“New Year’s in Oregon” is the latest episode of One Pint at a Time.
With a German trip derailed by high airfares, we needed to come up with plan B. The quick and easy choice was the budding beer mecca of Bend, Oregon. Closing out 2011 in Central Oregon, we each visited our 666th brewery, enjoyed a rainy, then snowy Bend Urban Beer Hike and endured a seemingly fruitless quest for tater tots.
So enjoy our latest beer adventures in Oregon…
For all the episodes of One Pint at a Time go to beergeekTV.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.