Better late than never—a little over a week ago, on Saturday the 16th, Bend’s McMenamins Old St. Francis School hosted their 3rd annual High Gravity Extravaganza, with I believe it was 22 breweries (and a couple of cideries) pouring their strong, winter-appropriate beers. Even though it was only their third year doing this, it’s definitely my favorite (January) local beer event. McMenamins does a great job including not only their own breweries but the local guys as well, allowing a wide showcase of different brewers and beer styles.
Quick disclosure: the brewer at Old St. Francis School, Mike “Curly” White, gave me complimentary glasses and a punchcard for the beers, so take that into consideration. I would gladly pay the $15 for the punchcard plus the extra glassware, especially considering the quality of beers that were pouring.
And speaking of those beers, my three favorites were:
- Deschutes Brewery The Descendant: This is a variant of their sour The Dissident, fermented 100% with Brettanomyces and aged on Oregon blackberries instead of cherries. I really only had a few sips of my wife’s pour but it was fantastic.
- McMenamins Crystal Brewery Another Day Malt Liquor: I know, “malt liquor,” right? Forget any preconceived notions because this beer was phenomenal, a really well-brewed strong lager with the right amount of grainy corn sweetness.
- McMenamins Edgefield Extra One Year: This was a Barleywine aged for one year in bourbon barrels, and it was just off the charts good. Boozy but remarkably restrained, deeply rich and complex, this was the best of the day for me.
The majority of the fest took place in the Old St. Francis Theater (we actually grabbed a corner with several couches and tables for ourselves and friends), with several stations set up outside under covered tents: in the courtyard between the Theater and main pub, on the front patio, and behind the property at O’Kanes, where the ciders were pouring.
The day was just brisk enough to have an edge so being able to drink stronger, warming beers was definitely welcome; they did have the firepits going outside, but generally we preferred to keep our comfy seats inside (plus most of the beer was there too). They had a nice crowd for the day; we got there at 1pm when it started so it was still fairly light but steadily grew as the afternoon wore on. Despite that, it never really felt crowded, and there were no real lines for the beers, everything was very orderly.
All in all a very good day with some very good beers. I look forward to the High Gravity Extravaganza coming back around again next January!
Here are the photos from the day: