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How to Brewfest: Making the Most of Bend’s Unofficial Holiday

Bend Brewfest at the Old Mill District in Bend, Oregon

Here’s our guide for how to make the most of Bend Brewfest weekend.

Volunteers pour beer at Bend Brewfest in Bend, Oregon.
Photo by Lasala Images

Bend Brewfest (#BendBrewfest ) takes place August 10 to 12, and is one of the best events in Bend each summer. Held at at the Les Schwab Amphitheater in the Old Mill District along the Deschutes River, Brewfest brings in dozens of craft breweries from around the region to show off their latest brews. Here’s our guide for how to make the most of the Brewfest weekend.

How it works: $20 gets you a tasting mug and five tokens. Each token is one taste. You can buy additional tokens (5 or $5) at the information booths. All ages are welcome until 5 p.m. (after that it’s 21-and-over), but the party keeps going well into the night.

Best way to get there: Walking. There’s a lot of traffic around the Old Mill District during Brewfest weekend. Avoid the traffic and walk, bike, or take and Uber (new users get $10 off with the code BENDBREWFEST) of Lyft to and from Brewfest.

Best day to go: Well, that depends on you. If you’re there for the beer, particularly the specialty and small batch runs, and would rather avoid the big crowds on the weekend, Thursday is your day. Sure, you might be a little late for work the next morning, but if you get there on opening day, you are sure not to miss your favorite beers (because they can run out). The crowd isn’t as large as Friday or Saturday night, so you won’t have to wait in long lines to taste. On the other hand if you’re looking for a party, Saturday is the big blowout. Tons of people. A raucous crowd and a deejay pumping a dance heavy mix into the night. Afterward the party pours into the streets and nearby bars where drinks continue to flow and the good times continue to roll.

Look out for: ABVs. The alcohol by volume number can sneak up on people. Some of the specialty brews can have ABVs of seven percent and higher, which will catch up to you quickly if you aren’t careful. Bring a water bottle—they are permitted and there are places to fill it up with water throughout. If you’re planning a thorough tasting tour, make sure to have a plan to get home safely.

Don’t miss: X-Taps. Each brewery brings two to three regular beers to pour for the event, and then a speciality, small-batch brew that you’ll only find at Brewfest. Those brews will only be poured during certain times in the Brewtality tent. Find the schedule of the X-Taps so you don’t miss out on some spectacular experimental batches of beer and cider.

Fun event to try: Stein Hosting. Large mugs filled with three pounds, and people compete to see how long they can hold them up. Test your skills by signing up for the competition that takes place throughout the day on Saturday.

Beyond Brewfest: When you need a break from the festivities.

Since you’re already at the Old Mill, you can stay cool by floating the river or renting a kayak or paddleboard and play on the water for a few hours. There are also places to rent bikes and explore town on wheels. Tumalo Creek and Kayak rents from their shop on the river which provides convenient parking and float out, float in access. You can also rent tubes riverside from Sun Country Tours which operates a stand at Farewell Bend Park.

You’re also a few steps away from the Deschutes River Trail, and you can find miles of urban hiking or mountain biking in the area. From the Old Mill you can walk along the paved path to Bill Heally Bridge where primitive gravel path parallels the Deschutes River for a two-mile loop that features a wooden boardwalk and pedestrian bridge that allows users to hike the short route as a loop.

If you’re looking for a place to sit down and eat, you can find a few of our favorite patio dining options within walking or biking distance. No visit to Bend is totally complete without a burrito or wrap at the iconic Parilla restaurant on Galveston that can be washed down with a house margarita or $2 PBR. Across town, El Sancho is the go-to place for street tacos that can be scarfed on their patio.

And if you haven’t had your fill of beer yet, you can head to Immersion Brewing and brew your own batch of beer. You can also head to Crux, one of Bend’s newer and more popular craft breweries, whose fermentation program is overseen by Larry Sidor, former Deschutes Head Brewer, and Crux founder. The brewery is tucked away in and old industrial area in a converted automotive shop and features a large and popular lawn and patio, where friends coworkers and families gather to on weekends and after work to sip ale and play cornhole or toss a frisbee.

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