(By Karen Asp)
Among the many things Oregon does well, it brews great beer. Not only is there Portland, often lauded as the craft brew capital of the country, there’s now Bend, an up-and-coming player in the craft brew industry. The small city of roughly 80,000 residents boasts 14 breweries – and counting. Credit Bend’s brew mania to one simple factor — its high-quality water. Water is the main ingredient in beer, of course, which is why having excellent water is the key to excellent beer.
While you can join a guided tour of breweries through the Bend Brew Bus tour, you can also embark on your own brewery crawl. Fortunately, the breweries are close enough that you can visit several in a day. Just make sure you pick up a passport for the Bend Ale Trail. Hit all of the spots on the Bend Brew Trail, a feat that can be easily done in several days, and you earn a Bend Silipint, a commemorative cup.
Where you have great beer, you often have great pizza, which is one of many reasons 10 Barrel has been a local favorite since its inception in 2006. This brewpub boasts one of the hippest vibes in the city with its open-air, garage-style design and spacious patio with fire pit. As you’re sinking your teeth into the creative pizza selections (like the All-American cheeseburger pie or the hippy pie), sip on any one of 14 beers that range from the brewery’s flagship Apocalypse IPA to seasonal selections like Swill, a German Berliner Weiss with layers of grapefruit. If you come on a Wednesday night, you’ll find a special beer on the menu, as 10 Barrel taps an additional cask beer straight from the firkin. 10barrel.com
While you’ll swear Boneyard’s RPM IPA might be the best you’ve tasted, it’s the barebones nature of this brewery that makes it so appealing. Boneyard’s focus is beer. Period. “We’re a manufacturing and production plant with a tasting room on the side,” says Tony Lawrence, partner and brew master at Boneyard. Although you won’t find food in the tasting room, you will find five taps and a lively gathering of locals who come for the world-class beer, especially on Wednesdays when growler refills are cheaper. One fun fact? The name comes from the brewery’s creative start. Lawrence sourced the brewing equipment from 13 breweries’ boneyards, places where old and unused equipment goes to rust. boneyardbeer.com
Crux Fermentation Project
You’ll come for the beer, but you’ll no doubt stay for the sunset. That’s because this brewery, which celebrated its first birthday in June 2013, is located in an area where panoramic mountain views allow amazing sunsets, especially when viewed from the patio. Crux even runs specials on food and beer 30 minutes before and after sunset. That’s not the only view you’ll catch, though. The tasting room, which is nestled inside the brewery and features about 20 beers, offers great views of the brewing process. Because the hops cooler is located in the tasting room, the aroma of hops surrounds you whenever the cooler is opened. It all plays into Crux’s philosophy. “Our main objective was to provide an opportunity for beer lovers to get intimate with the craft of beer,” says Paul Evers, one of Crux’s three founders. cruxfermentation.com
If you’re a beer aficionado, you’ve no doubt already met Deschutes somewhere in your travels. Founded in 1988, Deschutes was the first brewery to open in Bend. It’s now the nation’s fifth largest craft brewery, creating such favorites as Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Black Butte Porter. You find those – and 17 more – on tap at its brewpub in the heart of Bend. The bonus? Some of these are actually experimental beers; if they’re popular enough with pub patrons, the brews will make it into bottles. If you’re hungry, save room for some of the pub’s cuisine, the majority of which is sourced locally and infused with the brewery’s ingredients. For instance, breads and pizza dough are made with spent grains while all desserts include Deschutes beer.deschutesbrewery.com
It’s hard not to love a brewery with a name like GoodLife. Since its opening in June 2011, GoodLife has been growing so quickly that it’s now one of the fastest growing breweries in America. GoodLife is also racking up the awards. It recently won a Gold Medal for the best pale ale – it’s called Sweet As Pacific Ale — in a can in America at the Ameri-Can National Canned Craft Beer Fest. What’s the secret? A process that’s slightly different than others. “We use a technique called hop bursting, a method of adding the majority of the hops at the end stages of the brewing process to obtain a very flavorful beer with low bitterness so you get more essential hop oils in the beer,” says Ty Barnett, GoodLife co-owner. You can also grab a bite at GoodLife and enjoy the outdoor patio and fire pit. goodlifebrewing.com
McMenamins Old St. Francis School
You might say that a brewery housed in a former Catholic school is a match made in heaven. One sip of McMenamins’ beer will convince you it’s true, especially if you try house specialties such as Purple Haze or Terminator Stout. If, though, the name sounds familiar, it should: McMenamins operates more than 50 brewpubs in Oregon and Washington, and Bend’s location has been going strong since 2004. If you’re hungry, the pub offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with daily happy hour specials. Just make sure you spend time perusing the grounds, as there’s interesting artwork spread throughout the premises, which has guestrooms and cottages should you prefer to spend the night. mcmenamins.com
Worthy Brewing Co.
No pun intended, but it’s worth a stop at this newcomer to Bend’s brew scene. Worthy opened its doors in February of 2013, and it’s been cranking out great beer ever since, including crowd pleasers such as Easy Day Kolsch and hy Helles Bock. The food might be as tasty as the beer, though, especially the wood-fired pizza. Enjoy all of this inside or outside in the beer garden. Here’s another reason to love Worthy: It’s as green as it is good. The eco-friendly brewery used reclaimed wood in its furniture, composts every scrap of waste (some feeds local farmers’ livestock and serves as soil for Worthy’s greenhouse/gardens), and uses solar panels to produce the majority of its power. The brewery also features a hop garden for conducting research with Oregon State University. worthybrewing.com