McMenamins recently reached a milestone by producing 1 million kegs in July. The Pacific Northwest institution is well-loved because of its unique properties. You can visit all 53 in Oregon and Washington, including seven historic hotels and eight theater pubs, during your travels. Photo by AJ McGarry
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
On July 2, McMenamins began Oregon Craft Beer Month with a unique milestone: one million kegs. The millionth keg, the raspberry ale Ruby, was racked at 11:39 a.m. at the McMenamins Queen Anne pub in Seattle.
“It is an interesting milestone for us, this whole ‘Keg Million’ business,” says John Richen, Chief Brewery Administrator for McMenamins. “It was crazy. It was daunting. And ultimately, just a huge amount of fun.” But he keeps perspective: “It is a symbolic milestone. There isn’t anything substantially different about keg one million from keg nine-hundred-ninety-nine-thousand, other than the gravitas of what it stands for to folks inside our brewing ranks.”
The Oregon and Washington chain of more than 50 pubs, breweries and hotels began brewing in 1985, initially releasing 5.5 kegs of Hillsdale Ale at the Hillsdale Brewery & Public House in Southwest Portland. The first year of production reached 83 barrels, or 165 kegs. Five years later in 1990, production had leaped to 12,813 barrels (25,625 kegs). By the turn of the century, McMenamins produced 173,427 barrels in 2000, or 346,853 kegs — more than 30 percent toward one million.
Five years ago, in 2010, production was more than 75 percent of the way: 395,692 barrels, or 791,385 kegs. Now, as of July 15, McMenamins has officially brewed 1,001,806 kegs. While 24 percent of that was produced at the Edgefield Brewery in Troutdale, 76 percent was brewed at “small house” breweries, such as High Street in Eugene, Lighthouse in Lincoln City and Spar in Olympia, Wash.
Of the one million kegs, 89 percent were kegged in Oregon and 11 percent were kegged in Washington. But not one used “kegging robots, automated golden gate fillers, racking line programmed replicants or Amazon drones,” says Richen. “We filled them all ‘the hard way.’”
Early Experiments, Today’s Favorites & Yesterday’s Disasters
Hillsdale Ale gave rise to other standard McMenamins beers enjoyed today, such as Terminator Stout, Hammerhead and Ruby. Originally brewed as extract-based recipes, the ales were switched to all-grain malt bills starting in March 1987. Early experimentation set a precedent that continues — but the brewers are glad that there have been equipment improvements.
“McMenamins pioneer brewers were a rugged breed,” explains Richen. “The brewers’ day started by driving to F.H. Steinbart to pick up their bags of malt. They would then drive to the Barley Mill Pub to crush the grain through the functional malt mill, which serves as the pub’s namesake. After cleaning up the mess and loading the resulting grist back into their vehicles, they would return to the Hillsdale to begin the brewing process. There was great rejoicing when a simple plate mill was purchased and installed in the brewery.”
In 1985 McMenamins released their first fruit beer, named simply Batch No. 2 and made with blackberries growing in the parking lot. The first Terminator Stout (Brew No. 12) was brewed Nov. 19, 1985 and the first Hammerhead (Brew No. 37) was brewed Jan. 25, 1986.
While first year production focused on original standards — Hillsdale Ale, Terminator Stout, Crystal Ale, Hammerhead and Barley Mill Ale — by November 1986 the fledgling brew operation had produced 40 batches of fruit beers between the Hillsdale, Cornelius Pass and Lighthouse breweries. Early fruit batches also included Brew No. 67, a raspberry ale brewed on March 21, 1986.
Today we know it as Ruby.
Despite the regional popularity of bitter beers such as IPAs, Ruby and Hammerhead remain two of the company’s most popular beers, with Ruby alone comprising 21 percent of total output.
Not every experiment has paid off, though.
“We’ve had great success with incorporating fruit, coffee and spices into styles both traditional and untraditional,” says Richen. “Forays into the worlds of garlic, Mars Bars, Cherry Garcia Ice Cream and wormwood were not as successful, which, to be honest, is a tremendous understatement. They were unmitigated disasters.”
With 24 breweries in two states producing more than 70 batches of beer each week, it’s no small challenge to balance brand consistency with freedom to experiment.
“There is so much that has been learned, much of it the hard way,” says Rob Vallance, general manager of McMenamins Breweries. “Most importantly is the big-picture concept of how every facet of the process affects the beer that goes into every glass. You have to be ever-vigilant.”
However, Vallance notes that McMenamins brewers have an “unprecedented amount of freedom with recipe formulation.” Instead of locking down specifications across all the breweries, some beers — such as a standard McMenamins IPA — actually have no official standard recipe.
“Brewers have different philosophies and skill sets in our system,” he explains. “With the standard and seasonal recipes, it is very difficult to create consistency across so many breweries across such long distances with so many hands on so many paddles.”
This creative freedom also reflects simple practicality. “Water tables can be so different,” says Vallance. “Each brewery is its own unique ecosystem. These are neighborhood breweries. We have to accept that our methods will breed some inconsistencies, and it has always been, and always will be, our most daunting challenge to try and minimize those inconsistencies. The goal is always production of a quality end product with a nod to the stamps the various regional factors place on a beer.”
Creative license, though, does have limits. “We’ll let our brewers try pretty much anything,” says Vallance. “Once anyway.”
The Path to 2 Million
“Having worked in this craft beer business since 1987,” says Richen, “I was unexpectedly moved seeing the listing of the 195 names of folks who put the beer into those million kegs since 1985, many of them in batches with a number of kegs you could count with the fingers on two hands. I pictured faces of people I hadn’t seen or even thought of in years.”
Now as they look ahead, Vallance and Richen wonder what the path to 2 million kegs looks like.
“It certainly won’t take us 30 more years,” says Vallance. “Probably between 15 and 20.”
Hopworks Urban Brewery in Southeast Portland recently signed onto the Brewers for Clean Water Pledge. In addition to many energy-saving and sustainable practices, the brewery has pervious pavers in the upper parking lot and the lower lot is sloped to catch rainwater in a retention pond. Photo by Tim LaBarge
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
“The single most important ingredient in craft beer is water,” Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy told brewers at the Craft Brewers Conference held in Portland in April. Not exactly a news flash. But, her comments about why they should support clean water were.
A little background: The 1972 Clean Water Act was diluted by Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 that seemed to exclude certain bodies of water. Therefore, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers drafted the Clean Water Rule to define the included water bodies. They released the rule in March 2014 for public comment, hoping for final adoption this summer.
“Before the new rule, up to 60 percent of American streams and millions of acres of wetlands were potentially overlooked by the Clean Water Act,” EPA officials said.
The Natural Resources Defense Council or NRDC, a nonprofit environmental organization, invited brewers to support the Clean Water Rule by taking the Clean Water Pledge.
Karen Hobbs, from the NRDC, said about 70 brewers have taken the pledge so far. By doing so, they sign on to comment letters to senators and the president and they are listed on the NRDC website as a partner to defend the Clean Water Act.
“What they do next is up to them,” said Hobbs. Many have improved efficiency at their facilities, engaged in watershed cleanups and improved water use. “Still,” Hobbs said, “we’re looking for ways to work better with the craft brewers because they are so embedded in their communities and so directly affected by local water. Many of them have amazing outreach in their communities.”
Like Bear Republic Brewing Company in Sonoma County, Calif. Peter Kruger, master brewer, said the brewery, established in 1996 in Healdsburg, Calif. broke ground on a new facility in Cloverdale, Calif. in 2006 with the idea there was plenty of water for the expansion. “We soon realized there wasn’t enough for the city, let alone our brewery.”
The city wanted to drill two new wells, but faced a five-year wait to secure loans from the United States Department of Agriculture. Bear Republic then fronted the city $475,000 in impact fees. Now they have two new wells with a million gallons of excess capacity. Peak demand is 1.8 million but the wells can pump 2.8 million.
Kruger said, “These were fees we planned on paying anyway. The amount we paid is what we estimated we needed to grow our brewery — basically we prepaid about eight years of fees,” he said.
With the money from Bear Republic, the city of about 8,000 people was able to fast track the wells. The brewery has introduced processes to conserve water in its drought-stressed region. “We run an incredibly low water ratio to beer, 3.5 gallons-to-1 gallon of beer. If you take out the water for office and irrigation use, it’s 3.1-to-1,” said Kruger.
The brewery has invested in technology to monitor water use and increase efficiency. They have spent several million dollars on an anaerobic digester that will treat wastewater.
In the first step, water runs through the digester and organic matter decomposes to methane, which will be burned for electricity. The exhaust gas preheats the processed water and will meet about half of their plant’s hot water needs. Then the water will run to the aerobic digester that will clean it up through a reverse-osmosis process for reuse in cleaning and wash downs. Kruger expects this to be up and running by January.
“Brewers are in a unique position to influence the world with the Clean Water Pledge,” he said.
Many leaders in the Brewers for Clean Water come from the water-challenged West.
Jenn Vervier, from New Belgium Brewing in Colorado, wrote a persuasive editorial in support of the Clean Water Rule in 2012 called “Clean Water is Good for Business and Beer.”
Closer to home, HUB recently signed the Clean Water Pledge and is working with the NRDC to develop some educational opportunities around the pledge.
Water conservation is a top priority at HUB. A recently installed custom cleaning-in-place skid allows reuse of the cleaning solution up to five times while maintaining water temperature and chemical effectiveness. A new centrifuge yields more beer per tank and uses less water for cleaning.
Outside, there are pervious pavers in the upper parking lot and the lower lot is sloped to catch water in a retention pond, allowing rainwater to become groundwater.
“Our heat exchange unit allows us to capture city water and use it to cool down our boiled wort, we then store it in our hot liquor tank for further use,” said HUB communications specialist Eric Steen. Both the brewery and kitchen focus on organic, sustainable practices.
For now, at least, the water news is good. The Clean Water Rule was officially adopted and formalized by President Barack Obama in May.
That won’t mean the end to challenges and legislative maneuvers, so supporting and/or taking the Clean Water Pledge will be more important than ever. You can find more information on the NRDC website: http://www.nrdc.org/water/brewers-for-clean-water/
At Agrarian Ales in the countryside south of Eugene, business manager Todd Perlmeter, left, and master brewer Toby Schock look over the gallons of fresh-picked raspberries brought in by Maia Kazaks, field worker, and assistant brewer Matt Leef. The berries will be used for a spontaneously fermented beer. Photo by Patty Mamula
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
A visit to Agrarian Ales in the lush, bountiful countryside of the Willamette Valley, just 13 miles south of Eugene, is an escape from the demands of everyday life. The farmhouse brewery sits on 25 acres of family land brimming with 15 different varieties of hops, herbs, spices, orchards, beehives, wheat fields, natural grasses, and an abundance of fresh vegetables.
Brothers Nate and Ben Tilley grew up here on their parents’ organic vegetable farm. When they graduated from Oregon State University, they returned to plant hops and grow a brewery. Toby Schock joined from the start as the master brewer.
In November of 2012, they opened the brewery in a converted dairy barn on 17 acres leased from Crossroad Farms, their parents’ operation. Their vision was to use only homegrown hops and they have stayed true to that vision. In fact, they are the only Oregon brewery exclusively using estate-grown, hand-picked hops.
General manager Todd Perlmeter said, “Agrarian has never purchased hops. This year we pulled our entire crop of Cascade hops, 500 plants, because of downy mildew. We added a third hop field, focusing on varieties like Mount Hood, Centennial and Nugget.”
They also planted an experimental stand, trellised in a tepee configuration, of heritage Mount Pisgah hops, transplanted from the native plant nursery at Mount Pisgah Park. When harvested, these hops will be used for a Mount Pisgah porter to benefit the park.
Agrarian also sells hop starts in early spring at their farmers’ market booth, a five-tap beer trailer. “We feel very fortunate to be the only brewery allowed in the market,” said Perlmeter, “because we grow our own products.”
The casual, rustic brewery and taproom have drawn record crowds this summer. It appeals to young and old, pets, kids and parents. With 4 acres of outdoor space, there’s plenty of room to play or simply sit at one of the many picnic tables and take in the surrounding view of growing fields.
The red barn is brewing central Monday through Friday until 3 p.m. when it transforms to the taproom and gathering place to sample brews and local food. The taproom is open Friday and Saturday from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. with live music in the summer. The pizza oven is the cornerstone of the outdoor kitchen, but the focus for everything at Agrarian is fresh from the surrounding fields to the table.
Perlmeter said, “The original idea was to use all local products. We’re willing to pay a premium to buy products to support local farmers.”
While their website lists many of these farmers, some of the more unique connections include Eugene’s Noisette Pastry Kitchen that takes the spent grain and bakes custom bread for them. All the raw grains are local. Agrarian gets most of their wheat, barley and flours for pizza dough from Camas Country Mill. In fact, the pizza flour is custom-milled for them. Nearby Burnheimer Meat Company makes their pepperoni using Agrarian’s beer and chili spices.
“Everything we serve here tastes so fresh and real; there are no chemicals, no glycol in our beer,” said Perlmeter. “All our beers are seasonals.”
Brewer Shock creatively uses the ripest ingredients at hand. He makes farm-fresh beers, often using peppers, such as Chipotle Porter and Hot Banana Hef. They usually have 12-15 beers on tap
Generally, Shock brews just one batch and that’s it. “Sometimes he repeats a batch because it’s so popular,” said Perlmeter. “Essentially, all the brews are one-offs. Even the same recipe a year later won’t be the same because the fresh ingredients will taste different.”
The one constant, usually available year-round, is a farmhand session.
They recently started barrel projects and have bottled a few favorites. Like everything at Agrarian, it’s a labor-intensive, totally manual production process with one person sanitizing the bottles, another filling them and a third corking and caging them.
The first bottle release was Yuletide, a Belgian beer that was strong aged in rye whiskey barrels for eight months, bottled and aged for another year.
Last fall their neighbor offered them Akane apples from his orchard. They ground and pressed the apples, then aged the juice in a pinot noir barrel letting it ferment with all the wild yeast for one year. Then they used that tart, funky juice to brew a Belgian saison, bottled it and aged it for another six months. The Akane Saison is only available on-site.
Eventually, they want to grow or produce everything they use. That means having a malting facility on-site and a yeast lab.
“The goal is to continue the ethos and grow organically. We like to grow roots deep into the ground versus spreading them across the land,” said Perlmeter.
Speaking of organic growth, the next step for the hops is to get organically certified. “We think it will be worthwhile for sales, documentation and talking points. We have some unique practices out here. Finding a way to communicate that to customers without hitting them over the head with it is important. We want people to come out here and experience that lifestyle,” he said.
Back at the brewery, the long-awaited addition of indoor bathroom facilities was completed June 27. This project was the number one priority for the funds that Agrarian has raised from Hatch Oregon, a new investment opportunity available only to Oregon residents. Agrarian was one of the first investment opportunities rolled out when the new law became effective in January.
Their original stock offering was set for $165,000. So far, halfway into their one-year time frame, they have raised $65,000, most of which went to the new addition. The remainder will go to purchase more kegs, cooperage and larger batches of grain.
By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
The first time I made my strained ascent of Dog Mountain, the winds were howling, thick fog obscured the trail just several feet ahead and chilling temperatures kept me shivering every time I stopped to rest. The lauded wildflowers and breathtaking view? Nonexistent. But I still kicked that mountain’s ass that day and the post-trek beers at nearby Walking Man Brewing in Stevenson, Wash. never tasted so good because I’d earned them.
There’s something profoundly rewarding about completing a hike. The activity is beautifully simple. Hiking, after all, is walking. And to be stimulated for hours by nature alone is particularly noteworthy these days. Moreover, a hike is a physical and mental effort that you alone complete. It’s up to you to muster the courage to cross that logjam when the bridge has washed out. You rally to make it up those switchbacks. And when you’re soaked with sweat, walking on wobbly legs back to your car — breweries abound in Oregon, even near rural trailheads, and that rewarding pint awaits. Even when you’re far from the heart of the city, you’re usually just minutes away from really good beer.
Below is a guide of just some of the state’s stellar hikes along with the best brewery pairings.
Levels of Difficulty Key:
Easy: Paul Blart, mall cop
Moderate: Bear Grylls, notorious faker
Difficult: Indiana Jones
Strenuous: Ron Swanson, would rebuild trail himself to improve it before hiking
Drift Creek Falls: One Sweet Suspension Bridge
Distance: 3-3.5 miles
Difficulty: Paul Blart
Trailhead: At the Highway 101 and Highway 18 junction, travel east 4.5 miles on Highway 18. Turn onto Bear Creek County Road for 3.5 miles. Continue 7 miles on Forest Service Road 17 to the trailhead.
When I was a kid, I dreamed of fighting off attackers on a treacherous rope bridge like Harrison Ford in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” The Drift Creek Falls Suspension Bridge is the closest thing I’ve found in Oregon and while it can’t be cut in half with a sword, you can get it swinging from side to side to up the excitement level. Most impressive, though, is the view — not just from the bridge, but of the bridge as well. It’s an impressive span at 240 feet long and imagining the construction process is awe-inspiring. Materials had to be helicoptered in to the remote site. One-hundred feet below lies the canyon floor and a 75-foot falls, which served as the bridge’s namesake.
The hike to reach the span is relatively easy. The forest is thick with towering alder and maple trees that provide plenty of shade throughout. Giant ferns carpet the ground and a stream winds near the path from time to time. To add a bit of length to this hike and a slightly moderate climb, take the North Loop trail when you reach the fork. The approximately half-mile trek is thick with plants that are starting to grow over the trail in some areas. This side trip can also serve as a respite on more crowded days, as most follow the direct route. Once you’ve completed the loop, you’re almost to the bridge. Cross it and continue down to the water for a front-row seat on a rock to an amazingly new perspective of the waterfall and bridge. It’s a peaceful place for a snack, provided there aren’t any parents bellowing down at their children from the bridge because they’re too lazy to make the hike down and back up again to retrieve them.
At the bridge’s entrance, you may notice a plaque honoring Scott Paul, a Forest Service construction foreman. He died in a rigging accident while working on the project. The co-owner of a company dedicated to construction of swing bridges and trails, who was one of Paul’s associates, stepped in to help finish the bridge as a tribute.
Post-Trail Ale: You’re almost to Lincoln City, so might as well make a full day of it and head into town. Rusty Truck Brewing Co. (4649 SE Highway 101, Lincoln City) might be easy to miss because it’s tucked into the same property as Roadhouse 101. Just look for the old red pickup in the parking lot and you’ll know you’re in the right place and the beers are worth seeking out. The dining room tends to be packed with tourists, so to steer clear of the crowds head to the bar. There’s live music in the evenings and typically locals at the bar. And with all of the neon and auto-themed decor, it’s like hanging out in your drag racing-obsessed uncle’s dream garage. With a stage. And taps set aside for craft beer.
Saddle Mountain: Giddy Up for a Great View
Distance: About 5 miles
Difficulty: Indiana Jones
Trailhead: Travel west on Highway 26 until approximately milepost 10, where you take a right turn heading north after a state park sign for Saddle Mountain. From there head 7 miles up a mostly paved road to the trailhead at the road’s end.
It’s hard to miss Saddle Mountain and you don’t even have to be in the area to catch a glimpse of it. The massive rock off of Highway 26 can be seen from coastal cities and Gorge-area mountaintops. Lewis and Clark even made note of the peak in their journals. Given that it’s so visible, you know it’s going to have a killer view. The question that remains is whether your legs or your lungs will give out before you get there. Most of the trail is challenging and steep. Keep in mind that you don’t have to enjoy every second of the 1,640 foot rise in elevation over 2.5 miles. You won’t. But there’s enough scenic variation along the way to provide some much-needed distraction.
Early on, you’ll be clambering up the mountain through a thick forest setting. Eventually, you’ll reach open fields that are exploding with colorful blossoms during the right time of year. A fun fact overheard while passing three aging hippies — who were not only discussing the plant life but also smoking it — was that many of the flowers in that swath of land are quite rare because they’re leftover from the Oregon Coast Range’s Ice Age. What had once been mostly grassland has now given way to the forests we’re familiar with.
One of the trickier parts of the trail is negotiating the metal grating covering the rocks. However, once you reach this section you’re nearing the saddle or dip in the mountain. With one final, vigorous push uphill, you’ll have arrived at the summit. Spend some time catching your breath and just observe. On a clear day, the ocean stretches out in front of you on one side. The mighty Cascades arise from the horizon on the other. Before you head back, remember: it’s all downhill from there (mostly).
Post-Trail Ale: Cool off at the coast, which is only 35 minutes away. Seaside Brewing (851 Broadway St., Seaside) has a second-story patio and, of course, plenty of indoor seating in what used to be the building that housed the drunkards, among other lawbreakers. The old City Jail was completed in 1914 and you can still see the remnants of a cell behind the bar.
Sauvie Island Warrior Rock: Beyond Nude Beaches
Distance: About 6 miles
Difficulty: Paul Blart
Trailhead: Take Highway 30 west to Northwest Sauvie Island Road/Northwest Sauvie Island Bridge and turn right. Take a left on Northwest Gillihan Road and then right onto Northwest Reeder Road, which you’ll follow for 6 miles until you hit a dead end at Collins Beach.
There are two things Sauvie Island is best known for: its clothes-free sanctioned spaces on the shoreline and the bountiful U-pick farms that the crowds descend upon regularly in fall like migrating birds. But this chunk of land also boasts Oregon’s smallest lighthouse and a lovely out-and-back hike that offers a close-up view of that structure at the turnaround point of the route.
At the trailhead, do your best to ignore the trash bins, which are likely overflowing with city beach bum detritus: empty cans of light beer and fast food wrappers. Set out toward the sandy beach where you’ll stand out not only because you’re sober; you’re also fully clothed. While this isn’t one of the nude-optional areas, topless sunbathing isn’t an uncommon recreational activity here along with binge drinking flavorless lagers.
Rest assured, you won’t be mingling with the beachgoers for long. Shortly after spotting a giant bird nest on some pilings and the weathered remains of a boat, you’ll head inland to the trail that will take you to the lighthouse. Much of the hike is shaded, but you’ll find a few clearings and, in late summer, sections of the path nearly swallowed by thick, tall grass. The Warrior Rock lighthouse is at the north end of Sauvie Island and serves as a great place to snack while sitting on some logs and watching river traffic. Before heading back, explore a clearing near the lighthouse where you’ll find an old fireplace and chimney that are now sprouting plants. You can play archaeologist by investigating other scattered signs of what was likely a farmer’s dwelling.
Post-Trail Ale: On the way back into town on Highway 30, head across the Fremont Bridge to Widmer Brothers Gasthaus Pub (929 N. Russell St., Portland). The smell of the grains from the nearby brewery will hit you from at least a block away. It’ll then be impossible to resist the stop.
Triple Falls/Oneonta Gorge: Oregon’s Natural Obstacle Course
Distance: About 6 miles
Difficulty: Bear Grylls
Trailhead: From I-84, take Exit 35/Ainsworth and head west on the Historic Columbia River Highway for approximately 2.9 miles to the trailhead on your left/south. Parking is on the right/north.
We’re all familiar with those runs where you scramble over walls and plunge into ice baths. You also pay a ridiculously large participation fee to be tortured. Well, some of the same experiences await with these two hikes for the cost of the gas to get there. Triple Falls and Oneonta Gorge are easy to combine because they’re so close together. You’ll actually pass over the gorge on the first hike. And while Oneonta Gorge is a short trek, there’s nothing else like it because the trail is a river. That’s right: you get to walk through what’s essentially the coolest natural water park around.
Start with the dry hike — Triple Falls, where the first falling water you’ll see is actually Horsetail Falls at the trailhead. Leave the crowd behind and make a gradual climb among the trees and make a right onto the Gorge Trail. At about .2 miles in, you’ll reach Ponytail Falls, an 80-foot powerful blast of water that you can walk behind for a refreshing mist.
In the middle of the hike, there are moderate elevation gains and about halfway through you’ll find yourself on a bridge overlooking the water-filled Oneonta Gorge. There’s one additional waterfall, Middle Oneonta Falls, before you get to the turnaround point at Triple Falls. The unique-looking water feature is created by a cliff that separates the creek into three streams. Another bridge leads to the creek above the falls, which is a perfect place to refuel before you return.
A short walk down the Historic Columbia River Highway brings you to the Oneonta Gorge entrance. You’ll head off the road once you see a bridge and almost immediately run into a giant logjam, which is the giant jungle gym on the hike. After you’ve traversed it, and do so carefully when it’s slippery, begin your wade. The water gets deeper as you progress and the canyon walls, which are thick with emerald green moss, tower above. Sometimes the gorge is wide enough for several people to walk down and then minutes later it will narrow to the point where you can almost touch both sides. Fallen logs crisscross the gully floor. Depending on how tall you are, the final pool before the waterfall could put you in over your head, so carry any packs above you. The water is cold — as in make-you-scream-if-you-could-catch-your-breath cold. But once you’re acclimated, the dip won’t seem so bad going back.
Post-Trail Ale: A brewery with one of the best views in the Columbia River Gorge is Thunder Island Brewing Co. (515 NW Portage Road, Cascade Locks), and it’s always busy but never too crowded. The team there is constantly making improvements to the venue, including upgrading the outdoor seating and adding a kitchen. There are even stadium-style benches facing the Columbia River where you can sometimes catch the Sternwheeler docking next door.
Ramona Falls: Basalt Water Beauty
Distance: About 7 miles
Difficulty: Somewhere between Paul Blart and Bear Grylls
There’s no shortage of waterfalls in the Pacific Northwest. Whether they gently cascade across the rocks or powerfully thunder off a cliff, we’re never bored by moving water. Yet some tend to stand out more than others, like Ramona Falls.
Not far into the trail in the Mount Hood Wilderness, you’ll be walking above the Sandy River and signs of the deep gash it can cut into the cliff sides when running at full blast. In fact, the swift current washed out a hiking bridge about a mile in last year and is hasn’t been replaced. Currently, there are a few logs that are wide enough to inch your way across, but this could all change next season. Be careful to watch your footing and avoid the distracting view of a giant mountain in the background. On a clear day, this is a perfect location for a beautiful vantage point of Hood.
After crossing the river, stick to the left and look for sticks and rocks that fellow hikers have turned into signposts along the trail in a large, sandy area. About .25 miles later, the path splits. The better scenery is to the left, so save it as the reward on the return. Veer right to join the Pacific Crest Trail and you’ll begin a gradual climb in a forested area that looks more like Central Oregon with shorter, dried-out pines and little shade. Once you reach a horse gate, you’ve arrived. Ramona Falls spills across the wide span of a jagged rock face and there’s plenty of room to sit down nearby and eat. You might also run into some PCT hikers who are hungry for conversation and new people. They’ll stand out because of the abundance of gear on their backs and hair on their faces.
Cross the bridge in front of the falls to head back. You’ll be following what looks like a babbling brook that Disney animators might use for inspiration. Giant andesite cliffs suddenly emerge on your right, the colors of which change from pink to tan to gray, depending on the lighting. This backdrop also looks like it’s part of a movie set — like someone could yell “Cut!” in the middle of your hike.
Post-Trail Ale: Mount Hood Brewing Company (87304 E. Government Camp Loop, Government Camp) is the perfect place to cool down after a hike or warm up after snowshoeing in this area. There’s a roomy patio and a cozy fireplace along with hearty food that is a few notches above the average pub fare. The business, which has been brewing on site since 1992, has been renovated fairly recently and is only about 15 minutes east of Zigzag.
Silver Falls State Park: Chasing Waterfalls along Silver Creek
Distance: About 9 miles
Difficulty: Bear Grylls
Trailhead: From I-5, take Exit 253 in Salem, drive 10 miles east on North Santiam Highway 22, turn left at a sign for Silver Falls Park, and follow Highway 214 for 16 miles to the park entrance sign at South Falls.
If one waterfall isn’t enough to impress you, a trail of ten should satisfy your hunt for falling water. Most people have heard of Silver Falls and plenty will go to the park to photograph the easily accessible South Falls. However, the hike across the parking lot is about all of the exercise many are willing to put into the experience. For a view of nine more falls, continue on a series of trails that loop through the area.
The waterfall naming committee was really on its game when it came to this state park as you’ll see an abundance of wildly creative titles like “Lower North,” “Middle North,” and “North,” just to name a few. But the variation among the waterfalls themselves make them much more memorable. Some make dramatic plunges into deep pools, others have created damp grottos you can walk into and then there are falls that split in two or create a curtain of water you can walk behind. As you make your way between the waterfalls, you’re often following a stream surrounded by towering Douglas firs, western hemlock and a thick floor of vegetation that thrives in the temperate rainforest.
It might sound a bit odd to say there’s a dull part of this hike, but if you take the traditional loop starting at South Falls, there isn’t much worth noting on the trail after you’ve visited Upper North Falls, the last in the circuit. There’s one great view back at North Falls across the forest, but otherwise the route doesn’t feature any spectacular visuals unless you consider Highway 214 easy on the eyes. To get this section over with earlier and end at a swimming hole, park at the North Falls lot and hike toward South Falls using the Rim Trail. You’ll then finish at Upper North Falls, which has a large pool. And since you’ll be near your car, you don’t have to worry about making a final long slog in wet shoes.
Post-Trail Ale: While at Silver Falls, it only seems appropriate to refuel and relax in Silverton, which is less than 30 minutes away and known as the “gateway” to the great state park. Seven Brides Brewing (990 N. First St., Silverton) has a sprawling bar top and beers named after the brewers’ daughters. The brewery’s title actually arose from those kids. Between three of the founders, they have seven daughters. The men noted that the rising cost of weddings meant they needed to sell enough beer to pay for all of those ceremonies. Therefore, every time you buy a pint, you’re contributing to the wedding fund — unless they all end up eloping.
Neahkahnie Mountain/Cape Falcon and Bill’s Tavern and Brewhouse
Tryon Creek State Park and Sasquatch Brewing Company
Tamanawas Falls and Solera Brewing
Opal Creek and Vagabond Brewing
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In 2001 Tomas Sluiter was working on the production side of the evening news in Grand Rapids, Mich., and while not unhappy doing so, he and April, his girlfriend (and now wife) realized that if they didn't leave then, they might never leave. After visiting many places across the country they chose Portland for the reasons many do — beer, food, culture, small city feel with big city accommodations and ready access to the ocean, desert and rainforest. Back in those days, Seattle was the "obvious" choice, but since then Portland has become more attractive, in part because of people like Tomas and his brewery, Culmination Brewing. Originally, Tomas figured he would get another job in television but ended up taking an assistant brewer position at Old Market Pub & Brewery in Southwest Portland. At the time, the Old Market brewery was little more than a homebrew setup (something familiar to Tomas as a hobby he'd been practicing since high school) in part of the kitchen. Soon after he started, the owner approached Tomas to spearhead a transition to a more substantial brewery setup. He took on the project, finding a 15-barrel system in Kansas City and a local fabricator able to make needed modifications.
During the course of 12 years Tomas took the brewery from 250 barrels to 1,000 barrels annually, numbers which are made more impressive when one considers the number of styles that Old Market carries and the fact that the owner was adamant that they never run out of any beers. He greatly increased his brewing knowledge during that time, began to see ways to improve the layout of a brewery and, in time, realized opening his own brewery was what he wanted. As anyone who has opened a business knows, however, plans don't coalesce overnight.
While Tomas continued planning his brewery, including searching for an ideal location, he founded Brewery Consultant Group, a company that provides assistance regarding all aspects of opening and running a brewery, an endeavor that he continues to this day.
Eventually Tomas found the "perfect" site for his brewery in the Goose Hollow area of Portland, a building that was available for lease with the option to buy. As the saying goes, if something looks too good to be true it probably is and, unfortunately, it applied to this location. The new plumbing had been installed improperly and the expense Tomas would have had to incur was well beyond his budget.
Continuing his search, he found a place nestled in inner Northeast Portland, just south of I-84. While the site didn't have any hidden flaws, getting Culmination open there was not without its snags, this time with the city. For more than four months, the buildout of his fully funded brewery was put on hold as various factions within city government had disagreements about regulations. Once the waters cleared, it was full steam ahead to install and begin brewing on the 15-barrel, five-vessel system. Tomas specifically chose the system for its ability to produce smaller batches and, thus, more styles. It also makes it possible for Culmination to do a triple brew day just like big breweries do.
In early 2015, Culmination opened its doors to the public with a soft opening that was attended by nearly 100 people — double what they were expecting. Not only the culmination of years of planning, the name of the brewery came from the idea that Tomas and April wanted their brewery to be a place that was connected to the community, a place that embodied the coming together of great beer, food and music. That connection speaks to the relationship between his role as a brewer and his customers, which he described by saying, "When a customer comes in, they are entering a contract with the brewer. That person has worked X hours per day in order to buy the beer the brewer has made." It's an insightful view and one he takes very seriously.
Since opening, Tomas has put his certification as master brewer to work, increasing the ratio of house to guest beers and Carter Owen has gotten the kitchen up and running. Carter hails from Vermont and is the friend of an assistant brewer Tomas worked with at Old Market. Originally planning to open a food cart, Tomas convinced Carter, who he described as having a "perfect personality" and being a "phenomenal cook," to change his plans. He has given Carter complete autonomy about what comes out of the kitchen, dishes that start with local produce and meats to which Carter applies his culinary talents.
So what lies ahead for Culmination? Sake, for one. Tomas holds both a brewery license and a winery license, the latter of which covers sake production in Oregon. Tomas plans to start with hybrid beer/sake products, as traditional ones like those produced by SakeOne in Forest Grove, where he worked for two years. Those beverages require a specialized room where the koji mold spores work on the rice to digest the starch and convert it into fermentable sugar.
Culmination will also address a naming divide that exists in craft beer: Black IPA and CDA. From Tomas' perspective he sees the two names as different versions of the same style where there can be a lot of overlap, similar to the stout and porter crossovers that have existed for years. CDA is a Pacific Northwest specific name for the style that is bigger, sweeter, roasty and fuller bodied than the Black IPAs that are found in the Midwest and East. Tomas feels there is room for both and plans to have his version of each on tap at the same time.
Culmination also plans to have regular live music nights that will feature local bands playing original music. During the warmer months, they are utilizing a common space in the building but once winter comes they'll move into the brewery space that includes a back bar. Down the road, they look forward to pairing beer styles with music styles, creating custom labels and even phasing in a music studio. Tomas' plans are big, but no bigger than the time it has taken to formulate and begin to implement them -- a culmination of a dream he hadn't yet dreamt before his travels brought him to Oregon.
[a] 2117 NE Oregon St., Portland
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