1988 was a very formative year in the world of craft beer. While most of us had no clue what a craft beer was, breweries like North Coast Brewing Co., Rogue Brewery, Goose Island Beer Co. and Great Lakes Brewing Co. were just starting to put down roots in their respective cities. Along with these breweries came the final member of the class of ’88 was setting up shop in the little town of Bend, Oregon. Here, Gary Fish opened the first iteration of Deschutes Brewery opened the doors of the first brewpub 26 years ago to start selling something completely different to the world: craft beer. What Gary Fish and the residents of Bend didn’t know at the time was that this crazy idea of caring about how your beer is made would grow, and that their little brewpub would become the sixth largest craft brewery in the country and that they would care about good beer so much that Deschutes would also grow to become the second largest consumer of whole cone hops in the United States and that their Black Butte Porter, one of the original Deschutes beers, would become the number one craft porter in the US, too.
Thankfully, this original craft brewer is finally making their appearance this month in Pittsburgh, with their yearly lineup being available immediately and seasonal offerings coming later. By now though, you’re probably wondering where the name Deschutes comes from. Maybe it was an Egyptian beer goddess, or maybe there’s a little-known hop that carries the title. The answer is actually much more grounded than both of these. Gary Fish founded the Deschutes brewery on the shores of the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon as a small brewpub in 1988. Jump ahead to 1993 and Deschutes opens their first production brewery with a 50-barrel capacity. Since then, Deschutes has continued to grow their production and fermentation capacity to where it is today at around 250,000 barrels per year and still growing. The first beers brewed by Deschutes were Cascade Golden, Bachelor Bitter, and Black Butte Porter. It is this same porter that carries the number 1 title in the US. Black Butte Porter, along with Mirror Pond Pale Ale are considered the flagship beers for Deschutes and with good reason. Both beers stand out in their respective categories for being clean, crisp, and innovative beers. By the way, that Egyptian beer goddess is a real think, and her name was Tenenet.
Deschutes is a brewery that believes in the pioneering spirit of craft brewing, which means they push existing boundaries to make not only new beers, but to have people experience beers that they may not believe they would like. Take for example the Black Butte Porter, this beer was released with the first brewpub back in 1988, when porters were one of the least popular beer styles around. Deschutes not only sold their porter, but enough that they were able to grow and continue to keep this solid beer in their yearly lineup for 26 years and counting.
Deschutes is a true craft brewery in the sense that they care as much about the environmental impact of the beer they make as they do about the quality of the beer. In 2013 Deschutes was the first craft brewery to implement the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Report, which track more than 45 measures of economic, environmental, and social performance. In other words, this annual reporting undertaking will help Deschutes to track performance as they focus on using fewer resources and maintain a clean, healthy work environment. In other words, Deschutes is focusing on clean, green operation while providing us with some of the best beers on the market. Deschutes cares so much about the green movement that several of their beers, including Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Black Butte Porter use Salmon Safe certified hops.
One way Deschutes stays on top of what their customers want is their unwavering dedication to listening to what they have to say, be it in their two brewpubs where small batch, experimental beers are poured and tested, or via their numerous social media accounts including Twitter, Facebook, and flickr. Each of the brewpubs has 19 beers on tap that each include a few of those aforementioned experimental brewpub-only beers. Some of the things they hear from these customers is the want for the wild and unique, so with this in mind Deschutes has used everything from chilies to chocolates to licorice and cherries to brew some of their more unique beers. As mentioned at the beginning, Deschutes is the second largest consumer of whole-cone hops in the country, and it is this ingredient that sets them apart from the other craft breweries the most. Deschutes believes that whole cone hops create a better beer and a more well-rounded flavor. Brewmaster Cam O’Connor says of their brewing style, “We’re big fans of Mother Nature and keeping our brewing ingredients as close as possible as to what she provides.”
Speaking of their beers, Deschutes currently distributes to 25 states as well as internationally, and produce seven standard year-round beers in 12-oz bottles and three 22-oz bottles. With seasonal ales, their special Bond Street Series and Reserve Series, Deschutes produces an impressive more than 20 beers throughout the year.
Starting off the era of Deschutes beer in Pittsburgh, you can expect to find the following beer to begin with.
Black Butte Porter
The beer that started Deschutes off is still available today and as good as ever. Black Butte Porter features a creamy mouthfeel and subtle flavors of chocolate and coffee. This bestselling craft porter has a slight hop bitterness on the front and finishes with semi-sweet chocolate. The flavor profile of Black Butte Porter is more complex than you’d expect from a traditional porter, but in a very good way. Black Butte Porter pairs perfectly with burgers, BBQ, and smoked meats. Pulled Pork would also make a great sidecar to Black Butte, BBQ or not. Black Butte is Deschutes’ flagship beer and can be found year-round.
Malt: Pale, Carapils, Chocolate, Crystal, Wheat
Hops: Cascade, Bravo, Tettnang
Chainbreaker White IPA
Chainbreaker White IPA marks Deschutes entrance into a new style of beer. Combining the flavor and bitterness of hops with the esters of Belgian yeast, white IPAs are surprisingly thirst-quenching while still giving the hop kick you’ve grown to love in your favorite IPA. Brewed with wheat and pilsner malt, Chainbreaker keeps the citrus tones that Cascade and Citra hops impart while keeping the light, refreshing body and taste of a Belgian wheat beer. Chainbreaker White IPA pairs well with fish tacos and tropical fruit salsa, grilled sausage, and fruity chicken salads. Chainbreaker White IPA is the newest beer from Deschutes available in Pittsburgh and can be found year-round.
Malt: Pilsner, Wheat, Unmalted Wheat
Hops: Bravo, Citra, Centennial, Cascade
Mirror Pond Pale Ale
Mirror Pond Pale Ale takes one of the most quintessential beer styles and keeps it fresh by separating it from its IPA brethren in both bitterness and alcohol content. Mirror Pond is the #2 best selling pale ale in the country for 2013 and received an overall rating of 90 on RateBeer. Tawny-colored and a hop-forward flavor and aroma make Deschutes’ best-selling beer as good as it sounds. Featuring only one variety of hops showcases the flavor profile of Cascade hops and helps this beer to showcase what a northwest pale ale should be. Mirror Pond pairs perfectly with lighter pizzas, goat cheese, bruschetta, and steamed clams. Mirror Pond Pale Ale is available from Deschutes year-round.
Malt: Pale, NW Pale, Crystal, Carapils
Twilight Summer Ale
The only seasonal beer from Deschutes that’s made its way to Pittsburgh so far, Twilight Summer Ale is golden-colored and features a malt-forward body and a refreshing hop profile that’s never overpowering, but instead very light in the mouthfeel and body. Twilight pours crisp and clean with a soft white head that protects a strong dose of Amarillo hop aroma. Overall, Twilight is a perfectly balanced beer that’s refreshing and perfect for the warm months ahead. Twilight Summer Ale pairs well with baked salmon, calamari, and vinegar-based salads, preferably topped with fish or chicken. You can find Twilight between May and September.
Malt: NW Pale, Carastan, Carapils
Hops: Northern Brewer, Amarillo, Cascade, Tettnang
Deschutes craft beers are now available in the Pittsburgh area and are proudly distributed by Frank B. Fuhrer Wholesale.