This, by far, is my grandest beer adventure.
11 breweries. 2 Days.
It is beer Disneyland.
And so much better than actual Disneyland.
Instead of getting character autographs, you collect stamps from breweries.
You sample and wait for delicious beer sampler flights and glistening pints instead of weird pineapple Dole whip concoctions.
You don’t meet any creepy characters walking around and pose awkwardly with, you meet and chat with interesting bartenders and brewers who are more than happy to talk with you about their craft.
At the end of the adventure you get your own photo taken and a souvenir to take home to remember the good times.
And best of all: no screaming children!
This is an adults-only trip.
The Bend Ale Trail is a new type of vacation, or as I like to call it a beercation, much like the fad of food vacations where foodies travel to new places just to eat at different and famous restaurants.
Even though I am a big fan of eating, I am a bigger fan of drinking craft beer.I found out about the Bend Ale Trail by accident with my boyfriend. I was enjoying a 22 ounce bottle of Three Creek Brewing’s Fivepine Chocolate Porter. The beer was so amazing that I became intrigued by the brewery and wanted to find out if I could take a tour or visit their brewery to see what other beer they have and to go on another brewery adventure.
We looked up the brewery and found out it was in Sisters, Oregon and then one search lead to another and we came upon the Bend Ale Trail.
When we found the page for the trail we looked at what the concept, rules and breweries were and instantly were hooked.
We had to go to Bend, Oregon.
What I was really excited for was to visit and drink at a complete new set of breweries, taprooms and bars.
The complete Ale Trail has 16 breweries in the city of Bend and in the surrounding areas. We had two days and knew we couldn’t do the whole trail, so we chose our top 10 places and made our plan.
Here are the rules of the trail: if you go to 10 of the breweries, you get a Sili Pint that exclaims in orange “I completed the Bend Ale Trail!” and if you go to all 16 breweries you get the pint and a wicked bottle opener. You track your progress on a passport, either on your phone through the app or on paper. We had our passports printed out on cardstock and
they were a big hit. You don’t have to get a drink or buy anything at every brewery, you can simply go in and get a stamp at the bar and you’re good to go. We did that with two places because we were running low on time and we don’t drink corporate beer. That’s right, I’m talking about you 10 Barrel Brewing.
We left on a Friday morning and headed to Sisters, Oregon. We arrived at Three Creeks Brewing and were welcomed to the rural town with an old-west styled pub. It was 11 am and we dove into drinking beer! (Safely, of course. All of our beer consumption was done responsibly over the weekend.)
At Three Creeks we split their 6-Shooter sampler, a try of each of their signature brews. Three Creeks makes a mean red ale with their Firestorm Red. This beer is made with seven malts and four hops creating a big flavor that isn’t too hoppy like an IPA. Even though their Hoodoo Voodoo IPA was delicious.
We bought a pint glass, collected stickers and coasters and made our way into Bend. The hardest part of doing 10 out of 16 breweries is deciding which ones to go to!
Looking at the map we decided to get a stamp at Riverbend Brewing Company.
Stop number three on the trail: Silver Moon Brewing.
I sometimes have a tendency to be hyperbolic, but there is no sense of over-exaggeration in this next statement: this was the best flight of beer in town. And some of the best beer and service I have ever had.
We walk into this taproom and are immediately greeted by the enthusiastic Patrick.
As we sat at the bar, Patrick told us that if we got two taster flights, we would get a sample of each beer they had on tap.
That was an offer I could not refuse.
I’ve never had a beer flight of this magnitude! It was a beautiful sight: 12 beers! Choosing my favorite beer from that fleet was a tough one. Even though Silver Moon makes great beer
overall, the one that stuck with me was their Secret Stout. A dark and mysterious stout that had bold hazelnut flavors with a subtle hint of chocolate, very decadent.
After seeing a the full silver moon, we set forth for more beer!
Stop number four on the trail was at Crux Fermentation Project.
I have never had such a bad experience with craft beer than at Crux. It was a giant hipster trap that is more concerned with how their bar looks than the beer that comes out of the tap.
This place is called a “fermentation project.”What does that even mean? That when they get bored with beer they will move on to something else? Like making drinkable beer?
Or it is possibly another point in their hipster trap.
After getting one of the bartenders to have the attention span long enough to help us and get us situated with a taster flight, we sat down and were not impressed. The beer list was not very inclusive of beer types- which is fine, some breweries focus on a specific type than
others- but each beer ranging from an IPA to a red ale to a Saison all tasted like dirty dish water. There was no differentiation in flavor profile or even color in the six beers we had in front of us and it was just a big disappointment. The only tolerable beer in our flight was Crux’s Saison which had some decent floral notes to it, but overall each sip from a different glass tasted like the one before.
We didn’t even finish the flight. The most disappointed $10 I have ever spent on craft beer. The flight made for a pretty picture and that was all it was worth.
Crux Fermenation Project- no passing grade.
In order to get rid of the awful experience we had at Crux, we ventured further on the trail.
Rat Hole Brewing was our next brewery to visit. It was a little hard to find since it was in a business district complex. I’ve never been in a brewery that was part of a shop complex and it gave the place a semi-corporate vibe. Instead of being a welcoming environment we walked into the small restaurant/bar with the sense of getting what we wanted and get on our way. This isn’t necessarily a bad feature of a business, but with craft beer it is not what you expect.
We ordered a taster flight of four beer samples and sat outside to drink them. The beer was good but not very rememberable. My favorite beer at Rat Hole was their Vanilla Porter. It had a great aroma of the Madagascar vanilla beans inside the porter and was a smooth and drinkable beer.
The last stop on our first day on the trail was at Craft Kitchen and Brewery. This was one of my favorite places we went to in Bend because of the great staff, environment and of course the beer.
Our flight was four great beers with a unique presentation. As per Brooklyn style, my favorite beer at Craft Kitchen and Brewery was their Dry Nitro Stout.
Craft Kitchen and Brewery was a great wrap-up to our first day on the ale trail and we will be going back to have more great beer.
The second day on the ale trail was started and finished at my favorite Oregon brewery and the place I have been pining to go to for over a year: Deschutes!
I can’t express how much I have been wanting to go to the tasting room, take the brewery tour and eat at the Bend pub. I have come one step closer to reaching Oregon craft beer Nirvanna.
What is great about going to Deschutes is that if you just want to visit the taproom and get free beer samples, you are more than welcomed to do so! I had called the day before to get us on the tour list and unfortunately all of the Saturday tours were full but that didn’t stop us from going. I am very persistent and double checked about the brewery tour when we got to the taproom and put our names down as alternates on the tour in case some folks didn’t show up to experience the greatness of a Deschutes brewery tour.
We stepped up to the bar and got our tasters ordered. I knew for about a week that I wanted to try the Black Butte Porter XXVII anniversary brew and wanted to include it in my complimentary taster. Then I was informed that I could get a taster flight of the XXV, XXVI and XXVII anniversary brews!
Some of the best news I could have ever gotten.
These beers are intense in all the right ways. The three of them packed a flavor and alcohol punch that was inviting and chocolatey. Each brew was created for the anniversary year of this flagship Deschutes beer. They each ranged in flavor ranging from chocolate and whiskey and all had a big mouth feel and an in-your-face flavor profile that kicks some serious ass.
The XXVII had the strongest flavor of the three, having been aged in whiskey barrels. What I really liked about this beer was that the whiskey didn’t overpower the Black Butte Porter, which it easily could have due to the nature and flavor of whiskey. Instead this installment of the anniversary flight was kissed by the whiskey and played well with the chocolatey nature of the Black Butte. The mouth feel of this beer was big and as such, I recommend sipping this beer to really taste all of the flavor layers and appreciate the entirety of the beer. Another fun facet of these anniversary beers is that they pack in the ABV as well as flavor and each beer coming in over 10% each.
My favorite Black Butte Anniversary Porter was the XXVI, the middle. What I really liked about this edition was that it was truly the middle of the beers in all senses. The mouth feel was just right, not too big like the XXVII and not as soft-spoken as the XXV and the chocolate flavors of the XXVI were the showcase of this edition. The chocolate sang out and was welcoming on each sip.
After we had our flights at the taproom, it came time for the brewery tour to start. At the last second, Denise and her party didn’t show up so we got to take their places on the tour.
I could write a whole other blog post about the tour itself, so I won’t drag down this story with the details of the tour but I will say that the tour is free, about an hour long and if you enjoy craft beer and Oregon beer as much as I do- it is definitely worth seeing.
When the tour was done, we looked at the clock and we only had an hour left to get our needed 10 stamps to complete the trail and we still needed two more stamps.
We said goodbye to the lovely Deschutes Taproom and went on over to Good Life Brewing and 10 Barrel Brewing to get our last stamps.
Then our passport was finished. We had gone to 10 breweries in two days. After marveling at our stamped-out passports we went over to the Bend visitors center to get our Sili Pint prize.
Drinking craft beer is always a good time, but when you are doing it on a mission the end goal is always so much better.
We then went to the Deschutes Pub to eat lunch and celebrate our success and of course, drink more beer.
Later in the day, we wanted to try a new place before we left Bend so we looked at the remaining breweries we didn’t get to while we were trying to complete the ale trail. We found out that Worthy Brewing was close to where we were and decided to go.
We wished that we had come to Worthy earlier on our trek but were happy we were there. We sat at the bar and since we have finely tuned our skills at crafting beer taster flights, we used our new skills to create our last flight in Bend.
This flight had six beers that were all flavorful and “worthy” of being great Oregon craft beer (yes, I had to take the corny play-on-word opportunity here.)
The beer that stood out the most on this flight was Worthy’s Lights out Stout. A smooth and creamy stout with chocolate and coffee flavors and as dark as night will satisfy all your dark beer needs.
We also tried Worthy’s Prefunk Pale Ale that was a very impressive light beer. This pale ale is made from Pacific Northwest malts that gave this beer a balanced taste and a smooth caramel after taste and
local hops that packed in a citrus taste that was light and matched well with the flavor from the malts.
The Bend Ale Trail is one of the best beercations and craft beer experiences you could have. It is the “choose your own adventure” book of craft beer and everywhere you go you’ll make new beer memories and find amazing new brews to add to your favorite’s list.
This was a great excuse to pack up and go to a new place I have been craving to visit since I moved to Oregon. And better yet, when I arrived in this new place I experienced a grand craft beer adventure.