Oregon Beer Awards Feel Like Central Oregon Beer Awards | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Oregon Beer Awards Feel Like Central Oregon Beer Awards

Bend area breweries nab nearly a quarter of all medals

The Oregon Beer Awards, first of all, are a real thing. In the beer world, earning a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival is the equivalent of earning an Oscar, but medaling at the OBAs is a bit like winning an Independent Spirit Award: not the same level of prestige, a meaningful recognition of talent and craftsmanship nonetheless. And last week, when the OBAs were handed out, 21 of the 90 total awards were handed to Bend and Sunriver breweries. The six local breweries responsible for those wins are 10 Barrel Brewing (7 medals), Deschutes Brewery (4), Sunriver Brewing (4), Worthy Brewing (1), Van Henion Brewing Company (1), Boneyard Beer (1), McMenamins Old St. Francis School (1), Bend Brewing Co. (1), and Monkless Belgian Ales (1).

click to enlarge Oregon Beer Awards Feel Like Central Oregon Beer Awards
Darren Provenzano (Fracture Brewing)
Bend took home 21 of the 90 awards at the recent Oregon Beer Awards

The primary advantage brewers have in submitting beers to the OBAs is that their beers travel far shorter distance than when shipped to the GABF, held in Denver. Time and temperature can have deleterious effects on beer, so submissions are blind judged (by a large and encyclopedic panel of industry experts) sooner and with less exposure to warmer temps, meaning a truer representation of the brewer's expression of hops, malts and yeasts. Another advantage, if vaguely perceptible or applicable, is that all those expert judges share an Oregon palate versus beer judges from every region of the country, in case there's any such thing as "local flavor" anymore.

The biggest winner was 10 Barrel, which took home a staggering seven medals (as did Portland's Breakside). Four of those topped the podium, accounting for half of Central Oregon's eight gold medals. The haul also earned it Large Brewery of the Year. Grains of Wrath, which operates breweries on both sides of the Columbia River, was named Medium Brewer of the Year while Philomath-based, gluten-free brewery Bierly was dubbed Small BOTY. 10 Barrel's spoils included taking two of the three medals in both the Experimental and Historical Beers category and American Sour Beers (where bronze went to Gindulgence, which also earned gold at the 2022 GABF and, infinitely more vitally, was named one of The Source's Central Oregon's 10 Best Beers of 2022).

Half of Sunriver Brewing's four medals earned gold, including Bondi Beach Party and High Desert Diesel. Whereas Bondi IPA medaled in the Sessionable Hoppy Beers (despite being 6.2% ABV, which exceeds most people's standards for a "session-strength beer"), Diesel is an 8.2% Double IPA (which almost seems quaint when many of today's DIPAs approach or exceed double digits) that proved peak Imperial IPA.

Deschutes pulled off a fun trick. King Crispy Pilsner earned two silver medals, one in the Pilsner category and the other in the Other Fresh Hop Beers category (compared to the more envisaged Fresh Hop IPA and Fresh Hop Hazy IPA categories). Deschutes' sole gold medal went to Hachimitsu Mai Lager in Flavored Beers.

What fits under "flavored beers"? Whereas the GABF competition has a tedious 100 such styles that are judged—and brewers cough up a lot per submission—the OBAs mercifully abridge it to 30. As such, many categories aren't true beer styles and, worse, many authentic beer styles get smushed into one round. Even though no one would taste a clovey Belgian tripel and a bready German hefeweizen, and a funky ale fermented with wild Brettanomyces, and possibly confuse them, they were all shoehorned into the Belgian Beers, German Wheat Beers and Brett Beers category. Worthy won the aggregate with Farm Out, a spicy yet floral French-style saison.

Meanwhile, Bend's Belgian-inspired brewery, Monkless, earned gold in the category that Bend breweries swept: Barrel-Aged Beers. Monkless La Trinidad starts out as its tripel, The Trinity, then ages for five months in tequila barrels, hence its translation to La Trinidad. Boneyard came in second with Wooden Femur and 10 Barrel's Peach Deface placed third.

Although Bend got gurnisht — or, zero — in coveted IPAs (that gold went to Grains of Wrath), Bend Brewing bested all others in, well, equally coveted Hazy or Juicy IPAs with Day Use, while Sunriver's aforementioned High Desert Diesel topped also-equally coveted Imperial IPAs (followed immediately by Old St. Francis's Down on the Street, so a hat tip to brewer Vance Wirtz). Making our mark in the most popular categories may, just may, make up for getting blanked in 13 other categories, although, how does Porter Brewing, one of Oregon's only two British-style Real Ale breweries, make an appearance in Classic UK Styles? And how does pFriem, arguably one of the greatest breweries on Earth, be named Central Brewery of the Year when it's literally on the border of Washington, instead of any of the above-named winning breweries from Central Oregon?

About The Author

Brian Yaeger

Brian Yaeger is a beer author (including "Oregon Breweries"), beer fest producer and beer-tasting instructor at COCC. Because he’s working on doughnut authorship, you’ll find he occasionally reviews our local doughnut scene. Yes, he absolutely floats all summer long with a beer in one hand and a doughnut in the...
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