When in Rome, do as the Romans. And when visiting any town in Oregon do as a good Oregonian and visit the pubs. On a recent trip to Pendleton I met up Tim and Jennifer Guenther, proprietors of Prodigal Son Brewing along with Brewmaster Brian Harder and we did just that.
Having been open for a little over a year, Prodigal Son Brewing has been making their mark on the Oregon beer scene little by little. Having their beers available at various craft beer bars in the Portland area, like The BeerMongers and Roscoe’s, has exposed many a beer geeks to their delicious brews. Coming this weekend, their beer will be at the beer geek of all beer geek beer festivals known as Fred Fest. Knowing that Prodiagal Son needs to bring something special, they will be in attendance with their Neuer Morgan Belgium Ale. I believe this is the first Belgium Ale they have made.
Neuer Morgan, or Morgan for short, is named after Tim and Jennifer’s daughter and brewmaster, Brian Harder’s assistant for the batch. This brew is unique because it used a blend of yeasts – wyeast 3787, 1272 plus a wild one – and several pounds of rose hips. There is also some Grains of Paradise to add spiciness. The base malt was Golden Promise with Simpson’s Dark Crystal for color and sweetness. Most importantly, Morgan helped brew it while she was on spring break. The roses are funky, floral and earthy. The Grains of Paradise also contribute a peppery heat that pairs well with the 4-vinyl-guiacol (clove) flavors this yeast produces. This beer was also available at Roscoe’s Belgium Summit a couple of weeks ago but if you were unable sample this tasty brew then Fred Fest or the brewpub in Pendleton will be your only opportunities to try it.
While I visited and tasted beers with the folks at Prodigal Son on Monday, the only day they are closed, the guys decided to take me out on the town in Pendleton and show me how different the bar scene is. Our first stop was The Packard, a dive bar (well, there are only dive bars in Pendleton except for Prodigal Son), which to my surprise had a small, but decent selection of craft beer. I recall seeing Deschutes Red Chair on tap along with Widmer KGB Imperial Stout. Having trouble kicking the keg of Widmer, the pub was running a speical of $2 a pint of KGB! Not wanting to get faded too fast we all opted for a good ol’ frosted pint of Rolling Rock. After all, someone just told me the other day that it is the original craft beer. For a Monday night the pub had a few locals in it. The one thing I remember most about the place was how brightly lit it was for a pub. The Packard had seating towards the front near the bar and pool tables in the back. It also had a couple of TVs behind the bar with sports on. It looked like your typical small town pub. It was one and done for us at The Packard and we were on to The Rainbow. Not a gay bar and the idea of this name even meaning that being lost on the locals, this place had quite the selection of canned beers. Now before you get too excited, the canned beers consisted of Coors, Miller, Rainier, etc but boy did it carry a variety! Having college memories of Rainier, it is the beer that we all “enjoyed”. This bar had more of a diner feel to it, with booths set opposite the bar and it was more dimmly lit then The Packard. The atmosphere was pleasant and there was no loud music which meant it was great for having a conversation in that could actually be heard.
While Pendleton may not have quite the same bar scene as Portland it does have a craft brewery that has become a destination for folks traveling for beer in Oregon. Prodigal Son has enjoyed a year of success and is enjoying making beers that any beer connoisseur would be excited to try. The locals, and those that visit for the Pendleton Round Up every year, love IPA which surprised brewmaster Brian. Because of this he has had the pleasure to experiment with making a series of one hopped beers which have been dubbed Splendor in a Glass. The current selection consists of all Bravo hops. Next up is a batch with all Calypso hops. Due to the growing success, the pub even got a neon markie that lights up beautifully at night.
Look for Prodigal Son Beers on tap at various bars in the Portland area, Fred Fest this weekend and the Oregon Brewer’s Festival (their first year to participate). For additional information on Prodigal Son, check out this previous interview that was done in August of last year.