I just spent a long weekend in Bend, Ore., and I’m here to report: That town is hopping. And that’s not just a beer pun.
Bend, pop. 80,000, has long been a destination for skiing and all kinds of outdoor sports, but beer tourism took hold there with a vengeance in the past decade, and now it’s like a big dog shaking the town by the scruff of its neck. (But they’re not complaining.)
When I was there two years ago, Bend had nine craft brewers, with more about to open. A half dozen opened in 2013 alone, according to beermebend.com. There’s already a new brewery in 2014, for a total of 18 in Bend, and nine more in nearby towns.
My family and I had a very beery weekend (the daughter is 22 now, and her boyfriend came along). We toured breweries. Tasted beer from little glasses. Took a growler back to the inn to go with pizza. My favorite: the Fresh Squeezed IPA, with a heavy helping of citra and mosaic hops, from Deschutes Brewery. The one I couldn’t finish: Fuego Rojo, the habanero-infused red ale from Boneyard Beer. (A little too much like alcoholic battery acid. But their other beers are quite tasty.) Best view with good food and good beer: Old Mill Brew Wërks, in a new location overlooking the Deschutes River.
And on a cool and cloudy weekend in early April, the monthly First Friday art walk made for an astoundingly crowded downtown. Lots going on, from the cello trio playing at the packed Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe to galleries serving wine and cheese to, oh yeah, more craft breweries offering live music and beer tasting. Bustling, everywhere we went in the nicely preserved downtown.
“It’s been like this all winter,” said Zane Littrell, friendly proprietor of the 10-room Mill Inn B&B, where we stayed. (It was full up.)
Going to Bend? Reservations recommended.