Bend Urban Beer Hike

With the scuttling of our New Year’s trip to Germany, Merideth and I searched for a new city to welcome in 2012. The key requirement for our new destination was lots of breweries we hadn’t visited. With almost a dozen years since our last visit, Bend, OR was a good choice. With its exploding beer scene, there were plenty of new breweries to add to The List.

Bend, OR

With most of these breweries centrally located, Bend was excellent for a walking beer tour. The forecast for rain and chilly temperatures didn’t deter Merideth and I setting out from our riverside hotel late morning on the eve of New Year’s Eve. The day’s Urban Beer Hike would be comprised of seven stops and follow a giant loop that ended downtown. As we passed through Bend’s downtown into the Old Town Historic District, we were pleasantly surprised by the appearance of the warm sun.

Boneyard Beer

Our first destination, Boneyard Beer, was located on the edge of the historic district. Boneyard was easy to pick out amongst the old bungalows, as it looked conspicuously like a former auto body shop. Arriving a few minutes shy of opening time, Merideth and I enjoyed a bit of sun therapy in the chilly air.

A unique beer tapping system

Walking into the tiny tasting room, the first thing we noticed was the unique beer dispensing system. The beer cooler, covered with beer stickers, was one of those chest-style freezers that opens from the top. Tap fittings protruded from the sides and restaurant bus trays served as drip pans.

The excellent beer selection at Boneyard

After the long drive from Eugene, beer was a very welcome sight. Their first offering was Femme Fatale, which had the  apropos nickname of “the breakfast beer.” A wild ale with raspberries, Femme Fatale had a pleasant sourness. Next up was Backbone, a Chocolate Expresso Stout. Merideth likened it to iced coffee. After a Red Ale, we finished with the star for me and candidate for beer of the trip. Hop Venom Imperial IPA, 80 IBU, 10% ABV, was a hop monster.

Our growlerette of Femme Fatale

Though we would see more of them later in the day, new to us at Boneyard were “growlerettes,” 32 ounce bottles. Both Merideth and I felt we HAD to have one. I was transfixed because the half-sized growler was, in my mind, a great beer innovation. Merideth wanted one because she thought the Boneyard skull and crossbones logo made the bottle look like some old time cure-all medicine.

If Merideth had her choice, the growlerette would have been filled with the Chocolate Expresso Stout. My choice would have been Hop Venom. Showing what 22 years of marriage has taught us, we compromised and bought the Femme Fatale.

Lunch time at Brew Werks

In our short time at Boneyard, the sun had disappeared and black clouds menaced in the vicinity. Our next destination was in the Old Mill District, whose tell-tale three smokestacks we could see off in the distance. A few minutes into the mile-long leg, a cold rain began to fall, causing Merideth and I to quicken our pace.

Old Mill Brew Werks was located in a series of office buildings set off from the main shopping area of the Old Mill District. Arriving slightly damp, we were happy not only to get out of the rain but also to get some food, as we hadn’t really eaten yet that day.

Merideth enjoying a Brew Werks Paranoia Pale Ale

Old Mill Brew Werks had ten taps but only two dispensed house-brewed beer. Merideth ordered the Paranoia Pale Ale, while I, true to form, went with the Irreverence IPA. I pity the beer that followed Hop Venom and Brew Werks IPA was that beer. A nice IPA, but it paled in comparison to my early contender for beer of trip.

With some food and more beer in our bellies, we were ready to brave the elements again. Similar to our previous leg, we could see our third destination, the Deschutes production brewery across the Deschutes River. Donning our rain coats, hats and gloves, we set out again.

The Deschutes production brewery

When we traveled to Bend in 1999, Deschutes’ downtown brewpub was one of the two breweries we visited. For the Urban Beer Hike, I was somewhat ambivalent about visiting Deschutes again. I enjoy their beer but figured there wouldn’t be anything I couldn’t get at home. Then I remembered an important Urban Beer Hike rule: always build pee stops into the hike.

Enjoying a beer at the Deschutes tasting room

Deschutes’ location on the road to the ski slopes guaranteed a large crowd. And crowded it was. The somewhat large tasting room and gift shop was packed with vacationers, some tasting beer while others milled around waiting for a tour. Large groups would disappear into the back for the tour and instantly be replaced by an equal number or more. Merideth and I grabbed a tiny corner of the bar in the corner of the room to enjoy our taster set.

I was hoping for some special one-off brews, but as expected, it was the standard Deschutes lineup (which was not a bad thing). We drank brewery-fresh versions of old standbys such a Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Black Butte Porter. One of the treats of the stop was Red Chair IPA, a really nice IPA that we don’t often see in our neck of the woods. Plus, I got a glass of the much-sought-after The Abyss, probably my last taste of this year’s version.

The fish pointing the way to our next stop

Leaving Deschutes, the rain had slackened but we noticed that it had gotten markedly colder while we were inside. The walk to Good Life Brewing was one of the shorter segments of the day but halfway there, it began to snow. And I had my first panic attack of the Bend Urban Beer Hike.

The Good Life Christmas Tree

From the street, I couldn’t see anything that looked like a business in the industrial looking building. I really didn’t see any cars or people either. I began to curse my douchephone for leading us astray in the cold and rain. The main cause of my anxiety was that I was wearing shorts and didn’t want to get stranded out in the elements. Then I noticed an interior courtyard and Good Life was located on the backside of this, well hidden from the street.

The bar area only occupied a small portion of the large space that housed Good Life. A number of windowed garage-type doors gave the area a really open and airy feel despite the gray weather. Good Life must be a great place to hang out on a warm day when they have those doors open.

Merideth drinking the Good Life

Good Life was full of refugees from the slopes. We sat at the last two seats at the bar and ordered a taster flight of their four beers. For me, the best of the four was Descender IPA, maybe the best regular IPA of the trip.

10 Barrel Brewing

It was another short walk through a residential neighborhood to our fifth stop of the day, 10 Barrel Brewing. Unfortunately, this location was just a pub. Since no brewing was done on-site, we couldn’t count 10 Barrel on the brewery list.

The sampler at 10 Barrel Brewing

10 Barrel’s small restaurant and bar were both packed and we struggled to find space to put down our ten beer sample tray while we waited for a table. Precariously placing the tray on the top of a barrel, we tried to get through each beer without feeling too harried.

Apocalypse IPA

We met some Monterey area friends for dinner at 10 Barrel. And, as often is the case, we got very distracted by “friend time.” In short, my recommendation from 10 Barrel is Apocalypse IPA, a brew with nice citrus and pine flavors. Merideth’s favorite was, oddly, the India Session Ale, a light-bodied, hoppy brew.

It was dark when we left 10 Barrel and headed back across the Deschutes River. Our final two stops on the Urban Beer Hike were in downtown Bend, thus completing the loop that we began at 10:30am that morning.

The sample flight at Bend Brewing

First up was Bend Brewing, the other brewery we visited on our previous trip in 1999. Funny thing, when Merideth and I sat down at the bar, we kind of gave each other a perplexed look. Maybe it was the dark lighting, maybe it was all the beer we drank that day, but neither of us remembered the place. It’s on The List, though, so we must have been there.

At this point in our Urban Beer Hike, another ten beer sample tray was not necessarily a welcome sight. But that’s what we got. We each just should have ordered a pint at called it a night at Bend Brewing.

The final stop!

Our last stop, Silver Moon Brewing was a short walk up the street from Bend Brewing. Our previous four stops were all crazy busy so it was nice that Silver Moon was comparatively mellow.

Mercifully, there were only eight beers in the Silver Moon sample tray. The requisite IPA and Black IPA were nice but I’ll give a shout out to their Bridge Creek Pilsner as the perfect finishing beer for a Bend Urban Beer Hike.

The new fallen snow crinkled under our feet as we trudged back to our hotel. Despite the rain and snow, getting distracted and losing steam at the end, we covered a little over seven miles and visited seven beer stops. Our Urban Beer Hike was a great re-introduction to Bend.

View all the images from our Bend Urban Beer Hike

View a map of our seven stops

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The Number of the Beast

Have you ever started a hobby that became a beastly obsession? Of course you have. You’re a beer geek. I’m not one to talk, though, because Chris and I certainly can’t deny that our brewery list has become anything less than an obsession of beastly proportion. We had no idea back in 1992 when we started visiting breweries that today we’d be boasting about having visited more than 670. And you don’t get to brewery #674 (#675 for Chris) without first reaching the devilish number of the beast: 666.

Well, let me tell you about how Chris and I each hit brewery #666 on the first day of last weekend’s trip to Portland.

As we are wont to do, we left on Thursday at an ungodly (or beastly, if you will) hour in order to take an early flight out of San Jose. After arriving in Portland, we drove 50 minutes south to Silverton, OR, where we hit Seven Brides, our first brewery of the trip.

Seven Brides in Silverton

Seven Brides is a large family-friendly establishment offering the usual range of beer styles. The name stems from the reason the brewery was started in the first place: 3 dads and 2 uncles needed a way to pay for the future weddings of their 7 daughters who currently range in age from 4-17 years old.

The taster set at Seven Brides

One of the fun things about the brewery is that each beer is named after one of the daughters in the family. After a taster set, Chris ordered the Lauren’s Pale Ale, a solid flavorful beer. Much to our delight, the pint was $1 off in honor of it being Lauren’s birthday week. Becky’s Black Cat Porter and Frankenlou’s IPA also went well with our lunch of carnitas quesadilla and chicken tacos. And no, Frankenlou is not the name of one of the daughters. It’s a combination of the girl’s nickname (Lou) and a desire to make a monstrous IPA.

Enjoyng a beer at Seven Brides

The hospitality at Seven Brides was everything you’d expect in a small rural brewery. One of the owners, Jeff DeSantis, stopped to chat with us at the bar. And in a very motherly way, our server expressed concern when we told her about our plan to drive over the mountains to Bend the next day. The forecast was for rain at lower elevations, so you know what that means higher up. She even went so far as to offer a less treacherous route than the one we planned. “You drive safely now,” she told us when we left.

Oakshire Brewing in Eugene

An hour and a half later, we arrived at our second stop: Oakshire Brewing in Eugene. It was Chris’s 666th brewery. Getting to Oakshire (pronounced oak-shyer, not oak-sure), feels a lot like getting lost, as it’s located in between a criss-crossing of railroad tracks on the outskirts of town. It’s a beautiful sight when you do finally arrive and does not disappoint.

Oakshire only has tasting hours on Saturdays from noon-4pm, but Monday through Friday 3-6pm, they’re open for “dock sales,” where you can taste a few samples before making your purchase. During our visit, most people made quick stops to fill up their growlers, pick up kegs and purchase bottles to go.

Oakshire, Chris' 666th brewery

Our hostess was friendly and knowledgeable and best of all, she didn’t even ask about the devil horns Chris sprouted while drinking the Watershed IPA, a crisp tasting brew with 75 IBUs. From their single batch beers, we liked The Nutcracker, a spiced imperial porter, as well as the year-round offering, Overcast Espresso Stout. Both were dangerous, however, as The Nutcracker was an easy drinking 8% and the stout provided the equivalent of one jolting espresso shot per pint. There was no resisting the beer altogether, though, and we bought a few bottles to bring home.

Chris’s horns quickly disappeared as we drove the short distance to Ninkasi Brewing and mysteriously grew out of my head as we arrived.

Ninkasi, my 666th brewery

Ninkasi was the perfect brewery to be my 666th. We walked through a very goth looking wrought iron gate into the courtyard and approached the building with bright green walls. The ambiance inside the decently-sized tasting room felt dark and slightly sinister. It was already full, but not over crowded, when we arrived around 4pm, so we set ourselves up in the corner with our taster set. I now donned the devilish horns, but no one even seemed to notice. I tried to act cool, like I didn’t notice them either. Eventually we were able to make our way up to the bar to continue drinking our sampler set.

The Sterling Pils was the star

Many of the beers were familiar to us–Total Domination IPA, Tricerahops Double IPA, Oatis Oatmeal Stout. But there were also a few we had never seen, which is yet another reason to visit breweries. They often have brews only available there. For me, the overwhelming standout was their brand new release, Sterling Pils, a snappy German-style pils. Who knew they even had one! They also had these tasty mixed nuts that we ate while finishing up our taster set.

And that was that. We’d each reached the number of the beast and had a devilishly good time doing it!

View all the images from our day in Oregon

The Best of 2011

After averaging around 75 new breweries a year for the past four years, I predicted at the beginning of 2011 that the upcoming year would be a bit slower for us. Looking at our travel schedule, I guessed that Merideth and I would add 50 to 60 breweries to “The List” in 2011. Well, I was wrong. We visited 74 new breweries in the year just completed, leaving us poised to reach the 700 milestone next month in Australia.

Hill Farmstead Brewery

With the year just past fresh in my mind, here are my highlight breweries for 2011.

  • Alchemist Pub and Brewery – Waterbury, VT
  • Boneyard Beer – Bend, OR
  • Chuckanut Brewery & Kitchen – Bellingham, WA
  • Craggie Brewing Company – Asheville, NC
  • Denali Brewing Company – Talkeetna, AK
  • Hill Farmstead Brewery – Greensboro Bend, VT
  • Redwood Curtain Brewing –  Arcata, CA
  • Sound Brewery – Poulsbo, WA
  • Southern Appalachian Brewery – Hendersonville, NC

And I’ll go out in a limb and predict that Merideth and I will visit 75 new breweries in 2012.

New beergeek.TV Episode – Scarves Up

The March to the Match

Scarves Up” is the latest episode of One Pint at a Time.

Since our last visit during the Year in Beer in 2008, we’ve been meaning to get back to Seattle. The chance to see the Seattle Sounders play one of the world’s great soccer clubs, Manchester United, was the push we needed to make the return journey to the Pacific Northwest. Getting to experience the Seattle beer scene again was an added bonus.

So enjoy our latest adventures in the Pacific Northwest…

For all the episodes of One Pint at a Time go to beergeekTV.

Since our last visit during the Year in Beer in 2008, we have been meaning to get back to Seattle. The chance to see the Seattle Sounders playing one of the world’s great soccer clubs, Manchester United was the push we needed to make the trip. Getting to experience the Seattle beer scene again was an added bonus.

Kitsap Peninsula Beer Tour

We had one more day in Seattle. It was obvious that we were beer touring but the question was where? Chris Devlin suggested we take the ferry over to the Kitsap Peninsula. With several  new breweries to visit, that sounded like a good idea to us.

The Seattle skyline under sunny skies

The day was the most glorious of our short trip. Arriving at the ferry terminal 45 minutes before our Bremerton-bound boat sailed, Merideth and I enjoyed a few minutes of downtime and soaked in the warm sun. Joining us on the ferry for the beer tour were Chris Devlin and Dave Doran; reuniting four sevenths of the previous day’s Urban Beer Hike. Once we reached Bremerton, the plan was to make the short drive to Silverdale for lunch at Silver City.

Silver City in Bremerton

An overlooked component to successful beer touring is luck. And luck was on our side on Friday. Chris Devlin received a text from his friend Matt, a brewer for Silver City. Matt suggested we stop by Silver City’s production brewery in Bremerton on our way through town. Usually, deviations from a plan cause me quite a bit of consternation but for some reason I readily agreed. And Merideth concurred.

We found Silver City’s production brewery on the outskirts of Bremerton. After introductions, Matt showed us around the brewery. As Matt was talking, it became evident to Merideth and me that Silver City no longer brewed at the pub in Silverdale. At an appropriate break in tour, I clarified this with Matt. Yes, all beer production was now at this facility.

The most important part of a brewery visit

At this point, for Silver City to count on “The List,” we would need to try the beer. And for all of Matt’s hospitality, trying the beer wasn’t a given. We don’t expect everyone to know our “rules” and Matt probably just assumed we would try the beers at the pub during lunch.

Merideth and I explained our predicament and Matt disappeared back into the brewery. A few minutes later, he came back with a quarter pitcher of Baby Fat 60 Schilling Scottish-style Ale. At 2.99% ABV, Baby Fat was quite flavorful and a perfect start to the day. With Silver City officially added, we bought a few bottles for home and thanked Matt for saving the day.

Silver City in Silverdale

A mall is the last place we expect a beer place. But Kitsap Mall boasts two with the Hales Alehouse joining Silver City in the expansive shopping center. Silver City was still doing a brisk lunch business mid-afternoon when we arrived.

As Merideth and I poured over the lunch menu, we counted our lucky stars for the text message Chris Devlin received. I am not sure we would have backtracked to Bremerton if we got to Silverdale and realized that Silver City no longer brewed there. I hate backtracking on beer tours!

The finale at Silver City

Lunch felt much more relaxed with the mini disaster averted. Merideth had the Baked Crab Sandwich with their nice Bavarian-style Hefeweizen. It was middle-of-road on the banana-clove scale, a very pleasant lunchtime brew. I paired the Indianola IPA with Silver City’s Pulled Pork Sandwich. The IPA was nicely balanced with Cascade and Columbus hops. I was disappointed in the Porter BBQ sauce on the pulled pork. Looking forward to trying it, I think the issue was there wasn’t much of it on the sandwich. Dave, Mr. Sweet-Tooth, ordered a seemingly odd pairing of Panther Lake Porter with the Baked Crab Sandwich. But there was method to his madness, as he was setting himself up for the very yummy chocolate brownie desert which luckily came with four spoons.

It was a short drive from Silverdale to Poulsbo (pronounced POLES-bo). With a population of just under 9,000, the tiny town astride Hwy 3 boasts three breweries. We visited two of them.

The homebrew-like kit at Valhöll Brewing

First up was Valhöll Brewing. Located just off Hwy 3, Valhöll was somewhat hard to find. The brewery was located in the garage of a private home located behind a medical office building. Despite assurances from our navigator that we were in the correct place, it took some fumbling about before we finally found it’s location.

Not knowing anything about Poulsbo, I was somewhat surprised by the number of people hanging out in the converted garage enjoying an afternoon pint. The Begian Wit, at 4.8% ABV was a refreshing beer and clearly my favorite of the ones I sampled. The others I sampled were, for a lack of a better word, strange. This included Smoked Cherry Rye, a big brew at 8.4% ABV. The smoke was provided cherry wood-smoked malt and cherries were also added. I enjoy experimental beers but this experiment I think went somewhat awry.

Sound Brewery in Poulsbo

For our Kitsap Peninsula Beer Tour, we saved the best for last. About a mile from Valhöll, Sound Brewery was the end business in an industrial park. They had the door up and the beer flowing on Friday afternoon with a similar sized crowd as our previous stop.

Chris Devlin was also friends with Sound’s brewer/owner, Brad. After quick introductions, I purchased a taster set and settled in for our last stop of the day’s tour.

The taster set at Sound Brewery

The six beer sampler had some tasty, 8%-10% ABV  Belgian-style beers including a Dubbel and Tripel. However, the stars were three of the lower alcohol brews. O’Regan’s Revenge, a 5.9% ABV Red Ale, was one of the best of the style I have ever tasted. Poundage Porter had a pleasant roasty/toasty flavor with a nice amount of hops. The third of this trio, and my favorite, was Koperen Ketel, an easy drinking Copper Ale.

Having a friend of the owner has it’s benefits, as Brad poured us samples from back in the brewery. Their Belgian-style IPA, Bevrijder, was excellent and the yet-to-be-released Double IPA was in the best beer of the trip category.

Evening view of the Kitsap Peninsula from the ferry

Time flew by on our beer tour. We were having a great time at Sound, but unfortunately, we had the ferry back to Seattle to catch. We finished our samples and bade farewell with thanks to both Brad and Matt who had popped into Sound after work at Silver City. It was a great end to the the trip–an afternoon with friends and adding three new breweries to “the List.”

And Dave, I’m sorry for passing that Dairy Queen. I really didn’t see it.

View all the pictures from the Kitsap Peninsula beer tour…

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