Feb. 25 is the Oregon Brewers Guild's 15th annual Zwickelmania® held at every brewery (except for Portland's bounty, which celebrated Zwickelmania last Saturday). The event began as equal parts incentive and invitation to visit Oregon breweries—as many as you can safely hit—and sample beer so fresh it hasn't even been kegged. The name comes from a valve called a zwickel, where beer flows straight from the fermentation tank. It's like if you could sample food straight from a restaurant's frying pan before you ordered the dish.
The Guild's executive director, Christina LaRue, says, "Zwickel (is the) German word for the sample port found on tanks...There are 17 locations participating just here in Central Oregon, including GoodLife Brewing, who will be offering Locals' Day prices all day, Cascade Lakes Brewing, who is giving free swag bags to the first 50 folks at both their Bend and Redmond locations, and McMenamins Old St. Francis, who will be offering two specialty beers – Injury Prone West Coast IPA and Cocoa Me Crazy Imperial Stout. Be sure to tag @oregoncraftbeer and #zwickelmania on social media."
If you've got Visit Bend's Bend Ale Trail in app or passport form, consider this a great opportunity to get all your missing stamps and enjoy a unique beer on the house at the same time. Most spots are opening up their brewhouses for tours, and ones typically guided by the brewers themselves. All those serious—or funny—questions you have about their beers, from how they're made to how they're named, this is your hopportunity to get an answer from the horse's mouth. Or just thank them for their liquid philanthropy.
Starting with the local juggernaut Deschutes Brewery, plans include opening up "Brew 2," the larger production facility on Simpson — not that the original pub on Bond isn't also hosting beer and food specials. Self-guided tours include educational opportunities along the route, such as sensory tastings including the zwickel stop in the pilot brewhouse for smaller batch creations. Food carts will be stationed out front in the parking lot. Be among the first 50 zwickelers to receive a free branded pint glass.
Another locals' fave, Crux Fermentation Project, will be zwickeling something you've surely never tried before. That's because it's the latest 10th installment of its Aromatic Variance series of IPAs, featuring a hop varietal so new its dubbed "experimental hop #638," meaning it is still being beta tested by brewers. Not a hop head? Crux will also be "pulling nails," a term used to sample a beer not from a stainless fermentation tank, but an oak cask, on its Freakcake. Freakcake is essentially a holiday fruit cake that you drink from a glass. It's a sour Belgian Oud Bruin style ale made with dried fruits and aged in bourbon barrels for a whopping five years, which explains why it hasn't been released since 2019. Love it? It'll also be your first opportunity to buy bottles of the latest batch. To top it all off, R&B funksters Soul'd Out will rock the beer garden from 5-8pm.
From a bit off the beaten path, unless your path includes all things beer and disc golf, Bevel Brewing will be hosting tours led by the brewers each hour.* Time it right, and you can take the super short stroll (*it's not that big of a brewery, hence tours are limited to the first 15 folks over 21 to sign up) led by Bend's reigning best brewer (via the Source's own people's choice poll), Nate Doss. This year's sample will be Bevel's latest in its Hop Tour Series with a beer called The Ocho. It's not just a sick Dodgeball reference; it's a beer led by another experimental hop, #158 grown in Idaho and billed as a potential successor to the tangerine and bergamot-throwing Idaho 7 hop. Hence its nickname, Idaho 8, which is said to throw some baked honeycrisp apple notes.
For something completely different, except to Boneyard Beer, the makers of RPM are bringing back "Zwickels and Pickles" to the original brewhouse that now operates a proper tasting room at 37 Lake Place. Founder Tony Lawrence and head brewers Tony Rau will be on hand to chat all things Boneyard Beer. Visitors not only get to taste said beer from a zwickel but also taste free pickles. Pro tip: they go great on the MidCity SmashBurgers, available in the parking lot.
Finally, for those looking to zwickel beyond Bend, Wild Ride Brewing will be sampling guests both at the primary Redmond brewery as well as the newer Prineville spot. In addition to tours and samples, Wild Ride brings back its popular complimentary beer-and-cookies pairings.