Old Saint Francis School, 700 NW Bond Street
Craft beer aficionados have almost too many options in Bend; it seems as if a new brewery pops up on a monthly basis. But among all the newcomers are some longstanding favorites, such as iconic Deschutes Brewery, ever-popular Bend Brewing Company, and eclectic Silver Moon Brewing—respectively, the first-, second-, and third-oldest breweries in this destination mountain town, which now has more breweries per capita than any city in Oregon. In 2004, McMenamins joined the fold with its elaborate and beautiful Old Saint Francis School, named for the Catholic school that had formerly occupied the buildings on this large downtown property, which now—in typical McMenamins eclectic and artistic panache—features multiple hotel buildings, theater, bathhouse, restaurant, and several bars.
High Gravity Extravaganza Brewfest – USA Festivals Photo Gallery
It also hosts one of Oregon’s must-do brew fests, a midwinter affair called High Gravity Extravaganza, in which big, bad, bold, deep-bodied beers take center stage—center stage being the four big fire pits on the property. Yes, it’s January in Central Oregon, but the heart of this brew fest is outdoors in
Bold, high-octane ales take center stage at High Gravity Extravaganza Brewfest the cold and maybe the snow, as attendees sample a variety of beers (tasting punch cards are inexpensive and you can pay by the sample), enjoy live music, and talk shop with the brewers themselves, from both McMenamins and a who’s who of other Bend and Central Oregon breweries. Each brewer either creates a special high-gravity beer for the festival or tinkers with an existing concoction, and festival-goers get to vote for their favorites to crown a People’s Choice award winner.
The festival moniker—High Gravity—refers to a brewing term used to define the relative density of a beer’s wort (the sweet infusion of ground malt or other grain before fermentation) relative to water; a beer’s gravity is a measure of its density at various stages of fermentation. Original gravity is a measure of fermentable and nonfermentable substances in the wort prefermentation, and a high-gravity beer refers to a brew with higher alcohol content and a more robust and complex flavor profile. As beer writer Andy Sparhawk explains, “While gravity is important to a brewer, beer fans can benefit from understanding it too. As a beer enthusiast, an understanding of gravity will help you make informed decisions when choosing a beer if styles are not provided. You can infer that a stout with an OG of 1.080 likely has a stronger ABV than a stout at 1.044. A craft beer described as ‘high gravity’ is referring to the strength in alcohol, a detail that adds to the beer’s character.”
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