The small yet surprisingly populated central Oregon farming city of Bend is now proudly known for being two things – an outdoor adventure sports hot spot and North America’s best beer city.
We arrived in the midst of winter with snow and ice covering everything. The house we rented with four friends was a huge, somewhat classic two-storey American home with a large fireplace, four bedrooms, huge lounge area, small front and back yards and patios and the customary patriotic American Flag flying out front.
After lunch at a local pub and settling into the house, we got started on why we were in Bend – the Bend Ale Trail, a joint effort between the Bend Tourism Board and 14 of the local breweries.
First night, first Bend Ale Trail Brewery
Located down a somewhat deserted road that you only find when you think you’re lost, Crux beer is worthy of the trek through snow.
The brewery tasting room is small but welcoming, with the bar and about 40 person seated area sitting in the middle of the brewery, in addition to an outdoor covered area.
We got a table, flights of their beers, had dinner, picked up our Bend Ale Trail ‘passports,’ and got our first stamps of the trip.
Day one (Friday)
We got strategic over breakfast – the first stop of the day would be the furthest of the brewery driving distances, and then work our way back.
We arrived at Three Creeks at lunch time.
Surrounded by farming countryside, this rustic barn style brewpub 25 minutes from Bend has a decent size drinking area. Three Creeks offers a variety (about nine) of very distinct beer styles. We each shared a flight (per couple), got our stamps and moved on.
Riverbend on the way back into town is a Sports bar and brewery. A decent lunch and another shared flight of beers (per couple), of which we enjoyed their alternative styles more than their regulars. We took the car home and walked the rest of the day.
Boneyard Brewing is possibly the world’s smallest standing only tasting room. With room for about 15 people, they sell $1 tasters with their business seemingly being based on growler-fills, kegs and merchandise. We had the four beers on offer – quality, distinct, full flavoured, enjoyable.
Silvermoon was the surprise package of all the breweries. It’s doesn’t look like much at first sight, but the beer is impeccable. The drinking area feels dated but it’s a good size room with long bar and they’re also a live music venue. I wasn’t expecting much, but when we got our hands on their beers, the head brewer should be proud (the spiced sugar rimmed pumpkin ale was outstanding on a cold winters night).
On to Deschutes, Bend’s busiest brewpub. The place was packed and the lines to the bar were insane. We’d all had a number of Deschutes beers from varying trips to their Portland Brewery (read about our weekend in Portland here), so we decided to get our stamps and skip the beers.
Nearing dinner, we moved on to Bend Brewing for its award winning beers, good food and live music in a busy but big enough space.
In typical McMenamins style, their Bend brewpub and hotel is a converted schoolhouse with buildings and wings running in all directions. We found one of their small busy bars, got a booth and enjoyed their consistently good beers for the second time this weekend. We got ‘stamped’ on the way out.
Day two (Saturday)
Another strategic breakfast discussion. As it was Saturday and we were leaving the next day, we needed to get to our remaining seven breweries before the Tourism Office closed at 4pm for the weekend.
To accomplish this, today would need to be a bigger driving day.
Our first stop was Worthy Brewing on the edge of town. Housed in a huge purpose built multi-storey building, this family friendly brewery boasts a hop house out front, ample seating, lovely views and even better beers.
Rat Hole Brewing is a small suburban neighbourhood brewpub. It was a quick stop for the stamp, some takeaway beer (which we honestly didn’t love), and we moved on.
Old Mill Brew Werks just so happened to be closing down the weekend we were there (now called Craft Kitchen and Brewery), so we went in, got our stamps, some free giveaway pint glasses, and moved on.
Cascade Lakes is an appealing brewery with its large wooden alpine lodge style building, ample restaurant seating area and a good choice of beer options both on tap and take away.
Goodlife was the hardest of all breweries to find, hidden in a large shed away from the road about 100 metres past the easily storable Cascade West Grub and Ale house. It had fun staff and a small drinking area – we got more takeaway beers (the beers we had were okay) and our stamps.
10 Barrel Brewing – the mighty 10 Barrel, our last of the Bend Ale Trail. The sun was shining and EVERYONE was now here. We waited about 20 minutes to get a table in the sun. We had a couple of beers and, our passports now fully stamped, we had officially completed the Bend Ale Trail.
Next stop: the Tourism Office Visitor Centre. Why? Your Bend Ale Trail prizes: a Silli (silicon) pint, sticker and bottle opener – all Bend Ale Trail themed.
As mentioned earlier, The Bend Tourism Office closes at 4pm on Saturdays and does not open on Sundays. Thankfully we’d read this otherwise we would have missed out…
So we got our prizes and took them and our takeaways home for dinner and beers.
We did it. Two-and-a-half-days, 14 local craft breweries and a lot of really good, high quality, different and flavoursome craft beers.
We made one last stop off to Crux (the groups’ consensus favourite of all the Bend Breweries we visited) for a beer, lunch and some growler fills before we hit the road.
What a great little place Bend, Oregon is. It’s a thriving all-year-round city somewhat out of the way, off a highway in central Oregon, surrounded by farmland, close to snow covered mountains and a city now built on beer.
If you love good beer, then you can’t miss this magical craft beer city or the challenge of the Bend Ale Trail.
Have you been to Bend or completed the Bend Ale Trail? What was your favourite brewery? Leave a comment below…