Watching the beer industry grow in Bend through the last decade has been like feeding a Mogwai after midnight; that is, a small, cuddly idea has replicated itself with such ferocity and alarm that it has threatened to overwhelm its original premise. The five brewpubs in 2005 seem quaint compared to the 27 now occupying the desert in Central Oregon with nearly as many new breweries added in the last year as existed in all of Bend 10 years ago. And that's not including the seemingly endless string of beer tours, beer bikes and beer related products (I'm looking at you, Dawg Grog) that have cropped up alongside the physical pubs. Consider that the Bend Ale Trail, the cornerstone of beer tourism, has had 12,000 completions since its advent in 2010.
It is enough to make a local a bit grumpy.
Sure, I was born and raised in Bend, but I actually spent most of my formative drinking years out of town, away at college, at a time when I turned of legal drinking age, overcame a temporary obsession with FourLoko malt liquor and officially chose PBR as my beer of choice. By the time I returned to Bend in 2011, the city was in craft beer overload and overdrive.
And sure, I understand—and even appreciate—the virtues of tourism, (to paraphrase former Governor Tom McCall, please, come here, drink beer, shut up and give Bend your money). But even though that cash flow into town is never discouraged, I'm still not the one to roll out the red carpet for the beer-drinking tourist; really, I prefer a quiet afternoon at Riverside Market to a packed patio with a 50 beer-long tasting menu.
Well, apparently this crap-ass and xenophobic attitude prompted my editor to "encourage" (read: assign) me to try one of what I saw as Bend's most touristy experiences, a Brew Bus tour with Wanderlust Tours. He knows my distaste for heavy beers and my locals-only pride, so I'm pretty sure he was punishing me with what most others would consider a fun and plum assignment. Maybe he just wanted me to get drunk enough that I'd curb my anti-tourism bias (although I will never ever never budge from my annoyance of the amateur-hour woo-ing of the Cycle pub). Or, maybe he was just being mean.
To fortify for the trek, I enlisted my fellow writer Jared Rasic on a Saturday afternoon tour. We recorded our experiences in what we codenamed, The Brew Bus Chronicles.Click here to read The Brew Bus Chronicles. Click here for more (sober) notes on Bend's brewery tourism.