Labor Day is here, and with it comes cooler weather, football on TV, and (in the case of Bend) the end of heavy traffic. Since 2009, it's also meant hanging out and drinking big, bold, barrel-aged beers like a rock star.
The Little Woody is celebrating its 10th year this Friday and Saturday, in the outdoor lawn of the Deschutes Historical Museum. As always, it's bringing its A game. Twenty-three breweries and cideries will be pouring their best wood-aged products, served alongside half a dozen or so craft whiskies. Tokens can get spent pretty quickly as the evening goes on, but for fans of stout, strong ale, or Belgian styles, there's no more important event to attend in Bend. (Plus: During the final half-hour of the Saturday sessions, special tokens will go on sale, allowing visitors to fill an entire growler with whatever's remaining.)
Most of the local names will be there, of course. Boneyard's preparing a version of Suge Knite, their intensely powerful imperial stout, that's aged in second-use rum barrels and will no doubt be one to remember. Wild Ride's done something similar to its Force Stout, aging it in rye whiskey barrels from Crater Lake Spirits for an oaky edge on the caramel and chocolate flavors. And no barrel-oriented beer fest is complete without at least one pour from The Ale Apothecary, which will offer its flagship Sahalie wild ale and Ralph, a tart beer aged for over a year and made with white fir needles for a citrusy finish.
Don't be afraid to explore some of the lesser-known (to Oregon) breweries that'll be showing up at the Little Woody, though. Michigan-based Founders Brewing will have CBS, an imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels that previously held maple syrup; it zoomed in and out of Bend's bars last winter, but now we've got another chance to try it. Epic Brewing's mostly known outside its stomping grounds of Utah and Colorado for heavy beers, and its Triple Barrel Big Bad Baptist (done in a mix of whiskey and rum barrels with coffee and coconut added), and won't disappoint on that front. Want something more unusual? Try out Oakshire's Fruit Farm Pinot Noir, a blended farmhouse ale that pours out a rich shade of purple and provides berry flavors that will make tasters immediately nostalgic for fall weather.