Predictions for the local beer scene in 2014

Bend beer expert Jon Abernathy looks into his sudsy crystal ball

Over the past few years, beer and breweries have become a fascinating and ever-expanding component of the local cultural scene. With that in mind, GO! Magazine asked Jon Abernathy — the founder of local blogs The Brew Site and Hack Bend who is currently writing a book on the history of beer in the region (due later this year) — for some predictions for Central Oregon’s beer landscape in 2014. Here’s what his sudsy crystal ball says.

1. There will definitely be more new breweries, though opening at a slower pace than in 2013. The past two years saw the introduction of six new brewing operations each year; 2014 will still see new breweries opening (at least North Rim in Bend and Wild Ride in Redmond) but I don’t foresee the frenetic pace of the past several years. Will this be the year a brewpub is announced for La Pine, Terrebonne, or even Tumalo?

2. Which leads to the questions people always ask me: Is there a beer bubble? How many breweries is too many? Central Oregon’s beer scene has defied expectations for years and I’ve given up on guessing how many might be too many. My (safe) prediction is this: As long as the breweries continue to find a market for and sell the beer they make, we’ll continue to see growth.

3. More brewery collaborations, not just in brewing special beers, but in events and other areas as well. Last year McMenamins Old St. Francis School teamed up with several breweries to host a “Traveling Brewers Dinner,” and the Central Oregon Winter Beer Fest brought all the local breweries together. Expect to see more of this type of collaboration, and also breweries collaborating with restaurants and other non-beer businesses.

4. The growler-fill craze will continue; expect to see a growler-fill station in your bank soon! Okay, this one is a bit tongue-in-cheek. Actually, I expect the growler-fill market to stabilize, though we may see some new stations open first.

5. More wild and crazy beers that defy expectations. We’re in the era of breweries experimenting with old or lost beer styles, unusual ingredients and processes, and sometimes what I like to call “stunt brewing.” In 2014, we’ll see more of that and part of the fun will be guessing what will come next: Juniper-smoked Gratzer? Imperial Kvass? Devon White Ale? Pickle Saison? The mind reels.