Long journeys and winding roads will often take us to new and exciting places. Even after a great adventure, places that were once familiar can be seen in new lights and with greater perspective. Old friends will change and become new friends again. We too will change in time as that which was once at our surface erodes away and becomes a new sight for all, becoming that, which imagination could only have approached. To this the traveler lives.
1. Boneyard Brewing: To start off any day right (especially when you start a day at noon) start it at a tasting room. Boneyard has pulled together its equipment from no less than 20 different breweries giving them their name. For every hop head in Oregon, this small tasting room at the back of a dead end street is an absolutely must visit. They have a small production facility that you can visit and taste to your hearts’ delight. I highly recommend leaving with at least one growlette full of one of their delicious IPA, double IPA, or triple IPA. If you haven’t yet joined the hopply masses then do at least try a decidedly summer time Girl beer.
2. Deschutes Brewery: To coincide with a day of tasting and travel, venture on to the most historic of Central Oregon beer locations, Deschutes Brewery. Their original site, located in downtown Bend, now pales in size to their production facility. Take a tour (on the hour from 1-4pm) and discover what it means to be the largest beer producer in all of Oregon. This tour takes you on a journey from the rivers, to the farmlands, and takes you through the complete brewing process. You get to see where the ingredients come from and how they are transformed by this now 24 year old brewing company into a beer that has had a significant impact on culture throughout the Northwest.
3. Crux Fermentation Project: There might be a few views of the landscape and scenery in Central Oregon but none as vast as the one from Crux Fermentation Project. The recently opened brewery is lead by none other than renowned former Deschutes brew master, Larry Sidor. The grand opening took place on June 30th 2012. This is the place to be to watch the sunset. With dinner in front of you, a truly NW pale ale, and the mountain range all around you; I defy you to not be a little overwhelmed by it all.
4. Platypus Pub: In this grand beer voyage that you are now on, you might want to relax from your beer tastings and tours and cozy up to a pint with some new friends. To be able to sit and drink and talk with the locals, of any culture, is surely what you will find at the Platypus pub. A basement bar and tap room with a traditional pub atmosphere is what you will find. To add to the environment you will also find a bottle shop and homebrew supply store just upstairs. If you cannot find a pint of your choosing amongst the several locally sourced taps available, then choose a bottle from the hundreds upstairs. This location is a venerable trifecta in beer enthusiasm.
5. Old St. Francis: At the end of a long day of beer tasting and travelling, there could be no better place to stay than the Old St. Francis School owned by McMenamins. This historical location has been transformed into a relaxation mecca. From the on-site brewery, to the soaking pool, to the theater bar; there is something for every tired beer traveler. While McMenamins does have its classic standby beers, do try the specialty drafts made in-house and only for those who venture inside. After a day of traveling through Bend, the classrooms-turned-bedrooms will be your great reward for an adventure well had.
Crashing waves, art galleries, sweeping vistas, a boardwalk complete with carnival games and cotton candy, sandy beaches, rolling rivers, and even a pretty, historic city -- if it seems like Oregon's North Coast has it all, it's probably because it does. Or close to it.
From Cannon Beach to the farthest northwest tip of Oregon, Astoria, there's enough to do and see to keep folks busy. And apparently thirsty, too, with a growing number of great places to enjoy a pint and all that the region has to offer. There's even the North Coast Craft Beer Trail that features a goodly number of places -- from brewpubs to restaurants -- to source craft beer. The trail is featured on a phone app to help you hit all the hot spots -- and get a reward if you do. (everytrail.com/guide/north-coast-craft-beer-trail)
If you're planning on going coastal for just a day, I suggest having a designated driver as a lot of this touring takes place on the winding (yet beautiful) Highway 101. If you are planning a lengthier stay, the recently opened McMenamins Sand Trap Inn in Gearhart offers craft beer, a full bar, a nice restaurant and a good dose of local history along with a nightly room. Right on a public golf course and within a few moments' walk to quaint shops and the sandy beaches, the hotel is pretty much equidistant from the farthest flung of our beery destinations. Of course, there are also places to hand your hat, from as far south as Cannon Beach, with its artistic flair; to Seaside, the most family-friendly city on the North Coast; and up north to Astoria, a charming city that is reminiscent of San Francisco, but has too much history of its own to not stand up on its own merit. (Two morsels: Fort Astoria was the first American-owned establishment on the Pacific coast of what is now the United States. And Clark Gable got his first acting gig in Astoria -- in a structure that now houses public restrooms.)
Any time is a great time to visit the North Coast, but if you are looking for extra beery distractions, you might consider visiting during the Pouring at the Coast Beer Festival (around St. Patrick's Day in Seaside: seasidechamber.com), the Pacific Northwest Brew Cup (the last weekend in September in Astoria: fortgeorgebrewery.com) or Stout Month (all of February, Fort George in Astoria: fortgeorgebrewery.com).
From south to north, here are a few suggestions for going coastal and enjoying good beer at the same time:
1: Seaside Brewing, 851 Broadway, Seaside; seasidebrewing.com -- The new kids on the block, Seaside Brewing at press time was still working on pouring its own beer at the brewpub full-time. But in the meantime, they've got a good selection of regional craft beers on draft. It's dog- and kid-friendly with a ton of outdoor seating to soak up those precious sunny days. Kudos to former Rogue manager Jimmy Griffin and his gang for finally giving Seaside a brewpub.
2: Wine & Beer Haus, Seaside Factory Outlet Center / 1111 N. Roosevelt Drive, Seaside (no website) -- With more than 300 beers in coolers (plus a great wine selection), the Wine & Beer Haus was already a great find on the North Coast. But at press time, owner Jeff Kilday was moving to a new store location (still in the outlet mall) which promises more room and space for more beer. You can still take bottles to-go or have them open the beer for you to enjoy in the store -- making for a great escape for the non-shoppers in any group. If you plan on return visits, start a free Hall of Foam membership. After logging 100 different beers, you get invited to celebrate at an annual party. Togas optional.
3: Fort George Brewing, 1483 Duane Street, Astoria; fortgeorgebrewery.com -- With its new production brewery in full-steam-ahead mode, chances are you will be seeing more and more Fort George beers -- on draft and in their distinctive 16-ounce cans -- around the region. But just because you can get the beer elsewhere doesn't mean you shouldn't pay a visit to the source. The brewpub is family friendly, always bustling and has a great vibe. Or head across the parking lot to the Lowell Tasting Room, nestled in the production brewery, for a quieter experience. Make sure to check out both places if they're both open (the tasting room has shorter hours of operation) because quite often you can find something special pouring at one place that's not on tap at the other!
4: Astoria Brewing Co. & Wet Dog Café, 144 11th Street, Astoria; wetdogcafe.com -- Hands down the stop with the best view, right on the mighty Columbia River. Grab a pint of one of a dozen or so beers made on-site, hunker down and watch the pilot boats criss-cross in and out to assist the big ships that pass by. On a pretty day, you can't beat the deck, and there are more sailboats on the water. Plans are in the works for a brewery expansion so look for more of the ever-popular Bitter Bitch Imperial IPA and Lincoln Lager (named for the brewers son, not the president) in the near future.
Other suggested stops:
Warren House, 3301 South Hemlock Street, Cannon Beach
The Lumberyard Rotisserie & Grill, 264 E. 3rd St., Cannon Beach
Bill's Tavern & Brewhouse, 188 North Hemlock St., Cannon Beach
Dundees Bar & Grill, 414 Broadway St., Seaside
Twisted Fish Steakhouse, 311 Broadway St., Seaside
U Street Pub & Eatery, 220 Avenue U, Seaside
Rogue Ales Public House, 100 39th St., Astoria
One of my favorite neighborhoods to drink beer in doesn’t require a lengthy car journey, just hop on the Yellow Line MAX and head in the direction of the Expo Center. The second stop across the river brings you to Stop 1. North Portland is Portland’s wedge-shaped “fifth quadrant” stating at the East end of the steel bridge and swelling out to encompass St. Johns and the shipping terminals on the Columbia River.
Stop 1: Widmer Brothers Brewing, 929 N Russell, 503.281.2437 widmer.com
I must say I’m a little biased as a tour guide at Widmer I spend a lot of time at the state’s largest brewery. The Gasthaus pub, modeled on a Düsseldorf brewpub seves special beers brewed on the company’s pilot brewery at the Rose Quarter, as well as standards brewed on the 250-barrel system across the street. Hearty food and big portions won’t leave you hungry. The pork schnitzel with spaetzel is a personal favorite, and the beer cheese soup is the perfect thing to warm you up on a soggy Oregon day.
Stop 2: Amnesia, 832 N. Beech and Mississippi, 503.281.7708 amnesiabrew.com
When Kevin King sited his brewery in a former ironworking studio on North Mississippi, he had no idea that in a few years it would become the center of a newly gentrified shopping and eating district, cumbrous with condo developments. The Amnesia model is simple, brew beer, grill sausages. A large, tented outdoor patio is home to the barbeque and plenty of seating, while the simple pub hosts rotating art, and opens onto the brewery. The beers are generally on the hoppy side, with two IPAs in the standard lineup. A new production brewery in the Columbia Gorge may free up tankspace for the delicious pils King brewed when Amnesia first opened.
Stop 3: Lompoc, 5th Quadrant 3901 N. Williams and Failing 503.288.3996 newoldlompoc.com
Originally the New Old Lompoc’s second brewery, the 5Q has become the company’s sole brewery since the venerable NOL met the wrecking ball this spring. The 5Q, named for North Portland’s status as the “fifth quarter” of Portland serves a variety of Lompoc standards and seasonals along with pub food done right. Sidebar, just around the corner, features Lompoc specialties, and an imposing black concrete bar, while you sit among barrels of future projects.
Stop 4: Saraveza, 1004 N. Killingsworth, 503.206.4252 saraveza.com
A Wisconsin theme bar in North Portland? Ya, you betcha. Expats of the Midwest find solace in Sara Pedersen’s collection of Wisconsin breweriana, taxidermy and the Green Bay Packers on TV. Locals love it for the bottle shop and charming staff. The menu is Midwest food done Portland style (better and with fresh, local ingredients). The house specialty is the pasty, the national food of Cornwall. These meat or vegetable handpies where brought by Cornish miners to Northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where people think of them as indigenous. (I recommend the Nater, though the daily specials are often tempting). Saraveza’s pickle plates are also out of this world.
Stop 5: Hop and Vine, 1914 N. Killingsworth, 503.954.3322 thehopandvine.com
Beer bars are generally male-dominated, with a hunting lodge feel, but Hop and Vine owner Yetta Vorobik lets a feminine touch infuse her pub. From the graceful peacock logo to the excellent north-European influenced menu, there is something to appeal to everyone. In summer months the tree shaded back patio is a haven for North Portland denizens. Visit the adjoining bottle shop for fine selections of beer and wine.
Other places to see:
Bridgetown Beer House, Red Fox, Tardis Room (A Doctor Who themebar attached to an English Fish and Chip Shop), Bikebar (a Hopworks taproom), and Lucky Lab North.
Bonus Trek: St. Johns
Plew’s Brews, 8409 N. Lombard, 503.283.2243
Stepping into Plew’s Brews in St. Johns is like stepping into a bar on SE Hawthorne in the late 1990’s. The former discount market is cluttered with bric a bric from pictures of the queen to Bob Marley tapestries, incense is likely blazing, and funky couches and tables are spread around. Dozens of board games line the walls for customers’ enjoyment. The bar at Plew’s is a humble affair with cushion-topped kegs for bar stools, and the taps simply come out the side of glass-fronted reach in coolers. Don’t let appearances fool you though, the rotating tap selection at Plew’s includes some gems, and best yet, they’ll fill a growler of almost everything on tap for $7 or 8.
Occidental Brewing, 6635 N. Baltimore Ave, 503-719-7102, occidentalbrewing.com
Located in the shadow of the majestic arches of the St. Johns Bridge, Occidental specializes in German-style beers, from Koelsch and Alt to Dopplebock.
Most breweries have a tasting room overlooking the brewery. At Occidental the tasting room is actually inside the brewery with just a wooden railing dividing the service are from the production area. The limited taproom hours are posted on the website.
McMenamins, as those who frequent its 8 hotels and 17 breweries in Oregon know, is more than just a hotel and brewery outfit. It is an organization to which small towns like McMinnville, Troutdale, Hillsdale and Forest Grove owe a certain debt of gratitude. Historic buildings, too far gone to interest the get-rick-quick investors, have been lovingly resurrected by Portland’s Mike and Brian, creating uniquely attractive places to stay, eat, drink or play.
Today, with more than 65 properties – 24 of which include breweries – McMenamins has become one of the top 50 producing craft breweries in the U.S.
And despite its corporate size and craft standards, McMenamins doesn’t always get its due for adding a unique and experimental edge to Oregon’s craft brewing. Each brewery has a different brewer using different facilities. What you might drink in Hillsdale, the original McMenamin’s brewery in Portland, could be much different than the brews offered at the Thompson Brewery in Salem, for example. Brewers from far and wide come to McMenamin’s , creating a brand that is as varied and unique at the physical properties:. Indistinctly European, vaguely alien and other-worldly, but decidedly true to craft and history of place.
Why do I like to stay and play at McMenamins? Bargains. I love bargains. For as low as $30 a night, I can have a beer or two or three, listen to some great music (usually free) or catch a movie, and then fall in bed – all without driving! What’s not to like?
You can check out all of the McMenamins’ sites at www.mcmenamins.com. The hotels that also have breweries are as follows:
Edgefield, 2126 S.W. Halsey, Troutdale – It’s all here, and it’s a national historic landmark to boot: golf, a brewery, a winery, a distillery, and an incredible soaking pool with a bar). There are 10 separate bars on this property’s 64 acres. A walking map is recommended after visiting the first two.
Grand Lodge, 3505 Pacific Ave., Forest Grove – Typical of all McMenamin historic buildings, the walls are covered with artwork that resurrects the people who once graced the halls. If that creeps you out, throw a few discs on the rolling front lawn’s disc golf course, or have a beer in Pat’s Corner, or outside on the veranda. I love the tiny private spaces both inside and outside. Historic places comfort me.
Old St. Francis School, 700 N.W. Bond Street, Bend – The brewery was once the lunchroom of the Catholic students who attended school here. Today, it puts out some of Oregon’s favorite holiday ales, not to mention brewer Curly White’s monthly firkin release. The property has four bars and restaurants, a movie theater, a soaking pool and several cottages. Because this is one of the more expensive McMenamin places to stay, I’ve never spent the night here, but I fully intend to save my pennies for a visit in the future.
Kennedy School, 5736 N.E. 33rd Ave., Portland. With its tiny Concordia Brewery and its location in Portland is another McMenamins property I’ve failed to try due to the expense (or is it my tight-wadded-ness?). I add it here because I’m old enough to have contemporaries who went to school there, watch it close with sadness, and rejoiced when it reopened in 1997. The brewery since then has been a good neighbor, joining in Portland festivities to support local and global causes. Where once my buddies played dodge ball, today they drink beer and listen to great music.
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