Ale Trail in a DAY!
My friend & fellow thru-hiker, Melissa “Treehugger” Spencer, had a great idea- to walk the Bend Ale Trail in a day! We set a date, came up with a plan, and on a chilly & stormy Thursday morning, set out for a brew-hike.
We left my house at 1030 am & walked to Rat Hole Brewing, where we soon found ourselves sipping on our first beers of the day. We had a pleasant chat with the owner & enjoyed being warm while looking out the big windows at the cloudy sky.
Stepping out of the Rat Hole we were met with strong winds. We walked down a hidden staircase towards the Old Mill, across a banner festooned footbridge over the Deschutes, and along the river trail. As we climbed another staircase towards Columbia the snow began to fall. Big white snow flakes swirled around us & we picked up the pace towards our next weather break: Cascade Lakes Brewing.
At the Cascade Lodge we dried our jackets & sipped on a tiny round of delicious beer. It was starting to feel like we were having a tea party, drinking out of 4 or 6 ounce taster glasses. The servers at Cascade Brewing were cheerful didn’t seem to mind serving the small pours.
We walked by construction zone for the new OSU Cascade campus, which seems to be coming along. We discovered a new-to-us footpath through a pine forest along the side of Century Drive, and for a moment felt like we were walking through wintery woods rather than the middle of town. Soon enough we were admiring the funny sculptures out front of Pine Mountain Sports, crossing the street & ducking out of the blizzard into the Goodlife.
Shaking off the wet snow & glancing through the beer menu, I started to feel hungry, especially when I saw the food on the table next to us. We chatted up what our lunch plan should be, since time was of the essence. Sadly, we decided we didn’t have time to wait for the mac & cheese there at Goodlife… but I’m hoping to get back in there for lunch sometime soon.
A few doors down from the Goodlife, the Ale Apothecary has a barrel room, and I suggested we swing by to see if anyone was there. I knocked & peeked through the door, but no one seemed to be home. As we turned back into the storm to wander away, I noticed Paul Arney, the brewer & owner of Ale Apothecary walking across the parking lot. He enthusiastically invited us in & offered us a taste of the beer he was bottling. My favorite moment of my brew-hike materialized: Standing around the quiet aging barrels, sipping on smooth, lightly tart, blackberry beer, chatting with a happy brewer at work.
Paul stamped our Ale Trail atlases & we stepped back out into the snow, recharged with a warm glow from delicious beer & good conversation.
We walked past a brewery now owned by the global brewing titan, Anheuser-Busch InBev. We paused a moment outside to ponder what it means to Bend & the craft beer movement to have a giant bohem company nestled in our midst. I fought back a bit a bile, and pressed on down the street to the new Sun River Brewery location on Galveston.
Tree ordered up a hefeweizen & I couldn’t resist trying a chocolate milk stout. I licked the sample sized glass clean & had to talk myself down from ordering a whole pint of the Cocoa Cow. Sun River sure makes some delicious beer!
Hunger finally got the better of us & we picked up a burrito from a food cart to keep our day moving along. We hadn’t anticipated how hard it would be to walk & eat our burritos in a raging snow storm, so we tucked them away in our packs. Both of us started wishing we had brought ski goggles as we hiked up the Deschutes River Trail into the windblown snow. A calm moment of relief came as we ducked into the new Colorado Street footpath underpass, and from there it was a quick hop to Craft Kitchen & Brewery.
It turns out the burritos we had packed away didn’t like their captivity very much, & had exploded all over Tree’s pack- on the inside of her pack liner, of course! Thankfully our waiter was super helpful & made sure we had plenty of napkins & rags to clean up the burrito bomb. We mopped up salsa & drank down some beer while watching the river flow by out the window.
After 6 rounds of beer, why not go have some cider? Between Craft & Crux sits Altas, where we ducked in for some of Johnny Appleseed’s favorite treat. We wolfed down our burritos & enjoyed a sweet, crisp jar of cider. These were our biggest pours of the day- it was a good thing to get some food on board at stop number 7!
Crux Fermentation Project always has some of my favorite beers, as I love Saisons, Belgians, Stouts, Scotch Ales, along with almost anything that has spent some time in a barrel. I enjoy IPA’s too, and of course Crux works magic with hops. The hardest part of stop number 8 was choosing only one beer to order from the plethora of quality options.
Boneyard doesn’t mess around. The tasting room & brewery are tucked away in a warehouse in a downtown neighborhood. The air smells malty, The greeting sign is on an old motorcycle, bins of spent grain line the “walkway”, and peeking out of the tasting room reveals the brewing facility. We heard a rumor that Girl Beer will be coming back soon, but in the meantime, I had a sample of raspberry rich Femme Fatale. Tree loves spicy things & enjoyed a Habanero Red!
The booths at McMenamins were cozy, and I realized I’d never been in the actual restaurant before- only the other bars scattered around the Old St. Francis property. We ordered up some fries and tiny pours while Condor came in to join us for a quick visit. Tree and I started sharing some of our stories from the day & I realized my speech was getting a little slurry. Luckily our next stop was Deschutes, where they brew up their own root beer!
The nasty weather had mellowed out a bit as we walked through downtown. We ducked in to Deschutes for our first full pours of the day in the bar, and a little break from alcohol intake. It was hard to steer away from the other options on the tap list, especially the cask list & the Abyss…
Off to Silvermoon for a quick Snake Bite Porter, and then over to BBC. The Bend Brewing Company was our last downtown stop, and we had a full 6oz pour each. Two more stops awaited us, as well as two of our longer treks of the day. We wove behind Chi to pick up the river trail, and then walked through a couple of neighborhoods to pop out near Riverbend Brewing.
I love pumpkin beers, and somehow Riverbend had theirs on tap. It was smooth, well spiced, and pumpkin rich, a nice compliment to the wintery day of walking. After drinking down a couple of small pours we set out again for our longest & last walk of the day, 3.5 miles to Worthy.
We finished off our day long brew-hike like the hikertrash we are: with pizza, ice cream, and full pours! Adam met us for the festivities & to give our beer soaked bones a sober ride home. I have a feeling this won’t be our last Bend Ale Trail Thru-hike! We will see how many more stops we have by next year, as the landscape of Bend’s breweries is continuously growing and changing. Like any trail, it may very well be impossible to hike the same hike twice.
Thanks to Treehugger for the great day of drinking and hiking & braving the snow, ice, wind!