Bend, Oregon: Where Beer-lovers and Dog-lovers Unite

Bikes, dogs, beer: Sadly, something’s gotta give. I just finished a big triathlon last weekend, so we choose the dog over the bikes, giving my legs a rest and making Milo’s tail thump in triumph. We’re camping our way down central Oregon in search of great beer and confirmation that Bend is as dog-friendly as they say. However, traveling a region known as much for its great bike riding as its hospitality toward dogs makes me wish more than once that Milo could travel on two wheels.

Nonetheless, we head for the beer capital of the Northwest, and about 10 miles past the Washington-Oregon border, I realize that I left my ID at home. I’ll have to charm bartenders and brewers with my sob story about not drinking a lick during the four months leading up to my big race and see how much they empathize.

“Dog Fancy Magazine” named Bend the most dog-friendly city in North America in 2012, and we’re eager to see how a city earns its top-dog status. That night, Bend welcomes us with a gorgeous dry electrical show that lasts well past our bedtime.

Photo: Janelle McCabe
Photo: Janelle McCabe

Close enough to noon the next day, we start at 10 Barrels Brewery, which has a dog-friendly outdoor patio and a tasty menu and brew list. The family at the next table gives us a whole list of dog-friendly places to visit while their curly headed 3-year-old spoils Milo with rubs and bites of her grilled cheese sandwich.

Crux Fermentation Project serves their own and others’ brews at a warehouse-style building with an adjacent dog-friendly patio and lawn perfect for Frisbee and corn hole. As we enjoy the beer sampler and beer-boiled pretzels, a thunderstorm rolls right over the top of us – the nearest lightning strike is a couple hundred feet away, and we actually hear the sizzle-buzz sound when it strikes. The ensuing rain makes us wonder how securely we buttoned down our campsite, but then we order another beer with an “it’s out of our hands now” shrug. Because we’re tourists, we shamelessly buy a sealed pint of Dog Grog (something good for our dog leftover from the beer-making process, our server explains) for Milo as we close our tab.

Bend is indeed dog-friendly. But it’s also just plain friendly, in a genuine way, not in a “we have a friendly image to cultivate” way. People regularly initiate conversation with us, often just using Milo as a way to engage. Almost every shop has a doggie dish of water set out by the front door, and almost every non-food-serving establishment invites us to bring him into their store when they see us hesitate at the threshold.

Photo: Janelle McCabe
Photo: Janelle McCabe

At Cascade Lakes Brewing Company, we enjoy another dog-friendly patio and dog-petting staff. But by now, even my husband admits that he may be experiencing IPA fatigue. After a plate of fried oysters, we head back to our campsite, which has dried out in the mid-summer sun.

Bend boasts a few off-leash dog parks; we visit the Pine Nursery Park, which includes 160 acres of multiple-use areas: bike paths (a unicyclist is owning them this morning), tennis courts and a natural area and pond. The 14-acre off-leash dog area is not your vacant lot of scrub brush-turned-dog park. It’s a huge network of paths, trees, hills and dales that make Milo smile from ear to ear as he chases rock chucks back into their holes.

The last stops on our beer tour are the famous Deschutes Brewery that started it all in Bend in 1998, and McMenamins Old St. Francis School, which isn’t technically a Bend brewery but is in a cool old restored Catholic schoolhouse turned movie theater, so we do our part to support historic building preservation. Both breweries have dog-friendly patio seating, which we’ve grown to expect in this town.

We pass by a real estate office in the pedestrian-friendly downtown and catch ourselves checking out for-sale flyers and starting our sentences with, “if we lived here….” We’re approached and mistaken as locals by other visitors and locals, which we take as high praise. The only grudge I have against Bend as it fades in our rear-view mirror is the way it turned our would-be mishap into a non-issue: I wasn’t ID’d once. //

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