On Saturday I saw late-morning Facebook post by Paul Arney of The Ale Apothecary (what is essentially Bend’s newest operating brewery) inviting folks up to his mountain brewery for a one-hour window to check it out and offering up limited-edition bottles of ale for $15 (per 750ml bottle). (He also opened up for an hour yesterday.) Needless to say, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, so my wife and I drove out to his place where I picked up a couple of bottles and snapped a few pictures of the brewery.
And some notes, of course. Not a review, but a collection of things that really stand out.
The beer that was (is still?) being sold is the flagship Sahalie aged on wild black currants that were harvested last fall. Arney very generously opened a bottle to pour samples for those of us visiting (there were six at the time) and though it was recently bottled (and, being entirely bottled conditioned, still a bit flat, needing time to develop the proper carbonation levels) it’s a lovely beer, complex and rustic, with a luscious character of Brettanomyces lambicus rounding it out. Well worth $15 per bottle.
The bottles themselves, incidentally, are corked and outfitted with a champagne knot—which I know because he talks about it in his latest blog post. Very clever.
Except for the kettle—a one-barrel setup for boiling the wort—at every other step of the brewing process, wood is involved, most or all utilizing the wine barrels prevalent throughout the tiny brewery. Yes, that’s a wooden mash tun made from a barrel. Yes, that’s an open fermenter (barrel). Yes, those are all barrels that have (or will have) Sahalie fermenting and aging in them.
Astute beer geeks will point out that each barrel will lend a slightly different character to the beer that’s being aged in it—indeed that is the intent. For bottling, Arney will blend the beer accordingly based on each barrel’s character. To that extent I imagine a solera-type process in the works.
All in all the finished brewery is charmingly (and amazingly) tiny and fantastically innovative, the antithesis of the big, industrial all-stainless commercial brewery. I think anyone who gets the opportunity to visit absolutely should do so.