A few weeks ago, the wife and I set out for a trip to explore one of Oregon's booming craft beer scenes. We loaded our bags and six empty kegs that we were returning on behalf of our friends at Altamont Beer Works to Boneyard Beer Company, and headed north up I-5. This was the first time either of us had been to Bend in our adult lives, and our first real vacation (post honeymoon). We had heard great things about the community, the lifestyle, the food and of course the beer! We were excited to say the least.
The main attraction being the Bend Ale Trail. Below is a list of all 14 participating breweries (numbers denoted to the right are where each brewery sits amongst the BeerGraphs Brewery Leaderboards):
- 10 Barrel Brewing Co. #133
- Bend Brewing Co.
- Boneyard Beer #123
- Brew Werks Brewing
- Cascade Lakes Brewing Co.
- Crux Fermentation Project #259
- Deschutes Brewery #17
- GoodLife Brewing
- McMenamins Old St. Francis
- Rat Hole Brewing
- Riverbend Brewing Company
- Silver Moon Brewing
- Three Creeks Brewing Company
- Worthy Brewing
10 Barrel, Boneyard, Crux, Deschutes, GoodLife and SilverMoon were our ale trail favorites. Here's why:
- 10 Barrel: Our last stop on the ale trail. This had by far our favoritee atmosphere of all the stops. The food, great. Awesome outside seating with a large fire pit. Poutine looked amazing, I regret not ordering it but the pizza was delicious. Jalapenos, Italian sausage, garlic sauce with homemade pizza dough, you get my point. Their Swill, American Radler, has a nice balance of orange sweetness, with a mildly tart finish. A great alternative to the session IPAs and Lagers that are so common this time of year. I finished with their O.G. Wheat IPA and this was their best beer in my opinion. It's their flagship beer, and for good reason. It packs the hops of the Pacfiic Northwest style which the smooth mouthfeel of wheat beer.
- Boneyard: RPM IPA, a very floral and juicy IPA with a crisp finish, was one of the best of the Boneyard. Citra and Centennial both come to mind. This was our most anticipated spot and I left very satisfied. Their taproom is on the smaller side, as they feature only five taps. Tastings and growler fills only. We toured their facility, and it was very true to the Boneyard name. Every single piece of equipment came from a different brewery. Like the great Tony Magee said, "It's good to have friends."
- Crux: We showed up for the sunset happy hour, one of the trip's highlights. The sun setting behind Mt. Bachelor during the Oregon summer is pretty amazing. I did a flight before dinner and a flight after, and I'm glad I did, as I was able to try almost all of their offerings. Their pre-prohibition lager, had a nice English toast about it. The Pilsner was light, clean, and refreshing. The last flight featured their Out Cast IPA, Off Leash APA and Imperial Mosaic Double IPA. All were very approachable and allowed the hops to shine.
- Deschutes: Obisidian Stout on Nitro, at the source, accompanied by a pretzel with black butte mustard -- can't lose!
- GoodLife: One of the newest brewieries on the ale trail certainly held its own with the big guys. Their Sweet As! Pacifc Ale is the perfect mix of blended hops and wheat. Check out their new patio area, as it just opened.
- Silver Moon: Looks more like a bar then a brewery tap room. It was a bit divey, but don't overlook the beer. Their IPAs and Barrel Aged beers shined. Conquistador, a brown ale aged in rum barrels married spicyness, carameled nicely in the mouth.
Fast forward five days -- we did it. If you happen to be in Central Oregon and you got a few days to kill, I say go for it. We stayed in the Old Mill District which was central to almost all of these breweries, made things very convenient as we were able to walk or take a short drive to each location. It was a great trip that really showcased some amazing beers and breweries. It's pretty cool to go a place that is so supportive of craft beer, it reminded me of San Diego.
The last I heard, there were 26 breweries in Bend, I hope to visit again the future to check out the breweries we didn't get to this time. Upon finishing our pints my wife asked how it felt when we finished at our last stop, my reply was "full."