Deschutes Brewery: The People's Goliath
One of the great things about the Portland beer scene is that there is so much beer that never makes it out of Portland. Small seasonal batches pop up here and there and are consumed so fast that by the time you hear about them, they may have already disappeared. It's beer that's brewed specifically for the people of Portland (or anyone visiting at that particular time). Many breweries out here craft their beer on systems in the 15 bbl range. So, even on a long day brewing a double batch, they can only pump out about 30 barrels, assuming they have the fermenter space. Annual output for many of these places is in the range of 2000 - 5000 barrels.
Though these places may be constrained by equipment, space, and distribution, there is no limit to creativity. Of course, there will be some pressure to keep brewing the leading styles, but smaller breweries have flexibility through autonomy and an experimental nature driven by Portland's knowledgeable and eager beer patrons, bragging rights, and the great brewers who just want to try something different.
This is the fate for some breweries and they go out in a blaze of mediocrity. Others remember the grind of the first small brewery, the smell of hops in their fingers, and the satisfaction of surprising the beer community. Deschutes Brewery is one of those breweries. Starting on Bond Street in Bend, OR, Deschutes Brewery and Public House appeared on the scene in 1988. The last 20 years have seen the expansion of Deschutes Brewery to a huge production facility also in Bend and the recent opening of it's Portland Pub location, complete with a 21 barrel brewing system.
Deschutes currently serves up seven different styles year round: Black Butte Porter, Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Inversion IPA, Obsidian Stout, Green Lakes Organic Ale, Cascade Ale, and Bachelor ESB. Not only have all of these beers won medals, but so have all of their four seasonals: Buzzsaw Brown, Cinder Cone Red, Twilight Ale, and Jubel Ale. Not enough beers or medals? Don't worry, we haven't even begun to slow down. In keeping with tradition, all of their beers in the Bond Street Series beers have won medals as well: Hop Trip Fresh Hop Pale Ale, Hop Henge Imperial IPA, Broken Top Bock, 18th Anniversary Pilsner, 19th Anniversary Golden Ale. Joining the Bond Street Series this year as well is the 20th Anniversary Wit. So far, we've gone through 17 different beers that have accumulated over 130 medals and awards. Most of these beers are available West of the Mississippi at your favorite grocery store or bottle shop, but if you live in Bend or Portland, you're even luckier.
But it appears that Deschutes Brewery likes to keep busy. In between all of the beers listed above, they somehow manages to put out some of the most anticipated and highly sought after beers in the country with their Reserve Series. Available in 22oz bottles and weighing in at 11% abv, the release of these beers is very limited. If you're lucky enough know where to find some, you'd better get there on the same day that they arrive because most places run out of stock in the first day or two. Slated to arrive in stores today, their latest creation, The Dissident, has much of the beer community talking, blogging, anticipating, and making room in the fridge or cellar. In fact, Liquid Solutions, an online retailer decided to have a presale for their allotment and it was sold out almost immediately after posting the offer. Using a wild yeast strain known as Brettanomyces, The Dissident is fermented for 18 months in seclusion from the other beers in the brewery to avoid any cross-contamination. Creating this beer also includes aging in Pinot and Cabernet barrels for over three months, plus the addition of cherries for a year. These pieces of the Dissident puzzle are used to balance out the natural sourness that the wild yeast creates during fermentation.
For a brewery of their size, Deschutes Brewey could easily placate to the masses and make a lot of money selling a small lineup of adequate beers. After all, it is the easy way out. Luckily for us, they chose the rougher road and continue to embody the spirit of a small, fearless brewery. Deschutes Brewery is dedicated to the beer and the community, maintaining a delicate balance between the growth of a great product and the creativity of a great brewery.
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