Craft beer tourism has come of age. And with more American breweries than ever before now online, beer fans are increasingly building their travel plans around beer. So in an effort to help you wade through a world of seemingly unlimited beer travel options, ACB is debuting a new series dedicated to the best craft beer destinations.
And how could we not start with the Katmandu of American beer travel…Bend, Oregon?
Of all the craft beer destinations we’ll be covering going forward, few offer as prefect a melding of a spectacular scenic location, brimming with all kinds of outdoor activities, and some of the world’s best beer. This is a town where in the summer you can rent inner tubes and float through the city on the crystal clear waters of the Deschutes River. And spend your evenings with friends drinking serious beer around outdoor fire pits or at late night tasting rooms.
This is heaven – this is Bend.
Bend is a beautiful, yet modestly sized city located on the eastern edge of the Cascade Range along the Deschutes River. It’s a three hour drive from Portland. And that drive alone, through the mountains and deep Ponderosa Pine forest that eventually gives way to the high desert region of central Oregon, would be a vacation highlight for any traveler, even if Bend wasn’t in your plans.
Bend was incorporated as a city in 1905. Economically, it started as a logging town but is now identified as a gateway for many outdoor sports, including mountain biking, fishing, hiking, camping, rock climbing, white-water rafting, golf, skiing, and paragliding. It’s also become known as a world class destination for craft beer.
In 2015, Men’s Journal ranked Bend as one of The 10 Best Places to Live Now and we couldn’t agree more.
There are currently over 20 breweries operating within the city – that’s approximately one brewery per every 4,500 residents, the most breweries per capita, of any place in this beer-saturated state.
Start your visit at Deschutes Brewing. It’s the godfather of brewing in Bend and they give one of the best brewery tours in the nation…Check out their wonderful swag shop and enjoy the small batch offerings in their tasting room.
And do hit Deschutes Brewery’s Bend Public House while you’re in town…It’s the brewpub where everything started back in 1988. They still brew exotics that are separate from Deschutes’s main production facility. It’s a great hang and a vibrant fixture of Bend’s downtown scene.
Once you’ve done Deschutes, you can go everywhere and anywhere, because most every brewery here is worthy of your time.
Crux Fermentation Project is helmed by Larry Sidor, he’s a brewing legend in the region, who honed his skills for years at Deschutes before stepping away to partner with Paul Evers at Crux. Designed to allow for non-traditional brewing methods like decoction mashing and open fermentation, Crux does a lot of barrel-aging as well. And as part of their ongoing mission to keep up with consumer demand, Crux opened another production brewery last November.
A visit to the iconoclastic Boneyard Beer, known for their balanced hoppy beers, is a must. They started in an old auto shop tucked away in the backstreets of Bend, Oregon’s historic district and are currently in the process of expanding into a new 15,000 sq. foot facility that will allow them to brew upwards of 45,000 barrels per year when at max capacity.
Founded by Paul Arney and named as a homage to the three generations of independent drug-store operators in his family, The Ale Apothecary is one of Bend’s most exciting new breweries. Using innovative brewing processes, which meld the ancient art of brewing with traditions of wine and champagne production, this eclectic artisan operation strives to capture the spirit of the last 2,000 years of cottage and farmhouse beer and they succeed wildly.
You don’t want to overlook GoodLife Brewing– their Wild Land Session IPA is a hiking and mountain-biking essential.
And Worthy Brewing is also a stop you may want to make. They hit the ground running as a full-on production brewery with the capacity to brew 60,000 barrels from the get go.
Finally, if you’ve never visited a McMenamins chain complex now’s the time. Their redesigned 1936 Catholic schoolhouse in downtown Bend, Old St. Francis School, is a destination hotel complete with classrooms-turned-lodging rooms, a pub, brewery and bakery, a movie theater, and a truly fantastic soaking pool that beckons to day travelers, hikers, skiers and snowboarders alike.
Great Bend Resources
For more help with where to stay, what to do (including the Bend Ale Trail) and all the great things to discover when you’re in town, be sure to check out VisitBend.com
And for even more on the beer side of things, Beer me Bend is a terrific resource.
Ale Apothecary beer photo by Patrick Weishampel
Bend Banner photo credit courtesy of Visit Bend
Larry Sidor photo by Tyler Rowe, courtesy Crux Fermentation Project