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Of Beers and Brotherhood: Beating the heat at Bend's annual beer bash 

Cold beer and cool toes. Hot! It wasn't just hot at the Fifth Annual Bend Brew Fest last Friday and Saturday, it was Discovery Channel

click to enlarge Cold beer and cool toes.
  • Cold beer and cool toes.
Cold beer and cool toes. Hot! It wasn't just hot at the Fifth Annual Bend Brew Fest last Friday and Saturday, it was Discovery Channel Serengeti hot. It was the type of heat that pounds you into a pancake puddle. Thankfully, those in charge had provided 80 brews, 6 marquees, and two kiddies' pools as cooling stations. Once I tossed the kiddies out of their pool, I soaked my feet and struck up a conversation with a woman in the adjacent pool.

"Water transfers heat from the body four times faster than air."

She peered over her mug and fired a warning shot. "Talk to me again and I'll call security." Okay, so she wasn't in Discovery Channel mode. It was time to slip into my sandals and hydrate with a ginger ale, an albino python, and an arrogant bastard.

Last year there were 30 brewers with a total of 60 beers. This year, that increased to 40 brewers and 80 beers. And a reliable source states they hope to have 50 brewers and 100 beers next year. Party on. Along with your official drinking mug, you got 5 tokens to start you rolling and a nifty little guide to the brews so you could grade your favorites. Maybe next year they could provide us all those little golf pencils. Not sure this beer crowd travels with writing implements. Not sure this crowd can write more than a mark anyway. For those who could read, the names of these handcrafted beers are worth the price of admission-which happily is nothing. I don't care what they taste like, you have to love beers with the names Dancing Trout, Axe Head Red (I think I dated her once.), Hazed n Infused, Sweaty Betty (I know I dated her.), Dogzilla, and my personal favorite-Rejewvenator from Shmaltz Brewing Co., the maker of He'Brew, the chosen beer.
The music at the Fest was so good; I would have gone without the promise of beer. Two groups that were especially fine were Upground from the asphalt of East Los Angeles and The Buckles from the far side of Portland sagebrush. Both bands are composed of musicians who play with style and precision. Both bands get you dancing or swaying or stomping or at least doing a Larry Craig toe-tap in your chair. One band pops with the sound of the barrio that's full of energy and can't be caged by categories. Their music is more complex than you'd expect; a fusion of salsa, jazz, rock, reggae, and pure magic. The other band plays Central Valley Cowboy Country covers of Ricky Nelson and the Beatles. And it takes a real man to be able to wear a rhinestone-studded iridescent turquoise jacket. With names like Harley James and K.C. Wait, playing in a rock solid country band was destiny.

On first lazy glance at the announcement linking beer with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS), I speculated on some reality show about unruly adults force-feeding brews to minors. But that cloud cleared and the good sense my ex-wife continues to insist I lack at crucial moments-the conscious ones-returned. This is Central Oregon. Selling handcrafted boutique beer to adoring connoisseurs in Bend is like a bake sale in Iowa. This crowd was so happy and satisfied; it didn't seem like a variation on a frat party but more like a joyful mix of a church social and guided tour at Deschutes Brewery, with way better music and without that boring tour part, just the yummy tasting.

Still, I wanted answers to why BBBS and beer came together in Bend. I found my answer at the BBBS information booth when I was introduced to Marney Smith, Director of Les Schwab Amphitheater. She is also involved with Bend Concerts and on the board of BBBS and was the key person in bringing it all together.

"First," Marney began, "BBBS provides an incredible service to our community. The mentoring and self-esteem support provided to the kids gives them the tools to make good decisions in their lives. As far as partnering the Bend Brew Fest with BBBS, the festival gives the directors (adults only) of BBBSCO the exposure audience they might not otherwise have. Expanding awareness and the volunteer pool is what it's about at this festival."

From the sign-up sheet, it seems to be working. They started to make eye contact and motion toward the sign-up sheet. But I spotted this sentence in a flyer listing qualifications to be a Big Brother: "All Big Brothers and Big Sisters must be at least 16 years old, in good mental health and willing to work within Big Brothers Big Sisters guidelines." It may as well say "writers need not apply." Good mental health and following guidelines! Hey, you have to know your limitations.


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