Deschutes Brewery (Bend, OR)

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.

Deschutes Brewery and Public House (Bend, OR)
The original location of Deschutes Brewery: The Bond Street Brewery and Public House in Bend, OR.
What happens when one of those breweries finds itself 10, 15, or 20 years down the road, brewing almost 200,000 barrels each year? Well, it can easily find itself trading creativity for profit. Creativity and profit are not on opposite ends of the spectrum, but once a brewery is supporting a sales and marketing team who are pushing it's flagship beer, distributors who want more and more of that beer, and three shifts of brewery employees, it's definitely easier to keep brewing the same recipe over and over at the expense of a more diversified lineup. A brewery that used to have 5 standards and 12 yearly seasonals might find itself with a only flagship beer in the lead role with only two supporting characters.

Deschutes Brewery, Portland
The newest addition to the Deschutes Brewery family: The Portland Pub.
In the wake of this expansion, it is also very easy to alienate the people who helped make the brewery what it is today. Most breweries can trace their roots back to a small brewpub, with little or no distribution and a lot of community support. As distribution expands for a growing brewery, beers created for a larger region usually end up being generic version of the local recipe. Many recipes are tamed for a national audience, leaving the locals wondering what happened to their favorite beer.

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.

Deschutes Brewery, Portland
The Deschutes Brewery wall of medals at the Portland Pub.
Stop into one of the Deschutes Pubs and you'll find surprises such as: Shaka! Golden Ale, Cabernet Green Lakes, N2 Bond Street Brown, Red Chair IPA, Sagebrush Classic Pils, D-Straat Dubbel, Hopness Monster, Hopicide Imperial IPA, and many others in their heavily rotating seasonal lineup.

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.

Deschutes Brewery (Bend, OR)
"Wall of Temptation." This Fall's release of The Abyss awaits distribution.
Also in the Reserve Series are Black Butte XX, The Abyss, and Mirror Mirror. Black Butte XX was released in conjunction with t he 20th anniversary of Deschutes Brewery. To celebrate the beer that put them on the map, Black Butte Porter, Deschutes created this 11% monster, adding regional specialty coffee and chocolates and aging in whiskey barrels. The Abyss is a very highly acclaimed Imperial Stout. I found single case of Abyss buried on an unpacked, shrink wrapped pallet in the beer aisle of a Zupan's Market while I was out on a lunch break. I think it was calling to me. I'm not sure how else I would have stumbled upon it. I convinced the clerk to open the pallet and sell me the whole case so that I could give them out as gifts. Two of them are currently in my cellar, one went a friend as a gift, and I couldn't help but tear into the other nine--no surprise there... Prior to The Abyss, and kicking off their Reserve Series was Mirror Mirror back in 2005, a double version of Mirror Pond Pale Ale.

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.