I’ve accrued a couple of things to write about over the past couple weeks: Test batches of Mirror Pond Pale Ale from Deschutes Brewery, and last Saturday’s Zwickelmania event here in Bend.
Mirror Pond Test Beers
Not too long ago Deschutes started a new online marketing project for members of their Bitter Truth newsletter (the email edition): the “Deschutes Brewery Advisory Board.” At first I thought this was a (rather brilliant) segmented email list where users who would join (like I did) would fill out the occasional survey and receive advance notices of news items. However, right out of the gates they are living up to the name: several weeks ago I received an email to the Board indicating that the first 120 responders would be able to participate in a taste test of two different batches of Mirror Pond Pale Ale.
The details (I responded in time, naturally):
- Two different six-packs of Mirror Pond were available from the Pub, which I had to pick up in person (bringing the official email notice they had sent me as well). They were in brown paper bags, numbered, with an instruction sheet indicating which numbered six-pack I was to drink first.
- I could only drink the indicated six-pack at a time, and once done with the entire six (the Brewery didn’t advise to drink all in one sitting), go online and fill out a survey that the Brewery sent via email (within a day or two of picking up the beers).
- After the survey, start the second six-pack. Same rules as before: when finished with all six, fill out another survey.
- I was to drink all six from each pack by myself, no sharing with anyone.
Thus far, I have drank the first six-pack (and filled out the survey), and have two beers left in the second. It’s very interesting, however I’m not going to talk about the results and/or differences in the beers online (yet) as I’m not finished and I don’t want to potentially alter the perceptions of anyone else participating who might be reading this.
Suffice to say, it’s an interesting experiment, and very reminiscent of a Mirror Pond experiment Deschutes ran at their pub a few years ago.
Last Saturday was Oregon’s statewide Zwickelmania event, where breweries opened their doors to the public for special brewery tours and extras. This year was the first that I actually participated in, and we visited three of Bend’s breweries: Deschutes, McMenamins Old St. Francis School, and Bend Brewing Company—and I was very impressed with all three.
Deschutes Brewery hosted an “open house” format tour of their main brewhouse, and in addition to the usual tour they also offered a really nice spread of food, and the first 50 homebrewers to show up would receive a free two-ounce bag of hops and a booklet of clone recipes for Deschutes’ popular beers. We were there early enough to get a bag of Centennial hops and a booklet, and samples of The Dissident, Hop Henge, and The Abyss.
The recipe booklet is interesting; card-format with ingredients and numbers (original and final gravities, boil time, fermentation temperature) for the beers but no measurements or times for the ingredients—the intent is to work them out for yourself. Cool idea, and through trial and error a homebrewer should be able to work out very good clones of the beers. Here’s the breakdown for The Abyss:
Our next stop was McMenamins, visiting the tiny brewing facility in the basement of the main restaurant. They have six fermentation tanks that have a six-barrel capacity each (though brewer Mike “Curly” White brews in five-barrel batches) and when possible all of Old St. Francis beers are brewed in-house. (Including the standard McMenamins line-up; the only time they have to bring in beer from one of the other breweries is possibly during the busy season like around St. Patrick’s Day when the stout goes quickly.)
We tried a sample of a chamomile- and myrtle-infused pale ale (a related wheat beer was on tap in the pub) which was really refreshing and herbal.
It’s a great little brewing space, and though cramped, has a lot of personality. For instance:
That particular tank is full of a fermenting stout which will later be infused with raspberries.
The final stop was Bend Brewing Company, where we got a tour of the tiny brewhouse—larger than at McMenamins but more cramped, if you can visualize that—and tasters of several beers. For the size and space they have, it’s a very impressive operation. If I’m remembering my numbers right, they are a seven-barrel brewhouse with several 24(?)-barrel fermenters—that is, the brew in batch sizes of seven barrels, and then can ferment (or age) up to three of those batches at a time in their tanks.
Several beers were sampled: a (true) zwickel tasting of their fermenting IPA (straight from the fermenting tank), and from the cold room a Mexican chocolate beer and a Russian Imperial Stout. The Mexican chocolate beer was brewed with mole and spices in collaboration with Sean Paxton (the Homebrew Chef), and will later be infused with chilies and aged for about another year before release—although based on the taste I had, it’s a fantastic beer than could be released now with great success.
The Imperial Stout was another collaboration beer that Tonya Cornett brewed with Oregon homebrewer Ted Hausotter; already a year old, it’s rich and smooth and sure to please.
We finished up with lunch (and more beer) at BBC. All in all, it was a great Zwickelmania.
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