Will Travel for Oregon Beer
A View to a Beer
By John Foyston
Beer drinking is a social activity, intensely so at times, if you’ve ever stumbled into an impromptu bottle tasting/sharing session at BeerMongers or the like. But a pint of good beer is also the perfect companion for more contemplative pursuits, such as admiring the view between sips.
Here in Oregon, we’re blessed with great beers and great views, especially in the big, almost empty parts of the state to the east and south. I’ve ridden motorcycles for 40 years now, and early on learned to paraphrase Horace Greeley and “go East, young man, go East.” And north. And south. And the idea of a cold pint or two at the end of a long day in a small town tavern while my biked ticked and cooled in front of my motel room has always been the reward at the end of whichever road I took.
The beer has improved vastly since my first trips, but even a cold Rainier used to taste great in the right place, such as 250 miles from home, with cricket-loud dusk turning the sky indigo blue. Now, with 150 breweries and brewpubs in the state, the thirsty traveller can almost always find good beer on tap, and with a little planning, exceptional beer. Head east through the Gorge with the wide river on your left and the sun in your eyes, because it’s best to start a day of a couple hundred miles or more in the crisp cool morning, before the sun gathers its wits. The motor thrums, winching you slowly toward a horizon that never recedes. Tires sing and the wind clutches at your helmet, its constant roar muted by foam earplugs.
The landscape changes with the odometer. By the Dalles, the trees thin and the granitic skeleton of the earth towers in cliffs and mesas. By Arlington, it feels like desert for true and it’s time to leave the Interstate and turn south to burrow into the two-lane swervery that crosses the interior of the state. The Blue Mountain Highway leads through corridors of ponderosa pine and twisty passes to towns such as Ukiah, Monument and Baker City, where Barley Brown’s Brewpub and a motel await.
Or ride out of Ukiah through the rangeland to Pendleton and LaGrande and into the upper left hand corner: Union, with its yearly rodeo; Joseph, which is just that bit too twee for me; and Enterprise, a real working town where you have a beer at Terminal Gravity and plan the next day’s trip north through Hells Canyon and points east.
Or head South down to Ashland and Standing Stone Brewing and Caldera’s new pub. Or out Highway 22 through Detroit to Oakridge and some truly great cask beer at Brewers Union Local 180. Or...or...well, it’s hard to go wrong in Oregon. Wherever and however you go, there are great pubs, great beers and sublime scenery out there, and here are some of my favorites.
PHOTOS TO COME
Solera Brewery, 4945 Baseline Road, Parkdale. www.solerabrewery.com
I’d put the view from Solera’s beer garden, where Mount Hood soars from just beyond the treeline, up against any in the world, especially on a long summer night as the incalculable mass of the mountain fades into a phosphorescent ghost. And brewer Jason Kahler’s beers , including Hedonist IPA, Parkdale Red and Goat Boxer Belgian strong ale --- are the perfect accompaniment to that inspiring view.
Another brilliant view --- plus great, often one-off beers and an extensive menu --- can be had on the deck of Full Sail’s Tasting Room & Pub at the brewery, 506 Columbia St., Hood River. Or you can venture across the river to Everybody’s Brewing in White Salmon and Walking Man Brewing in Stevenson, Wash.
Terminal Gravity Brewing, 803 School St., Enterprise. www.terminalgravitybrewing.com
A river runs through it, or at least a creek, and a bluegrass band often plays on the grounds. Nestled in the Wallowas, Terminal Gravity could hardly help but be gorgeous, and the owners have gone above and beyond, placing the pub in a modern-but-authentic Craftsman bungalow set on a couple of tree-dotted meadowy acres.
Best of all, the beer is sublime. Terminal Gravity India Pale Ale is as good as it gets, the Extra Special Golden is a wonderful beer in its own right and the big beers are celebrated by beer fans around the state, plus the pub is one of the best restaurants in town, so much so that they recently built an outdoor kiosk to make it easier to order beers and food.
Pelican Pub & Brewery, 33180 Cape Kiwanda Drive, Pacific City; 503-965-7007
If you’re in the mood for seascapes, the Pelican Pub is your place with a view that looks out on Haystack Rock and Cape Kiwanda and (if you’re drinking breakfast beer) views of dorymen launching and landing their boats. The pub is busy and family-friendly, excessively so at times, but sit at the bar and enjoy some of brewer Darron Welch’s many medal-winning beers such as India Pelican Ale, Kiwanda Cream Ale and Doryman’s Dark Ale.
Standing Stone Brewing Co., 101 Oak St., Ashland; www.standingstonebrewery.com
Whew, that Shakespeare can be thirsty work. So this lovely brewpub in the heart of downtown, and just a block or two away from the Shakespeare festival theaters, is a welcome sight. Housed in a rehabbed industrial building, now with a glass front, a full brewery and a mezzanine of serving tanks, the pub also has an excellent, extensive menu featuring salads, sandwiches, burgers and pizzas and bread from the wood-fired oven.
Local favorite Caldera Brewing is building a way-green 28,000 square-foot brewery and restaurant slated to open in late August on the southside of town, but the cool Caldera Taphouse at 31 Water St. (site of the first Rogue brewery) will remain open. It’s a true locals favorite and features lots of great Caldera taps, a solid menu, outdoor seating and live music.
Skyline Tavern, 8031 NW Skyline Blvd, Portland.. 503-286-4788 (no web page)
If you can’t get away for a week on the motorbike, then a ride out and back the 30 or so twisty miles of Skyline can fill the void, and a stop at the tavern is obligatory. There’s a great terraced patio out back, with a firepit, horseshoe pits and a view that seems to stretch to the Coast Range.
The taps are much better, however, at the Highland Stillhouse, 201 South Second St, Oregon City, and the view, looking down from the bluff over the falls and the disused iron-age carcass of the old Blue Heron plant, is great. The pub is cozily Scottish themed with good taps and many whiskys, and there’s even a cannon on the patio, though firing Pabst tallboys at West Linn is strongly discouraged.