Bend Oregon is a town that has become known as a beer destination for many years thanks to the success of the local brewery Deschutes, that has grown so large it is fairly widely distributed and has additional locations outside of Bend. More recently, Bend has gotten popular thanks to the fantastic IPAs brewed by Boneyard. I spent two days in Bend recently and I realize that there are a lot more breweries I could have visited than the ones that I am including in this post. However, like anywhere else I tend to visit the breweries that many consider must-visit while leaving the rest of the breweries to those who are local.
This is one visit where I did not take notes on the individual beers I tasted. This is because when you visit Boneyard there is no where to sit and no where to set down your taster flight. This will change when their brewpub opens at some point in the future but for now this means that if you visit the brewery it is a very crowded experience intended to enjoy a quick flight, fill some crowlers, and get out of there on to the next brewery. Because I did not take notes the following will be based solely on memory.
The taster flight at Boneyard consists of every beer they have on tap and they go through the tasting giving you 2 tasters at a time until you have gone through the full set. Every beer I tasted was tasty, as expected but some were better than others. Out of the five hoppy beers I tasted, two stood out as super fresh at the time, Hop a Wheelie and Notorious. Because I was looking to get the best beer possible, I left with six crowlers of Hop a Wheelie, which was tasting slightly better than RPM at the time for my tastes, and two of Notorious, because it is one of the most delicious triple IPAs you will find.
I was also a bit surprised to find a black ale that resembled a black lager and a doppelbock because the second style is especially rare to find made well at American breweries. Surge Knife, the Imperial Stout, was also quite delicious, with a heavy mouth feel and a great balance of smoke, chocolate, and roast. As you will read below, I spent a lot more time at Crux while I was in town simply because they have a place to sit and room to breathe.
I have gotten more used to crowds but there is something I find quite difficult when it comes to standing in a tiny brewery stuffed full of people so much that even though it is 40 degrees outside, it feels like someone turned on the heat. That being said, if you want to fill up crowlers from Boneyard visiting the brewery directly is the way to do it because you are probably only going to find their flagship IPA, RPM, on tap elsewhere around town. Prices for crowler fills are quite reasonable at $6 a crowler for the lighter stuff and $14 for the stronger stuff.
I really enjoyed the feel of Bend itself and with such a short flight to get there I hope to return after Boneyard has opened their brewpub so I can spend a whole day drinking nothing but their delicious brews. If you only have the time to visit two breweries while you are in Bend, you should absolutely visit Boneyard and then spend the rest of your time at Crux and you will see why below.
Top 2 at Boneyard
Hop a Wheelie IPA
Notorious Triple IPA
Crux Brewing Company
I was told by some locals that Crux is run by the original brewer from Deschutes who eventually decided he wanted to be back at a smaller place. If this is true, I now understand how Deschutes was able to get so popular. However, if you don’t like the hoppy beers Deschutes makes because they are very traditional don’t let this keep you away from Crux because they have taken hoppy beers to a whole new level that in some ways you could say is better than what Boneyard does. Where Boneyard makes fantastic IPAs that are up there with Cellarmaker, Russian River, and Alpine to name a few, there is an extra smoothness and subtlety of flavor in the beers brewed by Crux that makes even their 10% double IPA have a body that is closer to a 6% IPA and a flavor profile that is pure aroma.
When I visited Crux I tried 8 different beers the first day. These were the pale ale, sugar daddy pale ale, experimental IPA, nitro stout, brown porter, enigma saison, impass saison, and Half Hitch Double IPA. When I came back at the end of my second day I tried one more that I had missed, their red wine barrel aged quad.
The pale ale was super smooth and balanced with plenty of citrus hops and bready malt background. The sugar daddy is a malt-forward 7% pale ale yet the malts stay in the background nicely leaving room for intense tropical fruits to come out in the finish. The experimental IPA was amazingly smooth and hoppy considering the alcohol percentage. Once again this was malt forward while being fairly light body and insanely smooth and dry on the finish. Flavors came through nicely with plenty of pineapple and mango.
The nitro stout was super smooth with lots of roast and chocolate notes with a subtle smoky bitter finish. My husband wasn’t too big on this when we first had it with the flight but when we came back later in part so he could order the stout brownie, he had no trouble finishing a 10 ounce pour. The brown porter was also incredibly smooth with milk chocolate flavors. Given the lower alcohol content and subtle flavors this is one you might want to taste before going to the IPAs. The enigma saison was super fruity with a banana finish. Though it claims to feature a specific hop variety I didn’t taste much hops at all. The Impass saison also had banana but some citrus and floral tastes going for it that made it a more balanced beer though it was still lacking the earthy finish I like in a good saison.
The Half Hitch double IPA was surprisingly smooth and delicious even after all those smooth IPAs. For a 10% beer it lacked the alcohol flavor at the end or the intense sweetness that can kill a good double. I left with 3 bottles of this beer though I learned later that I could have picked them up at home because they now distribute down to San Diego. Finally, the wine barrel aged quad was absolutely wonderful and a fantastic mix of flavors. The beer lacked the overly sweet syrup taste that quads usually have and had a great balance between smooth belgian and red wine finish without being tart.
I enjoyed Crux so much that I came back a second evening rather than visiting some other brewery that I wasn’t sure about. I figured since I won’t be back in Bend for a while I should enjoy more of this delicious beer and I was glad I did come back again. My husband really liked the stout brownie we came back for and I got to try the barrel aged quad that I skipped the first time.
Top 2 at Crux
Half Hitch double IPA
In part 2 next week I will explore Riverbend Brewing, Silvermoon Brewing and Deschutes to see if the brewery is any different at the original pub.