My next Bend brewery adventure takes me to the eponymously named Bend Brewing Company. Bend’s second oldest brewery, they have been creating well received and awarded beers since 1995 out of their brew pub located in the downtown area on the Deschutes River. Grab a beer and let me bend your ear with the story of my adventure to another craft brewing staple.
- Beer – Despite being one of the oldest breweries in town, they have maintained a relatively small brewing operation, producing less than 1000 barrels per year according to their website. This allows them to create small batch brews, alternating their tap list from time to time while still maintaining a stable of year-round offerings. It gives them the freedom to experiment with new styles and flavors and makes each visit a little more unique. That being said, I was not particularly wowed by what was on tap when I visited, and I sampled a flight to get a wide variety of options. My highest rated beer was a mild sour beer called Hibiscus Cooler, and I am not much of a sour fan so that was unexpected. The beers were decent and checked the boxes for all the fundamentals, but just did not have much of a wow factor to them, despite some interesting flavor combination attempts. I want to stress, its not that I think their beers were bad, its just that in a beer mecca like Bend, I would expect them to do something to help them stand out among the competition. I do love some of the names they came up with for their beers, so there is that. Score: 2.5/5
- Brewery – For as old as Bend Brewing Company is, I was a little surprised at how low key and small the brewpub was. Set in a recently renovated building right on Mirror Pond, BBC is inherently a restaurant that also brews beer. They have a decently sized indoor area that has lots of wood accents and feels bright and airy with all the windows, but the real selling point is the outdoor terrace and lawn that leads down to the water. The views of the river are spectacular from the patio, several fire pits allow you to be outside during the cooler times of year, and there are plenty of outdoor games to play. I highly recommend going around dinner time as the views of the sun setting behind the Cascades beyond the river are marvelous. They even have a mini-bar outside, so you can get refills without having to stray far from your spot on the lush green grass. Food-wise their menu includes most of your standard pub style food, with prices a little on the higher end but not exorbitantly so. My meal was quite good and paired well with the flight of beer I was drinking. A pint of beer will cost you about $5-6 and they are open late every night for those who like to spend the evening with good friends drinking craft beer. Score: 4/5
- Ambiance – The back lawn and mini-bar alone make for a relaxed, almost picnic-like atmosphere. With televisions inside and lawn games out, there is something for everyone to do. They host lots of events at the brewery, including weekly live music on Friday and Saturday nights in the summer. Even better, every other Wednesday they partner with the Humane Society of Central Oregon for an event called Ales and Tales, which is basically just a big adoption event. I love to see breweries engaging with the community like this and it warms my heart that they are helping get animals adopted. Plus, who doesn’t want to play with puppies and kittens while enjoying an afternoon at a brewery? Score: 4/5
- Location – Bend Brewing Company’s biggest selling point is their location, right on a beautiful…bend…in the river. Sitting right on the edge of downtown, there is so much to do close by if you wanted to explore some of the city. Parking is limited at the brewery, but they are very walking and biking friendly. Close by, you can stroll along a beautiful riverfront, do some shopping, and bar/brewery hop around town. Not that you will want to leave the back lawn. Score: 3/5
- Customer Service – The service was efficient and nice enough, but I noticed a trend while I was there. I felt like they did not have enough people to cover the entire restaurant portion of the brewery. I was seated outside and saw two separate groups get seated and then leave when no one came to check on them in a timely manner. I did not have that problem as I was greeted and seated quickly and checked on frequently throughout my visit. Maybe it was just an off night, but I can see how it might get overwhelming if it was busy in the evening. Score: 3/5
Total Score: 16.5/25
Final Thoughts: A beautiful location is marred somewhat by customer service concerns and beer that just did not wow me. It is certainly worth at least one visit in the evening for dinner and drinks to watch the sunset, but with all the other unique options in Bend it makes it hard to justify a second visit for me. I am all about second chances though, so maybe I will stop by again at some point and see what they have new on tap.