I’ll be honest, I’ve been putting off writing this review for a while. This is the final entry from my Bend beer extravaganza, and it was an ignominious end. Looking for a place to eat and try some beer on my last night in town, I settled on Cascade Lakes as they were within walking distance from my hotel. Founded in Redmond, Oregon in 1994, Cascade Lakes has expanded to two locations, one in their home town and their flagship location in Bend. They claim to be old school, brewing beer the right way, though I’m not entirely sure what that means or how it translates to what they offer. So, grab a beer and sit back while I flood your ears with a lakes worth of information on another Bend brewery.
- Beer – Another brewery whose beers I have had before visiting the source, I was once again eager to try some of their other offerings. Their tap list is divided into the annuals and special release offerings, with a relatively small level of diversity on tap. The annual beers are hop heavy, with IPAs composing 3/5 of the list. The special releases also trend towards the hop side, with a few more IPAs and pale ales, though they do have a nice porter that was my favorite of the trip. As for the quality, I would call their beers average. By no means are they awful beers, but there is also nothing that stands out. Where is the variety, the experimentation? Pilot batches where your brewers can go wild and create something off the wall? They proudly advertise themselves as old school, thinking it lends an intangible sense of craftiness, when in reality it allows them to feel comfortable in their mediocrity. The data bears it out to: if you look at the Brewers Association’s list of top craft breweries in Oregon, Cascade Lakes is in the top ten oldest breweries, yet it doesn’t crack the top twenty in terms of sales volume, losing out to many younger and more innovative breweries and other older breweries that have learned to adapt (2017 data). To be honest, I wonder if they spend more time coming up with the names for their beers than they do for the recipes. Score: 2.5/5
- Brewery – Ski lodge is the theme they are going for here, with tons of wood accents, brick fireplaces, and even a mock-up ski lift car sitting in the patio area. There’s even a stuffed moose head on the wall, gazing imperiously out at everyone drinking. The design has so much potential, while the execution falls a bit flat. The interior is dark, even in the height of the central Oregon summer, and with sunlight streaming in through the large windows, it still felt like a cave. The interior is divided into the bar seating area, with plenty of seating at tables and the aforementioned bar, and a large dining area with numerous tables. Everything inside looked and felt a bit shabby, with the tables exhibiting an unhealthy level of stickiness and an overall sense of benign neglect. The outdoor area was a bit more of a bright spot, no pun intended. While small, it still allowed you to enjoy the sunlight filtering down through the trees and enjoy the beautiful weather during the summer months. The food was ok, though it mostly sticks to pub or sports bar style eats. The portions are large and the prices comparatively lower than some of the other places around town. Open every day until late, you could stop in at any time for food and beer, I guess. Score: 2/5
- Ambiance and Entertainment – Make no mistake, this place is more brewpub than taproom, and therefore the entertainment aspect is mostly limited to a few televisions scattered around the bar portion. Occasional special events dot their schedule, but I saw no mention of live music events or bottle release parties. No patio games or trivia nights are listed to help pull in a more varied clientele. To be honest, the only reason to go here is for food and a drink, maybe with some sort of sporting event thrown in the mix. Otherwise, there is not much else to draw you in. Score: 2/5
- Location – They get points if for nothing else than being in Bend, one of the best cities in the country in my opinion. Their location is a bit away from what would be considered the hip parts of town, though the Old Mill District is a short walk away and downtown a few minutes by car. There are plenty of other restaurants and a plethora of breweries just a short distance away if you elect to move on from here. Bend is such a pedestrian and bike friendly city and they are easy to reach by either, though there is plenty of onsite parking should you drive. Score: 3/5
- Customer Service – Easily their strongest category here, my server was very attentive and friendly, making some great food recommendations while I perused the menu. My orders were taken swiftly, and the wait time was minimal for drinks and food. In general, all the other patrons received similar quality service from what I could see, though were it to get busier, I hope they have more staff as the few I saw would not be able to handle a full house. Score: 3/5
Total Score: 12.5/25
Favorite Beer: Salted Caramel Porter – 5.8% ABV Porter
Final Thoughts: Easily the most disappointing of all the Bend breweries I went to. Lack of beer innovation in a city that defines craft beer to a brewpub that falls flat on quality experience, I don’t know that I would ever go back.