The Bend Ale Trail is arguably one of the best ideas that Visit Bend has ever come up with. Thousands of visitors to Central Oregon have picked up a free map and embarked on a tour of the 15 breweries listed inside, and the number of people who've completed the entire run is in the five figures. This November—a.k.a. Bend Ale Trail Month—getting the map stamped at every brewery and bringing it back to the downtown visitor center earns thirsty beer fans not just a bottle opener and mini-Silipint glass, but also a trophy. Yes, a small, shiny Ale Trail trophy, showing to the world that you, officially, are maybe a little too into beer.
The Ale Trail concept has been such a hit for Bend that it's now been copied by towns and regions as diverse as Eugene, Spokane, Knoxville, and even Sheffield, England. But for Bendites looking to hit a trail besides the hometown one, the new Eastside PDX Ale Trail is probably the worthiest challenge out there, mainly thanks to the sheer quality of beer that it offers from start to finish.
Spanning east Portland, the trail begins in earnest at Grixsen Brewing, not far from the new Tilikum Crossing bridge. Grixsen (a mishmash of the three owners' last names) is one of the newest beer outfits in town, and already it's rather large, investing in a tidy, dog-friendly warehouse space and quickly attracting a local following. In some ways, it's different from the pack in the rather non-NW bent of its beer. There are IPAs, of course, but more focus is placed on darker varieties, including a flavorful brown ale on nitro and an imperial stout with a double-digit ABV and the intense aroma and roastiness to match.
The brunt of the trail then continues up north, passing by old standbys like Lucky Labrador and local landmarks like the Cartopia food-truck lot. Halfway through come two must-visits: The Commons Brewery and Cascade Brewing Barrel House. There's truly not another brewery in the world like Cascade; the magic they weave with sour, fruity, and barrel-aged beers is something every mouth deserves to experience at least once. The Commons, for its part, is a master of subtlety, producing lovely saisons and other refreshing delights.
The trail rounds out nearby Burnside Street with places like Migration, Base Camp, and the underrated Mt. Tabor Brewing. On the far north side is Culmination, another new-ish face that's garnered a lot of hype in the past year. Show up for the powerful and fragrant IPAs but stick around for the whimsically-named Sour Flower Power Hour, a sessionable sour that's also available in bottles.