Take a Ride on the Gypsy Coolship

I first heard about the Gypsy Coolship project a couple years back when Crux announced the original release. Did I have a clue what they were doing? Absolutely not. Not surprisingly though, I loved that first release and had to learn more about what exactly the Gypsy Coolship project is.

Much to my chagrin, it wasn’t going to be something I could ride around in and drink delicious Crux brews. My disappointment quickly turned to joy when that first grisette (a wonderfully crisp, light and underappreciated beer style) hit my lips. What the project actually turned out to be is a very “Crux” version of a traditional brewing style that has been modernized and is still being used by a handful of more enthusiastic brewers.

So what is a coolship? The VERY simple version is that it’s an open fermentation vessel where natural yeast and bacteria help create spontaneous fermentation. It’s basically the exact same process as all the other beers we drink but it introduces unique flavors and challenges. It didn’t start out as a fun experimental project though, it was used out of necessity. Our current brewing process and equipment allows brewers to cool brews down in a controlled environment thanks to modern refrigeration. When beer was first being brewed there was no such thing as refrigeration. The solution was to cool beer outside in an open tank that was very wide and shallow, creating more surface space and allowing it to cool down faster. This was the purpose of the original coolship (back then it was a koelschip).

The current coolship process is generally done indoors, in a more controlled environment, to make beers replicable. As you can imagine, there are a significant number of variables that come into play when leaving a beer outside overnight. So when Larry (owner, master brewer, and fermentation aficionado) decided he wanted to try his hand at a coolship he figured they should really lean into the “project” part of the name Crux Fermentation Project.

When I asked Larry why he put his first coolship on wheels and decided to make beer outside, the answer was simple. He wanted to harvest natural flavors and use those to allow the beer to change. Their goal is to dial in a recipe and get to the point where the main variable is Mother Nature.

With that in mind, Larry and his team set off creating their first Gypsy Coolship brew. Number one was that wonderful grisette I mentioned earlier. They kept this one close to home and left the ship on the lawn right outside the pub, choosing to keep it close just in case they ran into any issues. Fortunately for our taste buds, nothing went wrong and the beer came out beautiful!

Round two got the ship out on the road for the first time, finally earning the gypsy moniker. Teaming up with the Deschutes Land Trust allowed this experiment to take place in the Metolius Preserve. Spending an entire night out under the trees really had an effect on the flavor profile of the brew. It didn’t take much asking to find out that Larry has a hard time not adding a little extra nature… This one features a “dry hop” process consisting of fir tips, flowers and other forest flavors.

Number three got the team out of the forest and onto a farm, this time partnering with the folks at DD Ranch in Terrebonne. With Smith Rock watching over it, this brew also spent a full night out in the fields. Oh but they weren’t done there! After its one night out this beer took a 12 month nap in oak barrels. The final product gave us citrus, pear and just enough funk to make you think about the brewing process.

The fourth, and current, in the coolship line was again brewed in partnership with the Deschutes Land Trust. This time the crew ended up at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve just outside of Sisters. It was just recently brewed and put into barrels so we should see it come available in a little under a year.

I know you’re ready to run out and find one of these beers, but wait! Once you do have one of these bottles in your hand you’ll need to pay close attention to the fascinating and very impressive artwork. Each of these releases has a unique story and they are all told through the work of local artist Sweet Pea Cole.

A graphic and creative artist, Sweet Pea has been in the Northwest since the mid 90’s and is very familiar with our unique culture and lifestyle. She had been working on an idea involving a “landlocked sailor” before the crew at Crux even started the Gypsy Coolship project. Once Sweet Pea heard about it she felt the sailor was the perfect representation of the Gypsy Coolship and Crux agreed.

Sweet Pea has now designed all the label art for the project. When you look at the artwork you’ll see some constants no matter which release you have. The main part is the coolship itself with the captain (Larry) manning the helm. His muck boots and waders are a subtle nod to being both brewer and captain. Of course every bottle can’t be the same! Each one offers a unique perspective on the location of the brew. While enjoying a glass see if you can find all the specific characters and distinctions that made that beer so special. The stories behind each character are targeted to the location where the coolship was for the brew, see if you can make the connections!

The Gypsy Coolship is really just another feather in the cap of Crux Fermentation Project. Few people seem to recognize that Crux isn’t just Crux Brewing; it’s really all in the full name, Crux Fermentation Project. There is so much more to this crew than making incredible beers. Everything they do pushes the envelope of fermentation sciences just a little farther. Whether it’s making their own wines or cider, pickles, coolship brews and so much more, Crux always delivers. The Gypsy Coolship project is the most recent example of what Crux is willing to do. This is what Crux Fermentation Project is all about.

To close, I want to leave you with some inspiration directly from the man, the captain of the ship, Larry. I asked him: “If you could tell people one thing about the Gyspsy Coolship, what would it be?” His response says it all:

“Open your mind to what Mother Nature can brew.”


The Wizard of the NW Beer Industry

Congrats to Beerlandia for their The North American Guild of Beer Writers award. One of their episodes from last year featured our founder and master brewer, Larry Sidor. Give it a listen to learn why some consider him the “Godfather” of the Northwest Beer Industry.

Sabro Fresh Hop Hazy IPA

With so many of our locally grown hop species originating overseas, it’s not every day we get to craft a true American original like this hazy IPA. Freshly harvested, this fully unfiltered expression of the Sabro hop – a unique variety bred from a wild hop native to the mountains of New Mexico – explodes with flavors of coconut, tangerine, and tropical fruit with a hint of cedar and creamy mouthfeel that’s anything but bitter. Stay wild! 6.5% ABV (Available in 16oz 4-packs starting Sept 18th throughout Oregon, Washington, and S. Idaho)

Crux Community Announcement

*Updated: As of Tuesday, March 17th, we will only be open for takeout orders. Stay tuned for more information to come.

We just wanted to let you know that we take the health of the Crux community very seriously and are staying up to date with the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and doing everything possible to keep you and our staff safe. Our crew has been diligently sanitizing and wiping everything down and washing their hands even more than usual since early last week. Even high fives have been canceled in exchange for chin nods and elbow bumps.

We’re going to remain open until further notice. Our lawn area is great for those concerned with social distancing but still want to enjoy their favorite adult beverage with family and friends. We’re also cracking open the garage doors for fresh airflow inside. We encourage everyone to do what they think is best for themselves and the community and to stay home if they’re not feeling well. And if you just want to chill at home – we have plenty of packaged beer to go and you can order your food to go, as well!

Hang in there. We’ll make it through this together!

Dr. Jack | Fresh Hop IPA

Named for hop pioneer Dr. Jack Horner – creator of the Cascade hop – this trailblazing IPA features freshly harvested Oregon-grown Cascade hops, added to the kettle the very same day they’re picked in order to maximize all the floral and citrusy goodness this legendary hop has to offer. Inspiring as our brewery’s view of the Cascade Mountains at sunset, this fresh expression of their namesake hop is one we know would make Dr. Jack proud. 6.9% ABV

Way Two Fresh | Fresh Hop IIPA

To craft this fresh hop tour de force for third year in a row, we once again simultaneously harvested hops from two valleys in two states on the same morning, combining them into a single kettle that very afternoon… dream big, right? Fully hop-forward with rich tropical qualities, this flavorful blend of fresh Willamette Valley Mosaic and Yakima Valley Simcoe hops is an Imperial IPA that’s double the trouble and downright delicious. It’s dangerously drinkable at 9.9% ABV so imbibe with caution!

Pert Near | Fresh Hop IPA

Our first fresh hop beer of the season is on tap and available in 16oz cans – not just in our tasting room but also throughout Oregon and Washington. This year we brewed Pert Near with Tettnang and Centennial hops, both grown by Goschie Farms in the Willamette Valley. The unique melon flavors from these early season hops are once again the main attraction in this dank IPA which clocks in at a respectable 6.9% ABV.

Cruxpansion for the People

If you’ve been around Crux recently, then you know they’ve been working on a pretty hefty, beautiful, and very necessary expansion. I recently spent a morning with founder/master brewer, Larry Sidor, in honor of their 7th year of absolutely crushing it so I could fill you in on exactly what went into this awesome new space. Warning: you’ll learn some things in this article, use your new knowledge to impress your friends or your mom or your dog.

You might already know this, but Crux used to be an AAMCO transmission shop (if you didn’t know, that’s cool because now you do). The entire industrial feel of the original space was carried over to the brewery, so it was vital that the expansion felt the same way. Boy did they nail that! But first, why even expand? Larry said it best, “Our goal is to get beers in hands as fast as possible while keeping the wonderful sense of community that Crux is known for”.

Something that really stuck with me from our conversation is that Larry never expected that the original tap house would be full. Well Larry, wrong. Thankfully for all of us it was realized in 2015 that the original space just wasn’t going to cut it so the expansion planning started. I’m not going to get into a bunch of details about the plans and reasons behind details, but I am going to point out a few VERY cool features.

One of the very first steps in the expansion was getting the (formerly) outdoor container bar going. Considering how popular the outdoor space at Crux is, it was super important for them to have easier access to tasty brews for the sea of people enjoying the lawn. Now you can still hit the container bar, it’s still in the exact same spot, you just have to venture into what is basically a giant covered patio. One thing people have always loved about this space is the accessibility to the outdoors along with the stunning mountain views. The design team did a stellar job of creating a space that easily opened up for sunny days, but still gives us the outdoor feel when all the giant garage doors are down.

One of the main goals of the expansion is getting beers in hands as quickly as possible. Which is a goal I can really get behind. With that in mind, there are now three places to order: the original bar, the container bar, and the front counter. I have spent a fair amount of time at Crux and can tell you that I have never been in a line for beer longer than 5 minutes, and it’s generally much quicker than that. Gone are the days of table service, it just doesn’t make sense for a space that is so oriented around community and fun. Order at one of the bars and go mingle, pet some dogs, meet some new people, have fun!

Now for a few little details. This is the part you’re going to want to remember to show off to your friends. Next time you’re in there are a few things to notice: the ceiling in the expansion, all of the copper light fixtures, and some very specific silver plating pieces. First, take a look at all the lighting fixtures, both inside and outside, they’re all that same beautiful copper that you’ll see in the brewhouse. How? Well, they’re all part of the original brewhouse that Larry held onto when they installed it, the original stacks were much too tall for the space so the copper found a new purpose.

Now take a look up past those beautiful lights and you’ll see some random silver panels hanging down. They might look like nothing to you, but they are actually a very cool piece of brewing history. See, Larry was once the head brewer at Olympia Brewing, back before craft beer was even on the radar. Those silver panels come from his time there. They are all original lauter tun filtration plates that were used as a hop jack before Olympia switched over to the current whirlpool method with the transition from whole flower hops to pellets. Needless to say, those pieces hanging from the ceiling are much more than just a piece of metal, they are a piece of brewing history that harkens to the roots Crux has in the industry.

The last interior piece to point out also requires that you look up, I suggest taking a seat before this because it can be a bit mesmerizing and I’d hate to have any beer casualties… The entire ceiling of the new expansion is a beautifully nerdy piece of design. Stemach Design is responsible for the entirety of the expansion design, but this ceiling is the shining star of it all. The variation in the ceiling is due to the use of randomly alternating 2×6’s and 2×8’s which are aligned at the top and give a wonderful texture to the side we see. According to the designers, there were two main reasons for this. First, it just looks cool. Second, it “helps dampen the reflection of sound in the space”. Considering the amount of metal and concrete in the space it is super important that sound has somewhere to go, otherwise it would be impossible to hear anything.

If you thought all that was the cool part, you’re in for a real treat. The design of the ceiling and organization of the boards created an “exactly random” pattern. Now, I can’t really tell you much about the science and engineering that goes into making something exactly random, but what I can tell you is that it not only looks rad but also contains a secret message. The pattern of the ceiling was dictated by assigning a value to letters of the alphabet then writing out the message… The message in the main seating area says “WELCOME TO CRUX FERMENTATION PROJECT” and the western part of the outdoor area reads “DRINK MORE BEER HERE”. Can you figure out the code?

Moving outside, you’ll see they didn’t change much. The food carts are still there to provide added tasty options on top of the existing menu, there’s still a ton of space to spread out, and there are still fire pits. However, there are added permanent benches available and a brand new fire pit; not just any old fire pit either, there was a lot of work put into this bad boy.

This isn’t just some random fire pit that was bought and installed, it’s all custom and really stays home with the vibe at Crux. The base of the pit is actually a former brew tank that Larry bought and had cut down to create the 8-foot base. Those letters are hand made and welded specifically for the fire pit, meaning this baby is going to be around a long time. Due to the large size of the base, a good number of people are able to cozy up to it, again focusing on that wonderful sense of community the brewing industry is all about.

I’m so very excited to see how far Crux has made it in the last seven years and can’t wait to see what the next seven hold. Big shout out to Jason from Crux for taking the time to help set this all up and to Matt from Stemach Design for providing all the wonderful design information. Also, big shout out to Nathan’s Custom Woodworking for making all of the tables (from a single 100 year old Douglas fir) and to Stuart Breidenstein for crushing that fire pit design.

Now go grab a tasty beer, nestle up next to a fire, and enjoy a terrific view with great people!


Thanks to the Positive Brew Dude for capturing this with his words and photos!

The Play Wave Pursuit

photo: john trapper | surfer: travis yamada

The pursuit of the perfect wave (or beer, for that matter) never ends.

A few years back, we partnered with our friends at Sierra Nevada, Columbia Distributing, and the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance to support a cause close to our hearts (and our brewery) here at Crux – proceeds from Paddle Trail Ale helped fund the downtown reconnection of the Deschutes River and build what is now the Bend Whitewater Park. It’s one of our prouder moments, and one we reflect on often while yearning for a flavorful pale ale along the banks of our favorite river…

Today, the spirit of Paddle Trail Ale lives on with the debut of Play Wave: a next-generation Pale Ale bursting with big flavor and complex hop character. Named for the whitewater surf feature built as part of the Bend Whitewater Park by Crux brewer and whitewater kayaker Chris Meinke, Play Wave is a refreshing ride built for days on the water. Innovative brewing techniques have allowed us to squeeze a crazy amount of juicy hop flavor and floral aroma from a power trio of Mosaic, Galaxy, and Centennial hops making this easy-drinking pale a tidal wave of citrusy goodness, without the bitter wipeout. “I mostly like to drink really good lagers all the time…” says Crux brewer Joshua Keithly “…but Play Wave is just stupid good. I could drink this every day.”

As brewers and river enthusiasts ourselves, we’re stoked on this beer and all the endless sessions to come. Throw a six-pack in the cooler and keep chasing your wave. We’ll keep chasing ours.

Barrel Maintenance & Repair

There are many benefits to employing used barrels for beer fermentation & aging. You can get different flavor profiles depending on the previous liquor – at Crux, we use bourbon, red & white wine & rum barrels. You can get different char/toast levels within the barrels depending on its previous use & barrels can be made of different woods that can lend a great amount of complexity to your beer. Due to these wonderful characteristics, it’s important to keep your barrel stock in good shape.

Before we dive into maintenance, let’s define some basic barrel anatomy:

A couple common reasons barrels may need some maintenance:

1. The barrels were kept empty too long & dry out

See the spaces in between the staves? They are caused by the wood drying out and shrinking. This barrel will not hold liquid!

2.They have been damaged (either in transit, storage or maybe even by me!)

This can include broken staves, bent/broken/missing hoops, dented heads, etc.

Good news: the barrels can be fixed! Now to introduce some tools & techniques we use:

The tools on the left are called a Cooper’s Hammer & a Hoop Driver. They are the best tools for the job when it comes to “driving hoops” or moving the metal hoops further along the barrel to tighten the wooden staves. Until I got the hoop driver, I used the piece of copper pipe pictured on the right. Looking at those sharp edges, I’m sure you can imagine my elation when the hoop driver came in the mail!

Another important tool for fixing barrels is basic: water & steam. Hot water rinses on the inside and outside provide the barrels with much needed moisture and can expand the staves to fix leaks. Steam gives you a couple benefits – it will provide moisture to expand the barrels and the heat helps take down the microbial load. Some barrels may come in very dry or not smelling great. The steam will kill most of what is in the barrel (microbially speaking) & restore a healthy balance for the beer. We don’t want too many outside microbes interrupting the secondary fermentation or beer aging process within the barrel.

In general, the wine barrels come to us in the best shape. Bourbon barrels are aged longer so they tend to be a bit more beat up. The rum barrels are by far the worst – they are usually retired bourbon barrels used several more times for rum.  Pictured above are leaking bourbon (left) & rum (right) barrels. Since these barrels are already full of beer, I can’t exactly hot rinse or steam them. In this case, I will hoop drive to tighten the barrel. You can see a yellowish substance on the front of the rum barrel. Rum barrels are usually double bunged (one on top, which is normal, then one on the head). This head bung can be problematic as it tends to leak due to aging our barrels on their sides. The yellowish substance is barrel wax. This is a last resort and in this case, I covered the entire front bung with wax. Now I need to tackle the head leaks with the hoop driver!

These are just a few things we do to maintain barrels at Crux. There’s a reason a Barrel Cooper is a full-time job! Even with the high level of maintenance, record keeping & expense that goes along with a barrel program, I believe the resulting beer is worth the effort!

Be sure to stop by our Tasting Room often as we release many new Banished beers to the pub only (in very small quantities so they go fast!)


– Katie Liebl
Brewer, Barrel Program Manager