Brew it Yourself at Bend’s Immersion Brewing

Central Oregon’s thriving craft beer scene is a hugely popular experience for visitors to the High Desert.

You can drink it.

You can take a brewery tour and learn about it.

And now, you can brew it yourself.

Bend’s Immersion Brewing is the state’s first “Brew-it-Yourself” brewery, offering visitors a chance to come up with their own sudsy creation from start to finish. You can even design your own label for the bottles.

There are more than 30 recipes to choose from, including Kolsch, Blonde Ales, American Pale Ales, Imperial Stouts, Holiday Ales, Wheat Ales and several IPAs. A recipe card will walk you through the step-by-step process, but an experienced brewer will also be by your side to talk you through it and offer some help if you need it. The two-hour brewing session nets you about five gallons of beer! Brew sessions range in price from $180 – $220 depending on beer recipe – and it includes the beer, bottles, caps, and labeling.

Once the beer is created, it takes about two weeks for it to ferment. You’ll come back to the pub to carbonate, bottle and label your two cases of 22 oz. beers before taking them home. (Oregon residents who aren’t able to come back to bottle can have the brewery ship them to you. Out of state guests can choose beer created by someone else to take home.)

It’s a great team-building exercise that involves some teamwork while allowing time to enjoy one of the numerous beers on tap at the pub and have a bite to eat from their full menu. The Visit Central Oregon team (that’s us in the video above) experienced it in late October and it was a ton of fun – and really informative. The Immersion brewer who helped us, Josh Cosci, was very patient and chock full of great info throughout the process.

The pub and brewery are located in The Box Factory, a lively collection of shops and restaurants adjacent to the Old Mill District and near Bend’s historic downtown.

For more information on Immersion’s Brew-it-Yourself opportunity, visit the Immersion Brewing website.

 

Larger Pours, Longer Hours – Deschutes Brewery Tours Expand

Deschutes Brewery is Bend’s first and largest brewery – and it’s one of the first stops for beer-loving visitors looking to get a behind-the-scenes look at a pioneer in the industry. (An industry that’s thriving here in Central Oregon, by the way. We’re now home to roughly 30 brewpubs and the famed Bend Ale Trail.)

Tours of the ever-growing brewing facility have gained in popularity in recent years. So much so that Deschutes has announced it’s expanding the tours to help accommodate more visitors each day. The brewery now offers four tours a day every hour on the hour between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. (The taps in the tasting room will be open from noon to 7 p.m.)

Additionally, not only will you get a couple of complimentary samples of Deschutes’ delicious brews, but you now have the opportunity to purchase full drafts, half pints, snifters and non-alcoholic beverages on site and enjoy them until early evening.

A new food truck will be stationed outside the brewery to help quell any hunger pangs you might get during the tour. Lighter, pre-packaged snacks will also be available for sale inside.

The tours take about 45 minutes and cost $5 per person. They include two beer samples during the tour to, as Deschutes puts it, “provide a more immersive experience that combines the unique sights, sounds and fragrant smells of the brewery with a taste of the freshest end products.”

During the tour, you’ll truly see it all – from hops to bottle tops – including a cool look at the history of Deschutes’ iconic Jubelale label art.

The tasting room also features a huge selection of Deschutes Brewery swag like hats, beanies, sweatshirts, t-shirts, pint glasses and so much more. You can also buy beer to go, making sure your vacation rental fridge is fully stocked during your Central Oregon vacation.

To book a tour online, visit https://www.deschutesbrewery.com/brewery-tour/

9 Adrenaline Pumping Adventures in Central Oregon

Sure, you could just sit around by the pool, ski, play some golf or take a leisurely hike along the river trail during a visit to Central Oregon. That right there is a fab vacation.

But why not do something that really gets the heart pumping? Something that will have you equally scared and excited. Something that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

Central Oregon has a bunch of high-octane adventures ready to help you take your vacation to the next level. Here’s our list of 9 Central Oregon adventures that will send your ticker into overdrive!

Fly Cascades Winter Wonderland Heli Tour

1. Helicopter Tours

Your heart starts beating more rapidly as soon as you step on the tarmac and make your way to the chopper. From there, your BPM likely will hover in the 110s as the helicopter gains altitude and starts flying over some of Central Oregon’s most iconic mountain peaks. See Smith Rock, the Deschutes River, Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top and South Sister like you’ve never seen before as the wind whips through the open doors of your aerial chariot. Big Mountain Heli Tours offers a variety of customizable tours.

2. Backcountry ATV Tours

Buckle up for the ultimate all-terrain adventure as you set out for a half-day tour of Central Oregon’s lava fields, forests, and high desert. Outriders NW offers you the opportunity to pilot the car or just ride along. With over 3,000 square miles of sparkling lakes, spectacular mountains, and wide-open deserts, safely access the rugged forest and high desert to explore and experience the unseen natural beauty, that most people never see in a lifetime.

3. Aerobatic Adventure Flights

For the person who wants to experience the thrills and joys of aerobatic flight without taking the controls. At Advanced Flight Dynamics, you come to their squadron, get your briefing, strap into the airplane, and set off for up to 20 minutes of extreme fun in their Xtreme Decathlon airplane while our pilot does all the flying. The pilots will fly as gentle or extreme as you like. When you return you can watch the video of your flight so all can watch and take it home with you.

4. Downhill Mountain Biking

As an extension to the 300+ miles of mountain bike singletrack offered here in Central Oregon, The Mt. Bachelor Bike Park offers lift-served access to an additional 13 miles of downhill oriented trails. The ski area’s beginner lift, Sunshine Accelerator serves as a great introduction to the bike park for all ability levels. From there, riders can progress to Pine Marten Express where a combination of machine built and single track trails provide a thrill for any adventurous spirit – from intermediate runs to advance double black diamond trails.

Chockstone

5. Rock Climbing at Smith Rock

Smith Rock is the birthplace of American sport climbing and on any given day you’ll see expert climbers scaling the sandstone spires that rise to the sky from the banks of the Crooked River. But here’s the thing: Even expert climbers had to start somewhere. Chockstone Climbing Guides has a variety of guided adventures and courses to let you experience the white-knuckle thrills of rock climbing. No experience necessary – and they provide all the gear.

6. Whitewater Rafting

What good is having a wild and scenic river if you can’t experience the “wild” part every now and then? Central Oregon has a handful of whitewater guides who can help you get up close and personal to one of the region’s most exciting playgrounds. Sun Country Tours runs the hugely popular Big Eddy Thrill Ride daily during the summer – sometimes with a local beer tasting event thrown in for good measure! Other options include Ouzel Outfitters and Imperial River Co. 

7. Bungee Jumping

I’m not sure there’s anything that will get your heart beating more rapidly than literally jumping off of a bridge. Just typing that sentence sent my heart racing. Central Oregon Bungee Adventures gives you the ability to experience the closest thing to actually flying by letting you throw yourself off a bridge at Peter Skene Ogden State Park, into the Crooked River Canyon.

Hot air balloon floating near Bend, Oregon

8. Hot Air Balloon Rides

Experience “The Art of Flight” with Big Sky Balloon Company. Hour long scenic hot air balloon flights provide a one of a kind experience in Central Oregon. Big Sky flies once a day, early in the morning and the flights are very weather dependent. Typically they’re airborne within an hour of sunrise.

Not interested in flying in a balloon? You can just enjoy the scenery at the annual Balloons Over Bend event in late June.

9. Zip Lining

Crater Lake is just 90 minutes south of Bend, making it a perfect day trip for one of the true “must see” natural wonders of the world. Drive about a half hour further and you can experience Oregon’s largest zipline. You’ll experience Oregon at its finest on your 3-hour tour with Crater Lake ZipLine. With magnificent views of Upper Klamath Lake, Cascade Mountain peaks and surrounding National Forest, you’ll be thrilled by the beauty and the adventure.

Looking for some more exciting adventures?

Take your group into the woods for an hour of paintball action with Paintball Paradise. Test your investigative skills with the Bend Escape Room – a physical adventure game where participants are placed into a room and have to use teamwork along with elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles, find clues, and escape the room within a set time limit. Each room is themed and has a unique storyline that engages the players through their environment.

Stars Over Newberry Event Set to Showcase the Night Sky

wesley - lava butte

The fourth annual, Stars Over Newberry fundraiser will take place on Friday, August 10th, 2018 atop Lava Butte in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.  This unique annual event gives visitors an unparalleled vista of the night sky.

All proceeds from the auction will benefit Discover Your Forest, the non-profit partner of the Central Oregon national forests and grassland. The event will feature stargazing with Worthy Garden Club and Sisters Astronomy Club, live music by Blackstrap Bluegrass, a silent auction, delicious Worthy Brewing beers, wine from Volcano Vineyards and creative bites by Wild Oregon Foods.

Stars Over Newberry largest annual fundraising event for Discover Your Forest, which supports stewardship, conservation education and volunteer programs in Central Oregon’s National Forests. The event runs from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. and will cost you $60. You can learn more and sign up here: discoveryourforest.org

NEWBERRY-BIG-OBSIDIAN-FLOW-PANO

Bend’s Worthy Brewing Expands to the Stars with New Hopservatory

Bend’s growing beer scene has seen numerous breweries expand facilities and pubs to accommodate their skyrocketing popularity.

But Worthy Brewing in Bend is taking its expansion to a new, intergalactic level.

Bend’s only East Side brewpub this spring opened the nation’s first “Hopservatory,” featuring a 50-foot tower that houses a 16-inch RCOS-based Ritchey-Chrétien telescope. Not familiar with that particular model? You can see REALLY far and REALLY clearly into the sky.

The Hopservatory will be run in partnership with the Sunriver Nature Center/Oregon Observatory, who will provide stargazing tour guides to help visitors navigate the skies above.

“Our goal is to raise scientific literacy and educate our visitors about big and unwieldy concepts like scale, size, time, distance, and speed in our solar system and beyond,” Worthy owner Roger Worthington says.

There’s open house viewing on Thursday and Sunday nights from 7 to 9 p.m and Saturday nights from 7 to 10 p.m. with resident sky guy, Grant Tandy. No need to register. Just show up the night of and take the stairs directly to the 3rd floor Hopservatory.

There’s a $5 fee for the tours but all of the proceeds will go to support science literacy programs and initiatives through the Worthy Garden Club, the brewery’s non-profit foundation. (Kids 5 and under are free.)

worthy brewing
Worthy Brewing’s Transporter Room

Additionally, Worthy has unveiled the Transporter Room, Hop Mahal Banquet Hall, the Beermuda Triangle private bar and the Star Bar balcony pub with access to the observatory and amazing views of the Central Oregon sunset. All the new projects are part of a 3,800-square-foot expansion collectively dubbed Beertopia.

worthy brewing
Worthy Brewing’s Hop Mahal banquet room

The Hopservatory joins Worthy’s on-site gardens and greenhouse that grow more than 20 types of hops and other herbs used throughout the brewery’s beer and food menu.

“From our state-of-the-art solar panels to our spent hop recycling program, we try to keep our restaurant and brewery as sustainable as possible,” Worthington said. “This includes our grounds and gardens. Our landscape was designed to conserve water and support a healthy population of pollinators. We grow fresh herbs, greens, and veggies for the kitchen year-round in our high-tech greenhouse and raised garden beds, avoiding the use of harsh fertilizers and pesticides.”

Worthy’s Hop Garden/Courtesy David Zinn & OregonBeerGrowler.Com

Black Butte Ranch Grapes & Golf Event Features Food, Wine and Fun

Put a bow on summer 2017 with a long (romantic maybe?) weekend of golf, wine, food and fun at one of Central Oregon’s most beautiful destination resorts, Black Butte Ranch.

The 2017 Grapes & Golf Couples event happens September 14th-16th and includes a friendly (but competitive) tournament on both of Black Butte’s championship courses, Glaze Meadow and Big Meadow.

The event kicks off Thursday evening with a  wine, cheese and hors d’oeuvres reception.  Friday provides the first tournament round of golf at Glaze Meadow, best ball format, and an exquisite four-course wine dinner at the award-winning Lodge restaurant.  Participants tee off on Saturday for the final tournament round at Big Meadow, Stableford format, followed by a barbecue awards luncheon.  Tee prizes, gifts, and gross & net prize payouts are all part of the event.

Lest you think it’s not a competition – this year’s tournament winners will win a VIP experience at the 2018 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. The prize includes two passes for Feb. 8th or Feb. 11th, parking and full access to a hospitality tent on the 18th fairway that features chef-prepared meals, open bar, cigars, etc.  This is one of the most popular events on the PGA TOUR, so this prize is huge!

ENTRY & DETAILS

  • Entry is $550 per team and includes a wine, cheese & hors d’oeuvres reception, two tournament rounds with cart, range balls each day, an exquisitely prepared four-course wine pairing dinner, BBQ awards luncheon, tee prizes & gifts, gross & net prize payouts and more!
  • Optional entry of $750 per couple includes full entry, plus one practice round with cart for two, and four breakfast vouchers for a full breakfast at Robert’s Pub.
  • Participants registered then unable to attend will be eligible for a full refund of tournament entry up to 30 days prior to the event.  No refunds after August 9, 2017.
  • Maximum course handicap is 30/Men and 40/Ladies
  • Gross & Net Divisions (the event will be pre-flighted based on combined player handicap index.  Tournament scoring will be on a gross and net basis for each flight.  Pairings based on handicaps (day one), and tournament position (day two).
  • Winnings are awarded in golf shop credits
  • Practice rounds are available for the special rate of $55 with cart and will be extended in conjunction with your travel.  Call Ryan Dunning at 541.595.1292 for practice round tee times.
  • Participants can secure a 15% discount off lodging at Black Butte Ranch.  A two-night minimum stay applies.  Options range from private Lodge rooms and 2-3 bedroom condos to 6 bedroom custom homes that can accommodate one, two or several couples.  Please call Amanda Golien at 866.681.1123 for reservations and information.

Register Online at BlackButteRanch.com.

Segways Give Futuristic Twist to Bend History Tours

segway tours with bend tour company
Bend Tour Co.

There’s a lot of really interesting history to Bend, Oregon and, as it turns out, the best way to experience it might just be on a futuristic device.

I’ll admit, I was skeptical of hopping aboard a Segway before I visited The Bend Tour Company recently. I’d seen them gliding around town, but I was certain that I’d find a way to crash the ride and injure myself. (More on that in a minute.)

But one of the first things owner Bret Graham explains is that it’s impossible to tip over a Segway – either forward or backward. A quick introduction to the devices inside his store in Bend’s new Box Factory retail space revealed it was a lot like snowboarding – shifting your weight from your toes to your heels. And after an initial nervous lap around his indoor beginner course, it was actually easier than I thought it would be.

Neighborhood tour on Segways in downtown Bend, Oregon

We made a short lap around the parking lot to make sure we knew what we were doing and we were off – a perfect adventure on an 80-degree day in May.

Bret offers several different tour options each day, including an Arts Tour, Brew Taps Tour and two and a half hour Summer Sunset Tour that includes the history and attractions on his traditional tours, but with stops at various brewpubs for samples (or a pint) and some food. That tour wraps up at the Crux Fermentation Project where the view of the sun setting behind the Cascades is absolutely spectacular. (Looking for a little more adrenaline rush during your vacation? Check out the heli-tours offered through BTC.)

Crux Fermentation Project
Crux Fermentation Project, Ben

His classic tour is an hour and a half history lesson on Bend as you roll through the Old Mill District, along the Deschutes River and through some of Bend’s original neighborhoods. He talks of Bend’s logging background and tells the story behind “Whisky Flats.” We stopped in front of Bend’s “2nd Most Haunted Place” and learned about a particularly interesting steel pole on the bank of the river.

The tour itself is an educational experience even for long-time locals like myself. I learned about a street in town that features homes with 17 different architectural designs, I saw Bend’s “greenest” home and I saw the spot of Bend’s very first brewery. (Hint: It’s NOT Deschutes Brewery.)

The Deschutes River runs through Bend’s Old Mill District

Speaking of breweries, we did make our way to Boneyard Brewing for a quick sample before calling our abbreviated tour a success. Well, mostly a success. One of the riders on our tour proved true what Bret told us during our orientation: it’s impossible to tip them over, and it’s nearly impossible to crash.  (He – and the Segway – are fine.)

Let it Ride Bike Tours in Downtown Bend Oregon

As we rolled back into the shop – literally – I was already planning ahead.  My brother, an avid cyclist who lives in Nebraska has said he wants to explore Bend on two wheels – but he didn’t say it had to be by bike.

Now, if we can only figure out how to do a wheelie.

Suttle Lodge & Boathouse Reopens with New Look, Same Rustic Vibe

It’s tough to take something old, make it new, but make sure it still feels old. But that’s exactly what the folks at Suttle Lodge & Boathouse have done.

The rustic resort on the shore of Suttle Lake in the Deschutes National Forest near Sisters reopened in 2016 with a new (old) look and boathouse restaurant.

The 15.5-acre property sits on the shore of Suttle Lake. It’s comprised of a large timber lodge, fully equipped lakeside cabins, camp cabins, a lobby cocktail bar and boathouse. The lodge itself has 11 rooms, a meeting room and the small cocktail lounge is lovingly call “Skip.”

Rack rates for accommodations start at $125/night for camp cabins, and the spacious lodge rooms begin at $275/night. The Boathouse restaurant on a dock beside the lake serves casual breakfast, lunch and dinner. It has a fish-shack-meets-diner-style menu created by chef Joshua McFadden of Portland’s Ava Gene’s.

suttle-deck-resized

The property is an easy overnight getaway from Portland, and perfect for a weeks-long retreat. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed, as a lodge in the woods should be, and families and pets are welcomed.

The focus is on public social spaces: convivial gathering places grounded in the bounty of Oregon food and drink and geared towards the activities and beauty of a forest lake.  A year-round retreat with a camp-like feel, the resort offers canoe, kayak and SUP rentals. Get out into nature with hiking, fishing and swimming. Enjoy the outdoor beer garden and lawn games, arts-and-craft workshops, music events, and a huge roaring fireplace to read or sip bourbon by. Come winter snowshoe and Nordic ski trails, take advantage of nearby hot springs, and hit the slopes of the Hoodoo Ski Area just ten minutes away.

Black Butte Ranch’s “Cool” New Look is a Hit – Lakeside Pool Now Open

With it’s majestic mountain views, two world-class golf courses and multitude of outdoor activities, Black Butte Ranch near Sisters has long been a favorite family vacation destination.

So when the resort opened a new lakeside pool area, bistro and rec center during the summer of 2015, it was just adding to an already spectacular setting.

Black Butte Ranch
Black Butte Ranch lakeside pool

Spectacular indeed. The pool boasts a view unlike any other in Central Oregon – so close to the Cascades that it’s as though you can reach out to touch them while sitting beneath your umbrella sipping a fruity drink.

To read more on the revamped resort, check out this story from The Oregonian.

Black Butte Ranch
Black Butte Ranch lakeside pool bistro

Big Eddy, Bigger Thrills: Whitewater Fun for the Family

 
I don’t like water.

I don’t hate it, but I’m not a huge fan. I can swim just fine so I can’t explain it, really – other than lakes, rivers and oceans seem so massive to me that it’s overwhelming.

So I’ve always passed on opportunities to do the Big Eddy Thrill Ride with Sun Country Tours. The hugely popular whitewater trip takes rafters through a couple of Class 2 and a Class 3 rapids on the Deschutes River. Kids do it. The elderly do it. I think even dogs do it. It’s not – so I’ve been told – a scary proposition.

So with temperatures hovering around 100 degrees recently, and it being the first of Sun Country’s “Raft n’ Brew” charity events,  I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to overcome my fear and tackle the trip. (Knowing there’s beer at the end was a huge incentive.) And when it’s that hot, falling into the cool waters of the Deschutes wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Big Eddy Thriller

After checking in to Sun Country’s Bend offices, just off of 14th Street, we loaded a school bus and headed out for a 10 minute ride to the put-in between Benham Falls and Lava Island Falls. We were given life vests and paddles and – wasting no time at all – were split up into three rafts and got out on the water. Our guide Ross talked a little bit about the water levels on the river (which is regulated for irrigation channels upriver.) The river was flowing at levels higher than he had seen in numerous years despite the drought conditions. What that meant for us – gulp – was the rapids would be especially rapidy.

Things to remember:
* You WILL get wet. Really wet. (See photo above.) So don’t wear your nice shoes or clothes. A swimsuit and sandals (not flip flops) are great.
* Remember sunscreen.
* Kids 6+ will have an absolute blast.
* Don’t show up drunk or with beer. This isn’t a lazy river float.
* Be cool & tip your guide.

We floated along for a while in the gentle current, taking in the amazing scenery along the banks. A lava field on one side, a national forest on the other where hikers and mountain bikers passed each other along the Deschutes River Trail. We talked a little bit about paddling and floated some more before Ross started talking to us about what to expect with the rapids.

After a fun little rapids section, we floated to a take-out spot just above Big Eddy. Everyone got out of the boat and hiked about 30 yards on the trail down river to get a better view of the rapids to come. Ross talked to us some more about what to expect and the need for paddling through it. (And threatening to withold our beer at the end if we didn’t paddle.)

Big Eddy Thriller

Seeing that section before heading into it was really helpful for us/me. Sure, it looked kind of scary but I felt a little better about the situation thanks to everyone’s excitement and Ross assuring us that you’d have to do something really dumb to fall out of the raft.

We hopped back into the raft and took the lead among the group; our heartbeats escalating along with the river currents as we paddled into the swirling waves of water.

Just a few seconds later we were sent into the swells….”Paddle Paddle Paddle!” Ross yelled from the back of the raft as buckets of water dumped upon us…a short break then another round. “Here we go! Paddle!” he yelled again, urging us to guide the raft through the torrent and toward a small, calm cove tucked next to some lava. As quickly as it began, it was over. From there watched the other two rafts go through Big Eddy – their smiles as big as ours.

We paddled through more smaller, rolling rapids before reaching completely calm waters again where some folks decided to jump into the cool river to float a bit on their backs.

Ted-Big-Eddy-4

After about an hour and a half on the water, we floated to the take-out just above Lava Island Falls where our bus was waiting to take us the short distance back to Sun Country HQ. There, out back on a grassy patio we sampled a few Deschutes Brewery beers, had some snacks and talked about how much fun we just had.

My only complaint is that it was so much fun I wished it had been longer. (Sun Country does offer longer tours including half-day and all-day trips.)

I still don’t like water. But with adventures like Big Eddy right in my own back yard, it’s a new relationship I’m interested in exploring.