The days are getting longer. The temps are warming up (sort of). The scent of budding life is in the air, assuming it can make it through the snowflakes. Spring is officially here—and thanks to friendly local distributors like Bigfoot and Point Blank, it's accompanied by an early harvest of new beer for Central Oregon.
One familiar face will lead the charge. Bear Republic Brewing, based in Sonoma County north of San Francisco, is making a return to the region after an extended absence. This was, at first, due to a lack of brewing capacity as the Californian brewery expanded across the U.S. Then supply concerns due to the western drought made them pull out of many regions a year and a half ago. The strain has eased up since then, and soon local bottle shops will stock its award-winning, flagship Racer 5 IPA, in sixers wherever good beer is sold. (Racer 5 forms the foundation for a line of heavier pales in bomber-size bottles, from the Racer X double IPA to the somewhat drier and citrus-flavored Café Racer 15.)
Joining Bear Republic in the bars and shops of Bend is Acoustic Ales, another California regional favorite, but one that's been a stranger to Oregon up until now. Founded in 2012, Acoustic occupies a sprawling old building just north of downtown San Diego that once housed the Mission Brewery, one of the city's oldest before Prohibition shut it down in 1919. (A new Mission opened up in 2007 in nearby Petco Park, home of the Padres.)
Acoustic's Run for the Hills double IPA was spotted on tap at Brother Jon's Alehouse last weekend, and Bend can look forward to its quality. Starting out with a big blast of grapefruit-type citrus on the nose, it continues on with strong hoppy bitterness to the bottom of the glass without ravaging the palate too much.
It's not all big guys, either. Debuting soon in Central Oregon is beer from Sound Brewery in Poulsbo, Washington, a small town located across the sound from Seattle. It's small, but its reputation is not, with popular bottles like the Ursus Americanus stout and Dubbel Entendre Belgian-style ale. This is an opportunity to celebrate spring by trying something new locally.