At Deschutes Brewery’s main brewing facility in Bend, hundreds of thousands of barrels of craft beer are brewed each year and distributed to 32 states, the District of Columbia and around the world. As the 10th largest craft brewery in the nation and the largest independent brewery in Oregon, Deschutes (which marked its 30th anniversary in 2018) makes a diverse lineup of award-winning craft beers on a very large scale.
Veronica Vega is Deschutes’ director of product development, overseeing new innovations, their pilot brewery and their barrel program. She started years ago as a brewery tour guide, became fascinated with the craft-brew process and went back to school to earn a diploma in brewing.
Today Vega oversees the full portfolio of beverages Deschutes has to offer — from beer to ciders to distillation collaborations, the latter being newer products they’ve started to brew in recent years to meet the needs of more audiences and remain more competitive in the hyper-competitive craft-beer scene.
“All you need to do is walk into the beverage aisle and see the cool innovations, such as cold brew, kombucha, kefir water and others,” Vega says. “With my background in beer, it just kind of allows the exploration of more of a flavor-driven concept, as opposed to being held back by beer styles.”
For example, Vega says, one of the flavor-driven releases she’s proud to debut this season is the Marionberry and Lavender Sour — compared to tasting Oregon’s summertime in a glass. “We want people to try it and have it knock their socks off as something they just haven’t ever tasted,” she says. Another anticipated release is their small-batch reserve of fruited sours, such as the new Family Tree Nectarine.
As many people are looking for no-alcohol or low-alcohol beverages, Deschutes is exploring these worlds as well with their craft mind-set. All of this experimentation and brewing outside the box “in no way devalues the tradition of beer itself,” nor the Deschutes’ signature beers, such as Black Butte Porter, Mirror Pond Pale Ale or Fresh-Squeezed IPA, she says. “We want it to still wow people, but it just unshackles you from having to think of different ways to do things within certain beer styles.”
The other major trend Vega is addressing is the changing demographic of beer drinkers. “We’re seeing numbers shift — it’s about 50/50 [between men and women],” she says. “It’s less to do with gender and more to do with younger generations.” These newer beer drinkers are open to much more than beer in three categories — hoppy, lager and dark — and “might not care if there’s pink on the can,” she says, whereas that may have been a marketing no-no in the past.
Being part of the growing and diversifying ranks of female brewmasters in Oregon and the United States is exciting, Vega says. “To be at a table of similar people and having the same beer-centric mind-set isn’t going to get you to that next level of innovating to a broader audience,” she says.
Deschutes’ innovation extends to their blog, which includes everything from beer podcast recommendations to beer and food pairings (yes — pizza and ramen). To learn more about Deschutes, book a Bend brewery tour, discover their sustainability efforts and sample their latest releases in between flights at their PDX Airport Pub.
Deschutes Bottles the ‘Only Slightly Exaggerated’ IPA
You’ve seen the fanciful illustrations of Travel Oregon’s “Only Slightly (More) Exaggerated” campaign. Now you can fill your cooler with a craft brew inspired by that same sense of magic.
Just in time for summer, Deschutes Brewery has released a limited edition of Only Slightly Exaggerated IPA in bottles, perfect for summer adventuring.
“We love the campaign and the video — it’s so whimsical and fun,” says Vega. “We’re all lovers of Oregon here, inspired by its breathtaking beauty.” In a similar fashion, “we wanted to bring a beer that expands your horizons of what you think an IPA could taste like,” Vega adds.
At 6% alcohol by volume, the beer is made with an American hop called Sabro, grown in the Northwest, with warm aromas of bourbon barrel, coconut and other tropical notes. “It’s kind of mind-blowing,” Vega says. “It’s surprising that a hop could bring these characteristics to a beer.”