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Beer 2015 

Less Drama, Tastes Great, Bend's beer scene avoids pretension, keeps producing quality

In a 2015 that was littered with buyouts, big news, and endless bickering online in beer forums, it can sometimes be easy to forget what a bumper year it was for Central Oregon's favorite (adult) pastime. Deschutes collaborated with Harpoon in Massachusetts and BrewDog in Scotland; Silver Moon and Rat Hole both opened up new locations; 10 Barrel's rich uncle purchased a new expansion for it; GoodLife sold approximately 800 million cans of Sweet As. And best of all, beer continued to progress—the good ones kept coming out, the bad ones were forgotten.

Here are some of the most notable releases of the year that's now behind us:

Black Butte [Deschutes] The Abyss and The Dissident comprise the brunt of Deschutes' barrel-aged output, but this pub-exclusive release—still available in bottles at the Bond Street pub!—is arguably their best this year. With 90 percent aged in oak whiskey barrels from Bendistillery, it's an explosion of chocolate and caramel flavors without overwhelming you with alcohol the way fresh Abyss can.

Pabo Pils and Brewer's Crack [Boneyard] No, neither of these—the first a pilsner clocking in at 5% or so, the second more of an English-style strong ale—are glamorous beers. But now that their new production facility is in full operation, Boneyard (which also remodeled its tasting room a bit to open up some extra space—stop by if you haven't been over in a while) finally has the time and capacity to take its eyes off RPM IPA and produce some other world-class beer. A one-trick pony they ain't.

Pour Pour Pitiful Me [Monkless] Now that Monkless (the 1-barrel operation that remains Bend's only Belgian-specific brewery) is seeing distribution a bit more often at bars like White Water Taphouse, their well-made ales are starting to give the competition a serious run for their money. That became particularly clear with this release, a Belgian-style quad aged on cherries that mixed fruit with deep, dark flavors that makes a snowy winter go just right.

Session Cider [Atlas] Okay, it's not beer exactly, but Atlas Cider Co.'s first release in cans is important for two reasons. One, it's going to be a killer outdoor thirst quencher when it's hot and sunny out again (as unlikely as it seems right this moment). Two, it shows how far their taproom on Industrial Way has come—and how much it'll be sure to grow in 2016, when Immersion Brewing and The Brown Owl (the ex-food cart, future bar and restaurant) are set to join it as neighbors.

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