By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The idea seems as obvious as Mount Hood on a clear, spring day: Beer, bicycles and tours celebrating both.
But the obvious sometimes takes time to get rolling. In this case, it took a trip to Belgium seven years ago by an IT guy looking to reboot his work life.
It’s a sunny Memorial Day in Hood River. As a light breeze comes off the Columbia River, Claire Cohan is setting up bottles of beer and the makings for sandwiches on picnic tables in Port Marina Park. Soon, a group of riders with tour company Beercycling will arrive and devour the spread.
Claire says this tour began in Portland, where the group met and test rode bikes rented from The Bike Concierge in Oregon City. “We stayed at the Jupiter Hotel, and from there we rode across the Tilikum and Steel bridges to get warmed up. That was the first day. Then we got a tour at Hair of the Dog, which, of course, is amazing.”
During the five-day tour, riders pedal 20-32 miles per day. The route from Portland east to Hood River is mostly flat with the 900-foot climb to Vista House overlooking the Columbia River Gorge being the most breathtaking — both in terms of the view and the oxygen-sucking effort.
On day two, the group rides to Troutdale where they’ll spend the night at McMenamins Edgefield. Day three has the big climb and a stop at Thunder Island Brewing Co. in Cascade Locks. On day four, the group pedals the finished part of the Historic Columbia River Highway, then loads into a van to hop the gap along the unfinished section. A picnic lunch in Hood River is followed by visits to Full Sail Brewing Company and pFriem Family Brewers.
As Claire is running down the itinerary, 12 riders and Evan Cohan coast into the park; the riders are quickly off their bikes and moving toward the beer and food.
Evan comes over for the interview. But he first asks, “Can I have a beer while I answer questions? I’ll answer better that way.”
So, why did Beercycling start in Europe? Taking a sip from a special, non-breakable tasting glass Evan explains, “I’d been there once with friends. Flanders has a dedicated bike infrastructure that goes that entire part of the country and into Holland. You can get between points pretty much traffic free. The whole country is the size of Maryland, and when you focus on a couple of provinces you can really get anywhere really quickly.”
Evan likes beer, likes cycling, but what he wasn’t so happy with back then was his job. “I was having my, kind of, ‘I’m-done-with-my-day-job crisis’ in my mid-20s. Earlier than most. I thought, ‘What would the dream job be?’”
He found the answer on the road through Flanders. “It was a magical trip when you get into Belgian beer and you hear the stories about the Trappist monasteries. We just went for fun on a spontaneous trip, but I learned a lot.”
And he wanted to share what he learned — not as some sort of elaborate pub crawl, but as a lesson about the cultures surrounding beer. “You go along these canals and through farms, and it was amazing. And we got a couple of tours there. The Flemish people are really generous. And I thought this would be the ideal place for a bike tour. It has all the ingredients for logistics to make it happen safely. It would be like doing bike tours in Belgium visiting breweries.”
Stan Bashaw came from North Carolina for the debut Oregon tour. With a beer in one hand and a sizable sandwich in the other, he says he’s participated in a Beercycling event before. “I happened to see a Facebook post Evan put up about Beercycling and from day one I said, ‘Someday I’m doing that.’”
Stan then convinced friends to go with him. “We had the best time. Cycling in Belgium, the Belgians are used to bikes being everywhere. At least back in North Carolina, folks are used to bikes being annoyances. It’s been really great here [Oregon].”
The Beercycling European tours include mini-seminars on brewing, rides through hop fields and visits to ancient breweries. But Stan has one particularly fond memory: “The part of the tour that is really appealing in Belgium is all the food. Oh my gosh, we had such great food. The picnics we had alongside a bike path, Belgian bread — fresh made that day. Oh my God, it is just amazing.”
The food was especially welcome when “we biked out to the North Sea on a really cold day. I think that was really one of our favorite days. We were cold. We were wet. We found a coffee shop because we were so cold. We got warmed up, then rode past World War II artillery fortifications that go on for miles. We had a 20-knot wind behind us, and we barely had to pedal.”
Bashaw and his friends liked Oregon’s attitude toward cyclists but are anxious to do another European tour next year.
It took Evan and Claire about two years to work out the Oregon tour logistics, but they’ll hold three this year and perhaps more next year.
In Europe, Beercycling has grown to six tours: three in Flanders in northern Belgium, one in the Ardennes in southeastern Belgium, another around Milan in northwest Italy and a loop around Amsterdam in Holland.
The tours run from five to ten days with prices ranging from $1,475 in Oregon to $2,850 for one of the Flanders tours. Visit beercycling.com for dates, itineraries and bios of the guides.
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Rivertap started out as a small pub in The Dalles and was more of an afterthought — a way to make use of a narrow space between a restaurant and a computer store. Today, it’s a lively gathering place for the community and out-of-towners alike, growing to five times its original size while also now contracting with a neighboring brewery to create its own custom beers.
The story begins in 2009 when Tom Wood, an experienced restaurateur, took a chance on a space that stayed vacant in what was the first new building in the downtown area of The Dalles in 23 years. That was the height of the recession, so it wasn’t uncommon to find empty storefronts throughout the state. But Wood saw an opportunity to give locals something they were lacking.
“People in town said we needed a pub,” Wood explained. The downtown was sleepy with little traffic. “No one wanted to risk it back then, so I decided to open one.”
From the beginning, Rivertap featured a strong, regional beer selection.
“This town wasn’t engaged at the time with craft brews,” said Wood. “But they’ve come to love our IPAs and our diverse selection of unique microbrews and ciders.”
Manager Angela Carter is passionate about craft beer. She’s been at Rivertap for the past five years after moving with her husband from Indiana in search of a small mountain town with plenty of sunshine and natural beauty. In her role, she’s passionate about researching new brews to add to the lineup.
“You never know what you’ll get here,” she said. Since they only have 12 taps, they cycle through product regularly.
Those handles now pour Rivertap’s signature beers. While there’s no brewhouse on premises, the business has gotten assistance from one of its neighbors. Last January, Freebridge Brewing opened across the street in a historic U.S. Mint building. Rivertap contracts with them for a few custom creations.
Carter said, “We have two of our own beers now: Rivertap IPA and Rivertap Blonde Ale. We also have a fresh hop on now made with Cascade hops called Fresh Cascade.”
Rivertap also likes to engage its customers with everything from meet-the-brewer sessions to tap takeovers. About three years ago, Carter launched Battle of the Brews, a blind tasting pitting similarly styled beers against one another in a bracket-like system that can last for months.
The facility also received a makeover in 2012 when Wood closed his franchise restaurant that was sharing the same building in order to focus on the bustling Rivertap. “In the evenings we would get to the pub and it was packed in way too tight,” he said.
The restaurant space wraps around the corner of the building and both exterior glass walls are garage doors that open on sunny days. A patio seats approximately 50 and often is the stage for live music.
This fall, Wood and his staff completely revamped the menu, refining and streamlining dishes to facilitate kitchen preparation. “We kept all the products our customers love,” he said. “But with these changes, our chefs have more time to focus on fresh sheets.” A few of the house favorites are bacon-wrapped jalapeno Yukon golds, fish tacos and fish and chips made with halibut cloaked in the Rivertap Blonde Ale batter.
“We constantly source local foods,” said Wood. They get fresh Klickitat salmon from the other side of the Columbia. “It comes from a glacial-fed river that’s always cold. We buy it from a local native and get it in the morning, right after it’s been caught.” Salmon bisque, one of their regular house-made soups, makes use of their abundant salmon supply.
There are now more signs of life in what was a sleepy downtown. Just up the street from Rivertap stands the Sunshine Mill Winery, which opened its doors the same year as the pub. And in addition to Freebridge, Sedition Brewing brought beer making back to The Dalles in 2016. Together, the businesses seem to be strengthening tourism, and the community, in this section of the Columbia River Gorge.
703 E. Second Ave., The Dalles
By Kirby Neumann-Rea
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Commercial brewing is returning to The Dalles for the first time since pre-Prohibition.
Freebridge Brewing, 710 E. Second St., is about to open in the historic Columbia River Gorge city. Steve and Laurie Light took over the historic Mint building and plan to open Freebridge to the public on Jan. 15. The name originated with the first bridge over the Deschutes River, which was crossed by pioneers traveling along the Oregon Trail. Legend has it that the “Freebridge” was blown up by the Moodys, who ran a toll bridge near the mouth of the Deschutes.
Steve is taking five years of intensive homebrewing experience and turning it into a second career. He’s now making beer on a larger level after spending 20 years as a fly fishing guide on the Deschutes River, which meets the Columbia 17 miles east of The Dalles. Laurie has worked in retail and industry supply over the years. She was born and raised in the city to a family of multigenerational wheat farmers.
“This has been a long time coming,” Steve said. “People around here talk about how this town of 17,000 has had no brewery, while Hood River, a smaller community, has five. People here in The Dalles also want good, local beer.”
The Dalles has had several outlets for regional craft ale, including Clock Tower Ales, Rivertap Pub, and the new Route 30 Bottles & Brews downtown. Now, with Freebridge starting operations and Sedition Brewing Company opening a few blocks away, The Dalles gets two new breweries at virtually the same time. The last place beer was made in The Dalles was the old Columbia Brewing building near the Columbia River.
“People have said, ‘What took you so long?’” joked Steve.
After charging up the glycol system on Dec. 13, White and master brewer Mike Boler dropped their first beer shortly before Christmas. They will focus on traditional styles, including pales, stouts and lagers, starting with pub and keg sales and adding bottles later this year.
“There aren’t many lager makers around. They’re more expensive and take longer, but we know there is a real desire for this style of beer. We vetted the demographic, spending a lot of time in the brewpubs in the Gorge and elsewhere,” Steve said.
Freebridge also plans on producing a Belgian saison, a pilsner and a German wheat, using local grain when possible (The Dalles being wheat country, after all). The brewery’s glistening new 10-barrel system was designed by JV Northwest of Canby. Freebridge debuted at Main Street Uncorked in October, with an American pale ale and an IPA that the Lights made at home. The brought their beers to the public again at a Chamber of Commerce event in December at Sunshine Mill, the beautifully refurbished winery and artisan plaza. That time, in addition to the pale ale, consumers got to sample a dry, bourbon-aged Irish stout. Steve “dry hopped” pieces of bourbon barrel wood after initial fermentation. The steeping process gave the beer a “creamy, silky quality,” he said.
“That definitely helped build some hype, but we have to say that our reception has been great. The support of the community of The Dalles, and the entire Gorge, has been really gratifying,” Laurie said.
The brewery will employ the Lights, two brewers and four or more pub workers once the operation is up and running. The pub will offer 10 taps, reserving some for guests and for cider.
“The pub will start simply — pub fare including sandwiches and soups, and we’ll expand as we get busier,” Laurie said. Look for charcuterie and cheeses from Olympia Provisions and Ancient Heritage Dairy. New furniture and some interior tweaks are planned, but guests will recognize the relaxing vibe created by the previous inhabitant, Erin Glenn Vineyards.
“We want people to see it — to have that connection to the making of the beer,” Steve said.
He said he’s refined his skills during the past five years, but bringing Boler on board was essential to the success of the Freebridge beers.
“Mike is a real student of the craft. He has the knowledge and skills to ensure we are successful,” Steve said.
The Dalles’ Second Street is shaping up into a destination neighborhood for the fermented arts, between the Freebridge, Sunshine Mill and the forthcoming Sedition Brewery. Sedition is planning on a February 2016 opening. Owners Aaron and Kelly Lee started out as Defiance Brewing Company, but they decided last month to formally change the name to avoid a trademark dispute with a company back east. But if you’re familiar with their raised fist logo, that will remain the same. It will fill one of the walls inside the pub.
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 Alethea Smartt LaRowe
Big Horse Brew Pub
115 W. State St., Hood River
This small brewery is one of the oldest in the Gorge. Owners Randy and Susan Orzeck opened the business as a fine dining destination under the name Horsefeathers but have gradually evolved over the years, with Randy, a self-taught brewer, acting as the original brewmaster.
Current brewmaster Darrek Smith has been working at Big Horse for almost three years. He took over when Jason Kahler left to start up Solera. The 4-barrel brewery is a one-man show, producing five regular beers, including a rotating series of IPAs called Strictly Rude, and a variety of seasonals that are served at the pub on the upper level of the three-story building with great views over downtown Hood River and the Columbia River. Smith jokes that one of the unique things about the brewery is that “every keg is hauled up three flights of stairs.”
As the brewery doesn’t package or distribute, Smith has more flexibility in choosing what beers to make. His favorite styles are traditional German lagers, funky sour beers, and really hoppy beers. Smith usually partners with the restaurant’s chef to create a few special menu items to pair with any new beers he releases. New beers in the works are a nut brown ale, a chocolate stout, and a Munich dunkel as well as a Berliner Weisse-style beer made with sour mash.
Next spring, the brewery will double in size as the building’s footprint expands farther north toward State Street. Smith will still be brewing on the 4-barrel system, but will gain a malt room and a barrel room. He plans to start a barrel-aging project and will focus on making some stronger beers next year.
Double Mountain Brewery
8 4th St., Hood River
Business is booming at Double Mountain. In 2013, the brewery doubled in production and pub space and now employs 75 people. They also have an offsite warehouse which includes space for keg storage, malt storage, an 8,000-square-foot cooler, and a cask room. Double Mountain makes four year-round beers and seven annual ales, all packaged in reusable glass bottles.
Matt Swihart, owner of the 20-barrel brewery, takes great pride in sourcing the best ingredients from all over the world in order to make the best beer possible. These include two-row pilsner malts from British Columbia, Belgian yeast strains, and Northwest hops. “Our brewmasters thrive in creating robust, yet drinkable beers by focusing on the end product rather than being wedded to stylistic guidelines,” Swihart says.
Swihart found another way to showcase the brewery this summer when he purchased a 1950 Chevy panel truck he found in Los Angeles. Other than replacing the engine, transmission and brakes, modifying the paint job, and adding four taps on one side, little has been done to modernize the vehicle.
Double Mountain beers will be featured at Mt. Hood Meadows ski resort for several events throughout the winter. The brewery will also be releasing two new beers early next year. In January, look for Pale Death, a Belgian-style Imperial IPA. Later in the spring they will release Gypsy Stumper, an IPA.
According to Swihart, the brewery’s future plans will focus on “organic growth at our own pace. We’ll continue to make delicious beer, serve up quality food, and enjoy the ride for as long as we can.”
Pfriem Family Brewers
707 Portway Ave., Suite 101, Hood River
Along with friends and business partners Ken Whiteman and Rudy Kellner, Josh and Annie Pfriem opened this family-run 15-barrel brewery two years ago with the primary focus of producing artisanal, high quality beers. Housed in a silver LEED-certified building, the brewery has already doubled their space from 6,000 to 12,500 square feet. Forthcoming additions of four 90-barrel fermenters, two 90-barrel brite tanks, a dedicated mash tun, a second grain silo and plenty of other equipment will all serve to boost quality and increase capacity from 5,000 to 10,000 barrels per year.
Even on the current system, Pfriem has been able to release approximately one new beer every week, and will brew more than 50 different beers this year. In addition to six year-round offerings, the brewery makes a wide variety of seasonal beers, and has recently released a Winter Ale, a Cascadian Dark Ale, and a Belgian Christmas Ale for the holidays.
Other forthcoming beers are a Flanders blonde and red that have been aging for the past year and a half in French oak barrels. Further barrel aging plans incorporate two newly-acquired 40-hectoliter foeders from Bordeaux, France as well as some bourbon and gin barrels. Three wine tanks will be used for fruit aging beers next summer.
Pfriem plans to start bottling in March 2015. Their six year-round beers will be at the forefront of packaged options, although they are generally going to avoid the traditional model and will put hop-forward beers and lagers in 500-milliliter capped bottles while Belgian-style and barrel-aged beers will undergo secondary fermentation in 375-milliliter bottles.
Full Sail Brewery
506 Columbia St., Hood River
Full Sail is an employee-owned company (since 1999) whose CEO and Founder Irene Firmat is not only a pioneer of the craft beer industry; she also blazed the trail uniquely as a woman from Cuba. Her husband, Jamie Emmerson, is executive brewmaster.
Full Sail laid the foundation for most of the Gorge breweries in business today. The majority of the other brewers mentioned in this article have worked at Full Sail at some point in their careers, gaining valuable knowledge and experience along with the business connections and confidence to take a leap of faith and strike out on their own.
The brewery continues to win awards for its beers and sustainable business model. One of the many accolades they have received was being named Beverage World Magazine’s Craft Brewer of the Year 2014. At this year’s U.S. Beer Open they won gold medals for Session Premium Lager and Session Black Lager.
Besides the two Session beers, Full Sail makes their flagship Amber Ale and IPA as year-round offerings in six-packs and on draft. The company has also now added its pilsner to this year-round lineup. There are also rotating seasonal varieties in the Pub Series, the LTD Lager Series and the Brewer’s Share Series. The brewery recently released a special beer as part of their Brewmaster Reserve series: 27 Wheatwine Ale, brewed with 100% wheat malt to celebrate their 27th anniversary. For this holiday season, they have already released Wassail, Wreck the Halls and Session Fest.
Full Sail offers informative, enjoyable, and complimentary brewery tours at 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. daily. The tour takes about 30 minutes and is a great introduction to the art and science of crafting beer.
Logsdon Farmhouse Ales
4785 Booth Hill Rd., Hood River
Located on David Logsdon and Judith Logsdon-Bams’ picturesque 10-acre estate off Highway 35, complete with assorted animals and 400 cherry trees, this brewery is unique in that it’s a cooperative owned by six partners who can make their own beers. The Farmhouse Brewer, Charles Porter, has already released his first beer in his own “Bergschrund Signature Series.” Aberrant, an Organic Farmhouse Golden Ale, debuted in June 2013.
Logsdon currently brews four regular beers plus a range of seasonals. Their Peche ‘n Brett recently won Silver at GABF while Cerasus won Gold at the 2014 World Beer Cup. Look for the release of 2014 Cerasus at Volcanic Bottle Shoppe in Hood River this month. It was expected to debut Thanksgiving weekend.
The brewery has recently installed two new 40-hectoliter Hungarian oak casks in the cave, an arched structure installed in a hillside and covered with soil. The larger casks take the place of the original 55-gallon ones, which will be used for a new sour beer program. In early November, they took delivery of a coolship which will be used for traditional wild fermentations.
The brewery will celebrate its four-year anniversary in February and is planning to open an offsite tap room and barrel house sometime in the spring. Note that the current tasting room is closed for the winter months.
4945 Baseline Dr., Mount Hood Parkdale
Co-owners John Hitt and Jason Kahler are always happy to welcome you to their cozy brewpub, which will celebrate its three-year anniversary in April. Just off Highway 35 in Parkdale, Solera is the perfect pre- or post-skiing watering hole. The vibe is always laid-back and you’ll probably meet several of the locals if you hang out at the bar for a while. With spectacular views of orchards and Mt Hood, the brewery is a wonderful place to grab a picnic table and soak up the sunshine on a clear day. This winter, look for themed events like an ugly sweater party in December and an ‘80s ski party in January.
Hitt handles the front-of-house responsibilities while Kahler, previously of Full Sail and Big Horse, operates the 7-barrel system he inherited from Elliot Glacier Public House, the building’s previous occupant. The name of the brewery comes from the unique process, called “solera,” in which beers of varying ages are stored in barrels. Portions of the contents of the oldest barrels are removed and added to contents of newer barrels, creating a blend.
While Kahler doesn’t make all of his beers using the solera method, he has been barrel aging since the end of 2012 and will soon be ready to release the brewery’s first solera-style beers in 750-milliliter bottles. These will be limited editions of approximately 250 bottles per batch that will only be available at the brewery. In the meantime, you can usually find their Hedonist IPA on tap in the pub, along with a variety of rotating seasonal beers.
Thunder Island Brewing
515 S.W. Portage Rd., Cascade Locks
This new brewery just celebrated its first anniversary in October. Started by business partners Dave Lipps and Dan Hynes, it is uniquely located alongside the Columbia River near the Bridge of the Gods and the Pacific Crest Trail. With views of namesake Thunder Island from the large outdoor patio, the brewery is a year-round destination for adventure lovers of all types and serves as a gathering spot for the local community.
Thunder Island started operations on a 2-barrel system and is now transitioning to 7-barrel system. Hynes, the brewmaster, is already anticipating making the first beer, a double chocolate stout, on the new system. As they expand production, the brewery will start limited distribution. They also hope to expand their current food offerings.
In addition to their standby beer, a Scotch Porter, Thunder Island features a rotating selection of brews that appeal to their broad customer base. These include a Mosaic-hopped pale ale, an easy drinking cream ale, and a Northwest-style IPA. They have a small barrel-aging program and have already released a few “dinosour” beers. They have also collaborated with Beers Made by Walking on a number of beers featuring wild harvested ingredients from their backyard.
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