By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The totality of August’s full solar eclipse is just going to miss the craft beer mecca of Bend.
But if you want to watch the rare event take place for yourself and then enjoy a tasty Oregon brew, it’s just a short jaunt to the north to Madras, Redmond or Sisters, which all lie in the totality’s path Monday, Aug. 21.
The biggest planned event in Central Oregon is the Oregon Solarfest in Madras. The small High Desert town is almost directly in the center of the eclipse’s route, giving viewers the longest possible glimpse.
The meat of the event is camping, live music and a surrounding festival with activities galore. Four Bend breweries are sponsors: Crux Fermentation Project, Deschutes Brewery, Silver Moon Brewing and Worthy Brewing Company. A beer garden is planned, but the lineup of brews you can try is not yet available. However, Wild Ride is working with Cascade Lakes and Silver Moon on a collaboration for the festival, appropriately named “Wild Cascade Moon.” For more info and tickets: oregonsolarfest.com.
Since the full eclipse will fall somewhere between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. in Central Oregon, most breweries and pubs won’t yet be open. But you can watch the sky show and talk it over during lunch with a beer right after — provided you can get anywhere in traffic.
There are no breweries in Madras regularly open to the public; for that, you’d have to travel south to Redmond. That’s the home of Wild Ride Brewing, Smith Rock Brewing Company and Cascade Lakes Brewing Company (served at 7th Street Brew House.)
The weekend before the eclipse is the first-ever Redmond Brewfest. The event at American Legion Park touts 300 different beers from more than 75 breweries. It takes place Friday and Saturday, Aug. 18-19. Live music, including Larry and His Flask, is featured.
If you want a prime view of the eclipse, Madras is the spot to be. The sky will go dark there for about two minutes. In Redmond, the event will last less than 40 seconds.
Be warned if you head to the area though: A lot of other people have the same plan. According to The Bulletin, the number of people in the region is expected to be double the norm. Law enforcement is preparing to deal with the surge, but area roads — particularly Highway 97 — may have a difficult time accommodating all the traffic.
If you’re just into the beer and not as much the eclipse, the safer bet is the annual Bend Brewfest, which takes place a week and a half earlier, Thursday Aug. 10 through Saturday, Aug. 12. Organizers moved it up a week from its usual dates because of the eclipse.
Want to get a view of the eclipse while also enjoying a craft beer in another part of Oregon? You’re in luck.
· BREWVANA is hosting tour that begins at the Oregon State Fairgrounds for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s Solar Eclipse Viewing Party. Then it’s off to Vagabond Brewing for lunch followed by a tour of Crosby Hop Farm.
· Albany, Salem and Corvallis in Willamette Valley are in the path of the eclipse and have several breweries.
· The chance of clouds is higher on the Oregon Coast, but there are breweries in the path of the totality in Depoe Bay, Lincoln City, Newport and Pacific City.
· Baker City and Ontario also boast breweries that will be the last in Oregon to experience the eclipse before the event continues east into Idaho.
· Be sure to call ahead to make sure the brewery you want to visit is open.
“The media frenzy really helped it take off,” Mike Boyle said of his new business in Sisters, Hop In The Spa. “And of course people just love it when they get here.” Hop In The Spa was inspired by beer spas that can be found throughout Europe, where the medicinal value of hops has long been tapped. Photo courtesy of Hop In The Spa
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
There are seemingly endless ways that Oregon has tried to cash in on the beer tourism craze. The latest evidence of that trend: a spa where you soak in beer.
Ever since Hop In The Spa opened in Sisters in February of this year, it’s been nearly non-stop business, according to Mike Boyle, co-founder of the spa.
Some of the reason for that? It’s gotten a ton of free publicity in the form of mainstream press coverage for what is America’s first “beer spa,” an idea that Boyle and co-founder Sally Champa ported from Europe. Hop in the Spa has been featured in the likes of Time, Newsweek, CNBC, Maxim and Men’s Journal.
“The media frenzy really helped it take off,” Boyle said. “And of course people just love it when they get here.”
Boyle even said the Travel Channel was sending a camera crew in July for part of a special that would feature the spa that is still just a few months old.
The story of how Hop in the Spa came to life has been well told in most of those publications. Last fall, Boyle, a longtime Sisters resident, got into a car accident and his doctor recommended that he go to a massage therapist. That’s how he met Champa, and the rest, as they say, is history.
While the newness of the idea and all the press coverage has helped Hop In The Spa’s fast rise, it’s also rooted in the service it provides.
The core idea and novelty is the soaking in “beer.” Technically, you’re not soaking in beer as much as hop-infused water with minerals, oils and some beer added in. The soaking mixture is brewed onsite. Beer spas can be found throughout Europe, where the medicinal value of hops has long been tapped.
Many of the packages at the spa include a massage after the soak, and the two things work hand-in-hand, according to Boyle.
“The soak kind of tenderizes and marinates your body,” Boyle said in describing why Hop In The Spa has gotten early rave reviews. You also get a beer with the treatment. “You’re not getting inebriated, but the whole experience gets you so prepared by the time you get on the massage table.”
Of course, beer is a big part of the experience as well -- Hop in the Spa has a deal with Bend’s Deschutes Brewery. Boyle says that it has the biggest selection of Deschutes beers available anywhere outside of its pubs. The spa is also close to opening a beer garden on the premises.
Based on the early returns, Boyle said franchising the Hop In The Spa idea appears to be in the cards. Spas could be coming soon to Hawaii and California. And Roanoke, Va. — the site of Deschutes Brewery’s new East Coast brewery — is also a possibility.
But for now, the only place in the U.S. to get in a “beer soak” is in Sisters. And based on its popularity, you better make your reservations early if you want to get in the door.
Hop In The Spa
[a] 371 W. Cascade Ave., Sisters
By Branden Andersen
For the Oregon Beer Growler
When it comes to summer in Bend, beer and outdoors are near-synonymous; practically every outdoor activity is accompanied with a can, bottle or growler of Bend’s award-winning beers.
Once winter comes around, though, it becomes a little more difficult. The opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors is severely minimized as roads turn to ice, snow piles on trails and frigid temperatures make going outside a 20 minute jacket-and-pants-layering ordeal.
But, many Bendites experience cabin fever halfway through December. Sitting around for one weekend is relaxing and all, but there has got to be more to winter than hiding out on your couch, waiting to see the sun.
The obvious choice is to head up to Mount Bachelor ski resort and play on the slopes. But without all of the gear necessary to ride the lift, it becomes an expensive afternoon. Instead, stop at one of the local ski shops and rent yourself a pair of snowshoes, throw a sixer of your favorite beer in your backpack and stop at any of the Sno-Parks to go for a wander in the woods.
Wanderlust Tours, a Bend company that leads outdoor tours around Central Oregon, aims to make that experience easier for tourists and locals alike. Their “Shoes, Views and Brews” tour makes experiencing Central Oregon winter easy with a guided tour through the snow-covered firs at the tree line of the Cascade Lakes.
Don’t think this is a walk in the park. Snowshoeing, while easier than walking around without any special gear, is still quite the workout. The shoes don’t float on top of the snow, like I imagined going into it. Rather, your feet still sink in a couple of inches (a couple instances I was up to mid-shin) and your legs are suddenly a little heavier.
During our tour at Kapka Butte, guides Courtney and Nick stopped every 10 minutes or so, pulling the group together for a well-deserved break. While snowshoers caught their breath and took photos of the stunning landscape, Courtney and Nick explained what the beauty was surrounding the hikers. Courtney pulled needles off of a nearby tree while Nick explained those needles, which smelled deliciously of bright citrus similar to hops, are a great source of vitamin C and can be used to make tea. After more walking, the group stopped in a circle, where Nick proceeded to pull an edible moss off of the tree limbs and ate it for its fiber. Shortly after this, one of the hikers yelled, “I thought we were supposed to get beer on this thing!”
Nick and Courtney pulled out a cooler filled with Cascade Lakes’ finest beers, starting with Blonde Bombshell and working through 20” Brown, Paddleboard Porter and Hopsmack IPA. With each beer, the two explained the ingredients and flavors of the brew, and why there are so many great breweries in Central Oregon.
I had never been snowshoeing before this experience and found it one of the most rewarding hikes I’d been on. While not overly strenuous, stepping through pristine snow knowing that no one else is seeing what you’re seeing or going where you’re going was rewarding. With a couple cans of craft in my bag – no cooler required, just use nature’s cooler around you – I’ll be heading back out and enjoying the silence and serenity of the Central Oregon winter soon.
Kevin Stewart keeps an eye on his latest creation
Photo by Branden Andersen
By Branden Andersen
Hidden away in a residential district off of Redmond’s main street, Smith Rock Brewing is not on Central Oregon’s brewing grid. For now, that’s the way co-owner and co-founder Kevin Stewart likes it.
“We’re just a neighborhood place,” Stewart said. “As long as our customers are happy, we’re happy.”
Smith Rock Brewing opened in November 2012 with a homebrew kit in a house-turned-restaurant. Located 3.5 miles from its namesake, the half- barrel brewery currently only brews enough to keep a couple of its beers on tap, but, an expansion is under way. Stewart is upgrading to a 3-barrel system, with hopes of one day distributing.
“If you look at what we’re doing, we’re not built to be huge,” Stewart said. “We’re on the north end of Redmond, and we’re way lower key. We’re not trying to compete with Cascade Lakes.”
Stewart met his wife, Danielle, in Southern California, where they both worked in the restaurant industry. Kevin, a restaurant equipment manager at the time, said both Stewarts knew they wanted to run their own restaurant one day.
Around five years ago, the Stewarts, along with Danielle’s brother and his girlfriend, weren’t finding beers that matched their palates, so they started homebrewing with beer-making kits. Kevin built a system fit for 22-gallon pots, giving them the capacity to brew enough for two couples that love beer.
Soon, word got out about the Stewart’s beer, and the possibility of opening a place became a reality.
“Friends will tell you they love your beer,” Stewart said. “But the question is, will they pay four dollars a pint for it?”
It turns out the Stewarts felt comfortable enough answering that question to open their own brewpub. They settled on a location in residential Redmond, in a space that was formerly an Italian restaurant. Stewart reinterpreted the previous decor and gave it a stucco-filled southwest feel, accentuating the outdoors focus and national park-themed wall hangings.
Stewart said the experience has been exciting, but not always easy. Danielle’s brother and his girlfriend, who once worked at the brewpub, are no longer actively involved.
“It requires long hours, no pay, and a generally tough life,” Stewart said about owning and operating a restaurant and brewery. “We absolutely don’t blame them.”
Stewart tries to keep at least two Smith Rock beers on tap, which can vary depending on the season and what Stewart wants to try brewing. Their loosely-defined year-round offerings consist of 8am Pale Ale, a smooth easy drinker; and Morning Glory IPA, brewed with an eye on Boneyard’s RPM IPA, with Centennial, Cascade, Citra, Sterling and Magnum hops. The brewery has also produced beers ranging from a cream ale to a Cascadian Dark Ale.
Going forward, Stewart said he’s excited about the expansion and the prospect of putting out more beers. The idea is to keep their consistent beers available, while trying more experimental styles and continuing to produce great food.
“We’re so small, we really can experiment with different styles and have fun with it without huge cost to us,” Stewart said.
“We came in at a good time,” Stewart said. “The beer industry is growing around us and we’re getting regulars from our area to keep coming back. It proves our theory: Provide good food and good beer, and people will know through word of mouth. We’re going to grow at a gradual pace, and we’re okay with that.”
Smith Rock Brewing
[a] 546 NW 7th St., Redmond
By Branden Andersen
Paul Bergeman said that if he was going to open a brewery in the saturated Central Oregon market, he needed to do it right.
Wild Ride Brewing Company opened its doors in Redmond in May. The 1,000-square foot former lumber warehouse space was converted over the past year into part industrial-chic tasting room, part no-nonsense stainless brewing system.
Bergeman has earned his head brewer’s stripes. Ten years ago, on the realization that he loved homebrewing more than any job, Bergeman applied to every brewery in the state.
“I had a couple of people who called me back, but nobody was hiring at the time,” Bergeman said.
He took a job with a distributor, then a bussing job at Laurelwood Brewing in Portland.
“I talked with them initially to get started,” Bergeman said. “I would give Chad (Kennedy, formerly of Laurelwood and now at Worthy) and Christian (Ettinger, also formerly of Laurelwood and now at Hopworks) homebrew all the time.”
Then, Jacob Leonard—another Laurelwood alum now at Widmer—left to brew at Walking Man Brewing, leaving an open space on Laurelwood’s brew team for Bergeman.
“It was awesome to work with Chad,” Bergeman said. “He has a great mind.”
Bergeman worked for Laurelwood for about six years before he left for Hawaii to work as a cellarman for Kona Brewing.
“It was a step down, but I understood that it was a situation where I stepped down so I could eventually move up.”
Four years later, he moved up in a big way.
Taking lessons learned at both businesses, Bergeman aimed to create good beer first, then the building and ambiance to follow.
“It’s hard to say Central Oregon needed another brewery,” Bergeman said. “But, Redmond can support another one.”
Bergeman said he and other decision-makers at the brewery knew that Redmond would be their spot — benefiting from the Central Oregon water and the region’s reputation for excellent beer.
The building’s renovation features a nearly 20-foot solid wooden bar, stainless steel brewing equipment, and striped wooden tables—much of which were either repurposed or reused.
“We had a ton of people pitch in to help,” Bergman said. “When people see us out here, they think we spent a lot on it. But in all reality, we really nickel-and-dimed.”
Wild Ride recently signed with Point Blank distributing, which will send their beer around the state. “There really is so much great beer,” he said.
“But, people like variety—they like change.” On top of the eight beers that filled the taps since day one, everything from a light lager to a coffee vanilla stout, they have since added the Brainbucket Imperial IPA and Bitch Stout. They’ve also started a barrel-aging program, using both their maple brown and stout in Jack Daniel’s barrels.
“We have big thoughts, but it’s one step at a time,” Bergeman said.
Wild Ride Brewing
(a) 332 SW 5th Street Redmond, Oregon 97756
Brewer: Paul Bergeman
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.