For as long as I can remember, Oregon’s statewide celebration of craft beer has taken place Presidents’ Day Weekend. But Central Oregon shook things up for Zwickelmania 2017.
While Portland held the event as usual last weekend, Central Oregon is hosting Zwickelmania 2017 on February 25 instead.
While I’m personally bummed because I’ll be out of town, I’m professionally thrilled to bits. No more fighting holiday weekend crowds to get your beer, or splitting your time between Zwickelmania and Oregon Winterfest. Beer fans can devote a whole, luxurious afternoon to the one glorious day when breweries throw their doors wide open for tours, tastings, and more.
Planning to attend Zwickelmania 2017? Here are 10 tips to make the most of your experience!
There are oodles of online resources to help you achieve Zwicklemania nirvana, and it pays to study them before you’ve had a sip of beer.
Review the map to plot your best route between participating breweries.
Skim the online directory so you know what each brewery is offering in terms of beer samples, food, live music, tours, and other amenities.
It’s like cramming for a test, but soooooo much better.
When it comes to completing a Bend Ale Trail passport, you can take years to do it.
But your time is limited when it comes to Zwickelmania 2017, so it’s okay to be choosy. With sixteen breweries participating from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., it’s not physically possible to hit them all unless you plan to dash through the door, grab a beer, and pound it while sprinting to the next brewery.
I don’t recommend that.
What I do recommend is pinpointing a handful of breweries on the list that you really, truly want to visit. Maybe you’re dying to ask questions of the head brewer at McMenamins, or maybe it’s your life’s ambition to taste special brews straight from the Zwickel at Crux. Perhaps you’ve been wanting to see KC Flynn perform at Cascade Lakes Brewing, or maybe you really want to sample the cold-brew cocktails they’ll be doling out at Deschutes.
Bottom line: Pick what you most want to see/do/drink/eat and start there. Then work your way down the list.
Go with a full tummy
The event kickoff at 11 a.m. can throw you for a loop if you show up several hours post-breakfast and fail to get something substantial in your belly before you start guzzling beer. That’s why it’s key to grab a good snack before you set out.
Protein-rich foods like chicken or salmon take longer to digest, which will slow how fast your blood alcohol level goes up. Foods high on the glycemic index like pasta are also a good bet, since alcohol changes your body’s stores of glycogen (a quick energy source stored in the liver).
It’s also smart to snack along the way so you’re filling your belly with something besides beer suds. Most breweries will be doling out free food, so take advantage of it!
Pay attention to location
While many breweries are hosting Zwickelmania 2017 festivities at their actual pub, some are throwing open the doors at the brewing facility itself. Sometimes that’s the same place, and sometimes it isn’t.
To be safe, make sure you consult the list before setting out.
Buddy up to a brewer
Besides the free beer and nibbles, one of the biggest things that separates Zwickelmania from a regular trek around the Bend Ale Trail is the chance to interact with a brewer.
At most participating breweries, the brewers themselves will be on hand to answer questions, talk about the brewing process, or even pour you a pint.
It’s a great opportunity to get the inside scoop about your favorite beer direct from the guy or gal who made it, so don’t be shy! If it helps, jot down a question or two before you go.
Drink plenty of water
Making sure your body fluid doesn’t become 100% beer over the course of an afternoon is crucial when you’re attending a beer-centric event like this. I always stuff a Hydro Flask full of ice water in my purse and refill often as I go.
Don’t even THINK of drinking and driving
There are gazillion ways to travel between breweries without risking a DUI or someone’s life. Here are just a few of them:
- Walk. Especially if the weather’s nice. It’s a great way to see Bend.
- Arrange a shuttle or a Segway outing with The Bend Tour Company.
- Book a half-day tour with The Bend Brew Bus.
- Pedal a bicycle made for 14 with The Cycle Pub of Bend.
- Cruise on an electric bicycle with Let It Ride Electric Bikes’ Brewdie Tour.
- Head out with in a nineteenth-century Victorian-style trolley with The Bend Trolley.
- Travel the trail in style with a limo from JD’s Car Service.
- Call a cab.
While Lyft and Uber aren’t yet in Bend, city officials are getting closer to making it happen (hopefully as soon as May).
But bottom line: There’s no excuse for driving while impaired. Ending up dead or in jail will put a serious damper on your Bend vacation.
Grab a memento
Zwicklemania is a big deal, and it’s fun to have a souvenir to commemorate it. Many participating breweries are offering deep discounts on schwag, so stock up while you can!
Most others will have T-shirts and hats for sale, or pick up a logo’d growler to take home.
Know the secrets
Psst….want a few tidbits of insider info? Here you go:
- Did you notice 10 Barrel Brewing isn’t listed in the lineup of participating breweries? I won’t go into the politics of why that is, but I will tell you they’re definitely still rolling out the red carpet for Zwickelmania. In fact, their Zwickelmania event is typically the first one I hit (and there have been years where I’ve just stayed there the whole day!) This year’s celebration features free Hawaiian style burgers and dogs from Mauna Kea Grill, pulled pork sliders and chicken tacos from Curb B Q, live music, and tons (literally, tons) of free beer. The event takes place at their brewing facility on NE 18th, though there’s a free shuttle from the pub that’ll run you out there and back.
- Not sure you want to spend precious Zwickelmania time driving all the way to Sisters for a visit to Three Creeks Brewing? Here’s something that’ll convince you: The brewery is hosting their annual Zwickelmania breakfast from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., with breakfast snacks, breakfast beers, tours, zwickel tastes, and coffee. It’s a great chance to get an early start before the rest of Zwickelmania festivities even start.
- While Zwickelmania technically ends at 4 p.m., festivities run a little later at Crux Fermentation Project. From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., they’re offering behind-the-scenes tours, rare tastings from their BANISHED series (straight from the barrel!), and tons of great food including their Pork Parfait, Smoke-Aroni, and Rooster’s Kick-Ass Beef Jerky. If I were a betting woman, I’d say the food could run out earlier in the day, but it’s worth staying late anyway for great beer tasting and chats with the brewers.
Don’t forget your Bend Ale Trail passport
Zwicklemania is a great way to collect a whole lot of Bend Ale Trail passport stamps in one afternoon, so make sure you snag an atlas at the first brewery you visit or stop by the Visitor Center.
Finished gathering stamps? The Bend Visitor Center is open seven days a week so you can collect your prize anytime. Stop by the corner of Lava and Oregon in Downtown Bend between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays or 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.