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Bend Brewfest Gets a Refresh 

Christmas doesn't come early, but Brewfest does

The world is spinning again and that means beer festivals can return. While beers pair extremely well with tacos (see this week's Chow story for more on that), they also pair perfectly with friends, strangers and (what should be) a warm, sunny day. Bend Brewfest returns May 13 and 14, but not to the amphitheater. The event moves just across the river to the Old Mill, and that's not the only thing new this year. Among the 66 breweries and cideries participating, a few Central Oregon breweries will make their festival debut, such as Van Henion, Boss Rambler, Funky Fauna, Bevel, Ale Apothecary, and, not from Bend but worth the drive over to Eugene, Alesong Brewing and Blending.

click to enlarge UNSPLASH
  • Unsplash

The other big change is timing. Typically staged in August, the amphitheater's newfound mighty concert lineup means more bands, fewer brews. The expanded concert series necessitated the physical move, since the amphitheater is still under "phase two" of construction. But if we're being honest, May feels like the smarter move. Not only will the event skew heavier toward locals since it goes down before Memorial Day, but August is already prime time for outdoor beer drinking and also, heaven forbid, fire season, or one of those dreaded heat domes.

That said, expect some crowds who may or may not be there for the beer as Pole Pedal Paddle also returns after its two-year hiatus and overlaps with the Brewfest's second day.

For beer geeks or even run of the (old) mill quaffers, another exciting development is the expansion of Bend Brewfest's "X-tap." Certainly, day-in, day-out beer drinking is centered around suds like Boneyard Hop-A-Wheelie IPA or Breakside Rainbows & Unicorns IPA or pFriem Sparkling IPA. But landing betwixt Lulu Lemon and Vanilla, most of the participating breweries are raiding their cellars or coolers for a vaunted beer worthy of the X-tap, meaning something rarer than a production beer. This is where the big, boozy imperial stouts and pucker-inducing wild ales will be available, generally only two at a time and only for half-hour windows. Don't miss out on Gigantic's Massive (14.3% bourbon-aged barleywine), GoodLife's Pinot Beer (9.3% beer-wine hybrid), and Alesong's Gose Anejo (7.5% tequila-aged, margarita-inspired gose ale).

"I love that the X-tap has grown," said Brewfest's marketing director Beau Eastes. "It makes it more of a higher end festival with these 40-plus exciting, innovative beers that add value and stand out from the also-great beers already there."

If you've volunteered to pour at the brewfest in the past, alas, no go, as the organizers moved to paid staff this year. The brewers won't be pouring their own beers, either; instead, beer will come from four total pouring stations along the eastside River Trail. Attendees can expect to find most of the brewers on hand at the X-tap to answer any questions about the rarities or the breweries in general.

Eastes also commented on another new addition. "It's the first time we're doing pre-sale tickets. There are a limited number of tasting packages available online." That admission runs $40 (with no service fee online) versus $50 at the gate.

Speaking of savings, ticket holders are admitted to the pre-funk party at Silver Moon Brewing on Thursday, May 12—or anyone can attend for $10. What costs more than $10 ($125 to be specific) is the first-of-its-kind gastropub dinner at Boxwood Kitchen in the Old Mill featuring five courses paired with seven beers from Hood River's pFriem Family Brewers.

The fact that beer festivals can take place again and offer a communal experience with others who appreciate great beers is the one aspect that's not new, but a welcome return.

Bend Brewfest
Fri., May 13- Sat., May 14
Old Mill District
450 SW Powerhouse Dr., Bend
BendBrewfest.com

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