Friday, September 14, 2012

Oregon Part Three: Bend Brew Bus

To see related posts in this series, click this link.

We left Portland around 8:30am, got to Bend around noon, had lunch, then boarded The Bend Brew Bus.

The Bend Brew Bus is a tour put together by Wanderlust Tours. About a dozen tourists are treated to a four hour tour of four breweries in Bend, OR. Passengers are picked up from their homes or hotels so the driving is all taken care of by the tour guide. The cost is $45/pp and includes beer at four stops plus food at one of the stops.

So why does a town like Bend with a population of 80,000+ offer this kind of tour? because there are 10 microbreweries in town and one the next town over. Bend's Tourist Board has cultivated the beer scene by developing the Bend Ale Trail and the Ale Trail Passport. If you get your passport stamped by nine of the breweries in town (the tenth brewery just opened and is not in the current passport) and bring it to the tourist office you get a gift.

We figured the tour would be empty. It was a Friday before the holiday and folks were probably just getting on the road today..... Maybe just us and one other couple. Nope.....Full bus. Luckily we were the last pickup and at our first location in less than ten minutes.

Cascade Lakes was our first stop. This is a newish-building on the outskirts of town. A good portion of the building was its dining area. Our guide, Rachel, explained that we had a private area upstairs and we'd be here an hour. This was also where we'd get the most beer at any stop. Take your time and mingle. Rachel worked with a waitress to brink up 5 pitchers of beer. We had 2 IPAs, red, porter, and nut brown. We were free to pour our samples and the pitchers would be replenished if needed. Our favorite beers of the tour were here, because they had dark beers that were more malty than hoppy. Most other locations had mainly Indian Pale Ales (yech). This is the prominent style in Oregon.

We head back to the bus and it wouldn't start. While Rachel works it there's time for another bathroom break. Eventually we get back on the road and hit Good Life. This is a newer brewery with a tap room that served food and had a beer garden. Here we tried 2 samples (both IPA) and food. Snacks consisted of huge plates of nachos and cheese and cracker platters. Nice. After snacks and samples we went into the brewing area and got a tour from brewer Steve. He gave a good overview of the technical aspects of brewing and how they source and contribute to the community's economy.

A new van showed up and we took off for the next destination.

We drove closer to the older residential part of town and pulled up to an old auto repair shop that was now home to Boneyard Beer. The place had that biker/ heavy metal edge which is pretty uncommon in most breweries. That vibe really worked here - they named their company Boneyard because all their equipment came from other brewerys' used equipment. The tap room was a cramped area, but full of enegery has they tried to keep up with our large group and the regular customers. We were allowed 3 samples each out of the 5 on tap. We shared the strawberry beer (named Girl Beer), an IPA, a red, and something with "fuego" in the name. Hotter than sin...... Great group of folks here with true passion.

On to our next stop. Bend's newest brewery - which was not on the passport. This game just got harder.

Crux Fermentation Project was in the general area of The Old Mill District. It's an area filled with light industrial buildings, parks, and an outdoor mall. Their building sat on top of a hill with a clear view of the mountains from their beer garden. Inside was a nice contemporary mix of stone and wood. The brewing area had large copper brew kettles as well as an open fermentation room for Belgian style beers. We got a quick tour of the kettles and brewing area after we had three samples: we remember a porter and an IPA and forget the third style (kolsch maybe). Lots of other guest taps were available.

Back on the bus and in our room by 5:45. The tour was a lot of fun and has a repeatability factor given they can go to a mix of four out-of ten breweries on a given day. All the brewers we met with were friendly and totally into what they produced.

We sampled 14 beers (could've had 15 but we skipped a double IPA at Boneyard) plus another 3 before the tour at Old Saint Francis School and gained 4/9 stamps in our passport. The day's not over yet......


  1. Thanks for your great write up guys! Any chance you could email us some of your awesome photos? Thanks!

  2. We'd be happy to share our pictures. I can email this weekend, or if it's easier load them to a picasa album and send the link.