The annual Little Woody Barrel Aged Beer, Cider and Whiskey Festival is just that - an amazing array of Oregon based breweries, cideries, and distilleries bringing their best barrel-aged selections for attendees to enjoy - and try to remember which was the best by the end of the night. Having attended the annual Little Woody Festival the past 5 of 7 years (5 straight - missing the first 2 years after moving to Bend in 2010), taking place the first weekend in September in Bend, OR., this is one of my favorite beer festivals anywhere as a lover of barrel aged craft brews. This is the event where originally Bend-based breweries would break out unique concoctions that would only be available the two nights of the Little Woody event, or while a limited number of kegs lasted. However, the past couple years, and certainly evident for the 2015 event last weekend, the Little Woody has expanded beyond bragging rights for Bend breweries and now includes craft beers from around the state, Pacific Northwest, and California - and also including barrel-aged ciders and whiskey. The unfortunate but anticipated downside of the 2015 event, is that there were so many good selections to enjoy - by the end of the night, I didn't have the drinking stamina to try everything my heart and taste buds desired. Nonetheless, here are my favorites (from what I remember) from the 2015 selections;
- The Sour Pumpkin Bier de Gourd from Deschutes Brewery - so yummy, and so balanced as a sweet pumpkin and sour barrel aged brew from one of Oregon's best breweries (IMHO).
- Fort George Brewery's Barrel Aged Plazm Farmhouse Ale - super clean and crisp with barrel-aged goodness, matured to perfection and improving on an already amazing Plazm Farmhouse Ale.
- The Bourbon Barrel Aged Brain Bucket Imperial IPA from Wild Ride Brewery was our go-to and favorite barrel aged IPA, and for the two-token price - an amazing value for such a good brew.
- My favorite beer outside the state of Oregon comes from the steady and always high-Quality Stone Brewing, who brought a Barrel Aged Brown Ale W/ Balaton Sour Cherries - consistent with all their beers, this was the highest quality and very well balanced for a barrel aged brown with just enough sweetness added in with the cherry-factor.
- Mazama Brewing Companies' Nightside Eclipse Bourbon aged Baltic Porter - this was the dessert beer, like a potent and smooth drinking brownie in a glass - so good, so chocolatey, and so quaffable!
Rounding out this event with amazing barrel aged beers, includes the selections of ciders and whiskey, ongoing live music from a variety of regional bands, and great local food carts - the Dump City Dumplings and cart that included huge brats and bacon for $1 (sorry - can't remember the name), provided essential nutrients and flavors to balance with equally amazing barrel-aged craft brews. Look for this event the first weekend in September of 2016, held at the Bend Historical Society - a short stumble from downtown and many area lodging properties or vacation rentals. Cheers to barrel-aged beers!