Between Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and the Oregon border, Steph and I stopped to camp in the little known (at least to us) California treasure known as Lassen Volcanic National Park. Located in the same volcanic range that extends north to include Mt. Rainier and Mt. Saint Helen’s, this now dormant volcano last erupted in the early 1900’s. In the wake of its devastating eruption emerged vibrant mountain landscapes and Yellowstone-eque geological features. Unfortunately, late season road-closing snow and our short stay kept us from visiting the geological features, but we did enjoy Manzanita Lake. Steph snapped a great photo of a fly fisherman at the lake. Our short stay combined with limited park access made this a “must see again” destination.
Bend, Oregon, a relatively small city of about 76,000, is home to seven breweries. We arrived in the town for two nights of all-we-could-drink brewery visits. The Bend Visitors Bureau promotes all local breweries via the Ale Trail. The Ale Trail is not an actual trail but a stampable passport of must-visit breweries. We grabbed a brewery map from hotel, cut out the Ale Trail passport, and hit the road determined to conquer the trail.
The first night is a little foggy.
What I do remember is that we hit four of the seven breweries the first night. In order we visited McMenamins Old St. Francis School, Bend Brewing Company, Deschutes Public House, and Silver Moon Brewing. The beers were all delicious and lived up to Oregon’s craft beer reputation. Ales, lagers, session, high ABV, malty, sour, hoppy, nitro, cask, unfiltered, firkin – we tried beers of every style, and it was good.
At Bend Brewing Company we met an amazing craft brewing couple: Arne and Nicky Fleisher. They were out for a friend’s wedding in Portland and in true beer lover fashion (and lucky for us) they stopped in Bend for a brief beer layover. We enjoyed small talk at Bend Brew Co. and transitioned into drunk joke making, story telling, and all around good times at Deschutes Public House. We parted ways after Deschutes; Arine and Nikki back to the hotel for an early morning flight, while Steph and I stumbled on to Silver Moon Brewing. They had a cool local band playing and a strong stout on tap (probably most definitely had other beer on tap, but by this time I was drunk).
On Day 2 we sobered up with lunch and a tasting flight at Cascade Brewing Company. A traditional restaurant brewpub, they had a beer selection that followed classic styles closely and was just what we needed to re-energize.
After lunch we toured Deschutes Brewery (separate location from the Public House restaurant/bar). They are the largest and most well known brewery in Bend (#2 producer by volume in the state). Their massive production brewery is awe inspiring; there is a new brewing wing of the building that was built around the massive German built fermentors. The tour included free beer in the tasting room/gift shop. Highlights included the Imperial Porter XXIII and the Twighlight seasonal release.
Running along side the brewery is the Deschutes river. We took a walk down the river after the tour. It was unlike anything in Los Angeles. Mere minutes from the city center we were hiking along a major river bank, surrounded by miles of forest – absolutely beautiful. I’ll miss this as much as the beer.
Our Ale Trail journey began to wind down as we walked to the second-to-last brewery – 10 Barrel Brewing Company. Previously known as Wildfire Brewing, this upscale brewpub was bustling with craft beer loving Oregonians. The highlight for me was the dehusked black ale – S1nist0r – a super smooth creamy dark ale. No astringent roast to be found anywhere; very sessionable.
Saving the best or maybe the most familiar for last, we headed out to Boneyard Brewing Company, which unbeknownst to us was the youngest of the seven breweries. Having only opened in 2010 this is a brewery on the rise. Familiar to us not because of the name, but in the way it reminded us of home in a way none of the other Bend breweries could – a bootstrap start-up brewery with no-frills tucked into an industrial park. Craft beer in its natural habitat. We enjoyed our time here, sipping creative, unfiltered, raw beers out of a chest freezer turned draft system. Boneyard is already making waves in the Portland beer scene with their Hop Venom DIPA. We enjoyed the wit beer, cherry wheat ale (aka Girl Beer), and Black 13 dark ale. We wish them the best of luck as they stake their claim in the Oregon beer scene.
The next day, we left Oregon, no Ale Trail prize except our hangovers, good memories and stamped passport.
Next Up…. California Coast! (aka nearly every major CA brewery is off the 101 fwy)
– John R.
Los Angeles Ale Works™
Specialist Beer Judge