If you think we’re beer-crazy here you Eugene, you haven’t heard about the city of Bend, Oregon. The little mountain town boasts the largest number of breweries per capita in Oregon, most within a short distance of each other making it the perfect vacation spot for all you Willamette Valley hop-lovers. This weekend Bend is hosting their annual Brewfest. I realize that if you follow Oregon Craft Beer news, you know this is only one of many brewfests this summer. (I can’t even begin to touch on the enormous Oregon Brewer’s Festival in Portland). But, if you’re like me and are craving a mellow weekend at home, Bend probably isn’t for you. Instead of making the trip, here’s a list of some of my favorite Bend beers that you can find right here in Eugene. Some are classic all-time favorites, others are new loves, but all a worth a sip this weekend.
1. Deschutes, Mirror Pond. No Bend beer mention is complete without tipping our hat to Deschutes. Deschutes, and myself, will celebrate our 25th Birthdays this year, making the brewery old in Oregon craft beer years, not so much in people (or European Beer) years. While different Deschutes styles can be found all over Eugene, the beer you’re most likely to see on tap or in bottles is Mirror Pond. This is a classic, and often introduction craft beer, since you can find it in even the most bud-loving bars. The beer is a golden, coppery amber, American Pale Ale. It’s malty and extremely drinkable. I personally think it leans more on the Amber side as opposed to a pale ale, but that’s just because it isn’t an IPA wanna-be. I usually don’t order Mirror Pond, but when it’s the only craft beer on tap, it goes great with a burger and fries. It’s the perfect introduction to craft beer, and to the Bend beer scene.
2. 10 Barrel, ISA. 10 Barrel is exploding over Eugene, so it’s not surprising that it is one of the fastest growing Oregon breweries. Last summer I fell in love with their ISA: India-Style Session Ale. This new style basically just means that it’s a session (meaning a low ABV beer that you can drink a lot of) pale ale. It’s light with citrus grape-fruit aroma and flavors. There’s a hint a sweetness that balances out the hop bitterness perfectly. This is a beer and brewery you’re likely to see around town this weekend. If you don’t see the ISA on tap, their flagship Apocalypse IPA is also a good choice. You may also see 10 Barrel’s Swill on tap (I know it was pouring at the Scandinavian Festival!). It’s a very grapefruity forward, more sweet-than-sour, beliner weisss (aka sour wheat) beer that’s delicious on a hot day.
3. Boneyard RPM. I can guarantee that you’ve seen Boneyard around town as well. Along with 10 Barrel, these two Bend breweries are everywhere. Their RPM, IPA is by far their most popular beer. For those of you that love hoppy IPA’s- this is your beer. In fact, they almost have a cult following of devoted RPM fans (I may have been one in the past). They’ve had some issues with consistency, but overall it’s a great beer. RPM a sweeter IPA with great amber color and a tropical citrus-y taste. Very drinkable, so watch out since it comes in above 7% ABV.
4. Crux Fermentation Project, Impasse Saison. Crux is one of the newest breweries to open in Bend and is already one of my newest favorites, with everything they’ve made tasting delicious. One that I’m loving right now is the Impasse Saison, which was just tapped at the Bier Stein. It’s a delicious Belgian harvest beer, with strong citrus and clove spices. It’s a bright, bold beer that may not be for everyone, but I loved it and would recommend you give it a try. Other beers to try from Crux, although you may not see them in Eugene, are Off Leash Session Ale and Mosaic Imperial IPA.
These are my top Bend beers to find in Eugene bars and restaurants right now, but there are plenty more to taste. Look out for anything from Silver Moon or Goodlife Brewing Company- they’re both favorites of mine, although a little bit harder to find here in Eugene. If you can make it to the Bend Brewfest, it’s happening August 15th-17th at the Les Schwab Amphitheater. Details can be found at www.bendbrewfest.com. If not, join me here in Eugene where we can enjoy the best that Bend has to offer. Have anything from Bend I should try?