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We drove our merry way down from Seattle and crossed the border from Washington into Oregon, ready for one of the most famous places for beer in America.
Portland, known as the “weird city”, of which we did catch glimpses of, was a walkable place where you could visit loads of awesome breweries & bottle shops in short distances around town, so of course there was beer bikes and beer tours a plenty. Nothing can exemplify that more than the first few breweries we visited.
Rocking up at lunch time on a Friday at the Deschutes Brew Pub, this place was pretty darn full – from people just grabbing a drink at the bar to people sitting down for lunch. We’d read their elk burger was all the rage so we grabbed that, a hum-beer-cha (a kombucha & beer mix) and a pint of Fresh Squeezed IPA.
Overall, it had that more “restaurant than a brewery” feel but this is how Deschutes started and we knew we were heading to their main production brewery in Bend in a few days, so we enjoyed the Friday lunch vibe.
Across the road from 10 Barrel, who had recently been acquired by ABinBev – literally spitting distance – and it couldn’t be more different; was Rogue Distillery & Public House. They have a hugely Anti-Establishment, anti-big beer view, which is ironic bearing in mind their neighbours!
Set up in 1988 originally in Ashland, Oregon, they now have 12 sites across the US, varying from a brew pub like this to a spirits bar & even a hotel! Rogue’s Portland brew pub that we visited is split in to a more family friendly restaurant and an adults only bar section, with great beer served in both.
One of Portland’s highest recommended bottle shops & beer drinkers haven was The Beer Mongers, and this was like beer geek paradise. As well as the epic selections of 600+ bottles donning their multiple fridges, they also have 6 rotating taps so you can pull up a pew and enjoy a beer at their dive-esque bar, along with the best of them.
It felt like this was a place that you would always be kept entertained by beer & beer chat, as they had a steady flow of traffic for a Sunday night. The chaps down at the Beer Mongers recommended us to Belmont Station who had an even better selection of beers to choose from and 20 taps.
Having heard great things about De Garde Brewing and their barrel aging we made the drive out to Tillamook on the Oregon coast to visit their small tap-room.
We had the “Florist”, a golden wild ale aged in oak gin barrels and “With friends like these” another wild ale fermented and aged in oak with late harvest muscat grapes, which was quite simply, spectacular. These guys are real barrel experimenters and were coming out with some very interesting & inspirational beers.
Attempting to find something a little more “local” we read up about what to see in Portland & what makes it so weird. Well, turns out, it’s the strip club capital of America (yep, it’s not Vegas!) Portland is home to more strip clubs per capita than anywhere else. Who knew? Thanks Google! As a result of all the intense stripper competition, many have diversified and tried something a little different. Cue – stripper karaoke. Yep. Sunday night stripper karaoke (or stripparaoke) at Devils Point (not going to link to that one you can find it yourself) is the place to be on a boozy Sunday, so this is what we embarked upon to complete our tour of Portland
Not going to lie we had a great time. Next, off we went to Bend.
As the 8th largest craft brewery in America and still family owned, visiting Deschutes’ main brewery over in Bend, around a 3 hour drive away from Portland, was always going to be high on the priority list. When Deschutes started in this small town in the 80s, it was the first brewery and many people in the area hadn’t tried much more than the sparkling light lagers that most would think of as “American beer”. Moving on to 2017, there are over 30 breweries in Bend alone with a huge community of people involved or supported by the brewing industry. Awesome.
Luckily enough for us, we were given a private tour with Kristin of their brewery, packaging and office facility.
One of the keys to Deschutes success she believes is their support of the local community – with $1 from every barrel sold going back into the community. They even have a roaming beer festival truck which some of it’s proceeds from the events they hold with it, go to the local community of the town it visits.
We were honoured enough to have a drink at “Shifties” – a teenie tiny, former toilet, tap room where all employees, whether finishing at 10am or 10pm can come get a free pint after work.
Overall, some fab learnings from an inspirational business.
After we left on our merry way from Deschutes, we took a 10 minute walk down the road to hit up Immersion Brewing. They are Bend’s only “brew-it-yourself” & brew pub combo, so you can book your own brewing experience or enjoy some beers from their 10 barrel kit. They have some really sexy premises to do it all in too. It was a beautiful sunny day so we sat outside and supped on their Immersion Red Ale & Bender, a Belgian Style IPA. In addition to this they had a selection of decent wines and cocktails, including “Chai Mule” – using Cascade Alchemy’s, a local distillery, “Chai Tea Vodka” – it was bloody delicious.
In the interest of research we took a long walk (3 seconds) next door to…
Atlas Cider – A cider bar! Wahhhooo! The first on our tour. It was just like a craft beer bar, with fridges stocked with take home ciders, a heap of ciders to choose from on tap (& a few craft beers thrown in for good measure). Amusing for a Brit, on their menu they had a “blended” special section which included “Black-Apple” (aka Cider&black) and “Snakebite”.
We had a dragonfruit cider and a cinnamon pear cider, both delivering on the fruit promises of their name. This was also a cool spot, with arcade games, pool table and the first of many sightings of “Corn Hole” (where you throw some bags of corn (beanbags) into a hole). We could have settled in here too, with this place having a slight advantage in having cider donuts, but there was somewhere else calling…
Crux Fermentation Project – We’d been told this was the best place to watch the sunset in Bend and as we were only another 10 minute walk away, we decided it’d be worth the effort – it appeared that other people had got the memo. Another dog friendly joint, we rocked up to find it packed with a festival like atmosphere in the garden. Families, friends, singles and couples – it was certainly the place to be on a Tuesday night. WAIT! It’s Tuesday!? How on earth is this place so packed?!
We spent the evening chatting to a lovely older couple who were using their retirement to travel & visit breweries. Legends.
We really liked this place. They had great beer, in a fab location, cool atmosphere and service was quick and friendly. With happy hour a half hour before & after the sunsets, we loved the buzzy atmosphere of this place & it ended up being one our favourite spots on the trip.
We wish we’d had more time in Bend, as every place we’d drunk in was great– and all 4 places we tried were within walking distance of our “holiday motel” which is how we like it.
From a town that was primarily macro lager drinkers, to a town with a thriving beer industry, numerous beer tourists & one of the biggest craft breweries, there is something in the water in Bend…!
But sadly, America is a big country & we don’t have as much time as we’d like, so off we go again, this time heading to California for wine country.