My original plan was to hop on I-84 out of Sun Valley, ID and hightail it straight to the Oregon coast. Sunshine and saltwater were calling my name, but after a quick peek at a map, the pull of buffed out singletrack and hopped up craft beer proved to be too great. My plans and route quickly changed. Next stop – Bend, OR.
Here’s the deal – Bend offers the beer enthusiast 27 breweries to choose from. That’s one brewery for every 4,500 people. Or, if you need to look at it another way, you could drink at a different brewery every day for nearly a full month. Normally I’d see this as a challenge. But with limited time to drink and ride before heading west I needed to narrow it down to one brewery.
I asked Siri. She said she didn’t understand my question. Apparently she was as overwhelmed by Bend’s brewery options as I was. I called friends. I consulted apps. Then I saw 10 Barrel Brewing made a Joe IPA. It was a sign. I mean, if they’re nice enough to name a beer after me I kind of have to try it, right? Twist my arm 10 Barrel.
I bellied up to the bar with 10 Barrel’s director of marketing, Andy Goggins. The beer and stories flowed and before I cut myself off in anticipation of an evening mountain bike ride, I felt like we had bonded. And by ‘we’ I mean me and 10 Barrel’s beer.
I could wax poetic about my favorite 10 Barrel brews, but instead I’m going to offer up a list of ten things that you might not know about this Bend based gem.
It’s called 10 Barrel for a reason.
…or at least it is now. In 2006 Chris and Jeremy Cox got their hands on a 10 barrel brewing setup and founded a startup brewery. They called it Wildfire Brewing. In 2009 they changed the name to 10 Barrel Brewing Co., a nod to their humble roots, before expanding the operation to a 50 barrel system. Fast forward to 2016 and that original 10 barrel system is still in play. In fact, it is now used specifically for new beer development and special releases.
10 Barrel is owned by Anheuser-Busch
Drop your jokes, gripes and worries about “the man” taking over and ruining the craft brewing industry right here. Done? Good. I’ll be the first to admit that I hate the idea of corporate takeovers and mergers, particularly when it comes to my beer. But I’ll also be the first to admit that I’m a fan of how Anheuser-Busch has handled their entry into the craft beer scene, particularly as it applies to 10 Barrel. Recognizing that 10 Barrel was already on the right path, Anheuser-Busch has taken the hands off approach since buying 10 Barrel in 2014. The brewers – still the same. The brewing process – still the same. The ingredients – still the same. So what has changed? Most importantly, the distribution – more 10 Barrel beer will only make the world a better place. Since Anheuser-Busch took over, 10 Barrel has increased the production in its main facility in Bend, and will be adding two new locations to it’s brewing fleet later in 2016.
10 Barrel has three breweries with two more on tap in 2016
Just to be clear – 10 Barrel is not just one brewery. In fact, it’s three breweries/brew pubs with locations in Bend, Boise and Portland, with another two launching later this year in San Diego and Denver. More 10 Barrel beer available in more locations – everybody wins.
The new Cucumber Crush is 10 Barrel’s most award-winning beer
The first beer I drank at 10 Barrel, the beer that made me decide to belly up to their bar in the first place, was the Joe IPA. Yet after a couple of hours of sampling I walked out the door with a six pack (12 oz cans) of the Cucumber Crush, 10 Barrel’s most heavily decorated beer. Believe me, It’s the last beer I expected to pick up as I’m not usually a fan of sours. That being said, it’s biking season and I can’t remember another beer that I’ve thrown back that pairs more perfectly with a hot bike ride than the Cucumber Crush. Light enough to quench your thirst with a dash of tartness and slightly sweet cucumber flavor, the Cucumber Crush is just plain refreshing.
10 Barrel has two female head brewers
The craft brewing world is a male dominated scene, but with two of its existing three breweries featuring award-winning female brewers, 10 Barrel is doing it’s best to drown that stereotype. At the Bend location Tonya Cornett leads things up, while Whitney Burnside holds down the top spot in Portland. Not lucky enough to make it to one of these two locations? Don’t worry, all of 10 Barrel’s brewers collaborate and feature beers across the different pubs.
10 Barrel’s iconic Joe IPA actually used to be named Sam IPA
Originally named Sam IPA after the tasty Samco, Amarillo, and Mosaic hops used in the brewing process, 10 Barrel was forced to change the name when it was bottled and distributed due to potential conflicts with a large east coast brewery. A company-wide renaming process was launched. The name had to be classic. It had to be original. It had to be simple. It had to represent the everyman beer drinker. The result – Joe IPA. Mission accomplished.
Keep an eye out for The Paxton Project
Not gonna lie, I felt like I was being let in on something top secret when Andy told me about 10 Barrel’s Paxton Project. Just the name makes it sound like something NASA came up with. But the name Paxton Project comes from Sean Paxton, who has made a name for himself by cultivating unique recipes. Since 2012 Paxton has been working with Tonya Cornett on a port barrel aged Belgian quad that will tip the ABV scales at almost 16%! When will the Paxton Project be revealed? I’m not sure, but you can bet your ass I’ll be first in line to get my hands on some.
10 Barrel has their own grassroots athlete team that is currently 190 strong and growing
Looking for a sure sign that 10 Barrel is sticking to their microbrew roots? Look no further than their grassroots athlete program. Currently with 190 athletes between Bend, Boise and Portland, the crew spreads the 10 Barrel stoke throughout the mountain west via their outdoor activity of choice. From mountain biking and skiing to trail running and kayaking, keep an eye out for the grassroots team when you’re getting after it outside.
Beer: The job, and one of the perks of the job
Every job worth having has its perks. The original perk for this crew was the creation of 10 Barrel’s Pub Beer. What was originally brewed as an easy drinking craft lager for employees looking for a tasty, less hoppy beer to drink around the office at the end of the day, is now one of 10 Barrel’s classic brews. Currently in place for perks: each employee gets to take home one case of beer per week and participate in the Powder Policy. Translation: everybody goes skiing every time a storm dumps 6+ inches of snow on Mt. Bachelor during the winter.
10 Barrel ‘Battle of the Beers’ coming your way this summer
10 Barrel will be offering a ‘Battle of the Beers’ variety pack this summer, featuring four beers from three of their breweries. The head brewers from the Bend, Boise and Portland locations will get the chance to put on their creative hats and craft a unique brew for your drinking pleasure. But it gets better – you, the drinker, get to vote for your favorite beer via a public contest. A party will be thrown at the winning pub in September. If this isn’t a good excuse to drink beer then I don’t know what is.