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A Visit to the Apothecary

Paul Arney's wild-ferment brewery finally opens a tasting room

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It's hard to believe, but Paul Arney has been producing some of Oregon's most unique and complex beers for nearly six years now. It's been a long road for him and his team at The Ale Apothecary, the unassuming little brewery off Skyliners Road that's built its name on wild fermentation, long-term aging in oak barrels, and a dogged devotion to using strictly in-state ingredients. ("The only things I use that aren't made in Oregon," he says, "are the bottles and the corks.")

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Before now, being able to enjoy Arney's beers meant either tracking down bottles around Bend or joining the outfit's Ale Club, a yearly subscription program that's limited to 200 members. That's no longer the case, thanks to The Ale Apothecary opening their long-awaited taproom a couple of weeks ago. It's off SW Century Drive, a stone's throw away from GoodLife Brewing building, and despite the lack of advertising it's already turning into a happening spot. "We only spread the word a little so far," Arney notes, "but in the two weekends we've been open, it's been getting really busy in here. People are making the effort to discover this place, and it's gratifying to see."

Visiting the taproom, which also serves as The Ale Apothecary's barrel-aging storehouse (the actual brewing still takes place at Skyliners), it already has the atmosphere of a well-loved neighborhood place. The space features long communal tables, light fixtures made from old beer barrels, and large framed photographs depicting scenes from the brewery's past. There are also mementos from where the inspiration for the brewery's name came from: Arney's great-grandfather was a pharmacist who worked in rural Eastern Washington, and one wall in the bathroom is decorated with prescriptions for beer that he wrote for "patients" during Prohibition, one of the few legal ways to obtain alcohol in that era.

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Speaking of beer, this taproom is a bit different from the norm. Don't bother asking for an IPA, for example, because The Ale Apothecary doesn't really make one. For that matter, don't ask what's on tap, because there aren't any. All their beers are bottle conditioned, allowing for natural carbonation and more complex flavors that are unlocked after further aging, and as a result, everything at the taproom is in bottles. There's a wide variety of them for purchase for on- or off-site consumption, from the flagship Sahalie to the brandy and wine barrel-aged El Cuatro, and several beers are also available in four or eight-ounce pours.

During the launch window, the highlight of these is a "Wet/Dry" version of (The Beer Formerly Known as) La Tache, a sister beer to Sahalie and the brewery's lightest offering. Regular La Tache is dry-hopped, with hops added to each oak barrel to add more aromatics. For this batch, Arney took the additional step of transferring the beer into fresh hops harvested from the garden of assistant brewer Connor Currie. It was an experiment, and it's paid off, producing an approachable but still refreshingly hop-forward beer.

Ask for it by name when checking in, but make sure the taproom's open first—the current hours are 2 to 7pm Thursday and Saturday, although Arney said that Friday hours are likely to be added for the summer season.

The Ale Apothecary Tasting Room
30 SW Century Drive
Bend, Oregon
www.thealeapothecary.com

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