A worthy brewery tour

4 Jun

Well it’s Memorial Day weekend, when all Oregonians step out of their house, outdoor gear in hand, just to learn it is still raining.  This year, still raining was a serious understatement.  Take heart, the sun will arrive on July 5th, as it always does, and we will get to go outside.  Personally, I can’t wait to do a little camping and get a line in the water.  Now, with so many good breweries canning beer, there truly can’t be a bad day of fishing.  Hmmm, thats a good idea for another post: which beer pairs best with fishing…well, that is for another day.  For now the clouds are gray and thick, so if you find yourself close to Bend when your camping trip is rained out, get inside one of Bend’s breweries and dry off with a delicious beer.  If that brewery just happens to be Bend Brewing Company (which I highly recommend), you should grab any one of their excellent brews and ask about a brewery tour.

I have been on quite a few brewery tours around the state, and I would say, as a whole, the tours are quite good.  The tours are usually run by the brewers, and they are genuinely excited about their beers and happy to show you around.  The tours that rise above are those that teach you something.  As a home brewer I know I still have a lot to learn, so any information I can use to make my beer better is greatly appreciated.  An example was the tour with the guys at Flat Tail Brewing in Corvallis.  Ian Larkin, the new brewer at Bend Brewing Company (BBC), also gives a truly worthy brewery tour.

“Wait,” you say, “who is this Ian guy?”  Ian was Tanya Cornett’s assistant for several years at the BBC.  Now that she has moved on to 10 Barrel Brewing Company, Ian has taken over the reins at BBC.  And he has started off his tenure as head brewer with a bang, earning a gold at the World Beer Cup for Ching Ching, an American sour (category 18)!  He beat out entries from the likes of  Allagash and Russian River brewing. I have to say, Ching Ching is indeed a very tasty brew.  You can look forward to more detail about that beer in an upcoming post.

With a short list of Ian’s credentials established, on to the tour.  One of the first things you should know is at BBC they have managed to cram a 7 barrel system (or 10, depends how you count) in the smallest room possible. Therefore, the tours are always small.  On Ian’s tours this is a good thing as he gives the tour assuming you are there to learn something about the production of beer and doesn’t dumb down the terminology.  So, if you are not sure what ‘wort’ is, just stop him and ask, and he will explain it in more detail.  From the mash tun to kettle and then to conical fermenters; after a tour, I suspect you will have a good idea of how barley is turned into delicious beer, even if you went into it totally ignorant as to what happens behind the tap handle.

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