I knew Bend had a vibrant beer scene with a bunch of breweries, but somehow I failed to comprehend the scale of it until my wife and I went there last month for our anniversary. The population is just about 80,000 but there are 19 breweries. It gives Bend the highest number of breweries in Oregon per capita. If you live in Oregon and are a beer lover, you have no excuse not to go to Bend. Its an amazing beer locale. If you are going to Bend, make sure to check out the Visitor Bureau’s website. It has a ton of info on things to do. I recommend the Bend Ale Trail. It has an app you can download. I admit I thought it sounded a bit hokey at first but it served as a nice pub crawl guide right on my phone with directions to each brewery.
We stayed only for the weekend but we were able visit a number of breweries. The first place we went was actually not in Bend, but in Sisters. We had stopped in Sister for gas but when we saw Three Creeks Brewing, we had to stop in. Its a nice pub with a fun, old west theme. The bar area has a pool table, comfy seats and a cozy bar. The beers are really enjoyable. Their fresh hop red ale and imperial IPA were amazing. A few of their beers, like Knotty Blonde, and Hoodoo Voodoo IPA can be found in and around Portland, but if you have the chance, the pub is definitely worth checking out.
Our full brewery tour did not begin until the following day. One of the best things about Bend is that all the breweries are close to one another. It makes going to several places in an afternoon an achievable goal. We lucked out with a beautiful sunny day. What better way to tour the town and breweries than on bike?
Our fist stop was Crux Fermentation Project. I love this place! The bar is in the brewery so you get a peek into where the action takes place. They have a large outdoor patio with picnic tables to enjoy an afternoon pint in the sun. We didn’t eat there so I can’t comment on the food, however the beer is fantastic! They brew a LOT of beer. It would probably take an entire weekend to sample all their beers…Or at least a full day and designated driver. If you are a beer geek interested in tasting the effect a different yeast, hops, wood aging or other variables can have on the same wort, then you need to stop by Crux.
Next on our tour was Rat Hole Brewing. Rat Hole in contrast to Crux, is a very small brew pub. It has a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere and the staff were friendly. We arrived hungry and were happy to try their beers and some food. We had lunch.The food was decent. The beer… As a homebrewer I compare my beer to commercial beers. There were two different beers that tasted flawed and reminded me of what I made before I had temperature control. They had banana and butter flavors. I spoke with the owner and asked about their brewery. He said the brewery is in a converted barn on his property (hence the name). I asked how they control their temperatures. He said I should speak with the brewer. The brewer was present but entertaining some visitors. I never had the chance to speak with him. They have some interesting beers, a hoppy red, lemon wheat, a couple different porters, IPA and a big pale ale . I feel like we’re going to have to return to give them another try. They have good reviews so I hope it was just a fluke.
We left Rat Hole feeling our exceptations for Bend beer may have been too high. Then we happened upon Old Mill Brew Werks. First of all, the location is fantastic! Their bar and dining room has a wall of windows to take advantage of a beautiful river view. It has a comfortable, contemporary style and felt very new. Upon inquiry about the newness of the place the bar tender informed us they had recently relocated there. Ironically their previous location was where Rat Hole Brew Pub currently resides. The beer at Old Mill Brew Werks is really tasty. They didn’t have anything particularly different. No barrel aged, sours, or odd ingredients. Just some really well fermented, clean and delicious beers. My favorite of their beers was their Rabble- Rouser Red. It instantly became my new favorite red ale. So good! There is a unique malt flavor I haven’t encountered in any other red/amber ale on the market. It had a sweet toffee and lightly toasted character with an herbal, dry finish. Its 8.1% ABV but you would never guess it. I could drink that beer by the gallon! So good. I wish I could get it in Portland. I e-mailed the brewer hoping to get some tips on making it or something similar at home. Haven’t heard back yet but my fingers are crossed.
It was a little late when we left Old Mill Brew Werks so we opted to make our way to our hotel. Of course Silver Moon Brewing was sort of on the way. We decided we could drop in and make it our final stop for the day. Silver Moon distributes a few different beers (Snake Bite Porter, Hob Nob IPA and a few others) so I have tried them in and around Portland. The few beers they distribute feel like a drop in the bucket compared to the variety they offer at the pub. I believe it was around 15 taps with various styles to include a few different IPAs, and pale ales, a pumpkin ale, stout, porter, a fresh hop ale and even a couple of lagers, (pilsner and schwarzbier). All the beers at Silver Moon were well made. My wife said it was her favorite brewery of the day and in particular really like their Get Sum Pale Ale. Nice place to end the day.
Sadly we had limited time in Bend. We were however able to check out Good Life Brewing before leaving the following day. I think we were pretty beered out when we got there but its a cool place. You can sip a beer and look into their 30 barrel brewery. These guys definitely make some good beers. Look for Decender IPA, Sweet As Pacific Ale and Mountain Rescue Pale Ale in cans. Really solid beers.
Bend. Lots of good beer. Go there. Nuff said.