On our way back from our Bend trip we met a friend in Portland for breweries and I had heard some great things about Commons Brewing, which is really close to Basecamp and Cascade. I really like Basecamp but you have to either buy a flight or a pint and can’t do single tasters, which is annoying. We also visited a small brewery in the area called Baerlic before we left but Commons was the only one I tried a ton of different beers. Commons focuses on farmhouse ales and wild ales and none of their beers we tried were very sour but they were all quite delicious.
I tried the Three Point Six, a hoppy session ale with Brett, Boysen, a strong dark farmhouse ale with boysenberries, the Pumpernickel Rye Saison with cardamon and caraway, the Barrel Saison, an open fermented saison, Myrtle, a tart farmhouse ale with merridian hops, a Biere de Garde, Khthonias, a barrel aged flanders dark with hazelnuts, and Cerise Noir, a dark farmhouse ale with sweet and tart cherries.
The three point six was delicious and super smooth with tons of fruity hops, very flavorful for the low alcohol. I would have ordered a larger one of this after we finished the flight but my husband arrived with food and they don’t allow outside food. The Boysen was very nicely balanced with the fruit coming in nicely and a mild tartness. It finished with hints of wine and bready malts. I’m not sure I paid attention when I ordered the Pumpernickel Rye Saison because I don’t usually like that flavor but it was tasty. It seemed like a lighter bodied version of a Belgian Winter Ale with the spices mostly subdued and not overpowering the rest of the beer.
The Barrel Saison was funky and smooth with some earthy notes and mild spices. This one was also really nice and one of my favorites. The Myrtle was tart and fruity with delicious balance and a mild tart kick at the end. I didn’t get much hops from this one though. The Biere De Garde was very tasty with smooth bready malts and a nutty finish. The Khthonias came on strong with wine and lots of dark fruit though the hazelnut wasn’t very noticeable. I really enjoyed the smoothness and the solid wine. The Cerise Noir tasted more like a brown ale with cherries. It had a super light body and the cherries were fairly subtle but as it warmed up it got more tasty.
For a smaller brewery I was very impressed by the farmhouse ales at Commons. It is a great brewery to have so close to Cascade. I would have stayed longer if they would have let us bring in outside food but then we didn’t check with them before deciding to bring it by because we ordered the food while we were at Basecamp.
Three point six
Biere de Garde
This is part 2 of my Bend Oregon breweries coverage. Part 1 included Boneyard Brewing and Crux Fermentaion Project. In Part 2 here I explore the rest of the breweries I visited in Bend.
I only visited Riverbend brewing because of a recommendation by the server who helped us at Crux. I asked for her suggestion for best IPAs besides Crux and Boneyard and she said we should visit Riverbend. It wasn’t on the must-visit list but I am glad we stopped by. I did seven tasters there, Hydrostatic IPA, Organized Love IPA, Katatonic double IPA, Chains Required IPA, Barrel Aged Katatonic, Boots and Flannels black lager and Equinox IPA.
The Hydrostatic IPA was super smooth and delicious with prominent orange flavors and a fairly solid malt backbone. The Organized Love was fantastic, super balanced with citrus and mello pine and amazingly smooth. This could easily stand up to the single IPAs from Boneyard or Crux. Katatonic double IPA was more balanced and strong with a super dank, sticky, sweet finish. It was a bit malty for my tastes but I really liked the barrel aged version which had a nice sour finish and light vanilla from the oak.
The Chains Required IPA was also super smooth and light body with a juicy finish with subtle lemon. Equinox IPA was smooth and fruity with a good balance of rye and smooth malts. Boots and Flannels was a smoky black lager with a tart finish that was also quite tasty. I took these tasters quite slow as it was the last stop but I was wishing later that I had found their Organized Love IPA at a growler station around town or that I had filled some while I was there. It was really that good. This is a great brewery to add to the list if you have more time.
Top 2 Riverbend Brewing
Organized Love IPA
Katatonic Double IPA
On our second day we started the day at Silvermoon where I wish I hadn’t tried so many of the IPAs because the IPA 97 was the main one I enjoyed. The others weren’t bad but they weren’t that fantastic. I tried the Hob Nob IPA, IPA 97, Turning Point IPA, Southern Exposure IPA, Tart of Gold, Porter, Stout, and the Bone Crusher Double Red Ale. The Hob Nob was smooth and balanced with a bitter finish. It is an easy beer to drink. IPA 97 had a massive lemon and pineapple flavor and was probably the freshest that day. This is their flagship and I can see why. I brought back a six pack for some friends at home.
The Turning Point IPA was smooth with lemon flavors and a crisp dry finish while not too bitter. Southern Exposure was also smooth and light with a crisp bitter finish and a bit more citrus from the southern hops. Both of these were drinkable but a little low on the hop flavors for my tastes. The Tart of Gold was a smooth sour, not too tart, with guava and bitter grapefruit flavors. It was a solid first effort. I have had worse from small breweries but it was fairly average and probably wouldn’t satisfy those who really like sours.
The porter was super tasty with lots of roast and a smooth finish. The stout was even better with thicker mouthfeel and some bitter chocolate on the finish along with some additional bitter hops to finish it out. I could have drank a bit more of either of these if I wasn’t planning on hitting more breweries. The bartender told me I had to try the Bone Crusher if I like hops and I was very impressed. I would say it is more of a double IPA that happens to have a solid malt backbone. The fruity hops take center stage here and balance nicely with the caramel malt backbone. This and IPA 97 are worth tasting though if you are going to a lot of breweries I would just stick to those two.
Top 2 at Silvermoon Brewing
Hop 97 IPA
Bone Crusher Double Red IPA
I have written about Deschutes in the past and I always found their IPAs to be a bit too malt forward, which was the case here again though I had to try the fresh squeezed again to see if I was missing something. It is also worth coming by the original pub for some unique offerings that are not available elsewhere, which is what I focused on. My husband really enjoyed the stout float he ordered as well. I had four tasters here, the fresh squeezed IPA, Smoked Gose, Horseridge IPA, and Rue de Bond Saison.
Fresh Squeezed is balanced and showcases citrus hops but the malts are a little too forward for my tastes and it still tastes too traditional for me. I really liked the Horseridge IPA though. The malt balance works so much better with the English hops making for a smooth IPA that showcases the hops strongly. If you are going to Deschutes for hops this is the one to try. The smoked gose was really delicious and balanced. The underlying gose has a nice citrus bite and the smoke is subtle enough that it doesn’t overpower the rest. The Rue de Bond Saison is quite tasty and showcases banana with herbal notes for a super tasty saison. I brought a growler home but sadly it wasn’t sealed right and was oxidized when I got home.
Deschutes is best to visit for their delicious porter and stouts and you can buy a lot of the barrel aged versions of their Abyss at the brewery. If you are used to the more traditional Northwest style of IPA then you will enjoy their IPAs, otherwise you might want to skip it in favor of other local places that have taken a more modern style to their IPAs.
Out of the three in this post I found Riverbend to be the most impressive. Their IPAs were mostly fantastic.
Bend Oregon is a town that has become known as a beer destination for many years thanks to the success of the local brewery Deschutes, that has grown so large it is fairly widely distributed and has additional locations outside of Bend. More recently, Bend has gotten popular thanks to the fantastic IPAs brewed by Boneyard. I spent two days in Bend recently and I realize that there are a lot more breweries I could have visited than the ones that I am including in this post. However, like anywhere else I tend to visit the breweries that many consider must-visit while leaving the rest of the breweries to those who are local.
This is one visit where I did not take notes on the individual beers I tasted. This is because when you visit Boneyard there is no where to sit and no where to set down your taster flight. This will change when their brewpub opens at some point in the future but for now this means that if you visit the brewery it is a very crowded experience intended to enjoy a quick flight, fill some crowlers, and get out of there on to the next brewery. Because I did not take notes the following will be based solely on memory.
The taster flight at Boneyard consists of every beer they have on tap and they go through the tasting giving you 2 tasters at a time until you have gone through the full set. Every beer I tasted was tasty, as expected but some were better than others. Out of the five hoppy beers I tasted, two stood out as super fresh at the time, Hop a Wheelie and Notorious. Because I was looking to get the best beer possible, I left with six crowlers of Hop a Wheelie, which was tasting slightly better than RPM at the time for my tastes, and two of Notorious, because it is one of the most delicious triple IPAs you will find.
I was also a bit surprised to find a black ale that resembled a black lager and a doppelbock because the second style is especially rare to find made well at American breweries. Surge Knife, the Imperial Stout, was also quite delicious, with a heavy mouth feel and a great balance of smoke, chocolate, and roast. As you will read below, I spent a lot more time at Crux while I was in town simply because they have a place to sit and room to breathe.
I have gotten more used to crowds but there is something I find quite difficult when it comes to standing in a tiny brewery stuffed full of people so much that even though it is 40 degrees outside, it feels like someone turned on the heat. That being said, if you want to fill up crowlers from Boneyard visiting the brewery directly is the way to do it because you are probably only going to find their flagship IPA, RPM, on tap elsewhere around town. Prices for crowler fills are quite reasonable at $6 a crowler for the lighter stuff and $14 for the stronger stuff.
I really enjoyed the feel of Bend itself and with such a short flight to get there I hope to return after Boneyard has opened their brewpub so I can spend a whole day drinking nothing but their delicious brews. If you only have the time to visit two breweries while you are in Bend, you should absolutely visit Boneyard and then spend the rest of your time at Crux and you will see why below.
Top 2 at Boneyard
Hop a Wheelie IPA
Notorious Triple IPA
Crux Brewing Company
I was told by some locals that Crux is run by the original brewer from Deschutes who eventually decided he wanted to be back at a smaller place. If this is true, I now understand how Deschutes was able to get so popular. However, if you don’t like the hoppy beers Deschutes makes because they are very traditional don’t let this keep you away from Crux because they have taken hoppy beers to a whole new level that in some ways you could say is better than what Boneyard does. Where Boneyard makes fantastic IPAs that are up there with Cellarmaker, Russian River, and Alpine to name a few, there is an extra smoothness and subtlety of flavor in the beers brewed by Crux that makes even their 10% double IPA have a body that is closer to a 6% IPA and a flavor profile that is pure aroma.
When I visited Crux I tried 8 different beers the first day. These were the pale ale, sugar daddy pale ale, experimental IPA, nitro stout, brown porter, enigma saison, impass saison, and Half Hitch Double IPA. When I came back at the end of my second day I tried one more that I had missed, their red wine barrel aged quad.
The pale ale was super smooth and balanced with plenty of citrus hops and bready malt background. The sugar daddy is a malt-forward 7% pale ale yet the malts stay in the background nicely leaving room for intense tropical fruits to come out in the finish. The experimental IPA was amazingly smooth and hoppy considering the alcohol percentage. Once again this was malt forward while being fairly light body and insanely smooth and dry on the finish. Flavors came through nicely with plenty of pineapple and mango.
The nitro stout was super smooth with lots of roast and chocolate notes with a subtle smoky bitter finish. My husband wasn’t too big on this when we first had it with the flight but when we came back later in part so he could order the stout brownie, he had no trouble finishing a 10 ounce pour. The brown porter was also incredibly smooth with milk chocolate flavors. Given the lower alcohol content and subtle flavors this is one you might want to taste before going to the IPAs. The enigma saison was super fruity with a banana finish. Though it claims to feature a specific hop variety I didn’t taste much hops at all. The Impass saison also had banana but some citrus and floral tastes going for it that made it a more balanced beer though it was still lacking the earthy finish I like in a good saison.
The Half Hitch double IPA was surprisingly smooth and delicious even after all those smooth IPAs. For a 10% beer it lacked the alcohol flavor at the end or the intense sweetness that can kill a good double. I left with 3 bottles of this beer though I learned later that I could have picked them up at home because they now distribute down to San Diego. Finally, the wine barrel aged quad was absolutely wonderful and a fantastic mix of flavors. The beer lacked the overly sweet syrup taste that quads usually have and had a great balance between smooth belgian and red wine finish without being tart.
I enjoyed Crux so much that I came back a second evening rather than visiting some other brewery that I wasn’t sure about. I figured since I won’t be back in Bend for a while I should enjoy more of this delicious beer and I was glad I did come back again. My husband really liked the stout brownie we came back for and I got to try the barrel aged quad that I skipped the first time.
Top 2 at Crux
Half Hitch double IPA
In part 2 next week I will explore Riverbend Brewing, Silvermoon Brewing and Deschutes to see if the brewery is any different at the original pub.
In Part 1 of my Tampa breweries coverage I discussed breweries in downtown Tampa area. In this second part I venture out into the Tampa Bay area and explore some highly-rated breweries out there.
Seventh Sun Brewing
Seventh Sun is considered by some to be the best brewery in the Tampa Bay area and from the few I visited I would agree. They have a nice open tasting room with a good variety of beers available. I tried the session IPA, saison de soleil, Intergalactic Pale, Bierre de Pommes, Double IPA, Imperial Porter, and Blackberry Saison. The Session IPA was well-named because it was seriously bitter with a dry finish, sporting lemon and tangerine notes. I thought the bitterness was a bit heavy here for what it was but it still is a tasty beer and seemed popular around the tasting room. The Intergalactic Pale is a galaxy hop pale ale but I found again it to be too bitter for such a light beer such that I didn’t get a ton of the fruity flavors from the galaxy hops. It was tasty but I have had much more impressive versions of this type of beer from Tijuana breweries and of course Alpine.
The saison de soleil was a delicious dry earthy saison with mild pepper and medium funk and more medium body than the cider. I really enjoyed the play of flavors here and found it balanced really nicely, making a great farmhouse ale. Biere de Pommes is described as a Saison brewed with apples so it is not a full cider and you can tell it has a great mix from the flavors dancing carefully between saison and cider with a funky, dry, and earthy finish. The apple flavors blended really well with the typical saison flavors. The Blackberry Saison was really juicy and balanced with a good mix of cherry and blackberry and a nice balance such that it wasn’t too tart or too sweet but just right. I considered filling a growler of this but instead went for the double IPA though it was a close call.
The Double IPA was super impressive. I almost didn’t order it after trying the session IPAs but it was highly recommended and wow! It is surprisingly balanced for the high alcohol, 10%, and tastes unlike any double IPA I have had. Flavors burst with grapefruit and mango in a way reminiscent of Keene Idea from Alpine or Wallaby Hunter from Pacific Brewing. Though it reminded me of a few other beers it was still quite unique. I ended with the super delicious imperial porter that balanced caramel, mild smoke, and a mild amount of bitter coffee quite nicely. It is a bit sweet on the finish and quite thick. Another very impressive beer.
Though the saisons were a highlight I was also blown away by the fantastic double IPA and imperial porter at seventh sun. If I was back in the area I would certainly stop by to see what is brewing and get more of that delicious double IPA. I was glad to see that they purged their growlers with CO2 before filling so I should enjoy the double IPA at home as well.
Top 3 Seventh Sun
Saison de Soleil
Less than a mile from 7th Sun is Dunedin Brewing, a brewery with a nice medieval feel that serves food. They had a few delicious stouts leftover from a takeover and so I didn’t taste any of their core beers in part because I was planning on hitting two more breweries after this. I tried the oak aged mundofobock, cherry cholate stout, coffee stout, and Fruits of Leisure fruited sour. The Cherry Chocolate Stout was delicious and nicely balanced with a smooth mix of cherry and chocolate and a sweet finish. With a light body you could easily have two pints of this and love it. Looking forward to popping my crowler later. The Coffee Stout was a nice balance of coffee and chocolate with medium body but it could have used more coffee or roast. A solid beer but got overshadowed by some others.
The Oak Aged Mundofobock was a beast and the base stout has plenty of thick delicious plum and molasses. The oak comes on strong but not overpowering leaving a mildly acidic finish. This was a beast of a beer and really quite tasty. My husband really liked it. The fruits of leisure was honestly disappointing. Though it had a nice balance of fruits and a dry finish none of the fruits came through prominent and it didn’t do anything fantastic. Overall the combination of things I tried at Dunedin was enough to make me want to try it again if I happen to be in the area. I loved the vibe and the beers. Though rating a brewery on specialties isn’t my typical style I just couldn’t pass up the delicious options.
Top 2 Dunedin Brewing
Cherry Chocolate Stout
Oak Aged Mundofobock
From everything I heard Rapp has a rabid following for their sours and I can see why. Though they are on the mild side (not puckering at all) they are delicious and most everything else was awesome too. I tried the gose, gratezer (accidentally, due to the numbers they use to order), a Polish style smoked ale, chocolate cherry hazelnut stout, double IPA, Berliner Weisse, and sour with pilsner malts. The Gose is their most popular and award winning and I can see why. It has a flavor almost like lemonade with tons of flavor and a smooth finish. The polish smoked ale was surprisingly tasty for a beer I accidentally ordered. It had a mellow smoke and light body but went back easy thanks to low carbonation.
The chocolate cherry hazelnut porter was really awesome and balanced with medium body and had a nice sweet cherry finish with a slight nutty flavor from the hazelnuts. Chocolate was very subdued and in the background. The Double IPA was a total malt bomb and overly sweet with some fruity tropical hops. I did not finish the taster. The Berliner Weisse was surprisingly strong for the style though it hid it really nicely with a super light body and dry finish. The sour with pilsner malts was really delicious with plenty of fruit that balanced with the sweet malt finish and a mild tart kick. I liked this the best of the bunch and left with a growler fill. Overall Rapp is a great little brewery that does a ton of experimental styles but most impressed me with their sours. I wouldn’t get an IPA there unless you want a malt bomb though.
Top 2 Rapp Brewing
Pilsner Malt Sour
Though I was very excited to visit Cycle because of the good things I heard I found it to be a fairly underwhelming experience mostly because they don’t serve tasters so you instead can do half pints only. Apparently the bartenders think it is too much work to do taster flights but don’t mind giving you splashes of everything. Totally strange. So I only tasted two beers and they were good but nothing that screamed to be brought home with me. The IPA was dry and citrus forward with a heavy bitter finish with floral hops and some pine. I thought the bitterness was too much and didn’t get enough hop aromas from it. A pretty standard IPA but nothing special. The Brett Saison was quite tasty with an earthy malt flavor, a dry finish and medium funk. It hit all the right notes for a saison. If you are visiting for longer or aren’t so much into flights you might enjoy Cycle a little more but I was underwhelmed. I had better beers from each style at the other breweries. Though it is hard to follow Seventh Sun and Rapp.
As you can see from above, Rapp and Seventh Sun were the two most impressive breweries in my second day around Tampa. Both hit it out of the park with delicious beers that would make me come back the next time I am in the area.
Any town like Tampa with the reputation of Cigar City and the breweries that have sprouted around its success can be exciting and sometimes awesome. I had a great experience overall and some solid beers from the seven breweries I visited in two days with at least two really tasty beers from each brewery I visited of the ones I tasted. In order to visit so many breweries in 2 days I had to limit myself in the number of tasters to the ones that sounded the most exciting, so I may have missed something awesome on tap and if so that is always sad.
Side Note – I visited Tampa prior to Cigar City’s sale to Oskar Blues. Though I probably would have visited Cigar City anyway even after the sale because thankfully it was not to AB InBev.
Cigar City Brewing Company
Sometimes the biggest breweries are great but are missing the charm of the other places, whether from the crowds or just the massive selection on tap. I couldn’t possibly try everything at Cigar City so I focused on the hoppy beers, a sour, and dark beers. I tried the Invasion Pale, Jai Alai IPA, Tropical IPA, India Style Porter, Juniper Aged Sour, and a big collaboration imperial stout. I found the Invasion Pale to be much better overall than the two IPAs. It is a super tropical light-bodied beer with a low malt bill and medium bitterness sporting flavors of mango and tangerine. I loved this one so much I left with two six packs and would have likely ordered a pint if I had more time to hang.
In comparison, the Jai Alai IPA was fairly disappointing. I’ve enjoyed it before on tap in other parts of Florida but I found it a bit too sweet, sticky, and heavy with more malt balance than I expected. It is a solid IPA for sure and nicely dank balanced with some carmel malts but it wasn’t as delightful as the pale ale. The tropical IPA was well-balanced with a chewy bread finish and a solid bitterness. It was nice and tropical but I again found the malts a little too overpowering and the hops just weren’t bursting out as they could have.
The India Style Porter was massively smoky and bitter with mild notes of caramel. While well-crafted, it was just too much smoke for my tastes and I didn’t drink much. In comparison the collaboration imperial stout on tap was much more complex and balanced with everything including chocolate, smoke, molasses, licorice, cherry, plum, and other flavors all blending together in a super thick and chewy stout. Though I don’t know that I would want to grab a bottle of it I very much respected the complex flavors and my husband was very impressed. Finally, the Juniper Sour was really not my thing. My husband described it as under-ripe fruit with an off-putting finish. Others described it as a gin bomb because Juniper is often used in gin. I just couldn’t point out any of the flavors or finish it and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
There were a ton of other beers I didn’t get to try including the pilsner that is apparently so popular they have to limit how much people can buy, but with a huge crowd and after the generally underwhelming IPAs I didn’t feel drawn to order a second flight. I was most impressed by the pale ale and will be enjoying that at home for a while because I left with two six-packs.
Cigar City Top 2:
Collaboration Imperial Stout
Angry Chair Brewing
I immediately found the atmosphere at Angry Chair more inviting than Cigar City with a smaller size, slightly smaller crowd, and some great locals to chat with about the area and beers. I skipped the hoppy beers here because everyone was raving about the two heavy stouts and I had one more to go for the night. Plus after a massive Cuban sandwich earlier I didn’t want to go overboard. But everything I tried at Angry Chair was really impressive. I tried the gose, raspberry berliner weisse, German Chocolate Cake, and Tiramissu Stout.
The gose was crisp and refreshing with very mild tartness and a little salt with a solid balance of yeast flavors. The raspberry berliner weisse was really fruity and not too tart with a dry finish and a delightful pink color. I considered getting a growler of the raspberry but they weren’t doing fills. The Cerman Chocolate Cake was a massive delicious mix of chocolate and intense coconut. The coconut lingers a little bit on the finish, just enough to balance out the chocolate. The tiramissu stout was really thick and a little too sweet for my tastes. While it had a nice intense coffee start the end was like sheet cake frosting a little too heavy and it coated the mouth, unbalancing the whole thing.
Angry Chair has a nice small tasting room with a great local presence and a nice set of taps. If you like stouts or sours this is a must-visit in the area. I was also glad that this and many local breweries didn’t treat the gose and berliner weisse beers as super special and still only charged $2 a taster.
Angry Chair Top 2:
German Chocolate Cake
Raspberry Beliner Weisse
Coppertail was the last brewery in Tampa proper I visited but there are plenty more to come in Day 2 that I visited in the surrounding areas. Coppertail is in a large building and slightly bigger overall than Cigar City. I tried a number of beers there but I almost left a bit early because of the massively loud music playing. I tried the gose, berliner weisse, sour session IPA, Free Dive IPA, and Unholy Belgian Tripel. The gose was crisp and refreshing with a nice citrusy finish and a pilsner malt finish. I really liked the flavor of this one. The Berliner weisse was a little lighter in body with less flavor than the gose so I would suggest people go with the gose. It didn’t have much that stood out about it.
The sour session IPA was a really interesting different flavor with powerful grapefruit kick at the front and a mild tart finish. All 3 of the “sours” were highly carbonated and tasty. The Free Dive IPA was a solid balanced IPA with tons of citrus and grapefruit and a medium bitterness. I preferred it to the Jai Alai as it felt the malts were more subdued. The Unholy Belgian Tripel is a super hoppy version of the classic style. It could easily be described as a Belgian style Double IPA. Everything balanced nicely with the American hops taking center stage and balancing nicely with the sweeter finish and Belgian yeast. I really savored that taster.
Coppertail Brewing Top 2:
Unholy Belgian Tripel
Out of the three breweries I visited on my first day the one I found most welcoming was Angry Chair. Not only did they have some very tasty beers they were the quietest of the bunch. They have a very neighborhood feel and don’t try to turn the tasting room into a bar.
Come back next week for my post on Day 2 of my Tampa experience, where I visited other breweries in the Tampa Bay area.