Six Stunning Central Oregon Landmarks—and the Beers Named In Their Honor
Is there a more quintessential Central Oregon experience than spending a day outdoors—and topping it off with a locally brewed beer at one of the region’s many craft breweries?
Given that close proximity to the great outdoors, it’s only fitting that Central Oregon breweries would pay tribute to local landmarks and natural icons with a variety of craft beers. And it’s not as if they want for inspiration: Over the years, local breweries have named ales and lagers for Mirror Pond in downtown Bend, Stein’s Pillar near Prineville, the Three Sisters, and other popular destinations.
So if you’re looking to explore the Central Oregon outdoors and refresh with a pint or two afterward, here’s a look at some of those beers—and where they drew their inspiration.
Drink This: It’d be irresponsible to write this post without acknowledging Deschutes Brewery’s lineup of classic beers, several of which are named for Central Oregon landmarks. Three year-round beers are named for local icons—Mirror Pond Pale Ale is named for a manmade lake on the Deschutes River, Black Butte Porter shares a name with the extinct stratovolcano west of Sisters, and Obsidian Stout draws its inspiration from the abundance of black lava rock found throughout the region. And the seasonal Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale is a nod to the iconic red chair lifts on Mt. Bachelor.
See That: Enjoy a low-effort, high-reward view of Mirror Pond in the heart of downtown Bend; the lake is flanked on the west by Harmon Park and on the east by Drake Park and can be viewed from along flat, accessible paths bordering the Deschutes River.
For more of a challenge, consider hiking up to the summit of Black Butte. The 4.8-mile, out-and-back trail gains 1,555 feet; at the summit, hikers enjoy views of Broken Top, South and North Sister, Belknap Crater, Mount Washington, Three-Fingered Jack, Mount Jefferson, and—on a clear day—Mount Hood and Mount Adams.
Drink This: The 3 Sisters American Red Ale from Wild Ride Brewing boasts a flavor profile nearly as dramatic as the peaks for which it is named. The amber-hued ale bears all the hallmarks of a classic red ale, mixing notes of toffee and caramel with a slight, citrus-tinged bitterness.
See That: If the McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass National Scenic Byway is open—generally between mid-June and November—hop in the car and head to the Dee Wright Observatory. Built in the 1930s, the observatory sits amid a sea of black lava rock and promises panoramic views of a dozen or so peaks spanning Central Oregon—including, most prominently, the Three Sisters.
Drink This: Crux Fermentation Project is rightfully celebrated for its eclectic lineup of IPAs, but the brewery’s flagship porter is no slouch: The PCT Porter sports a balanced flavor profile, with roasted coffee notes mingling effortlessly with sweeter hints of dark chocolate, vanilla, and toffee.
See That: We don’t expect you to hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail, but the Pacific Crest Trailhead at McKenzie Pass—sitting just below the summit of the pass—offers a nice, out-and-back introduction to the various landscapes through which the PCT passes. (Note that the trail is only accessible when the McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass National Scenic Byway is open—and, effective Memorial Day Weekend in 2020, hikers will be required to obtain a day-use permit to hike this section of trail.)
From the trailhead, the path ascends through a forest of fir and pine before emerging in a miles-wide sea of lava rock. Some 2.7 miles beyond the trailhead, after a steady, yet gradual ascent of 1,020 feet, hikers can turn right onto a short spur trail to Little Belknap Crater. Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington, and the Three Sisters are some of the many peaks you’ll see from the rocky summit of Little Belknap Crater.
Drink This: Three Creeks Brewing pays tribute to Central Oregon’s only nighttime ski destination with its Hoodoo Voodoo IPA. The classic Northwest IPA balances subtle malt flavors with notes of grapefruit and a bitter finish befitting the style.
See That: The Hoodoo Ski Area sits just west of Sisters at the summit of Santiam Pass. The ski area offers weekend night sessions during ski season, with a rounded butte and wide-open terrain providing plenty of room for exploration.
Drink This: Ochoco Brewing Company pays tribute to Stein’s Pillar with the cheekily named Steins (Steens) Pilsner. The smooth-drinking pilsner was brewed with imported German pilsner malt and fermented with the classic Czech Pils yeast for a smooth, easy-drinking lager.
(Fun fact: The name of the beer is a subtle wink to a common misspelling: Steins Pillar was named for Major Enoch Steens, a military officer who explored the region in the mid-1800s—and whose name was misspelled so often, the incorrect spelling stuck.)
See That: Steins Pillar is a 350-foot column of rhyolite ash that formed some 40 million years ago during the collapse of the Wildcat Caldera. Today, you have two options for viewing the pillar: One comes at a roadside viewpoint along Mill Creek Road (which becomes Forest Road 33), some 20 miles east of Prineville.
For a closer look, take a pleasant, 4.5-mile round-trip hike to the base of the pillar. The path gains 735 feet in all, traversing a forest of ponderosa pine and springtime wildflower meadows. A viewpoint along the way offers wide-open views of the pillar, and the trail ends at its base.
Drink This: Bridge 99 Brewery’s Wizard Falls IPA is the kind of IPA on which Central Oregon’s historic brewing culture was built: The West Coast IPA showcases a clean mix of orange zest, lemon, grapefruit, and other citrusy flavors, finishing with a pine-tinged aftertaste that hopheads have come to love and expect from the style.
See That: Wizard Falls itself more closely resembles a quick rapid in the Metolius River than what you’d usually expect from a waterfall. Rather, the real attraction is the nearby Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery. The hatchery incubates and rears kokanee salmon, rainbow trout, Chinook salmon, and steelhead, complete with a display pond, interpretive panels, and a viewing platform for a closer look—all in the heart of the Deschutes National Forest.