The Little Woody, Bend, Oregon

Saturday, the 12th, I attended Bend’s first barrel-aged beer festival, The Little Woody (announcement, beer list). It was held downtown, in the lawn and parking lot of the Deschutes Historical Museum, which turned out to be a decent location—I was there early and by the time I left (3pm), it was filling up and I’ve heard that it was elbow-to-elbow standing room only later in the evening. (The fest ran until 10pm.)

All seven Central Oregon breweries were well represented, all of them having two beers on hand, at least one of which was barrel-aged. Regular beers cost one token, and wood-aged beers cost two; tokens were $1 each or you could get 10 with the $15 entrance package. ($6 by itself would get you in with a commemorative glass.)

The Little Woody
Right after opening, access to beers was free and clear
Vendors at The Little Woody
Beer and ice cream!

In addition to beer, there were four food vendors there: pizza, Mexican, vegetarian, and Ben and Jerry’s. I had lunch before I went down there, but had I not, I would have actually like to have seen more food choices available.

Looking down the line...
Looking down the line...
The crowd starting picking up later in the afternoon
The crowd started picking up later in the afternoon

It was a beautiful day for the fest, I met up with friends and had a good time. I made it a point to taste all of the barrel-aged beers available (at that time); here’s the rundown:

Reaper’s Demise (McMenamins Old St. Francis School): An Oktoberfest-style beer aged 40 days in a McMenamins Hogshead Whiskey barrel. 6.2%. Sweet and mellow with a nice understated, blended whiskey character.

Reapers Demise from McMenamins
Reaper's Demise from McMenamins

Firewater Red (Three Creeks Brewing): A Northwest Red Ale aged one month in a Hogshead Whiskey barrel. 5.8%. Fairly pronounced whiskey characters in the nose and mouth, much darker than you’d expect for a “Red” ale, though the color might have been influenced by the barrel. It should be allowed to warm up to appreciate it more.

Firewater Red from
Firewater Red from Three Creeks

Bourbon Barrel RIPA (10 Barrel Brewing): A blend of 10 Barrel’s IPA and a Red Ale, aged “several months” in an oak bourbon barrel. 7.5%. I found it more hoppy than “woody”. Some bourbon character was coming out as it warmed up.

Bourbon Barrel RIPA from 10 Barrel
Bourbon Barrel RIPA from 10 Barrel
Bourbon barrel used by 10 Barrel Brewing
Bourbon barrel used by 10 Barrel Brewing

Skookum Strong Wood (Cascade Lakes Brewing): A version of their Skookum Creek Strong Ale aged for nine months in a Jim Beam barrel (which was there at the fest—it’s in the picture below). 7%. I found this to be a really good beer, malty and mellow and full of smooth vanilla whiskey notes—I was very impressed. I would definitely look for more of this if it was bottled.

Skookum Strong Wood
Skookum Strong Wood from Cascade Lakes

Bourbon Bite Porter (Silver Moon Brewing): Their regular Snake Bite Porter aged in a “fresh bourbon oak barrel.” 5.2%. I only had a taste of this from someone else’s glass, and it was disappointing from a wood-aged standpoint—only a little bourbon character, more of a smokiness but otherwise a regular porter.

The other barrel-aged beer Silver Moon had at the fest, The Nekkid Creeper, wasn’t tapped yet—they were planning on tapping it later in the day, so I never had the chance to try any.

Barrel X (Bend Brewing Company): A special release of their already-limited Outback X, aged for a year in a barrel. 9.1%. This is a sour beer—think Deschutes’ The Dissident and similar sour brown ales. I asked if this was intentional, or an accidental by-product of aging on the wood—they assured me it was intentional. It was actually not a bad beer (from my limited experience with sours), but it needs more time to age and mellow—I was getting some paint thinner notes off of it.

Barrel X from Bend Brewing
Barrel X from Bend Brewing

Bourbon Barrel Quad and Mirror Mirror (Deschutes Brewing): The Quad is the same beer than I reviewed here and was just as good; the Mirror Mirror (reviewed here) was the star of the fest. It’s aged really well even in the relatively short time since the spring; creamy and rich and smooth, with subtle vanilla and bourbon. There’s a lot of maturity in this beer.

Deschutes barrel-aged beers
Deschutes barrel-aged beers

There was live, local music on the lawn; early in the day there was more interest in the beer than the music, I think.

Music stage on the lawn
Music stage on the lawn

All in all, I think this was a good first effort. There were a few snags that I think could stand to be corrected: no minors were allowed at all, for instance, but there would have been no problem with kids present that I could see (at least, say, until 6 or 7pm). There was also no beer alternative: I know a “beer festival” is expected to only serve beer, but there could have been a winery or two represented—especially since wine ages in wooden barrels, there could have been some sort of tie-in in that regard. The Oregon Brewers Festival has a “Root Beer Garden”, that serves up free root beer to designated drivers—something like that could be a possibility also.

I’m looking forward to seeing where this evolves for next year.

People milling around, debating between music and beer
People milling around, debating between music and beer
The Real Little Woody!
The Real Little Woody!


  1. Overall I totally agree with you. Loved the Mirror Mirror and the Nekkid Creeper… YUM! Kudos to the organizers for a great first event. I can’t wait till next year!

    But… yes I understand the criticism of the age limits and I’m all about kids at family events. Heck, I like my kids and enjoy spending time with them. But frankly? It was really nice that this event was kid free. In fact, my husband and I commented on this while we were relaxing with our beer glasses balanced on the lawn. We noted how it really does change the “vibe” when there are kids running around. After all … what is there for kids to do at a beer fest? It’s not like there was a lot of extra space for a children’s activity area. I would have been concerned about watching out for little ones, strollers, and that sort of thing.

    Maybe next time they can coordinate with the library or the Boys and Girls Club to organize an activity for little ones nearby at the same time. Organizers… PLEASE KEEP THIS EVENT KID FREE!

    My only quibble with the event was with one of the vendors. We arrived at 5pm and stayed for a couple of hours. When we went to get food and were looking at options, my husband decided on a slice of pizza from Pisano’s (sp?), who have a restaurant in NWX. Right after he ordered and paid, I watched the owner wipe off the price ($3) and raise it to $4. He was talking about running out of pizza, or something but that just came across as shady.

  2. I’m sure if it’s as restrictive in future years, I hope it fails.

    You spent $20 and they could have gotten more money out of us (we talked about this with Paul/Sandi later that night) if they had advertised food and more importantly, made it available to those who have children…but no babysitter. We’d have gone down and all had lunch while you tasted, meaning more money spent there, their loss I guess.

    Yes, i’d have complained with only beer available, but both times (when I dropped you off and picked you up), the bouncer was talking to people with stollers, obviously telling them NO CHILDREN! There was no advertising of this, only when you asked about what beers and then you emailed again asking about the children/other beverages. They could have done a better job in advertising any restrictions and if it’s OLCC restrictions, then I have another opinion.

    Trying to only appeal to one demographic and have a “festival” will only get you so far and they did not get as much $$ as they could have from us because of those restrictions.

  3. I believe I saw signs or posters about town promising wine in addition to the beers, but there were no wines available. Of course, your ad campaign and artwork do get done fairly early on.

    For us, it would have been real nice to have some shade near the booths, as the sun got pretty brutal at times. Our strategy was to get a beer, hoick over to the shady lawn area, drink the beer, then head back for another. Lather, rinse, repeat. The lawn looked like a nice place for kiddies to romp and frolic.

    The Barrel X tasted like oak flooring sawdust to me, but gotta cut the brewmaster a bit of slack: she did say it was her first attempt at a sour, and props to her for bringing a first try to the show.

    Despite all the complex and lovely brews, we came back to the pilsner (don’t recall who did it) — we liked its well-balanced crispness, which we found refreshing.

  4. Cascade Lakes brought the pilsner, and I started the day off with it (wanted to make sure my palette wasn’t blown before I got a chance to try it); it was a little lighter than I like my pilsners to be, but still had a good flavor.

    I also missed out on the Nekkid Creeper (that’s what I get for starting at noon… *shrug*), and I agree that the Bourbon Bite Porter was lacking a bit in the barrel-aged quality, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit as a porter. Plus, there were enough highlights there that I left satisfied; in no particular order, McMenamin’s Reaper’s Demise, Cascade Lakes Little Skookum Strong, Deschutes 100%-Pinot Noir-barrel Mirror Mirror (which I actually liked better than the blended final product), and Three Creeks Whisky Red – which I actually got at the brewpub the night before along with some of the best Halibut Fish & Chips I’ve ever had. I’m gonna have to try some of that Hogsback Whisky, as it imparted a particularly good flavor on both Three Creeks and McMenamin’s offerings.

    Other highlights from the fest included walking up to Lolo serving Silver Moon’s beers and not recognizing him at all (though he recognized me from the Green Dragon… after he told me who he was, I still didn’t believe him), and bumping into Corey serving McMenamin’s (who I hadn’t seen since Cornelius Pass Roadhouse and/or Green Dragon), who still hadn’t gotten to try his own creation – I hope we didn’t consume it all before he got a chance! 🙂 Glad to see our lost talents are Bend’s gain.


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