By Gail Oberst
Is it ever a bad time to visit Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge breweries? If there is, I haven’t found it. The incredible Multnomah, Latourell, Horsetail and White River falls are as fantastic to hike in February as they are in October. The wind blows down the gorge almost 365 days a year making all of the wind sports a year-round adventure to both watch or join. The fishing’s always good and the food and wine are world-class.
But enough of this beautiful stuff. After a hard day of taking in the sites-sights, all you need to know is that some of that beautiful water goes into good beer.
Perhaps the hoppiest time this year is Sept. 28, when fresh-hopped beer from more than two dozen breweries will be on tap at the Hood River Hops Fest.
This event from noon to 9 p.m. takes up the downtown blocks between 5th and 7th streets at Cascade and Columbia streets. Thousands attend this hop-lover’s party which also features local foods, arts and crafts and line-up of live music.
Buy tickets in advance at http://hoodriver.org/events-festivals/chamber-events/hops-fest.
For those of us who’d rather visit the breweries any time of the year, here are my favorite spots on the Oregon side of the Gorge (with a footnote that there are also several on the Washington side, just a bridge away).
8 Fourth St, Hood River
If you haven’t been to Double Mountain in the past two years, you haven’t been to Double Mountain. It has expanded its taproom and food service area, added brewery capacity, a bottling line, etcetera. My favorites (and I am not alone) are any of the “Lava” beers, and I especially love their wet/fresh hop series, usually released in late September and not prone to gathering dust on the shelves. This is a great place to eat a meal at lunch or dinner, but many nights in the summer, there’s live music from Northwest acts, from Terry Robb to Ark Life. Check out the website for a full rundown of events and seasonal beers. This brewery always has dozens of brews to try – from light Belgians to black Dublin-style stouts. 541-387-0042
Full Sail Brewery
506 Columbia St., Hood River
This is the mother of all Gorge breweries, established by Irene Firmat and brewmaster Jamie Emmerson in 1987, and turned over to its employees in 1999. Although this hugely successful brewery is now found in more than 30 states from coast to coast, there’s nothing like having a beer at the Hood River Full Sail pub and tasting room while watching the kiteboarders and sailboarders skim across the Columbia River below. I am always thirsty for Full Sail’s award-winning Session Ale, but if you’re at the brewery, you should try any or all of the experimental, seasonal or Brewer’s Share series, some of which are only available on tap in Hood River or at their Portland Riverplace pub. I’ve tasted all of the Brewer’s Share series and been impressed by the innovation from the wider brewing staff and by the kindness connected to these beers that benefit community organizations. 541-386-2247
Pfriem Family Brewers
707 Portway Ave., Suite 101, Hood River
Pfriem Family Brewers (the ‘P’ is silent) splashed onto the Hood River scene last year with an emphasis on Northwest and Belgian-style beers, a brave move by brewer Josh Pfriem, backed by his family and friends. Josh Priefm is a former brewer for Chuckanut Brewery & Kitchen in Bellingham, Wash., and for Full Sail, but his determination to open a brewery has made us all very happy. Pfriem’s tasting room has long family-style tables set right in the and it is just across the road from a popular boarding (sail and kite) launch park on the Columbia River, so you are likely to share space with wet and happy boarders. Pfriem’s beers are constantly rotating, but they include at least one wit, a Belgian Strong Ale, a Belgian Strong Blonde, a blonde IPA, a regular IPA and a number of others depending on the mood of the brewer. I’ve never had a bad beer here, so I suggest you start with a taster tray, and if you are unfamiliar with Belgian-style beers, ask questions. 541-321-0490
Big Horse Brew Pub
115 W. State St., Hood River
Big Horse Brew Pub is another must-see brew stop in Hood River – if not for the beer then certainly for the food and the view. The climb to the hillside, top-story restaurant, past a faux falls and garden, is enough of a test of your worthiness to sit and enjoy the scenery on the second-floor deck, or from the wide windows on the top floor. The small brewery takes up the bottom level. For lunch or dinner, try pairing everything from justice fries to beef tender au poive with a variety of brews you’ll not find anywhere else. My favorites were the Pale Rider IPA, good anytime, and the MacStallion Scotch Export is especially good with the decadent sea salt/bacon chocolate chip cookie. 541-386-4411
Logsdon Farmhouse Ales
4785 Booth Hill Road, Hood River
Solera Brewery and Logsdon Farmhouse Ales have very little in common outside of this: You won’t be sorry you visited these two picturesque breweries located a few miles south of Hood River via Highway 35 – the road to Mt. Hood. Logsdon’s brewing team applies its expertise to making organic ales in the Flemish/Belgian style in a real picture-pretty red farmhouse. Some of its ingredients are grown right on the farm’s 10 acres. Last year, this two-year-old brewery won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival for its Seizoen Bretta. I’m not surprised – it was one of the more expensive beers I ever purchased with my own hard-earned dollars, and worth every penny. The other purchase was the other Seizoen, also delicious. David Logsdon kindly gave me a bottle of the Kili Wit, which was also delicious, prompting me to purchase the Seizoens. I suggest you visit the farmhouse and see how much you’d be willing to spend on beer. You may raise the bar for this brewery. 541-490-9161
4945 Baseline Dr., Parkdale
Just up the road from the rather reclusive Logsdon is the somewhat more social Solera Brewery, in beautiful downtown Parkdale. It’s street-side and patio concerts draw tourists and townfolk alike to sing and dance away summer nights. What’s more, this place has the best view of Mt. Hood a beer drinker could ask for without being actually on the mountain. During the few times I’ve returned from skiing via Highway 35, I’d always admired the historic-looking building that is now filled with a brewery that has something for everyone: IPAs, a smoked porter, farmhouse blends and a saison or two, and a few unusual beers like the French Tickler, a Grisette-style ale. They also serve beers from other breweries including Logsdon, Laurelwood, The Commons, Upright and Fort George. 541-352-5500
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