Long had I heard of the vibrant craft brewing scene in Bend, Oregon and recently I traveled down there to check it out. Web searches brought up ads for bus tours and even a group-pedaled bicycle tour of the brewpubs, but I've never been keen on guided tours. I like to see stuff on my own schedule. So I drove to Bend on July 10, promptly got lost trying to find the motel, and floundered around Bend a while. I wondered if these bus tours were selling something vital here, But eventually, things worked out.
Goodlife Brewing Co: After motel check-in, I started to track down breweries with city map, addresses from Northwest Brewing News. Bend likes to change names of streets at random, get the stranger lost in a hurry. Back and forth over half an hour before finally finding Goodlife, around 7:30 p.m. This is a good-sized operation (30-bbl capacity) with nice beer garden areas on both sides. East side has bocce and "cornhole" courts (the latter being the Oregon word for that beanbag toss into the hole game).
2. The next stop, around 8:15, was at the Cascade Lakes Brewing Co. pub. This is also a large-scale operation, with a 25-barrel system up in Redmond, Oregon, 18 miles to the north. This started out small in 1994, in a business park by the local airport, and took off under new ownership in 2000. My notes say I had a pint of Kolsch here, 4.5 % abv and 30 IBUs, a nice balanced summer ale.
3. As the sun was setting over the mountains to the west (the Sisters Range), I navigated the streets of Bend's Old Mill District (only the name is old, it's all new construction here) to the Old Mill Brew Werks for dinner and another pint. The Ale Trail map says this brewery is known for good food pairings. I got to chat with Rudy Garcia, the head chef, about that very subject. I chose Rudy's Meat Loaf, which he said he makes with the brown ale. However, the Rabble Rouser Red (8.5% abv, 62 IBUs) was also, in his opinion, an excellent match for the food. So, that's what I had.