10 Barrel Brewing Co. first started in Bend, Ore. // © 2018 Creative Commons user fbohac
Feature image (above): GoodLife Brewing’s tasting room has a laid-back vibe. // © 2018 Ben McBee
Bend is located between the snowcapped Cascade Range and the high desert plateau of Central Oregon, and its abundance of year-round activities make it a popular tourist destination. It’s also a craft beer mecca, with more breweries per capita than anywhere else in the state.
Sudsy beverages are the lifeblood of the town, which is also home to world-class outdoor recreation and stunning scenery. There’s something in the mountain air that makes people crazy about ale, and the local tourism industry has capitalized with the Bend Ale Trail, the largest of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.
Visit Bend founded the Bend Ale Trail in 2010 as an association of microbreweries that has since grown to include 16 local businesses. For clients, the journey is all part of the experience, and getting around safely is easy thanks to a variety of options. They can sip, sweat and laugh with Cycle Pub, a literal bar on wheels that travels by pedal power, making stops for passengers to refill their growlers. Bend Brew Bus and other exciting tours are also available.
Whichever mode of transportation they choose, picking up a passport brochure downtown or downloading the Bend Ale Trail app is the first step. Hoppy pioneers can get passports stamped when checking in at each brewery; complete them all to earn a commemorative pint and bottle opener from the visitor center.
Here are five must-drink destinations that serve as a good sampler of what the Bend Ale Trail has to offer.
10 Barrel Brewing Co.
What started as a dream for three friends has since blossomed into a company with brewpub locations in four states and a success story bolstered by an incredible work ethic. Visitors can enjoy two locations in Bend that also serve delicious fare. The flagship Trail Beer is citrus-bodied with notes of pine that evoke the outdoors. Indoors, however, it goes down just fine with a burger or some steak-and-gorgonzola nachos.
In 2010, the founders of Boneyard Beer purchased an auto shop tucked next to Highway 97. Without any outside investors or major loans, they pieced together a brewing system of hand-me-down equipment — what they reverentially call the “boneyard” — from 13 locations across the country.
Although the system may have been secondhand, their beer was first-class — and still is today. Clients who prefer a little bite in their brew will enjoy the higher IBU (measurement of bitterness) drafts such as Hop Venom and Notorious, while deep amber ale Diablo Rojo is perfect for beginners.
Shredding the slopes of Mount Bachelor, kayaking the Deschutes River, camping with a view of the Three Sisters’ volcanic peaks: These scenes adorn the walls of GoodLife’s tasting room and embody what makes living in Bend so good.
The laid-back, content vibe permeates the well-balanced flavors of its brews, too. GoodLife Brewing’s IPAs aren’t overly bitter, the ales contain the perfect hint of sweetness and the stouts weigh just right. Its flagship Descender IPA is a smooth drink that carries light notes of tangerine throughout the palate, pairing wonderfully with a warm pretzel. It will be hard to resist grabbing a six-pack of brightly colored cans on the way out because this beer just makes life better.
Crux Fermentation Project
For a tour of Crux Fermentation Project, just spin around on one of their barstools. Fermentation tanks sit just 10 feet away, creating an up close and personal experience. Guests can truly breathe in the barley and malt as they down a cold one. With more than 20 original craft beers on tap and a panoramic view, it’s quite easy to get carried away here for an entire day, which — considering the awe-inspiring sunsets behind the mountains — may not be such a bad thing. As the sky turns to dusk, a dark glass of Crux Stout-Nitro and its notes of caramel and roasted coffee is a fitting end to any drinking agenda.
McMenamins Old St. Francis School Brewpub
McMenamins is a family-owned chain that takes historic buildings across the Pacific Northwest and turns them into theaters, music venues and hotels, accentuating what makes each unique along the way. Nowhere is that more noteworthy than at the Old St. Francis School in downtown Bend.
Once a Catholic parish house and institute, it has since been renovated to include guestrooms, an on-site cinema, a mosaic soaking pool and, of course, a brewpub. In what was formerly the basement, kegs of liquid gold are prepared and best enjoyed alfresco on the patio outside.