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A Year of Beer in Central Oregon

Your Guide to the Year in Central Oregon Beer

Courtesy: Crux Fermentation Project

 

It sounds cliché, but it’s true: With roughly two dozen breweries throughout Central Oregon, there’s always something happening in the regional craft beer scene. Some nights, it’s live music; other nights, it’s a slate of new beer releases.

Smaller events, fairs, and festivals dot the Central Oregon beer calendar all year long, but a few up the ante with larger, community-wide celebrations. So as you make plans for a winter weekend getaway, spring break, or summer vacation, here’s a rundown of the biggest and best Central Oregon beer events over the rest of 2020.

February: Oregon WinterFest

Sure, Oregon WinterFest isn’t strictly speaking a beer festival. But the annual celebration, happening Feb. 14-16, 2020, in Bend’s Old Mill District, warms up even the coldest of hearts with all manner of seasonal fun—ski and snowboard vertical challenges, ice carving demonstrations, one-of-a-kind fire pit showcases and sculptures, light-centered art displays, and more.

Of course, the festival wouldn’t be complete without good beer: 10 Barrel Brewing Co. will pour its ales throughout the festival, and Avid Cider Company and Crater Lake Spirits will be on hand to pour cider and cocktails, respectively.

February: Zwickelmania

Every February, Oregon breweries open their doors all over the state for Zwickelmania, a celebration of the state’s world-famous craft beer scene. (Fun fact: The festival is named for the zwickel, which is the spigot on a conditioning tank that allows brewers to pour a sample and see how a beer is progressing as it carbonates.)

Each brewery does things a little differently, but the fun generally includes special beer releases, merch sales, free samples, or behind-the-scenes tours. Check out the official Zwickelmania webpage for the latest, or peruse this spreadsheet to see what your favorite breweries are offering.

Portland breweries celebrate Zwickelmania on Saturday, February 15, 2020, and the rest of the state—Central Oregon included—gets in on the fun on Saturday, February 22, 2020.

May: Wild Ride Brewery’s Sixth Anniversary

Since opening its doors in 2014, it’s been a, uh, wild ride for Redmond’s biggest brewery. Wild Ride Brewery opened in a converted lumber storage building six years ago with 10 beers on tap—and has since swelled to 16 or so at any given time, with a tap list that boasts nearly as many styles. (And if you can’t decide, fear not: The brewery’s beer flights arrive on miniature skis, reflecting the brewery’s love for the Central Oregon outdoors.) Keep an eye out for Wild Ride’s sixth-anniversary party, coming up on May 9, 2020. The all-day celebration includes live music and a new beer to mark the occasion.

May: Central Oregon Beer Week

Every May, brewers from throughout Central Oregon come together to celebrate our regional craft beer scene through a variety of special events. And with more than two dozen breweries scattered throughout Central Oregon, you’re never far from the fun: Past events have run the gamut from tap takeovers and special tastings to photography workshops, craft beer trivia contests, and stand-up comedy. Dates and details are still being ironed out, but keep an eye on the official Central Oregon Beer Week website for the latest information.

June: F* Cancer IPA Release

Chances are good we all know someone—or are that someone—who’s been impacted by cancer. So every spring, Silver Moon Brewing does its part to combat the disease with the release of its F* Cancer IPA, which raises money for all manner of regional cancer-related organizations. And Silver Moon marks the release with a special launch party, followed by events throughout the region.

In 2019, proceeds from every bottle and keg sold benefited the American Cancer Society, the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, and other organizations; in all, the release raised nearly $100,000 for cancer research, advocacy, and community programs.

June: Cruxapalooza

Crux Fermentation Project opened in a converted AAMCO auto shop in 2012 and has since earned acclaim as much for what’s on tap as for where to enjoy it.
With roughly two dozen beers pouring at any time, the Crux tap list has something for everyone—IPAs, Belgian ales, barrel-aged beers, crisp lagers, you name it. And “everyone” is pretty much who you’ll run into at one of the region’s most popular breweries, home to a large outdoor area with lawn games, live music, fire pits, and impeccable views of the nearby Cascade peaks.

This year’s Cruxapalooza festival, happening on June 27, 2020, will celebrate the brewery’s eighth anniversary with an event schedule as varied as its tap list. Details are to be determined, but past activities have included live music, a 5K fun run, a beer education class, a photo booth, corn hole and yard games, and a celebratory toast (complete with cupcakes).

August: Bend Brewfest

Any guide to the year in Central Oregon beer would be woefully incomplete without a nod to the biggest beer festival of them all: Bend Brewfest will return on Aug. 13-15, 2020, at the Old Mill District in Bend.

This year, visitors can choose from more than 200 craft beers, ciders, hard seltzers, and wines from producers in four states. Most of the heavy hitters from throughout Central Oregon pour a mixture of one-off beers and flagship favorites—and other attractions include on-site food carts and special small-batch offerings.

August: The Little Woody Barrel-Aged Beer, Cider & Whiskey Festival

Every summer, The Little Woody Barrel-Aged Beer, Cider & Whiskey Festival spotlights the kind of big beverages that show up at the end of tap lists and get poured into snifters and sample-size glasses.

As the name implies, barrel-aged beers, ciders, and whiskeys take center stage at the festival, which will raise money for the Deschutes Historical Society. More than a dozen breweries and cider makers take part, most from Central Oregon and several distilleries pour whiskeys from throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Other attractions include on-site food vendors and live music.

September: Sisters Fresh Hop Festival

Near the end of every summer, brewers pick hops straight from the bine and, within 24 hours, throw them into a beer-in-progress. The end result is a juicy, intensely flavored fresh hop beer—one that has a short window of freshness (a few weeks at most) before the season winds down. But over those six to eight weeks, beer fans all over the Pacific Northwest rush to try fresh-hop beers from their favorite breweries.

Of course, beer fans can also attend the Sisters Fresh Hop Festival—happening in mid-September—which brings together roughly two dozen breweries and cider makers to pour their freshest fresh-hop offerings. It’s the largest such festival in Central Oregon and makes a point to spotlight breweries (and cider makers) from throughout the region.

September: Bend Oktoberfest

Just because you’re not going to Oktoberfest in Munich doesn’t mean you can’t bust out some lederhosen and offer a hearty Prost! 
Bend Oktoberfest, happening Sept. 18-19, 2020, offers plenty of revelry without Munich’s massive crowds: The fun includes a family festival, games (like corn hole, ping pong, and giant Jenga), a food court, vendors, live music, a stein holding competition, dachshund races, and—of course—great beer and cider from all your favorite local producers.

November: McMenamins Old St. Francis School Birthday Celebration

In 2004, the regional McMenamins chain renovated a 1936 Catholic schoolhouse, turning it into the Old St. Francis School. Today, the complex in downtown Bend boasts overnight rooms fashioned from old classrooms, a movie theater, an on-site brewery, live music, a popular soaking pool, outdoor fire pits, and other hidden delights. 

And every November, a birthday party honors the school’s historic past and popular present with birthday cake, property tours, live music, and food and drink specials.

November: Deschutes Brewery Releases its Abyss Imperial Stout

Every fall, Bend’s biggest and oldest brewery unveils the latest release of its Abyss imperial stout, alongside a handful of boozy variants. For many beer fans, it’s a veritable “Abyssmas” miracle.

The midnight black beer offers notes of molasses, licorice, chocolate, roasted coffee, and hints of bourbon as it warms in the glass. Fans look forward to the event all year long—the date changes from year to year and can fall anywhere from late October to early December—since Deschutes Brewery marks the occasion by also releasing aged varieties and variants aged in port, tequila, and rum barrels. The brewery also offers a special food menu to pair with flights of Abyss, as well.

December: Central Oregon Winter Beer Festival

What’s the holiday season without winter ales from your favorite breweries? We don’t want to find out, which is why the Central Oregon Winter Beer Festival is one of Central Oregon’s most popular craft beer traditions.

The festival—hosted by GoodLife Brewing Company—will celebrate its eighth anniversary in 2020, with nearly two dozen Central Oregon breweries pouring seasonal releases and popular flagships. An on-site DJ, heated tents, and food carts add to the festive atmosphere.

Matt Wastradowski
Matt Wastradowski
Visit Central Oregon

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