Book Review: Oregon Brew Tour

Last fall, I received an e-mail from Debra Ledford, who told me she and her husband were writing a book about beer in Oregon. She stumbled on my blog and liked one of the pictures, and asked for permission to use it in the book. I agreed, and pretty much forgot about it.

A few months ago, I received another e-mail from Debra. Their self-published book “Oregon Brew Tour” was complete and she wondered if I’d be interested in profiling it on my blog. I’m a fairly agreeable guy, so I told her I’d be happy to review it. A few days later, a 500-page book arrived in the mail—and I had some reading to do…

To be fair, I have not read any other books dedicated to Oregon beer, so I can’t compare it others. However, I can tell you what “Oregon Brew Tour” offers—and let me start by saying it’s very comprehensive.

In researching the book, Bob & Debra went on the mother of all Oregon brew tours and drove across the entire state visiting breweries and brewpubs. Oddly enough Debra doesn’t like beer—actually, in the introduction, she states she “really” doesn’t like beer. However, since Bob enjoys it, she decided to join in the adventure playing the most important role—designated driver.  He’s a lucky man, that Bob! Before you even think about drinking and driving, be sure to read the overview of Oregon’s drunk driving laws in the beginning of the book.

Then it gets into the breweries. There’s a write-up (1-9 pages) on each brewery, listed in alphabetical order. I don’t know the number of breweries in Oregon, but it appears to be complete. Heck, they even profile the one-hit-wonder maker of Panty Dropper Ale (which won a GABF medal in 2009)!

After the breweries are covered, The Ledfords provide a listing of Oregon Beer Festivals. I have not seen a more comprehensive listing in one place. Then it moves into homebrewing with a statewide listing of homebrew supply stores and homebrew clubs.  Other goodies include beer judging forms, suggested brew tours by region, tasting note forms, and a beer glossary.

Oregon Brew Tour is an excellent reference guide—and an interesting read.  My favorite part of the book was the in-depth brewery profiles. The back stories are always fascinating and often inspiring. I learned something new about each brewery—even the ones I thought I knew well. With Debra’s permission, I’m publishing her writeup on 10-Barrrel Brewing in its entirety (at the bottom on this post). My hope is to provide a flavor for what this book is about.

It’s a fairly thick book, but it should fit in the glove compartment in your car. Keep it in there, and you’ll always have brew tour information at your fingertips as you travel across Oregon. To order, or learn more about the book, please visit

In full disclosure, I received an evaluation copy of the book. I did not receive any form of compensation for this review, nor will I receive commissions for subsequent purchases that may arise from this review.

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10 Barrel Brewing Company

1135 West Galveston
Bend, Oregon 97701

“Independently Handcrafted in the Northwest”
Changes happen at 10 Barrel Brewing, beginning with the name.

Originally named Wildfire Brewing, they were compelled to change their name in 2008, two years into business, after receiving notification that they were in violation of a registered trademark.  Oops!  Rather than get involved in expensive and time-consuming litigation, the partners chose to relinquish the name to the Wildfire Restaurants chain of Illinois, a division of Lettus Entertain You Restaurants of Chicago.

The source of inspiration for the revised name is rather obvious to everyone; they brewed in a ten barrel brewhouse.   Though some have thought this choice to be a mistake, equating it with “naming your dog, ‘Dog’,” we think it was an inspired selection.  Basic, unpretentious, easy to remember, it is rather like “clean lines” in decorating.

Rebranding, though, was not so basic.  It meant changing their name on kegs, taps, and signs, to name a few items, as well as designing a new logo, plus getting the new name out to the public.  All this re-naming cost the partners a reported $45,000.  Though the publicity and its resulting write-ups generated by the name change may have provided a bit of free publicity, helping to assuage the cost a bit, that is a large sum to recoup through free publicity.

The question is, now that they have their new fifty barrel system with a projected ten thousand barrels to be produced in 2011, will another name change be forthcoming?  Definitely not.  But what about the ten barrel system that produced a respectable 2500 barrels in 2010?  Housed right next to the larger system, it will allow for creative testing, without jumping in with both feet.

In order to house both these systems, 10 Barrel will be moving into a 22,000 square foot facility. Plans call for this new brewery to have over one hundred wooden barrels aging at all times.  All these barrels will also allow them to expand into sour beers, an eminent item on the to-do list.  Also in the line-up for the new brewery location will be their own bottling line, a change from the mobile bottling service they have been using, with the possibility of cans later.

Though the company began with five partners, at 10 Barrel, changes happen.  With Paul Cook leaving to brew at Ninkasi, the four remaining partners are:  twins, Chris and Jeremy Cox, Oregon State graduates in business who moved to Bend from their hometown of Lincoln City; and father and son, Brad and Garrett Wells, Bend natives.  Add to this mix, the team of top brewers: head brewer, Dan Olson, formerly with Deschutes ; Tom Tash, previously with Kona Brewing in Hawaii; and most recently, Jimmy Seifrit, another ex-Deschutes brewer considered by other brewers to be one of the top three brewers in the Northwest.  Not to be outdone, the kitchen is now headed up by Chef Justin Hauson, a recent change after Chef Mike Moore, a one-time shoe salesman, became general manager.

10 Barrel began when twins, Chris and Jeremy, who co-owned JC’s Bar & Grill in downtown Bend, decided they wanted to open a brewery.  Starting as a production brewery, 10 Barrel had many taps in Bend and Portland, as well as beer available in about 300 locations around Oregon and Washington, but the next big change came when, in March of 2010, 10 Barrel opened their pub in the building previously occupied by Di Lusso Bakery.  

Extensive remodeling using local and reclaimed materials turned the one-time bakery into a modern, yet simple, hot-spot.  The reclaimed barn wood siding gives the structure a rustic look, while the garage door opening onto the patio lends that trendy, airy touch coveted by many.  More reclaimed wood provides magnificent table tops and chair seats that evoke a compelling desire to stroke them.  Though the look is basic, this pub has been designed high-end with an eye toward giving the feel of a neighborhood gathering place.

Though design is nice, beer is the thing.  10 Barrel proved they have the beer when they won the Bronze Medal at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival, in Denver, Colorado.  S1NISTER Black Ale pulled the third place finish in the Out-of-Category Traditionally Brewed Beer, competing against 82 other entries.  According to Chris, “S1NISTER put us on the map.”

Summer Ale, a really light body IPA, has been well received by 10 Barrel fans.  For those new to the world of craft beers, it provides an excellent transition; for enthusiasts, it is a refreshing reprieve from the highly-hopped beer so popular in the Northwest.  But…as a company, those on the inside at 10 Barrel like the seasonal India Summer Ale (ISA) better.  Ever open to change, 10 Barrel’s Summer Ale will not be brewed in 2011.

“We don’t have any attachments,” Chris states, “This makes us different…we’ll stop brewing a good seller when we get bored with brewing it.” 

Even with five standards and eight or more seasonals, creativity is important at 10 Barrel.  To add an extra fun element to the creativity, 10 Barrel has the Solera Project.  The barrels for this project are visible high-up in the glassed-in tap room at the pub. This living beer begins with four barrels filled with a base beer, each “belonging” to a different brewer.  Every six months five to six gallons of beer are removed from the barrel and replaced with an equal amount of a different beer of the brewer’s choice.  10 Barrel has created a bit of a competition among the brewers for the best Solera, with the public voting on the best beer at the Solera Party.

“As a brewer the most important quality is the creative side,” according to Chris; 10 Barrel strives to promote and encourage creativity.

This creativity is demonstrated in 10 Barrel’s devotion to supporting the community.  Each month 10 Barrel chooses a local charity to champion.  A portion of proceeds from all “I Drink For Charity” tees sold during that month are donated to the charity.  Then at month-end, 10 Barrel hosts a charity party, with all proceeds going to the charity of the month.  A few of the past charities which have benefited from this unique fund-raising approach are: Volunteers in Medicine, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Bend Firefighter Foundation, Humane Society of Central Oregon, Bend Parks and Recreation District, and Grandma’s House-where shelter, support, and guidance are provided for abused, pregnant, and parenting teens.

One of the surprising things to us was that Bend is slow in the winter.  With all the skiing at Bachelor, we thought Bend would be a hopping place.  But, it seems 70% of sales are made during the summer, when the place is bustling.  Apparently not too many skiers make it into Bend.   So if you are like us and prefer less crowded conditions, grab your chains and make the trek over the Cascades to Bend for a bit of winter wonderland…and Pray for Snow Strong Ale at 10 Barrel Brewing.

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