew club meeting or a fest. But there is nowhere one can go and get any of this brewery’s beer on a normal basis. I’ve heard rumor a brewery is being built. So I’ll back off and give them the status “brewery.” I’m just saying it doesn’t really meet my definition of an “active” brewery, let’s say. I’m good with it not meeting my own minimum requirement for what a brewery is but it does get listed most places, so be it. Hopefully they’ll get a better chance soon to show us what they can do.

Another should be self-respecting and admit it gave up on beer. That’s fine really, they do have pretty good food and they’ve always had guest taps. But if they were all guest taps they’d have to come off of the Bend Ale Trail and I do not believe they’d want that for business.

I learned on Veterans/Remembrance Day that Bend has a new one coming this month, Monkless Belgian Ales. Read about it at Jon’s blog [In fact, you can read that post and see the listing of Central Oregon breweries from the same link.]

Depending on who asks and who replies and why, this puts Bend at the top, or certainly in the top, of breweries per capita in Oregon. Which puts it up there, in the world. And it is all craft beer. Well, until recently perhaps. See #3 below.

Boak and Bailey’s Heuristic Answered, by me, for Central Oregon, and my spot in it

The numbered bold statements are Boak and Bailey’s with my answers beneath the respective “criteria.”

By the way, if you are asking who the heck are Boak & Bailey, they are a British beer blogging & tweeting, book authoring, couple whom I follow in those venues. I own the print book but haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

1. There is a drinking establishment within walking distance of where you live where you like to spend time, and which serves decent beer

Definitely! Several. Deschutes Bend Public House, Bend Brewing Co., many others.

2. If you are skint, there is an acceptable drinking establishment within walking distance which sells decent beer at ‘bargain’ prices.

Probably. JC’s, D and D, …

[Note: To better answer this question for myself, I am undertaking a (minimal) form of Jeff Alworth’s Dive Bar Challenge. I started compiling a list of Bend dive bars, but may also need to look a tad further around Central Oregon. Thanks, friends, for all the suggestions so far.]

I think the real concern for us here is the acceptability of establishments (to us)  and not the quality or availability of good beer cheap. This is not to say these are seedy or dangerous or anything; simply not our style of establishment. But we could.

Decided to poke Boak and Bailey on Twitter and asked for their opinion on prices for a pint out:

.@BoakandBailey Where are the price points for you moving from cheap but acceptable pint to next level to premium? Sorry for Americanisms. https://twitter.com/bythebbl/status/534008041138446338

@bythebbl if we’ve understood your question correctly, we’d consider c.£2.60 to be cheap, £3.40 to be standard, £4+ to be a bit pricey. https://twitter.com/BoakandBailey/status/534009373664608256

@bythebbl that’s for standard bitter in the pub. We’d expect (and be reasonably happy) to pay more for 330ml of interesting bottled beer. https://twitter.com/BoakandBailey/status/534009651973869569

[Can I just go on record and say how I would love to taste a proper “standard bitter” in a British pub.]

Based on Google Currency Converter 16 Nov 2014, c.£2.60 (cheap), £3.40 (standard), £4+ (bit pricey) equates to $4.07 / $5.33 / $6.27 for a pint at a pub. That cheap price is tough but doable on most nights of the week. The standard price is close to ours. I’d agree the “bit pricey” is getting up there, although I often pay it or more for a 10, 12 or 14 oz snifter of “something interesting,” bottles or otherwise.

I can definitely find a pint of good (if not great) beer at that standard price ($5.33) in most of the places in town. There will also be beer above that point in most of those places. That price does not always include tip though. [Sadly, our pint glasses are only 16 Imp. oz. and not proper pints.]

But based on all of the locals nights at the many brewpubs and bars you can make that lower price point somewhere most any night of the week. And you can definitely make it in places we just don’t want to frequent. Not bad places; just not our style. But the beer is almost guaranteed to be better than “decent.”

Also have not mentioned beer in growlers. For that see #9 below. That can often be quite inexpensive.

I could always go by Deschutes brewery and get 4 5-oz samples. Every day it is open. For free. I hope I don’t get that skint though. I enjoy driving past it in the roundabout and knowing that I could go taste some great beer for free. That knowledge just makes the world shine a little brighter.

So, this gets a definite yes.

3. If you fancy something special, there is a pub or bar within reach on public transport (WRPT) which sells imports and ‘craft beer’.

I still don’t understand the difference between “craft beer” in America versus in Britain, but in Bend it is all craft, which is a good thing here.

Alright, that claim can now possibly be challenged as 10 Barrel is about to be bought by Anheuser-Busch InBev and according to the Brewers Association they will no longer qualify as a “craft brewery.” But that is a trade organization definition versus what the people think. Time will tell.

As for imports, yes to both walking and public transit: The Brew Shop, Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café, Newport Avenue Market, The Wine Shop & Tasting Bar (downtown) along with a few more I imagine, Whole Foods, and several others.

For both of these, also see #9 below regarding growler fills.

Definite yes.

4. The nearest town/city centre has a range of pubs serving different demographics, and offering between them a range of locally-produced beers alongside national brands.

Definitely. At least you can find national brands in a few places.

[Opinion: By the way, there are not too many “national brands” in the US anymore, as the ones most would think of belong to international conglomerates. People might call Budweiser a U.S. national brand but that’s crazy. The ones that come the closest are still, by Craft Brewers Association criteria, craft breweries; Boston Beer Co., Sierra Nevada, and a few others. A few like Stone and Deschutes are rapidly getting there.]

5. There is a well-established family/regional brewery.

Deschutes Brewery. Something like 6th largest craft brewery in US and 11th largest brewery in the US. Pretty well-established; since 1988. [#s vary depending on when/who you ask/how you look.]

6. There are several breweries founded since 1975.

Every last one of the 27 or so in our little region are from after 1975; the first, Deschutes, was in 1988.

I am unsure whether this  lack of older breweries is supposed to count against us regarding our “healthy beer culture.” I certainly don’t think so. This region had no breweries between 1906 and 1988; at least as current history stands. Some of my big questions in life lately center around this. Why no brewery in region before 1905? Why none between 1906 and 1916 when the state went to Prohibition? Why none after until 1988? That last one is the easiest but still.

I am not in any way against older breweries, we just don’t have any and I’m not holding it against us. [In fact, I respect old breweries. When they deserve/d it. Just like with a newer brewery.]

7. There is at least one brewery founded since 2005.

Since 2005? Well over half of them; or, more specifically, #6 through #21, and the one that has closed. Almost 3/4 of them have been founded since 2005.

8. There is a regional speciality — a beer people ‘must drink’ when they visit.

Perhaps not one, but Boneyard RPM IPA [Beer Advocate / ratebeer], Deschutes Black Butte Porter [Beer Advocate / ratebeer], at the very least. This one may not be a big plus for us but either I’m treating “specialty” far too narrowly, or few regions have such a thing. If the first clause is correct then I’d add The Abyss, Black Butte Porter Reserve, one of Tonya Cornett’s Crush beers, and so many more.

9. There is an independent off licence (‘bottle shop’) WRPT.

Looked up “off licence” but not exactly sure about the “independent” part. We have several [most of the places mentioned in 3 above] and one (beer, cider) bottle shop within walking distance. We also have a liquor store within walking distance. Been there once to get the wife some whiskey for her sore throat hot toddy. I would consider most of them independent.

Growlers, which were mentioned a couple times above, serve a big role in our beer ecosystem. Witness the plethora—which only continues to swell—for new forms/shapes/materials that they come in. Commonly 64 oz (1/2 gal) and 1.5 l, they come in other sizes also, which seems to perhaps depend somewhat on region of the US. We also have growlettes here, which are generally 32 oz or 2 pints. Great beers the equivalent of a “standard bitter” can be had for $8 a growler. Yes, some are more but many are close to this price point. That’s four (US) pints at $2 each. If we only consider proper 20 oz pints as would be served in England then we would get 3 1/8 pints out of it. That gives us a $2.56/20 oz pint cost.

We have at least eight growler fill stations, probably 1.5-2x that, in Bend and Central Oregon. If you add in all of the breweries/brewpubs that fill them your choices to purchase great beer affordably are greatly multiplied.

I put them here since they are for take-away. Of course, here there is little to no assumption that you are taking them home; you may be taking them to a party (anywhere), on the Cycle Pub, camping, hiking, or whatever.

10. There is a shop selling home brewing supplies WRPT.

The Brew Shop, which is a combined homebrew supply store and bottle shop, along with The Platypus Pub in the basement, is easily within walking distance. We have to cross one of the worst intersections in town but it’s a 5-minute walk.

11. There is at least one beer festival in the region.

We have several beer festivals in the region. The biggest is the Bend Brewfest in August every year, then probably The Little Woody Barrel and Wood-Aged Brew and Whiskey Fest at the end of Sep/beg of Oct. We also have the Sisters Fresh Hop Fest, and there have been several other smaller beer fests that may or may not be recurring. But there will be more.

Then there is Central Oregon Beer Week—in its 3rd year this year—which is 9-days in May given over to the region to celebrate its own beer. We, indeed, have much to celebrate.

Some additions that point to a healthy beer culture here:

Central Oregon Homebrewers Organization (COHO): We have a large and fairly active, local homebrewing club. The wife and I are members, although so far I have only helped a friend brew once or twice. I also took a class on all-grain brewing from one of COHO’s officers at which we brewed, of course. And I have been a judge this year and the last at the annual BJCP homebrew competition they hold.

Boak & Bailey asked about homebrew shops in #10 so I assume homebrewing is important. Since not everyone joins an organization—I have several friends who are big homebrewers who aren’t members—this seems a reasonable indicator that the homebrewing culture is healthy here; or, at least, tending that way.

Central Oregon Beer Angels (COBA): This is also a reasonable indicator of the health of our beer culture, I would argue. An organization of over 300 local women “who love all things beer.” My wife and several of our friends are members. I know quite a few of their board members. And I have poured beer for them at an annual party. Biased? Anyway.

Large groups of women enjoying beer sounds like a healthy culture to me.

There are other groups, both organized and not, that do tastings and bottle shares; e.g., a couple through MeetUp.

Access to our brewers: We have incredible access to some amazing brewers. I have seen them, met them, talked to them at breweries, festivals, tastings, beer dinners, educational events, pairings, and so on. I have even gone on a hike with one of my favorites. I met Darin & Meghann Butschy of Oblivion Brewery at Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café on the day they sold their 1st keg because I was hanging out in my local of an afternoon.

We know, or can fairly easily come to know, the folks who brew our beer in this town. That should count for something. Perhaps it isn’t required but it matters.

Wrap-up:

So, I think the answers pretty much tilt in our favor as to having a healthy beer culture. Certainly by this heuristic.

I know there were several posts, at least, in response to Boak & Bailey’s post but this is the one I found and read: a specific reply to Bailey by Leigh Linley at The Good Stuff, as applied to Leeds, England.

No doubt somebody would quibble about my not penalizing Bend for not having a brewery prior to 1975, and someone could argue we have no regional specialty, and so on. How much does that mark us down? Are we going to start rating places by this (It is not a scale). I hope not. And I imagine Boak & Bailey would be horrified if people did.

But I think it provides a great springboard to consider your own regional “healthy beer culture.” Or other regions, but only for benevolent purposes. 😉

Let’s start a conversation about “healthy beer culture” in Central Oregon

So Bendites, Bend lovers, Bend visitors: What do you think? Do we have a “healthy beer culture” in Bend? What’s missing? What is “unbalanced” in your opinion? Did I just completely mess it up? Do we have a regional specialty?

Please comment here or write your own blog post or Facebook post or what have you and link back here. Then please comment with a link to whatever you wrote. If you prefer not to make it public, then feel free to email me or otherwise. If you know me you can find me.

I have some views. We have some flaws and weaknesses in our beer culture. All-in-all, though, it is simply amazing. That leaves an awful lot to discuss, including what both of those refer to.

I would love to see a larger conversation about our beer culture in Bend and Central Oregon. [I just worry that I am not the one to be the driver at this time as only my close friends know I am having some still undiagnosed health issues. No one should worry but it affects my productivity, my focus and thinking, and I must “keep calm and carry on” or things get painful quickly in my head.]

Nonetheless, let’s take this where we may Central Oregonians. And of course, anyone else is welcome to join in regarding any larger points not specific to our region. For example, should we be penalized for not having older breweries and, if so, why?