I’ve lived in Bend, Oregon for 13 years, so I’ve always had a dim notion we’ve got lots of great craft breweries.

The “dim” part of that isn’t the result of beer consumption – it’s just that I never put two and two together and realized there are seven (count ‘em, SEVEN) great breweries within stumbling staggering walking distance of downtown Bend.

The impressively huge bottling operation at Deschutes Brewery.

Fortunately, Visit Bend did put two and two together when they launched the Bend Ale Trail last spring, giving beer aficionados a chance to collect passport stamps and prizes for making the rounds to local breweries.

Even more fortunately, Wanderlust Tours created the Bend Brew Bus to enhance your Ale Trail experience. For just $45, you get complimentary beer samples, a guided tour of local sites, appetizers at the last brewery, and round-trip transportation from your home or hotel to the breweries. Talk about the ultimate designated driver!

Wanderlust has partnered with all the breweries on the Bend Ale Trail, but to ensure tour guests don’t end up drooling on themselves in the back of the bus, they limit the tour to four. The selection rotates each time, but my recent adventure with Wanderlust included stops at Deschutes Brewery, Cascade Lakes Brewing Company, Boneyard Beer, and McMenamins Old St. Francis.

It was the perfect combination.

Deschutes Brewery gave us amazing samples and a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of Oregon’s largest craft brewery. Cascade Lakes offered more great beer and a rousing dart game that, surprisingly, left all tour participants still in possession of both eyeballs. Though I hadn’t set foot in Boneyard Beer or sampled any offerings before the tour, I left with a 64-ounce growler of their fabulous “Girl Beer” and a wild appreciation for this small-but-growing operation. Last but not least was our stop at McMenamins, where we got a guided tour from the brewer himself, capped off with more beer tasting and tater tots.

Quirky little Boneyard Beer makes some impressive brews!

If you’ve ever considered doing The Bend Ale Trail, I can promise The Bend Brew Bus is worth every penny for the entertainment, transportation, and more beer than you can possibly consume in an afternoon. Our guide – James Jaggard – was informative, funny and charming (becoming more so with each beer I consumed).

For other alternatives on the Bend Ale Trail experience, try John Flannery of GETIT Shuttle (also known as Green Energy Transportation & Intra-area Tour shuttle). He offers Bend Ale Trail tours the first Saturday of each month as well as private large group tours. The Cowboy Carriage Company gives you the opportunity to make the rounds while sitting atop a hay bale in the back of a horse drawn carriage.

If you want a culinary twist to your Bend Ale Trail experience, check out the Pub Crawl Tour with Chef Bette at The Well Traveled Fork.

No matter how you choose to do the Bend Ale Trail, I can promise you’ll have an incredible time. Just remember to drink responsibly, OK? Bail isn’t included with brewery tours.

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