On the Road with Woody | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

On the Road with Woody

How a barrel became a local celebrity

It's the name of a cartoon woodpecker, a Pixar cowboy and a tune by Hootie and the Blowfish.

But for at least two Deschutes Brewery employees the name Woody means only one thing—the 25-foot-long mobile beer barrel that serves as the friends' second home.

Last year Sean "Bubbles" McBride and Joey Pleich spent nearly 188 days pulling the popular trailer around the West, attending festivals and concerts and generally promoting the Deschutes brand. The oversized barrel may be a familiar sight in Bend, but when Woody is on tour and pouring beers he's an attention- getter. Woody's latest mission, which starts this week, is a trip to the Midwest to celebrate Deschutes' distribution in Chicago.

"It's exciting to launch there, Pleich said. "It's like the New York City of the Midwest."

Illinois marks the 20th state in which you can find Deschutes beers, and Pleich and McBride will be helping Bend's first brewery launch in style. With Woody.

"You're never invisible in that thing," said Pleich. "You're driving the most obvious vehicle of all time besides the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile."


The two Woody caretakers have already steeled themselves for the crazy mobs that pop up wherever Woody is parked.

"Woody is a celebrity," Pleich said of 'him.' "We're almost like his handlers or bodyguards."

Woody's esteemed status might stem from his Los Angeles origins, where a well-known Hollywood vehicle design expert, Eddie Paul, who has made a bevy of customized vehicles for movies such as Grease, E.T. and 2 Fast 2 Furious, constructed the barrel five years ago.

After the brewery received the creation, it quickly equipped the giant barrel with taps and storage space and debuted it at the Fremont Oktoberfest near Seattle.

Three years later, McBride, who had been working at the Portland Deschutes pub since its opening in 2008, and Pleich, a newbie to the brewery tours program in Bend, saw the Woody position open up and both jumped on the opportunity.

Since then, the pair has been on the road in a barrel that is adorned with a disco ball, LED lights, glycol draft system and a retractable flagpole.

"It's awesome being able to represent such a cool company and in such a unique way as having Woody as the icebreaker," said Pleich.

While on the road the guys said they often field the same two questions: Can you bring that to my house? Is it full of beer?

No. And it's not. Well, not totally.

"People always assume that we have copious amounts of beer with us," said Pleich. "This is not true; well, most of the time." There's often at least some beer onboard, though.

McBride said while towing the barrel behind their Chevy Silverado (nicknamed Betty, after Betty Boop) they encounter others exhibiting questionable driving techniques.

"We'll have people hanging out their windows of their vehicles trying to get a picture," McBride said.

Once Woody is parked, that's when the mob of clowns descends on the famed barrel.

McBride and Pleich get people with Slurpee or Big Gulp cups asking for a fill-up. Or people who think it's a giant barbeque. They've even met one diehard Black Butte Porter fan in eastern Utah who offered them the shirt off his back, in trade.

"This guy was raving about our beer, and I told him I had a T-shirt for him so he pulled his work shirt off his back and gave it to me," said Pleich.

According to Pleich, a popular pose is laying under the big tap handle near Woody's rear while a buddy pulls the tap to simulate a mega-pour. The two Deschutes employees see the move so often that before they drive away, they always double-check to make sure someone isn't under Woody.


After dealing with so many wild beer fanatics, some of McBride and Pleich's favorite events are musical, and not beer specific. Brews, Jazz and Funk Fest in Squaw Valley, Calif., is a favorite, they say, as is Winterfest.

As these events come and go, the pair said sometimes the hardest part is the journey.

"It's a steep learning curve to back the trailer into tight spots," McBride said.

During a trip to Denver, Pleich said while driving he had one of his tire axles break, which resulted in not only a lost tire and broken axle, but also a broken generator and a dead battery.

"[It was] one of those things where anything that can go wrong will. But it's part of the novelty of how fun it is," said Pleich. "It set me back in the trip but I got to meet a bunch of other great people that were ecstatic to help out."

Sometimes, though, people aren't always so friendly to Woody.

"There's been multiple times when you come out in the morning and always afraid someone tagged it with graffiti or plastered it with stickers," said McBride.

But the pair expect big things from their Chicago trip.

"The buzz from the community there is that they're pumped for us to be coming," Pleich said.

With Illinois on the horizon, the two guys expect to give Chi City a dose of what McBride calls the "Woody effect."

"It's where I'll roll into a random lot and people will look like zombies when they see it," he said. "I'm the most popular guy wherever I go."

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