It's only natural, once temperatures dip below freezing and the sidewalks all ice over for three months, that a person's mind turns toward darker, maltier, more robust beer. (For those people of drinking age, that is.)
McMenamins Old St. Francis School, just outside downtown, is ready to oblige. The third annual High Gravity Extravaganza, a rare winter-season beer festival in Bend, is taking place this Saturday, offering a couple dozen beers (and a few ciders, too) meant to offer you cold comfort. It's a great chance not just to try a lot of complex, flavorful ales for cheap ($15 for ten taster-glass fills), but to see what the staffs at McMenamins' other breweries in Oregon and Washington are cooking up without having to travel over the pass. Show up between 1 and 4 p.m., and you'll also get to chat with some of the brewers as you try their stuff. Music begins at 3 pm and the event runs until 10 pm.
Some of the highlights:
Magnuson Strong Ale: Probably the best beer from the pub chain's Thompson Brewery in Salem, Magnuson is a traditional strong pale ale that keeps the hops on the down-low and its powerful caramel-ish flavor front and center. Whoever created the term "winter warmer" was picturing something like this.
The Descendant: Deschutes Brewery's contribution to the fest is a sour ale they're calling a "younger sibling" of The Dissident, their Flanders-style brown ale last released in November. It uses the same recipe as The Dissident—oak casks, Oregon blackberries, the whole bit—but is fermented with Brettanomyces yeast, making this Deschutes' first entirely Brett beer.
Edgefield Extra One Year: A barleywine hailing from the McMenamins Edgefield complex outside Portland, Extra is the sole barleywine of the show, a 10.7 percent alcohol by volume (ABV)- ale that overloads your taste buds with toffee, grain, and booze. This four-barrel batch has also been aged in whiskey barrels since 2014, intended to give it an even more complex flavor package.
Notorious Triple IPA (Boneyard): No explanation necessary.
MM: Homebrewers who take a kitchen-sink approach to their recipes will appreciate this beer, the 2,000th batch brewed at the Roseburg Station Pub & Brewery. Brewer Tom Johnson has crammed 20 different malts and 20 different hops into this reddish-brown ale, and Johnson reports that it's got a full-bodied base of malt flavors and a heavy citrus/tropical kick from the hops. It's like having every beer from Roseburg Station in one glass—whether that's a good thing or not is a question we can only answer this weekend.