This past Saturday McMenamins Old St. Francis School in Bend celebrated their fourth annual High Gravity Extravaganza beer festival, featuring 25 breweries pouring strong, high gravity beers. It’s a great “mini” fest, featuring a mix of McMenamins and Central Oregon breweries (ten and 15, respectively), with many of the brewers themselves on hand to talk about their beers.
Normally this event is spread out around the Old St. Francis School property, indoors and out, but with the amount of snow and cold weather we’ve been having the decision was made to move it entirely indoors. Good call. All of the beer was pouring in the theater, with live music taking place next door. We got there early and got our glasses and punchcards right away (full disclosure: we received free from McMenamins). My goal (which is the same every year) was to focus on drinking the McMenamins beers, most of which I had not tasted before. (Frankly, I’ve drank many of the Central Oregon beers, or will have the opportunity to do so outside of this event.)
That goals nearly succeeded: I had eight beers, seven of which were McMenamins. (The other was Immersion Brewing’s Epic Bender Imperial IPA.) But I’d already had two McMenamins beers previously: Illustrator Doppelbock from the Old St. Francis School (of course), and Lord of Misrule III at the Holiday Ale Festival.
It was a good day and a great little fest, and before we get to the pictures I took, I will say my two favorite beers were the Anderson School’s Class of 2016 Wheatwine, which was terrifically sweet, malty, and smooth, and the Crystal Brewery’s Dying Embers III, which was the one I most looked forward to trying—and did not disappoint, at all. Here’s the description:
The song “Cold Old Fire” by Dublin folk band Lankum inspired this dark concoction. It’s meant to evoke grey days in Dublin and memories of good times and bad spent by a fire, whose flame — like a glass of tasty, strong beer — inevitably will disappear. We sought out flavors to mimic the atmosphere of sitting around the “dying embers of a cold, old fire.” Jasmine Pearl’s Lapsang Souchong adds aromas and flavors of pine smoke, while organic jalapeno peppers provide the slight heat. Peppermint leaves represent the last note on the palate, signifying the chill that sneaks up. Stout and black tea — well, in terms of Dublin, they speak for themselves, don’t they?
Smoked black tea, jalapeno peppers, and peppermint—sounds like a crazy combination, right? Well I don’t know how brewers Drew Phillips (who was there, hi Drew!) and Stephen Harper did it, but this beer tasted like a dying ember. Well it evoked that sensation, you know what I mean. I’m sure it’s not for everyone but I’m a little bit in awe of how well they brought that beer to life.
We in fact got there early enough to grab a Sleepy Hollow Nut Brown and a Hot Buttered Rum in the Fireside Bar.
On the right, brewer Drew Phillips manning the station pouring Dying Embers III and Yule Shoot Your Eye Out! DIPA.
This was of course early on before the crowds arrived.
Additional beers stationed in the theater bar. Mike “Curly” White, brewer at Old St. Francis School, is far right.
Crowd picking up.
Yes, grainy but I will maintain that Dying Embers III was the best beer there, for it’s unique quality and how well it hit the mark. I had the Yule! as well—nice double IPA, presenting more malty but with a piney quality that was a little Christmas tree-like.