When Curt Plants passed away in April, his loss left a void in the Bend, Oregon brewing community. The GoodLife Brewing Co. co-founder and brewmaster, while fighting a battle with mononucleosis, acquired a “fast moving streptococcal blood infection” that ended his life far too soon at 33 years old.
Bend, Oregon is one of the best beer cities in the entire United States. Under the shadow of Mount Bachelor and alongside the banks of the Deschutes River, Bend is home to 20 breweries. Because of its size – home to just 91,000 or so residents – and its brewery-laden and consolidated downtown, it’s a close-knit beer community. Nationally-known entities like Deschutes and 10 Barrel call Bend home, but it’s the locals that truly shine: Crux Fermentation Project is trickling out to spot around the country; Boneyard’s RPM might be the best Pacific Northwest IPA.
The closeness of the beer community in Bend is best exemplified in how Bend galvanized itself behind GoodLife and Plants’ family in the aftermath of his passing. Stories flooded in about Plants role in the Bend brewing community, and how passionate he was to make the scene thrive, and how eager he was to help friends and strangers alike. Professionally, his legacy can be distilled more tangibly in the relationship between Ale Apothecary and GoodLife.
When Paul Arney, who heads up the masterful wild ale outfit The Ale Apothecary, needed assistance with finding a place with a high dock to receive materials, or needed somewhere that trucks could get to in the snowy Oregon winters, GoodLife co-founder Curt Plants was there to help. Conversely, when Plants needed assistance for a nitro stout project, Arney “gladly agreed.”
“Then between beers,” wrote GoodLife’s other co-founder Ty Barnett, “Curt and Paul began talking about a crazy collaboration: German Lager aged with his wild culture.”
“When Curt asked about the collaboration,” started Arney, “I immediately thought that this type of beer would be a perfect way for us to unite our vastly different breweries, giving each brewery a rather specific and important role in the development of the beer we were creating together. Curt loved the idea and gave me full reign to direct the brewing efforts at Goodlife to carry this project out.”
They called the beer Brett Lager and it is considered an homage to Plants.
As it’s consumed, there’s an ability to experience more of the beer’s complexity as the beer warms.”
“This collaboration was started because of Curt and Paul's relationship and love of beer,” said Barnett. “Sadly Curt was never able to try the final accomplishment ... Passing away in April, so as you drink this delicious brew, ‘Cheers’ to Curt and Paul for making a truly one of a kind beer."
On the label, it states, “This beer is dedicated in loving memory to GoodLife’s brewmaster/co-found Curt Plants.”
The beer is actually the brain-child of Arney’s very first employee Jeffrey Gomber, who asked why they couldn’t make a lager, “how The Ale Apothecary makes wild ales.”
“What we got was a traditional German Lager brewed with local Central Oregon grown malt from Mecca Grade, aged in 2008 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir barrels, blended with Ale Apothecary's wild Brett and aged for 18 months in barrel,” said Barnett.
As for the review, Arney loves the beer.
“As with all our other brews, I try hard not to have a predetermined outcome at the beginning of the process so the beer can become whatever the fate of chance brings,” he wrote me. “In this case, I’m glad that the beer retained some lager characteristics (grainy backbone, lager yeast esters) while showcasing the barrel ferment from our micro-organisms (fruity acidity and additional stone fruit esters).”
The beer pours a golden straw color with a large yeasty head, and has a bright aroma that suggests a similar acidity. The high alcohol by volume (8.5%) grounds that expectation by presenting a pleasant mouthful of barnyard funk. It finishes super-tannic, but not totally dry, either. It’s a well-balanced beer. There’s a heft to the Brett Lager, too. And so as it’s consumed, there’s an ability to experience more of the beer’s complexity as the beer warms.
The collaboration is more than just “maximizing marketing,” according to Arney.
“I often scoff at collaborations because everyone and their mom seem to be doing them and for no real reason other than to slap the ‘collab’ title on it ... This project goes much deeper and I’m very proud to have been a part of it.”
As for the relationship with GoodLife, “I’ll do anything I can for those guys,” Arney wrote. “These guys are the best neighbors anyone could ask for!”