There’s no oxen needed on this Oregon trail! Instead, the Bend Ale Trail is a collection of breweries in or near Bend where you can get stamps to turn in for prizes. They also provide ~Drinkable Diversions~ if you have any non-beer drinkers in the group. I dove headfirst into the Ale Trail and emerged victorious. Warning: This post is long and is best enjoyed with a beer or two.
But let me rewind to how we even selected Bend. We decided a Crater Lake trip would be fun, but knew that would be a bit much for one day in the car. Enter Bend as the perfect halfway (ish) point! I knew of tons of great breweries in Bend, but upon learning of the ale trail, put on by the Visit Bend chamber of commerce, it was cemented–we needed to go, and go for more than one night. We ended up on staying in town for three nights, which was absolutely perfect for us.
If you don’t have a friend to stay with in Bend (note to self: make friends with someone who lives in Bend), your options in town are standard for traveling, hotels and vacation rentals. Most of the hotels were further away from the breweries than I’d have hoped for. We had a horrible experience with an AirBnB in Maui, but decided to roll the dice on one in Bend that reviews said was both quiet and close to three breweries–and the reviews were true! If you’re going to Bend with one other person I super recommend the Cumberland Bungalette for your stay (as always, no kickbacks or anything here–just an honest recommendation). It was clean, quiet, they had bikes, and also–they give every guest an empty growler to bring a bit of Bend back with you!
After you know where you will be staying it doesn’t hurt to research the trail, especially the trail rules. Bend is super walkable, our AirBnB awesomely provided bikes, there’s a free downtown shuttle in the summer, and Lyft and Uber are in town, so there is NO EXCUSE to be driving drunk. Oregon law does care about drunken bicycling, so be careful about trying to bike to too many breweries at once–who wants a BUI on their record?
Next up is planning how you track the trail. You can print a pdf from the website for the breweries to stamp, you can pick up a hard copy of a guide at the chamber of commerce downtown or at a brewery, or you can download an app. We went with the app, as on a Saturday night, most breweries were slammed, and we would have felt bad holding up every server or hostess to stamp us in the middle of a rush. With the app, it’s entirely in your hands–it couldn’t have been easier to scan the QR code on the poster (usually near the doors of every brewery). And so fully prepared, we unloaded our bags and set off on foot upon arrival in Bend–and began our adventure!
Day One: Sunriver Brewing Company, 10 Barrel, and Good Life
We walked about ten minutes to where Sunriver and 10 Barrel are almost next-door neighbors on Galveston Ave and chose Sunriver Brewing to start. We were still pretty full from lunch in Portland, so we went for just a few pints to get started. I have had many delightful Thai-inspired beers, often with lemongrass flavoring, so I ordered that instantly. However, to my surprise, it was more of a Thai pepper beer than lemongrass! Unlike other pepper beers, this one had a taste of pepper, but no burn after, which I’m still wondering how they accomplished. My second pint was the Fuzztail heff, which was beautifully cloudy and hit the spot on a warm night (they had opened the garage door windows and it was the perfect temperature). The boyfriendo go the Bondi Beach Party Pale, which was amazing, as was his second pint, the Rippin Northwest Ale–I actually preferred both of those slightly more than my choices.
Now I already spoke about supporting 10 Barrel in my Boise beer post, so no need for background here. There were some similarities with their Boise location–the cute chalkboard taplist, the giant 10-beer samplers–but as this is their original pub, there were some special touches, like the spacious outdoor seating with firepits aplenty (guessing these are just as nice apres-ski as after a hike!) and tons of Bend-specific merch. We split the sampler, and our server also brought us the few other beers that weren’t in the sampler as well (note: this hospitality happened all over Bend, the people were all incredible!). Both of us liked the Double Mosaic the best, but I also enjoyed the Out of Office Pilsner–which is surprising, as that is not my go-to style typically.
Last stop was Goodlife Brewing. Some nights Goodlife hosts concerts, so double-check before you head out. Our first try the Wailers were there and it was far too crowded (and possibly sold out), so we had to return a quieter night. By this point, I was rolling deep and decided a safe bet would be their Descender IPA instead of another sampler. It was fairly close to closing time, so we got to chat a little with our server, which I always enjoy, as well as the warm pretzel we shared. They had a beautiful pallet painting of the mountains over the door, that I loved. Way to maximize space!
Day Two: Crux Fermentation Project, Boneyard, McMenamin’s, Bend Brewing Company
Our first full day in Bend started with conquering Smith Rock and then floating down the Deschutes River, which meant I was ready for sustenance. Much sustenance. I had mapped out a brewery loop around Bend for us to bike to and we hit the pavement. Cards on the table, this was my first time riding a bike in likely 10 years. It was unpleasant.
Red as a tomato and drenched in sweat, we arrived at our first stop, Crux Fermentation Project. Our server got to us quickly and off the bat she gave us killer service and was beyond welcoming–this might have been our favorite brewery for service alone! We got a sampler to share and also some pints and a bomb-lunch. Tons of great beers were here–their Off Leash Session was maybe the most flavorful session ale I’ve ever had, and the boyfriendo’s newfound love of Mosaic hops was fed by their Half Hitch. While I don’t normally drink stouts or porters when it’s warm out, I had to make an exception for their PCT porter! As two of the breweries on the trail we wanted to go to fell through, our awesome server recommended others, including revealing that McMenamins A) Had a speakeasy and B) That speakeasy had my favorite McMenamins beer on tap. Hold that thought.
I re-mounted the torture device and wheeled for only a couple minutes before we hit Boneyard Beer. Back in my server days, I fell in love with Boneyard beers. They make big, hoppy, hit-you-in-the-tastebuds beers, including a killer CDA and a delish red. This small tasting room is adults only, closes at 6pm, and does no pints–just tasters and growler/crowler fills. I have been wanting to visit Boneyard for years, so it’s a bit of a bummer to visit right before they open a pub this fall–but also awesome to see where they came from. Hard to believe this small warehouse churns out tons of deliciousness every day! Again, we split a sampler (BUIs are real!). I finally got to try their Notorious IIIPA, my favorite of the sampler. I also went a little nuts with merch, and hard to be torn away from buying mountains of beer soap (and the candy dish they had out for snacking).
Our third stop was McMenamins Old St. Francis School. Now, there are four different McMenamins a stone’s throw from me now, but my boyfriend had stayed at the Old St. Francis School as a child and wanted to show me their pool (very pretty, steam-room inspired), and hearing they had a speakeasy with Purple Haze on tap cemented it. Luckily the speakeasy wasn’t *too* secret, as the hostess at the pub gave us directions, and we sure needed them. We had to go through at least one door that implied we shouldn’t enter, and then just follow signs for the Broom Closet, and you’ll be greeted by this quiet, cozy attic. Purple Haze is a boysenberry beer (while Washington has apples, Oregon wins on berries) that I was thrilled to have while the boyfriendo took a hop break and had a cocktail.
At this point, I was not sober and *not* wanting to get back on that bike. It hurt. I also had blisters from the handles, but my daypack luckily had bandaids. It was time for our final stop at Bend Brewing Company. They were pretty full inside but we were more than happy to hit up their outdoor beer garden and collapse on the grass. They had a cart with a couple options, and I dove headfirst into their Silver Linings Session IPA. We happily drank and took in the atmosphere of the beer garden. Next door is the famous Pine Tavern, with a real pine tree growing through it. As I neared the end of my beer, I overheard “blackberry wheat” from the couple behind us who I immediately interrupted for details (again, everyone here was super friendly). Turns out you can grab a beer from inside, with their full taplist, and bring it outside, and one of those beers was the Purple Drank blackberry wheat. Outdoors you have a food truck option, but we were doing okay just sipping and watching the river float by.
Day Three: Deschutes, Cascade Lakes, Craft
Day three, and we had spent the morning hiking all over Newberry and again required sustenance. However, we wanted to make sure to hit the Deschutes tasting room before they closed at 5 so we went straight there from Newberry. Deschutes also has a big pub in Bend, but I had been informed that it was typically super crowded, while the tasting room was not as crowded (false–it was) and offered four free tastes. Like Boneyard, no kids and no pints here. I admit–I’m still not sure if we did this right or not. Some tables had a server coming, others were just people milling towards the bar–it wasn’t bedlam, but it was super confusing. We figured it out and set into our tasters. I went with all special beers I don’t think I could find at home, including a saison and a nitro cream ale. I ogled over the merch, but am devasted their “I <3 Dark Beer” shirts doesn’t come in women’s sizes. Again, I nearly bought a mound of beer soap (fresh-squeezed!).
Time for our next trek, and there was no way in hell I was getting back on that bike, so we took an uber to Cascade Lakes. Cascade Lakes definitely had a ski-lodge vibe to it, with skis on the wall and roaring fires. As I said before, I normally don’t do stouts and porters in the summertime, but I think both of my siblings would have disowned me if I hadn’t gotten the ‘Mötley Crüe inspired’ Stout at the Devil. We both got burgers too that totally hit the spot.
While Cascade Lakes was a bit far from the huslte and bustle of downtown, there is a free shuttle that goes around Bend and would take us right into downtown for our ~drinkable diversion~ at Crater Lake Spirits, makers of Crater Lake Vodka (highly recommend). It doesn’t count towards a stamp, but was still worth the pitstop. However, we noticed a time crunch to squeeze in our last stop and got the skedaddling. Our last stop was walkable from downtown. Craft Kitchen and Brewery provided my last sampler of the trip (sigh), and they let you customize the size of your sampler. I went with four, as it had been a long two and a half days on the ale trail. One adult cream soda (normally I hate vanilla in beers but had to make an exception for this), a Log Rider Red, Central Oregon Common, and a Remission Rules fruit ale (my favorite of the bunch).
You’ve Reached Ale Trail City!
When you have obtained your minimum ten stamps, head back to Visit Bend downtown. At ten stamps, you’ve earned a Bend Ale Trail silpint! Knowing we had a growler of beer and were about to be camping, this was the perfect prize. We also both got Ale Trail stickers in our pints. For the truly ambitious, obtaining all 16 stamps nets you a bottle opener keychain as well. In November, the ante is uped even more to include t-shirts and even a trophy (note to self: come back in November). I loved every second of the Ale Trail (that I wasn’t on a bike, at least) and would be thrilled to do it again! Have you ever done the Bend Ale Trail?