During the pandemic these last two years, we've bid farewell to a number of cherished eateries but welcomed some new faves, too. Until now, the same could not have been said about breweries, for although we'd lost a few outside of Bend, it's been the area's longest period without a new brewery since 10 Barrel first opened in 2007. Ever since Initiative Brewing launched in Redmond in early 2019, we've literally never gone almost three years without expanding the Bend Ale Trail.
Thanks to Funky Fauna Artisan Ales, that era is over. Not only did this new spot from brewer Michael Frith and his wife Danielle Burns—who designed the modern, inviting tasting room—open in the last days of 2021, but last week, Van Henion Brewing also entered the marketplace as a lager-centric brewery in Boyd Acres.
Frith is a Colorado native while Burns hailed from Ohio. They lived in Denver until Burns' job at an architecture firm moved them to Bend which is when Frith, who came from the cannabis industry, stopped brewing at Our Mutual Friend and initially started brewing at Spider City.
Funky Fauna doubles the brewery population of Sisters. Three Creeks Brewing, established in 2008, operates its production brewery a hefty frisbee's throw from Funky Fauna, with only Swedish-style Fika Sisters Coffeehouse in the middle.
The name Funky Fauna might cause sour and wild ale fans to think it's a brewery exclusively focused on spontaneous-fermented ales, in the vein of Bend's The Ale Apothecary and Tillamook's De Garde. But the brewery also offers a wide range of "clean" beers (meaning fermented with standard brewer's yeasts) and, down the road, "funky" beers that have undergone mixed fermentation that incorporate microorganisms such as Brettanomyces and Lactobaccilus.
"We're not the [Willamette] Valley," said Frith, but that's not going to stop him from turning to native yeasts floating on the winds that pass through the high desert. "We are tied to this land."
He hopes to eventually employ a koelschip, or "coolship," to inoculate future funky projects. We can also expect foeder-aged beers—think massive oak barrel—though Frith already has a handful aging in oak barrels.
The first two beers tapped were Ludo Mentis Oregon Lager and Floriferous IPA. What makes Ludo Mentis an Oregon lager compared to, say, a German inspired one is the use of Oregon grown malts and hops. Funky Fauna lays claim to being the very first Craft Malt Certified Brewery, meaning it relies on small-batch malted barley from the likes of Mecca Grade Estate Malts in Madras and Skagit Valley Maltings in Washington, with a portion of the barley grown in the Willamette Valley.
Fantastic Mr. Edwin is the debut hazy pale ale, hopped with a fruit cocktail's worth of hops such as the tropical fruit and berry-forward Strata, peach and citrusy Citra hops, coconut-throwing Sabro and a dank experimental varietal. Edwin happens to be the brewery's fox mascot who morphs into a Monstera leaf that graces the logo Burns designed.
My personal favorite is A Most Pleasing Error of the Mind, inspired by Roman poet Horace, but the beer ought to appeal to fans of the Trappist monks at the Orval Abbey in Belgium. Billed as a farmhouse IPA, the beer is a bit heavier on Brettanomyces than the iconic Trappist pale ale, as well as on the hops. The beer underwent a spell of mixed fermentation—a process that is standardized at a year or longer, but remember this is a new brewery—in oak barrels rather than stainless steel tanks and is hopped with El Dorado and Meridian hops. In the glass, the beer opens with a huge whiff of stone fruit and musk, largely derived from the particular strain of "Brett." The hops lend notes of pineapple core, dried apricots and mellifluous herbs. It's distinct yet approachable, a line that's difficult to straddle.
"Some people are intimidated by funky beers," says Frith, "but they're very tropical and fruity. It's not what you thought it'd be." In addition to beers that will rely on microflora, Frith and Burns are vegans so all available snacks are plant-based, with food trucks anticipated once long-term outdoor beer drinking weather returns, along with plans for a run club hosting a weekly 5k.
Funky Fauna Artisan Ales
211 E. Sun Ranch Dr., Sisters