Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bend Over: The Final Day In Oregon

Our final day in Bend, Oregon was a great one, filled with adventure and beer!  Ok, mostly just beer, but still awesome!  After having our freshly ground coffee in the room, and discussing the merits of removing fluoride from the water supply in Bend with the odd lady at the front desk, we headed out to see the sights of town.  I would have been happy heading right to a brewery, but strangely they don't really open until 11 AM, forcing us to find other entertainment before returning to the Ale Trail.  We discovered a couple of cool galleries and an art show just across the street from the hotel and spent some time perusing the local art scene. 

Parking lot hop yard!
By 11 we were just outside of town to visit Worthy Brewing, a fairly new and large brewery.  They are growing rows of hops outside the enormous pub and brewery, with its own little green-house.  The dining and bar area is large and wide open, with a modern feel to it.  Some of the wood used to decorate the place was reclaimed from the Oregon asylum where they filmed One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which explains the multiple pics of Jack Nicholson on the walls!  The food here was fantastic, elevating pub food to a new level: we had coconut milk clam chowder and prosciutto fig flatbread.  The brewery is well named, and the beers were indeed worthy.  They had a great Farm-Out Saison, a helles bock, Imperial IPA and a stout with vanilla that were all tasty and well balanced.  Between great beers, better food, cool vibe and good service, I highly recommend the place.

Keep driving
Our next trip was to Cascade Lakes, clear across town (OK a five minute drive).  Walking in this brewpub has an older feel, like a slightly shabby local drinkin' man's bar with sports on the TV.  We settled into the bar and got the sampler, as per our usual MO.  I was very disappointed in the beers here.  Out of the 6 or 7 beers we tried, only the IPA was drinkable, but still not good.  Most of the beers had off flavors hinting at either dirty tap lines or poor fermentation.  Feeling guilty, we left all of the samples unfinished, throwing cash on the bar on our hasty way out.  Blech.  How can a place like this stay in business in a city a made famous by breweries???  This was by far the worst brewery I visited in Oregon.

To clear the palate after our ill-fated visit to Cascade Lakes, we headed to Old Mill Brew Werks.  Apparently this is a new location for the place, in a nicer strip mall near the Deschutes River (and brewery,) with a nice view from the deck.  This place looked and felt more like a wine bar than a brewery, with no visible brewing equipment present.  Most of the folks here were drinking coctails and wine, furthering that impression.  They had about 6 good commercial beers on tap and 6 of their own.  I give the house beers a 50/50 good to meh ratio.  The best was actually a blonde ale (which I don't normally love) and the worst was a dry hopped version of the same beer.  Overall not bad, but not in my top Bend breweries.  Certainly better than the previous stop!

This is the Good Life!
Our next stop was one of the high points in my Bend beer adventures, probably my second favorite in town.  Good Life brewery occupies part of a warehouse, sharing a courtyard with a winery.  The actual tasting room is quite small decorated with some long knotty pine picnic tables and a bar with room for 5.  They do have a larger fenced-in outdoor area that they were prepping for their anniversary party when we arrived.  While here the bartenders and locals told us a bunch of the local dirt/history of the other breweries in Bend, and we had a great time socializing at the tiny bar.  The beers were all very good...probably the best hoppy ones we had in town.  My favorite was the Sweet As Pacific: a light IPA made with all New Zealand hops.  I even bought one of the aluminum carabiner tap handles for that particular beer.  This brewery completed our Bend Ale Trail experience--making 10 breweries in 2 days.  We stopped into the City Tourism building and received our commemorative mini silicone pint glasses for getting to all the breweries!  What other city has their own branded insulated growlers and tons of other beer-related swag?

Sj proudly showing off her hipster side on the Cycle Pub
After stashing our spoils we briskly walked to our 4 PM meet-up place for the Cycle Pub.  Since I know one of the founders of the original Pedal Pub in Minneapolis, I felt a little guilty about riding this rival pub, but this is what my cousins arranged so I went with it.  Sorry Al!  This is actually the first time I have been on one of these slow-moving contraptions and it was an experience.  We had enough folks signed up to have two of them filled to the brim with friends and family.  We had arrived early and this was the hottest day so far on our trip, so Sj and I were incredibly thirsty to start off.  We were forced to drink PBR from a can to survive.  I know.  I'm going to need to grow out ironic facial hair and wear a flat cap and skinny jeans now!  We headed off on the first leg of the trip, working up a sweat pedaling uphill.  Cars behind us either waved and called out to us or honked and gave us the finger.  We arrived en mass at 10 Barrel, which was already filled to capacity including their large patio area.  It took a while but I got a glass of Swill to quench the thirst and regain my energy before our exodus back to the cycle.  Our previous trip here was much more mellow!

Our next stop was nearby, back at Good Life!  The anniversary party action was all out back, so we were able to all fill the small tasting room and sit down in the shade.  One of my cousins had planned ahead here and called for pitchers, so we were quickly served up more wonderful hoppy ales to share.  I was happy to get to try another taste of Sweet As Pacific. 

Having completed our visit to Good Life, we headed back out on the trail for one more brewery: Crux.  This leg of the journey was nearly all up hill, and significantly farther away from our previous stop.  I lucked out by getting to sit in a spot with no pedals!  This time Crux was very busy, but we managed to find outdoor seating around a big wooden cable spool table in the shade.  I was able to try the one beer not featured on the sampler from the previous day: Tough Love.  This was one of the best beers I had on the trip--a bourbon barrel aged Imperial stout--and made me more than happy we had returned here.  After a while there was a fire started in the giant iron Fire Ball and dusk began to fall over the high desert and train tracks.  It was incredibly nice to hang out with my cousins and their friends in this setting, and bittersweet to say farewell at the end. 

On our way home, we went though Drake's park and caught the tail end of Deschutes' 25th anniversary bash there.  Most of the best beers were gone and the music was iffy at the time, but cool to stumble upon such a free event.  Realizing that we hadn't had dinner and it was going on 9 PM, we ended up at Brother John's for a late dinner.  All the heat, lack of food, and many breweries in a row had gotten to me and for the first time this trip was feeling a bit out of it.  The food helped immensely.  I would recommend the pub, as they have a great tap list and good food.  One more short stagger to get back to the hotel and our trip to Oregon was nearly complete. 

Overall, an amazing trip filled with wonderful scenery, satisfying beers and a truly great wedding.  Considering the short time period I think we managed to fit a lot into an extended weekend and would love to go back some time.  Thanks for reading along with my blatherings, and hopefully this will push you over the edge to visit some of these places for yourself! 

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