Rising where the high desert meets the Cascades, the gateway community of Sisters has always had a special air about it — maybe even literally. From sampling new beers wild fermented with natural yeasts collected in town to refueling on the tangy-charred crunch of a wood-fired pizza crust, here are some ways for beer lovers to enjoy a getaway to Sisters.
Wild Beer in the Central Cascades
Michael Frith and Danielle Burns are the married force behind Funky Fauna Artisan Ales, Sisters’ newest brewery, a small-batch, craft operation and tasting room that opened in late 2021. Frith, a brewer who studied beer making at Chicago’s Siebel Institute of Technology, collected yeasts living naturally in the Sisters’ air and let them get to work on his own brews. To do it, he used the same traditional techniques that Belgian monks might when making “wild” beers, like a lambic or gueuze.
“Beers like that tend to be funky, like a cheese would be funky, but still fruity at the same time,” says Frith, adding that he’ll offer new versions with different yeasts and ingredients every few weeks. “We’re pretty excited to see what we can culture up here.”
Funky Fauna supplements its more exotic beers with crowd favorites like IPAs. It also helps to round out Sisters’ beer scene by complementing the award-winning offerings at Three Creeks Brewing, a stop on the recently updated Bend Ale Trail and the town’s largest brewery. There you can try seasonal beers that rotate in and out, or go for the favorite Stonefly Session Ale, a light beer that has medaled multiple times at the Great American Beer Festival.
In the heart of downtown, the newly reopened Ski Inn Taphouse doesn’t brew its own beer, but you’ll find 16 taps here and fun outdoor seating with gas fire pits and tables right on the town’s main street. Should you make your way through all of those samples, the taphouse does have six well-lit rooms upstairs that make the commute to bed easy.
Eating Out at Sisters’ New Food-Cart Pod
Excellent new beer isn’t the only good thing brewing in Sisters. Daniel St. Lawrence made his mark in Bend a few years ago by helping to start the popular eatery Jackson’s Corner. His new project, The Barn in Sisters, brings that same talent to sweet and savory baked goods while offering a space for a new take on the food-cart pod.
St. Lawrence and his wife, Kelly, opened the space in November 2021, which features a barn design with an indoor, heated seating area surrounded by a collection of food trucks and outdoor entertainment spaces. There’s the Texas-style Pop’s Southern BBQ, Chulitas for Mexican and Wrap Star, with its Asian-Indo wraps. Comedians, theater groups and bands will soon take to a new stage, planned for May. A commissary kitchen allows chefs to whip up innumerable delights, including breads, pastries and everything you need for weekend brunches.
St. Lawrence’s biggest passion might be bread. You can sample the results at his own food truck, Boone Dog Pizza, the last of the four trucks so far at the Barn. St. Lawrence also wants his wood-fired pies to highlight the ingredients of the region and season, like slathering fava bean pesto cream on a quattro formaggi pie or a ham and yams combo. And even the crust reflects the local biome, with a 48-hour ferment. “Pizza’s kind of the perfect marriage of seasonal, local food, vegetables, grains, meats, and then being able to showcase it on bread,” he says. Greens come from Central Oregon farmers whenever possible, and he gets a lot of meat from pasture-raised pigs at an animal-welfare-certified farm in Corvallis.
Even the wood for the barn was harvested locally, and a relative in Sisters personally milled it for him. “Every board has a story,” he says.
Hiking Before Happy Hour
Of course, it’s easier to justify going back to these places after a great hike or two. Much of the high country around Sisters, like Tam McArthur Rim and Black Butte, may be snowed in November through May, but spring is a great time to head into the canyon country of nearby Crooked River National Grassland before it gets too hot. Check out the Alder Springs Trail, about 20 miles northeast of downtown, where a 6-mile out-and-back hike takes you down into a canyon and an oasis of cottonwoods and willows.