Ale Apothecary began as a gamble. After leaving his job at the area's most established brewery, Paul Arney had to make a choice—either find a way to go it on his own, or sell the house and leave town.
"I tied all of my goals to the place. If it succeeded, I would be living a personal dream. If it failed, we could cut our losses and move on," Arney recalls. "In retrospect, it was a real mid-life crises/'fuck-it' moment where I had an opportunity to lay out all of my knowledge, skills, and personal beliefs that I had acquired in life up to that point and put it to the test."
But rather than striving to mimic the corporate consistency of a large-scale operation like Deschutes Brewery, Arney instead looked to the roots of beer making. As a result, he is both upholding an old tradition and on the cutting modern edge of open fermentation—a brewing process in which yeast from the environment comingles with the fermenting brew to create evolving and unpredictable flavors.
It's his willingness to follow the white rabbit of "what if?" down dark corridors that has led to some of Arney's greatest successes. Ale Apothecary is known for its unique, barrel-aged brews, produced in small batches in his brewery in the woods.
"Everything that anyone tastes that comes from this brewery was the result of something going unexpectedly well," he explains.
Still, even when things go "wrong," they right themselves, he says, adding that he's never had to dump any product.
"Any 'problem' has corrected itself with time," he says, "and generally for the better."
That agility is likely aided by his aptitude for thinking outside the keg, literally and figuratively. Arney counts among his inspiration the following varied sources: "Your mom. Just kidding! My mom. The unknown ancient brewers. Lambic beers of Belgium. My kids. Marijuana. Crusty bread and stinky cheese. The idea of having a relationship with trillions of non-human life forms. Luddites, in the best possible and historically accurate sense. Hunter Dahlberg of Orion Forge. Joe Sacco, Ferguson, Kurt Vonnegut. My family. Creative spontaneity. David Mitchell. Functional steam punk ethos. Marty Robbins, MC5, Correspondents."
And he has adopted unconventional methods to create his beers, including working with Bob Platt, "a real honest-to-goodness horse logger," to cut down a 200-year-old spruce tree in which to age his beer.
Ale Apothecary's upcoming release is different for Arney, but less so for the masses. The new brew, with a name like a procrastinator's mantra, is Carpe Diem Mañana. It's a younger beer, produced in less than four months, compared to Ale Apothecary's usual 12 to 14 months. And it's hop-forward, uncommon for Arney because his beers tend to be older, and hops don't age well.
"I happen to like hops, which oddly is in common with a lot of folks, so I thought that I'd make a beer that could be produced less expensively and still maintain an 'Apothecary-ness' about it," he explains.
Despite the hoppiness, Arney says it's not an IPA. "An IPA stands for 'India Pale Ale,' he explains. "It is a historical brew that was brewed in England a long time ago. This beer that I'm brewing has absolutely nothing to do with India or England," he adds. "I've heard other brewers in these parts brew a beer they call IPA? Perhaps it is a homage to Bollywood? Fish and chips? This is why I live in the woods. I get confused very easily."
61517 River Rd., Bend
Tours by appointment only