It took almost two months of back-and-forth text messages, but GoodLife finally named its winter ale, a special beer for the second annual Central Oregon Winter Beer Festival, a smooth ale with cinnamon and nutmeg undertones.
"It just finally came to me," says Steve Denio about the name they finally landed on: Yukon Cornelius, so called for the burly mountaineer in the 1964 stop-action "Rudolf," and, like Denio, who manages regional sales and marketing for GoodLife, also wears a red beard.
Along with its Puffy Coat Porter, GoodLife will present its two special seasonal ales this Saturday at the Winter Beer Festival, an event that is part of the emerging Central Oregon Brewers Guild (COBG).
In its second year, the festival has expanded its number of featured beers—all seasonal ales. More broadly, the event represents a larger movement to formally bring together the successes and collective wisdom of the burgeoning beer industry in Central Oregon—it is just the tip of the iceberg, as it were.
Three years ago, as Bend was continuing to add breweries at an alarming rate, and during a pinched economic time, several of the proprietors decided to form their own organization, an independent subset of the Oregon Brewers Guild.
"It just made sense," says Denio.
By 2012, they formed a nonprofit to formalize the group. But it wasn't until the summer of 2013 when the idea really began to form as a reality. In what sounds like a scene from a Scorsese mafioso film, all of the regional brewers were called to the floor and asked whether they wanted to create this organization—one that would foster collaboration instead of competition. The response was overwhelming; representatives from 19 out of the then-22 breweries showed up at a meeting to express their interest and commitment to the organization.
Internally, the group serves as a gathering grounds for regional brewers, but the Winter Beer Festival is the public manifestation of this collaboration. The event is even more expansive than last year, with 21 breweries represented.
Crux will bring Snow Cone, a strong ale, while Boneyard pulls more from the sweet flavors of the season, with Le Femme Fatale, which is sort of like a raspberry tart. River Bend is bringing the Winter Mint Stout.
McMenamins is providing a Kris Kringle, what longtime Old St. Francis brewer Michael "Curly" White describes as "a bigger, maltier beer." Twelve different hops are presented through the boil. "There's a little cinnamon and ginger," adds White, "but more in the aroma than the flavor."
Ultimately, the COBG is hoping to help articulate and strengthen what role beer plays for defining the personality of Central Oregon, an industry that looms large in the daily culture of the region, but is still very much a relatively young industry, and in an early developmental stage.
All profits from this weekend's event will be donated to COBG, with the hopes that the organization will continue to grow its presence, with potentially other regional beer festivals hosted at other breweries in the future, like perhaps a Belgian Fest at Crux.
"We don't work against each other," explains White. "We work together."
GoodLife is still looking for volunteers for the event.
Central Oregon Winter Beer Festival
1pm – 9 pm. Sat., Dec. 13
GoodLife Bierhall, 70 SW Century Dr.
$10 (for 4 tokens).