Having never been to Bend, OR I was very surprised out how big it is. I guess what I was expecting was a tiny little town nestled on the edge of the Deschutes River. What I experienced was a large, pretty city with a huge appreciation for beer. There are ten breweries in Bend, OR each with their own style and character. There is even a “Bend Ale Trail” map that you can download onto your phone with directions to each brewery. Most are within walking distance of each other but I highly suggest spreading your visit out over a few days. I hit as many of the breweries as I could in the two days. Although I could not visit all of them I did make a bit of a dent in the map and will tell you about my favorites.
I took up residence at the Old St. Francis School; another of McMenamin’s historic and lovingly restored hotels. Every McMenamin’s location pours their staple beers such as Ruby Ale, Hammerhead Ale and Terminator Stout. But each location also carries a beer or two that is unique only to that one. And boy was I glad to be at the Old St. Francis School during this particular week. Black Scratch Special Porter was a ridiculously awesome beer! Brewed with Mexican vanilla bean and cinnamon this porter delights as soon as you raise the glass to your nose. The aroma is a smack of cinnamon. Full-bodied and ink black color. Sweet vanilla hits the palate and the finish is dry cinnamon. This beer was like drinking a cinnamon roll! Another treat on tap, but opposite side of the flavor spectrum, was the Shade Day American Wheat. Light golden color with a soft honey aroma. Hints of caramel and wheat hit the palate. The finish is sweet with honey. This was a perfect beer for the hot day.
Making our way down the block we hit the most famous brewery from Bend: Deschutes Brewery. I started with something light. Spencer’s Gold was exactly what I was looking for. This filtered beer has a light hop aroma with a hop, citrus bite in the body. It finishes clean and floral. The Summer XPA was up next. Caramel and grapefruit are very present in the body. Bitter top notes with a hoppy finish. Very nice and not too hoppy.
About a block away is a little brewery overlooking the Deschutes River. Bend Brewing Company is very low-key and quaint. Blink and you may miss it as you pass by. But the beer is definitely worth the stop. Ludwig Pilsner is light gold in color. Flowers and caramel with a buttery body and a light hop finish. Elk Lake IPA was quite a surprise. Normally I don’t drink a lot of IPA’s but this one I could have had over and over. Pretty hop flower aroma and flavor. Well-balanced and malty, this IPA was very soft and easy to drink. Eclipse Black IPA was another great surprise. Dark brown color with toasty flavor and body. The hops are present just enough to remind one that this is still an IPA. Nice beer. And of course for the “hop heads” out there there’s the Hop Head IPA. At 100 IBU’s this is the strongest of the batch and not for hop wimps (like me). Very hoppy aroma and flavor. Strong hop finish but, like the two other IPA’s, it was very easy to drink.
My favorite brewery in Bend was also the smallest: Boneyard Brewing. A little more difficult to find (located in a residential neighborhood) but well worth the search. Just look for the vintage hearse sitting in the parking lot! But be prepared for an incredibly small, very punk rock/skater inspired tasting room (guys after my own heart). The brewers had the gals in mind when they created Girl Beer. This delicious wheat ale is re-fermented with a blend of dark, sweet, and tart Oregon cherries. Fresh cherry aroma. The first sip may make you pucker a bit, but it is quite a spectacular beer. Gentlemen, don’t let the name fool you! Most of the guys in the tasting room were asking for seconds and thirds of this little darling! Diablo Rojo is a lovely, malty red ale. Tasting a bit like dry, autumn leaves this beer is perfect for the season. for those of you who like a little “kick” in your beer, try the Diablo Rojo En Fuego! These crazy kids infused the Diablo Rojo with habanero and chipotle chilies! Talk about a crazy-good beer! But be sure you have your fire extinguisher on hand.
Bend, OR is a great place for beer enthusiasts to spend a long weekend. Again, most breweries are in walking distance of each other but a couple of them lie in the outskirts of town so I would recommend a cab. After spending two lovely days in this historic city, hubby and I packed up for our final destination on our beercation: Eugene, OR…