Ladies and gentlemen, get your livers ready. Run a couple extra laps around the block. Invest in a good water bottle. Maybe some pretzel necklaces, too. It's gonna be a long weekend.
Bend Brewfest is back, kicking off at noon sharp on Thursday and running (or staggering, depending on how much you indulge) all the way to Sunday afternoon at the Les Schwab Amphitheater. If you want to make the most of Bend's largest yearly beer event, some advance planning is highly recommended. Eat a decent meal beforehand (or during—check the Cascade Kolaches food cart, for example). Bring ample cash so you don't have to stand in the ATM line like a clown to buy more tokens. Hit up bendbrewfest.com to figure out which beers you want to try out first. And arrange transportation in advance, because the floor of the Deschutes County Jail is a crappy place to sleep off a hangover.
Need some beer reccommendations? No problem. Here are a few tips for making the most of your Brewfest: As a beer nerd, your first priority should always be beer that you normally can't find in Bend. Nine breweries are making their Central Oregon debut at this event, from Idaho's Slanted Rock Brewing to Portland's Natian Brewery. Keep an eye out for Feckin Brewing Co., an Irish-influenced alehouse out of Oregon City, and Ordnance Brewing, an underrated gem of a brewery in the tiny northeast-Oregon town of Boardman—their Old Craig English strong ale deserves a spot on your list.
It'll probably be hot out. If you want to keep the ABV low and the beer refreshing and light, seek out Tranquilo, a new local outfit that contract brews at Silver Moon and distributes to several Mexican restaurants around the city. Their amber MSA features a nice caramel flavor, and they'll have a special version at the Brewfest infused with mangoes and pepper for a spicier bite. (Along similar lines, Sunriver Brewing will have a blonde ale with mint and lime zest, meant to resemble a mojito. It should be...interesting.)
If you want a more exotic thirst quencher, Berliner Weisse is the way to go. There'll be many at the Brewfest this year, headlined by Uberweiss Marionberry from 10 Barrel, aged for a year in Pinot barrels from Lange Estate Winery. At 9 percent, it's certainly not weak—for a more chill sour experience, check out Dr. Plum from Deschutes or the Berliner from Two Kilts Brewing.
Also consider Shiner. Texas's largest craft-ish brewery (and, at 106 years old, certainly the oldest at the Brewfest) will have two approachable and very inviting fruit beers available—Ruby Redbird, made with grapefruit, and Prickly Pear, a crisp lager with just the right amount of fruity bite.
Of course, if you like your beer dark and viscous, you'll have no problems staying entertained either. Portland's Base Camp took their standby S'more Stout and aged it in bourbon barrels for a beer that will undoubtedly be a frenzied war of competing flavors in your mouth. The above-mentioned Slanted Rock Brewing is bringing a batch of imperial stout from 2013 that was aged in Woodfood Reserve Bourbon barrels and now clocks in at 10.4% ABV. Fort George Brewery did a similar trick with their Coffee Girl stout, which was "aged in Bourbon barrels until we just can't stand it anymore" (their words) and renamed Kentucky Girl; give it a whirl.
Probably the strangest beer on offer: Pipewrench from Gigantic Brewing, their baseline IPA aged in gin barrels for three months. Barrel-aged IPAs are really tricky to pull off—Dogfish Head's Burton Baton is one good example—but if anyone can make hops and gin botanicals play nice with each other, Gigantic is it.
12th Annual Bend Brewfest
Les Schwab Amphitheater, 344 SW Shevlin Hixon Dr.
Thu., Aug. 13 - Sun., Aug. 16
Beginning at noon each day
Free admission. Mugs are $15 and include 5 tasting tokens