I was in Bend on vacation with all of my family (14 members in total), and asked my brother-in-law if he would like to visit the Deschutes Brewery and he was in. He had visited the Full-Sail bewery in Hood River earlier while I had never toured a brewery before.
I was excited to visit Deschutes Brewery, I really like their Porter, and their Mirror Pond Ale. I haven't had any of their other brews, but I am familiar with their story and was excited to learn more.
Before the tour we went to the Deschutes Brewpub in downtown Bend and had a delicious lunch. They include recommended pairings on the menu, had a good kid's menu and although they offer a sample board, I was curious to taste their Organic Ale (It was quite good, I will post a review later).
The tours kick off at 1pm, 2:30 and 4:00 and take about an hour. There are free tastings of all available beers (up to 4 samples per person) and children are welcome on the tour, although we did not bring ours. Our tour guide was in his mid-20's and knowledgeable about the company. He knew quite a bit about how things worked, and while there were some gaps in his knowlege about the brewing process, he gave a really great tour. One thing he did that was really cool was take us by the large hops cooler, and gave each of is a cone. We tore it apart and smelled and tasted them.
Deschutes has just completed an expansion. Their first brewery was in the brewpub, the second was a smaller (50bbl) JV Northwest system, and their third and most recent is a much larger (137bbl) Huppman brew house.
There are several distinguishing aspects to how they brew at Deschutes; they only use whole hops in their beer, almost all breweries use plug hops, and so their brewhouse includes an extra vessel, the Hop Back to remove the hops from the Wort prior to fermentation.
They clarify the beer by means of a separator centrifuge, not a plate filter or media filter.
One of the biggest surprises was that they have a blow-off tube on their huge fermenters just like homebrewers do, except that the tubes rest in a 55 gallon bucket of water and bubble furiously when active.
They have a rigorous QA process that involves isolated tasting booths and a spectrometer. Recent QA cases are retained for comparison purposes.
They have won several environmental awards for their brewhouse design: they recycle their spent grains by sending it to local farmers. They use heat exchangers to minimize energy consumption. Their bottles are shipped to them in the labeled cases with 6-pack cartons inside so that there is minimal waste in the bottling process as well.