My next Bend beer ballyhoo takes me a little off the beaten bath to Crux Fermentation project. This was another brewery that I have bought their beer from the store before and was excited to try from the source. Relatively new to the craft beer scene, Crux has been brewing since 2012 out of an old converted transmission shop in the middle of Bend, Oregon. It is interesting to note that most of their brewery furnishings and equipment are reclaimed or recycled, including the brew kettles. So, grab a cold one and listen as I get to the crux of the matter on this interesting entry in central Oregon’s craft beer scene.
- Beer – If you like variety and creativity, this is the place to go. From pilsners to pale ales, lagers to bíere de mars, you will find just about any style you want. They also offer several interesting barrel aged beers on tap at the brewery for those with a more adventurous side (or just want to live dangerously with a high ABV). Aside from their porter, which I’ve had before and am a big fan of, they had a New England IPA on tap that was just the right balance of hops and haziness with a citrusy, tropical mouth feel that went down smooth. Crux is a well-rounded brewery that is not afraid to experiment with flavors, techniques, and ingredients while producing an excellent stable of year-round beers. My only regret was that I did not have time to try them all. Score: 4.5/5
- Brewery – This place was once a transmission shop, and it shows in the design of the building all the way down to their logo adoring their staff trucker hats. The first thing you notice upon walking up is the veritable wall of hops growing out front. Standing at least twenty feet high are dozens of hop bines wending their way skyward, providing the intrepid brewery adventurer ample shade to sit and sip. On the inside they left the bare bones of the building’s former life visible, with cinder block walls and concrete floors peeking through wood and chrome accents. What really catches the eye is the direct views in to the brew floor, giving a hint at the sheer capacity they have to produce delightful draughts. While there is not an overwhelming amount of room to sit inside, as one would expect for a tap room nestled in a working brewery, the outdoor area more than makes up for it. Fire pits and food trucks, not to mention a walk-up bar and a huge back lawn to frolic in make for an appealing hang out spot. Their in-house menu is mostly light pub fare that sources some of their components from a local bakery. The prices are a little on the higher side, with a pint of beer costing you anywhere from $5.50 to $10 for some of their barrel-aged offerings. Open every day until at least 9 pm (10 on Friday and Saturday), plan to spend a whole evening here so you can watch the sun set behind the Cascades with any of their delightful brews in hand. Score: 4/5
- Ambiance – This place was hopping (I’m so sorry for the terrible pun, I just can’t help myself). Though there were no televisions and minimal indoor or outdoor games to play, I still had the feeling that it didn’t matter, that you are going to have fun no matter what when you visit. Perhaps it is the large outdoor area, perfect for gathering round a fire pit or sprawling out on the grass. Or maybe it is the scent of fresh, growing hop bines out front that create such an inviting place. From the relaxed attitude of almost everyone I met, this place cultivates a feeling of comradery and enjoyment of the moment. As a plus they have bottle release events and live music in the summer, creating some added experiences to enjoy. Score: 4/5
- Location – Crux can be a bit challenging to find, even with GPS. Tucked away next to the highway, one of the two access roads is closed to motorized vehicles about a quarter mile from the brewery. In addition, on-site parking is limited, so prepare for a little light exercise to and from the taproom. With the Old Mill District and downtown Bend a short distance away, as well as some great restaurants and other breweries, you can find just about anything you might want, should you wish to wander away from the wonderful sunset views of the mountains. Score: 3/5
- Customer Service – The main critique I have here is the lack of adequate staffing behind the bar. The place was packed when I stopped in and only one bar tender was available to pour beer for the entire time I was waiting to order. It took a line of people two deep before someone else came along to help. While certainly not a deal breaker as the staff was quite nice and it may have just been an outlier, it was the one dim moment in what was otherwise a brilliant brewery. Score: 2.5/5
Total Score: 18/25
Final Thoughts: Crux offers so many excellent, unique beers combined with a great experience and a lovely tap room that I consider them a must visit when in Bend. Plan to spend an afternoon or evening while you are there, giving yourself plenty of time to try several options on the tap list. You won’t regret it and I’d be willing to bet you go home with a few cans of their beer for later.