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 Oregon Beer Growler Contributors
The summer of 2015 was a brutal one. There were 28 days where the city of Portland officially hit or exceeded the 90 degree mark. That’s nearly a month of sweating probably far more than you wanted to and cursing the fact that you still live in a place without air conditioning. It’s also 16 more days than we see on average. If we’re in for another scorching summer, and perhaps on our way to becoming the new Bakersfield, Calif. if that state’s drought continues to push north, at least we can celebrate our abundance of brewery patios with shade and quality beer. While we couldn’t include all of our favorites in this guide, here are some standouts from across the state during the past year:
825 N. Cook St., Portland, 503-265-8002, eclipticbrewing.com
Ecliptic’s patio has been evolving since it opened in 2013, but from the start the space offered a view of the West Hills — made spectacular as the sun sets —and I-405 as it spans the Willamette, adding a bit of schadenfreude spice to happy hour during rush hour. The umbrella-covered picnic tables provide refuge from the sun with foliage bordering two sides, breaking up the concrete parking lot and surrounding streets. Located in what is still a largely industrial area south of bustling Mississippi, the lack of nearby dining makes it feel like you’ve found an oasis as you sip beers named for the stars while gaining an astronomy lesson from the menu.
The kitchen is known to serve up some of the best brewpub food in town with a menu that rotates in accordance with the Old World calendar. For a price break, hit happy hour where popular items like Caesar salad, the classic burger and grilled salmon sandwich are a few bucks cheaper. However, don’t look past more unusual dishes like deviled eggs topped with boquerones or skip an indulgence like an ice cream float made with the Capella Porter. KRIS MCDOWELL
Fire on the Mountain
3443 NE 57th Ave., Portland, 503-894-8973, portlandwings.com
Fire on the Mountain is undoubtedly known more for its food — the wings in particular — than its beer. The restaurant had been making East Coast-inspired wings for six years when owners decided to get into the booming brewing business, adding a third family-friendly location that houses the brewery as well as pizza ovens that churn out a cross between New York-style and Neo-Neapolitan style pies.
During warm weather, the patio — which has a mix of standard four-person tables and larger picnic tables — is a hopping place to be. Sitting beneath the overhead covering can get a bit warm during the height of summer evenings but conversely, that same covering offers shelter from rain. An impressive mosaic outdoor fireplace brightens the decor and provides a coziness when the weather is cooler. All day on Mondays, beers are just $2.50. KRIS MCDOWELL
Laurelwood Public House & Brewery
5115 NE Sandy Blvd., Portland, 503-282-0622, laurelwoodbrewpub.com
Tucked out of sight, the patio atop Laurelwood Northeast (Did you even know there was an upstairs that includes an indoor “Brewers Den?”) feels like an oasis from the bustle on the main floor of the flagship location and traffic on Northeast Sandy Boulevard. While modest in size, they’ve made the most of the rooftop with bench seating — topped with flower boxes — around the perimeter that join with the two- and four-person tables. Raspberry vines and other foliage occupy another planter, helping to give the patio more of a backyard feel.
Nearly a dozen beers pour out of the taps along with a handful of guest ciders and the extensive menu offers plenty of options to accompany one’s drink of choice. Happy hour, with discounts on beer and food, gets even happier on Thursdays when they roll out Thirsty Thursdays. Each week the brewers select one keg of beer that goes for $2 a pint from 3 p.m. until the tap runs dry in the Brewers Den. Beers purchased in that area can be taken out to the patio. KRIS MCDOWELL
Montavilla Brew Works
7805 SE Stark St., Portland, 503-954-3440, montavillabrew.com
Occupying a corner on the west end of the business-filled portion of Southeast Stark Street in the Montavilla neighborhood, Montavilla Brew Works features a modest bar area that is open to the brewery itself with an adjacent patio that greatly increases the seating. It’s an adults-only place throughout (no minors, no furry friends) with a wide assortment of house beers. From the beginning, brewer/co-owner Michael Kora has put his brewing system through its paces to offer an impressive number of beers that range from summer patio staples like Stick and Frame Blonde Ale to heartier brews like Old Fellowship Barleywine. There are only minimal snacks onsite, but customers are welcome to bring in outside food like pizza from Flying Pie across the street.
The patio is fully enclosed, providing a buffer from the car and pedestrian traffic that is especially prevalent on warm, summer afternoons. Outfitted with umbrella-topped picnic tables, a cornhole game — an ideal one-handed activity to enjoy with a beer in the other — and the bar just steps away, it’s a setting that invites one to stay for a while and relax. KRIS MCDOWELL
Stickmen Brewing Company
40 N. State St., Lake Oswego, 503-4449, stickmenbeer.com
While Oswego Lake is largely inaccessible to the general public, particularly for recreational purposes, you can still drink and dine on the edge of the water and feel like you own a piece of it from the patio at Stickmen. The brewery, which opened in 2011, has a deck that extends over what’s officially called Lakewood Bay. You can spend hours entertaining yourself with nature — watching the blue sky turn purple and red at dusk or by tossing bits of French fry to giant bass and baby ducks. On a hot day, you can also sit back and watch stand-up paddle boarders find their balance or wealthy families taking a spin in their motorized vessels. If things really get crazy, the Lake Oswego boat cops will be on patrol. While the brewery no longer serves the skewers it once advertised in its name, the kitchen focuses on classic pub fare and thankfully F-Bomb IPA remains on tap. ANDI PREWITT
832 N. Beech St., Portland, 971-703-4516, stormbreakerbrewing.com
StormBreaker’s location on the corner of North Beech Street and Mississippi Avenue is surrounded by numerous bars, restaurants and retail shops that are frequently bustling with activity, making the patio a great place for taking it all in while enjoying the beers. Since the brewpub changed hands and names (formerly Amnesia Brewing) there have been numerous upgrades — to the interior, to the food and to the outside. What was once a utilitarian patio is now a space that has a permanent covering over a portion of the picnic tables — great whether one is trying to escape the sun or the rain — as well as a two fire pits with seating. If the fire pits are too crowded, there are also hanging heaters that provide year-round warmth when the patio is enclosed with detachable sides.
The beers can be enjoyed on their own or, for whiskey fans, StormBreaker provides eight shot pairings with half-pints. The food menu has a little something for everyone, including sharable plates for groups and selections for kids. KRIS MCDOWELL
Block 15 Brewery & Tap Room
3415 SW Deschutes St., Corvallis, 541-752-BEER, block15.com/brewery-tap-room#overview-2
A short eight-minute drive from its downtown location, Block 15’s Brewery & Tap Room offers more of a scenic setting, whether you’re seated inside or outside the building. The alluring view of Mary’s Peak — the highest peak in the Oregon Coast Range — is just the beginning of the appeal of this place. When you first pull into the parking lot, the outdoor patio draws you in right away. It’s airy, reasonably shaded, and decorated with a colorful array of flowers. With a dozen or so beers on tap (including the highly sought-after Sticky Hands IPA and the seasonal Mango Song IPA) it’s hard to pick just one — so your best bet is to start off with a taster tray. Once you’ve ordered, (carefully) carry your tray of beers outside and park yourself at one of the brewery’s picnic tables that surround the new fire pit. Then sit back, relax and enjoy your variety of brews that are “brewed feet from your seat.” Too hot outside? Venture indoors and doodle your way to happiness on one of their chalkboard tables next to a window. You’ll still get to enjoy the beautiful views — but with air conditioning. ERICA TIFFANY-BROWN
140 NE Hill St., Albany, 541-928-1931, calapooiabrewing.com
This Albany brewery recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary and it’s easy to see how Calapooia has stayed successful for so long. Between the wide range of beers, daily food specials and live local music every week, there’s always something new to enjoy. On a nice day, go up to their bar and order a refreshing summertime sipper like their Raspberry Wheat or turn up the heat even more with their award-winning Chili Beer, which features Anaheim, Serrano and Jalapeno peppers. Then, take a step outside. The leafy green foliage you’ll encounter once you enter their sheltered outdoor “forest” provides a nice retreat to hide from reality for a little while. Here you’ll find kegs that have been converted into planters, picnic tables and even an old church pew, which gives the space a unique charm. There’s also a barrel with a tabletop that reads, “This table has had other lives,” and goes on to say it was part of “a successful batch or 10 of bourbon and beer making.” Proof that what’s old is new again!
If you happen to be at the brewery on the first or third Wednesday of the month, imbibe in some liquid courage and take part in one of the Open Mic Nights, whether you might be a musician, poet or comedian. If your talents lie elsewhere, at the very least be sure to raise a glass and cheer on the brave souls willing to approach the stage! ERICA TIFFANY-BROWN
2065 Madrona Ave. SE, Salem, 503-584-1789, gilgameshbrewing.com
When you first approach the restaurant adjacent to this south Salem brewery, nicknamed “The Campus,” it’s hard to imagine it as a former office building for a grass seed warehouse. As you walk through the expansive (yet cozy) building, the beautiful woodwork and grand stone fireplace are a welcome introduction to the large back patio. You’ll discover there’s a fireplace out there, too — perfect for those cool summer nights. But the real star of the show is Pringle Creek, which runs alongside the patio. It’s a delightful complement to the light breeze that runs through the trees, providing a relaxing ambiance that can only be matched by the beer in your glass.
On the third Wednesday of each month, join former OBG cover girl Mikki Trowbridge for her ever-growing Yoga + Beer on Gilgamesh’s lush lawn next to the creek. After you detox, retox with a pint of the brewery’s DJ Jazzy Hef. The floral jasmine in the beer will take you one step further into becoming one with nature. ERICA TIFFANY-BROWN
Golden Valley Brewery & Restaurant
980 NE Fourth St., McMinnville, OR, 503472-2739, goldenvalleybrewery.com
McMinnville was a finalist in a Best Main Streets of America competition featuring more than 2,000 nominations. If you’ve ever strolled along Northeast Third and Fourth Streets, it’s no surprise that these stretches of pavement made for such a strong contender. Small, independent shops, restaurants and wine tasting rooms line the route. And, of course, no proverbial Main Street would be complete without a brewery. Well, Golden Valley stepped up to fill that void more than 20 years ago. It also happens to have one of the prettiest little patios in that area. The handful of tables are cocooned by vegetation — a wisteria tree does the bulk of the work by coiling up and over a planter in the middle of the space with a trellis that reaches toward the sky. The result is a ceiling of small leaves and branches with just enough natural skylights here and there for the sun to peek through. A fountain bubbles away in one corner above a carpet of small pink flowers and emerald ferns. It feels like you’ve stumbled into a hidden Main Street garden that only former mayors and head of the Chamber of Commerce get access to. ANDI PREWITT
Grain Station Brew Works
755 NE Alpine Ave., McMinnville, 503-687-2739, grainstation.com
If McMinnville’s quaint old town core is the city’s Main Street, then the Granary District might just have become the Entertainment Hub. The blocks of land haven’t shed their rural/industrial identity — large structures covered with corrugated galvanized steel dominate the area. Some are still stamped with the names of their former occupants (like the McDaniel Fertilizer Company), even though most have been transformed into winery tasting rooms and restaurants. At the heart of it all lies Grain Station, a rustic, brown barn with a sprawling patio that butts up against the parking lot. There’s a variety of seating — umbrella-topped picnic tables and plastic chairs pulled up to oversized wooden spools. But plenty of people are just fine with standing — it makes it easier to start dancing when moved by a band playing in the wood-roofed amphitheater. By next year, Grain Station will get a softer carpet of grass in its outdoor living room and even a cover. ANDI PREWITT
McMenamins Hotel Oregon
310 NE Evans St., McMinnville, 503-472-8427, mcmenamins.com/hoteloregon/location
You might not expect that a mere five stories up would feel like the top of the world. That’s how high McMenamins Hotel Oregon rises, and its Rooftop Bar offers surprisingly expansive views of Yamhill Valley’s wine country. Black, wrought-iron tables and chairs wrap around the building before spiraling higher, creating a layered view. Swaths of beige cloth are stretched across portions of the patio for shade, crisscrossing with string lights from the center building to exterior posts. Looking out at the city below you, the trees actually seem to outnumber the buildings and the Coast Range rises gently on the horizon. Because it’s McMenamins, you’re ordering Cajun tots. And while they still have it on tap, drink an Alienator IPA. The beer’s name is a nod to the city’s famous UFO sighting in 1950, the photos of which are said to be some of the most credible to date. ANDI PREWITT
Sky High Brewing & Pub
160 NW Jackson Ave., Corvallis, 541-207-3277, skyhighbrewing.com
It would be remiss to list off some of the best brewery patios in Oregon and not include Sky High Brewing. Nestled on top of the brewery’s renovated four-story building, this rooftop oasis offers some of the best views in Corvallis. While it may only be open seasonally (an often short window for Oregon’s rain-prone climate) and from 4 p.m. to closing time, it’s well worth the wait. At the top of the four-story renovated building, you can enjoy snacks, the brewery’s full tap lineup, and a full service bar. If you’ve had a couple pints and are feeling lively, there are several cornhole stations. Or, if you’re wanting to just take a load off and enjoy the sunset, there are plenty of tables shaded with big blue umbrellas for your ultimate comfort.
On a hot day, it’s nearly impossible to say no to something cold and refreshing. Luckily for you, the brewery offers Handys — which, despite what you may think, are drinks mixed with their Handlebeer wheat ale. You can choose from The Shandy (lemonade), The Randy (Reed’s ginger beer) or The Bandy (soda water — aka Banquet Beer). The Shandy is especially thirst-quenching on a summer day. ERICA TIFFANY-BROWN
Seaside Brewing Company
851 Broadway St., Seaside, 503-717-5451, seasidebrewery.com
The 102-year-old brick building that once held this coastal city’s drunkards and other lawbreakers, is one of the highlights of visiting Seaside Brewing. Since opening in 2012, the owners have slowly, but unrelentingly, worked on renovations while leaving the character of the rustic building intact. Take a seat at the bar and you can see metal rails still covering a small window that doubles as a liquor shelf. Taps sprout from the chipped brick wall of a cell, now holding kegs serving sentences of life with the likelihood of parole once they’re dry. But the exterior has gotten a makeover to match the coziness and hard-scrabble beach city charm that defines the inside. Deck seating now exists on two levels and the ground floor space is more prominently defined by the instillation of a canopy made with reclaimed wood that looks like it’s weathered many a storm near the sea. Strands of lights arc down from the trellis of beams, \creating a soft glow that’s matched by a brick-and-glass enclosed, gas-powered fire pit. From a picnic table seat, you can watch tourists make their way to the Promenade on a street choked with families struggling to control tandem bicycles or packed cars constantly slowed by the stream of pedestrians. On one of those rare summer days when Seaside breaks the 80 degree mark, the brewery kitchen’s chipotle fish tacos are a light dining option. Sweet mango salsa complements the lightly fried crunch of the fresh cod. A citrusy Lockup IPA won’t overwhelm the fish and its name is a reminder to appreciate the fact that you weren’t paying this jail a visit a century ago. ANDI PREWITT
Pelican Pub & Brewery
33180 Cape Kiwanda Drive, Pacific City, 503-965-7007
Like many beach traditions — scouring the same tide pools for signs of life, spending too much money at your favorite outlet mall or returning to the candy shop for the saltwater taffy and caramel corn you think is best — sipping beers in front of Haystack Rock at Pelican is a ritual you’ll never grow tired of. As soon as you round the corner of Cape Kiwanda Drive in Pacific City, it’s inevitable that the wind-swept parking lot will be packed with family vans toting sand buckets and Subarus sporting surfboards on the roof. After a day in the water or running up and down the nearby giant sand dune, Pelican is right there to help you rest and refuel just as it has been for 20 years. If you can manage to wait for a table on the patch of concrete out back, watching the sun slowly descend into the shimmering Pacific is all the payoff you’ll need for your patience. Rich, hearty fare is the menu’s strength, including fish and chips breaded with Kiwanda Cream Ale and a sweet, tangy slaw that’s actually not just a plate filler; mac and cheese made with Tillamook smoked cheddar; and a bleu cheese burger featuring Doryman’s Ale pork belly confit. And if a seagull with good aim happens to poop on your shoulder while you’re on the patio (it occasionally happens), chalk it up to life on the coast and order an Umbrella IPA in the hope that it will provide a symbolic shield next time. ANDI PREWITT
THE GORGE/MOUNT HOOD
4945 Baseline Road, Parkdale, 541-352-5500, facebook.com/Solera-Brewery-155875804519628
While sitting on the back lawn of Solera, you might expect a gun-toting farmer to pop out of the trees at any moment to confront you about trespassing on his property if you hadn’t just bought a pint inside. The long, narrow patch of grass that belongs to the brewery is corralled by a rope fence that stretches toward acres of orchards. In the distance sits a dark red barn with a slightly sagging roof next to rust-colored equipment. Majestically jutting out into the sky is the North Face of Mount Hood — the best view you’ll get of the peak from any Oregon brewery. The picnic table seating is basic and unadorned, but you don’t need furniture upstaging scenery this grand. In the decades-old building that houses the 7-barrel brewery and bar, beer flows from a stained glass-style portrait of three grinning skulls. You’ll find ever-popular styles like IPA, but Solera specializes in saison/farmhouse ales. Order something you’ve never tried before the live music gets going, turning this little patch of rural Hood River County into a party that’s wilder than a square dance after a barn raising. ANDI PREWITT
Thunder Island Brewing Co.
515 SW Portage Road, Cascade Locks, 971-231-4599, thunderislandbrewing.com
This is about as close as you’ll get to the Columbia River, as it surges and churns through the Gorge, from the patio of Thunder Island Brewing. The business was named after the feature that engineers created by carving into the mainland in 1890, allowing for the construction of the Cascade Locks and canal. A skinny strip of jagged grey rock topped with grass and trees is the tip of Thunder Island that’s most visible from picnic tables lining a guard rail on the property. The owners seem to upgrade their outdoor playground nearly every year. The space that started with minimal seating now has bench-style wooden booths, a metal fire pit emblazoned with the brewery’s logo, blue-and-white umbrellas, string lights and a brand-new beer bar that will provide some line relief during busy summer weekends. The faster you can get back to your seat, the better because the setting never bores. Not only can you watch barges meander back and forth along the water, you might even spot the Sternwheeler docking next door. This is also the only brewery where you might run into a Pacific Crest Trail-through hiker since Cascade Locks is the sole city along the route in Oregon. Should you run into any shaggy, trail-dust coated people hauling small homes on their backs, buy them a pint of liquid relief. ANDI PREWITT
Elk Horn Brewery
686 E. Broadway St., Eugene, 541-505-8356, elkhornbrewery.com
The campus haven. With seating for 50 at a dozen black wrought-iron tables, the thing about Elk Horn’s patio is how quickly you forget that you are sitting at the corner of two busy streets and are a stone’s throw from the University of Oregon. Founded in 2014 by the folks behind Eugene’s popular Delacata food cart, Elk Horn seeks to bridge the gap between beer, cider and wine, while providing guests with Southern-inspired food made in a kitchen that doesn’t cut any corners. First, order some frickles (yes, fried pickles). Then, sip your pint of Ducks Blue Ribbon Kolsch, Redic Dry Cider, Velvet Antler Red Ale (or any of the 24 beers, ciders and sodas on tap — not to mention the extensive whiskey list). Start drooling thanks to a menu of shrimp and grits, catfish, and chicken and waffles. Before you order, though, cast your gaze to the blaze burning at the far end: the recently added wood-burning oven is cranking out “beerizzas,” or pizza made with a stout crust. ANTHONY ST. CLAIR
Falling Sky Pour House & Delicatessen
790 Blair Blvd., Eugene, 541-653-9167, fallingskybrewing.com
While Falling Sky’s Oak Alley brewpub has a nice outdoor area, the Pour House & Delicatessen offers a spacious covered patio with raised counter and table settings. In addition to local accolades, including “Best Bar Grub,” “Best Burger” and “Best Place to Drink in the Sun,” Falling Sky has made a mark with its ability to brew diverse beverages and present quality charcuterie, breads, pickles and more. The deli also takes the prize for having the most family-friendly patio. The covered, enclosed space forgoes a fire pit and instead has a sand pit, complete with a selection of toys. There’s no better brewery patio in Eugene for kids to play while moms and dads take a breather over a pint of Blue Balloon Belgian Pale Ale or Dual Hearted IPA. If you want a little privacy while outdoors, fear not. Off in one corner, sectioned off from the rest of the space, there’s a secret table with room for four. From latkes to beef-pastrami sliders or other pastramis made of duck, lamb and beef, be sure to arrive with an empty stomach, because you certainly won’t leave with one. ANTHONY ST. CLAIR
Hop Valley Tasting Room
990 W. First Ave., Eugene, 541-484-2337, hopvalleybrewing.com
On your way west down First Avenue, traveling away from iconic Skinner Butte, when you pass the homebrew shop, auto repair place and various industrial businesses, you might at first wonder how in the world there’s a brewery to be found in this area. But you are indeed in prime Eugene beer country, so just look for the giant hop cone. When Hop Valley named the brewery and designed a logo in honor of the Willamette Valley’s hop-growing history, the founders knew that hops must be central to everything they do. The first thing you’ll see as you approach the long, narrow patio lining the side of the building? Hop vines making their way up trellises. Be sure to pardon Hop Valley’s dust — already with seating for 175 (and room for 260 people total), Hop Valley is currently further expanding the patio. Dip inside and peek through the large windows that let you see the brewing side of things. Then relax in the soothing presence of the plants that bring such bitter joy to the 18 beers on tap, such as Citrus Mistress IPA, Double-D Blonde Ale or Light Me Up Lager. The tasting in tasting room isn’t just for the beer. Check out an Irish take on the steak nachos, a spicy smoked andouille sandwich or a Mediterranean panini for some satisfying outdoor summer eats. Coming in the evening? A large rectangular fire pit provides a prime warm-up spot. ANTHONY ST. CLAIR
McMenamins North Bank
22 Club Road, Eugene, 541-343-5622, mcmenamins.com/NorthBank
When the folks at McMenamins opened their third Eugene location in 2000, they must have had summer on their minds. After all, where better to enjoy a pub burger and a pint of Summer Berry Stout (on nitro, no less), Copper Moon Summer Pale Ale or iconic Ruby, than on a patio next to the gently flowing Willamette River? Take in the sunset or watch the traffic roll over the nearby Ferry Street Bridge. And don’t feel guilty about noshing on the elk Bolognese, ale-battered fish and chips or pork shank osso buco. North Bank is not only riverside, it also borders part of Eugene’s vast network of bike paths, so order what you want and ride it off later. ANTHONY ST. CLAIR
Ninkasi Brewing Company
272 Van Buren St., Eugene, 541-344-2739, ninkasibrewing.com
Eugene’s largest brewery also has the largest beer patio, with room for up to around 300 beer fans. Located in the heart of the Whiteaker, Ninkasi’s tasting room is a walled garden of beery delights. A dozen tables are spaced throughout to give convenient seating, but it’s still easy to wander or hold up a patch of wall. Off near one corner, a large fire pit — filled with pale green, blue and pink rocks — gives you a chance to soak up some warmth when the sun finally fades on lingering summer evenings. In case of rain, a large canopy provides cover for part of the patio, or you can duck inside the tasting room. Hungry? Food carts can usually be found either in front of the brewery or just inside the patio, and it’s okay to bring in food from the outside. Once you arrive, first stop at the bar to order up your pint of Helles Belles Lager, Total Domination IPA, or Dawn of the Red India Red Ale. This summer provides another reason to raise a glass to a brewery named for the ancient Sumerian goddess: Ninkasi turns 10 this year. ANTHONY ST. CLAIR
Oakshire Brewing Public House
207 Madison St., Eugene, 541-654-5520, oakbrew.com
Oakshire is also celebrating its first decade this year, and their Whiteaker-area Public House has become an area favorite. The reason is apparent: when it comes to enjoying a fine craft beer on an Oregon summer evening, where better than a simple picnic table on a west-facing open patio? It’s a fine way to soak up every last ray of sunlight from the days that are, alas, already getting shorter. Take your pick of 14 picnic tables. The patio has no frills, but it’s good, simple outdoor seating, perfect for enjoying a bite from a food cart along with your pint of Watershed IPA, Sun Made Cucumber Berliner Weisse or Line Dry Rye IPA. ANTHONY ST. CLAIR
495 NE Bellevue Drive, Bend, 541-639-4776, worthybrewing.com
Worthy Brewing built a massive, 26,000-square-foot brewery outside of the downtown core for a reason — the plots of land east of Pilot Butte were much larger than anything west of Highway 97. While a large portion of that land was allocated for beer production, the location was begging for a place for customers enjoy the westward view. Enter Worthy’s patio, one of the largest outdoor restaurant spaces in Bend. Worthy is one of the better places to start your night out, considering its distance from downtown and its famous wood-stone oven bedazzled in shimmering, colorful tiles. Build a drinking base with an Oregon-inspired duck and fig pizza or blackened steelhead tacos and pair those with Worthy’s award-winning Easy Day Kolsch or Farm Out Saison. If you’ve already gone through the brewery’s year-rounds, try an experimental-hop IPA or coconut lime gose from the Heart and Soul Series. A large expansion on the restaurant and patio is underway, which will provide more seating, an outdoor bar and an observatory. In the meantime, round up the kids and set them loose on Worthy’s lower lawn while you relax and watch the sun set over Pilot Butte. BRANDEN ANDERSEN
10 Barrel Brewing
1135 NW Galveston Ave., Bend, 541-678-5228, 10barrel.com
There are few places within city limits that capture the stereotypical Bend vibe as well 10 Barrel’s Pub. Located in the heart of the west side, the patio is often filled with a capacity crowd surrounding a raging fire pit or mobbing the outdoor bar. While the location draws people from all walks of life, the majority are young adults in some sort of outdoor gear as they just finished a bike ride, mountain hike or long river float. And it’s not just the ambiance that draws them in. Some of the city’s tastiest (and best-funded) brews come out of these taps, including the staples and R&D batches. For instance, the now-famous Joe IPA was a pub exclusive long before it was distributed in six-packs. Keep an eye out for anything from Tonya Cornett, 10 Barrel’s celebrated sour brewer. BRANDEN ANDERSEN
Crux Fermentation Project
50 SW Division St., Bend, 541-385-3333, cruxfermentation.com
If you spend even a few of Bend’s 300 days of sunshine on Crux’s lawn, then you’re doing it right. The largest outdoor patio in town features lawn games, a large fire pit and some of the state’s best beers. While the restaurant’s menu is limited, there are two consistent food carts, including the cult-darling El Sancho Taco, that make hearty meals that can stand up to Crux’s barrel-aged beauties and heavy IPAs. The brewery is also loved by locals and tourist alike because of the “Sundowner” special. Thirty minutes before and after the sun sinks behind the Three Sisters, drinks are discounted. And you can’t beat the sky show. BRANDEN ANDERSEN
Bend Brewing Company
1019 NW Brooks St., Bend, 541-383-1599, bendbrewingco.com
Bend Brewing has been making some of the city’s best beers for 21 years, although it’s been overshadowed by Deschutes’ largeness as well as the feisty up-and-comers. But locals have known about Bend Brewing for years. It’s where Tonya Cornett got her start before Ian Larkin seamlessly took over. Upscale pub fare and a wide array of beer styles await those who enter the unassuming house in the downtown area. The Elk Lake IPA is there for those who need a hop fix, but the seasonals should not be ignored. Look for the Black Diamond Dark Lager, which refreshes despite its rich complexity. And bring a pink-hued Ching Ching American Sour onto the back patio that overlooks the famous Mirror Pond. While Bend Brewing was a hidden gem for years, its growing fame can make it tough to find a seat on the weekend, so plan accordingly. BRANDEN ANDERSEN
GoodLife Brewing Company
70 SW Century Drive, Bend, 541-728-0749, goodlifebrewing.com
GoodLife Brewing Company is nearly synonymous with its flagship beer, Sweet As Pacific Ale. While it’s a popular brew to crush while floating on rivers and lakes across the state, you could argue that one of the best spots to consume it is on the lawn next to the brewery. That space is large enough for two bocce ball courts, two sets of cornhole boards, a fire pit, a food cart and plenty of tables — yet still has plenty of empty grass for people to lay down and soak up the sun with beer in hand. The spot is tucked away in the Century Center, so it can sometimes be easier to find a seat here than at other, more tourist-driven breweries. Besides Sweet As, GoodLife’s bread and butter is the consistency of delicious, hoppier brews like Descender IPA. BRANDEN ANDERSEN
Sunriver Brewing Company
1005 NW Galveston Ave., Bend, 541-408-9377, sunriverbrewingcompany.com
When Sunriver Brewing announced it would be taking over the space that housed the Oblivion Brewing Company Pub on Northwest Galveston, many people shook their heads, citing immense competition on the west side of town. But with Sunriver’s solid menu and beers that are quickly racking up medals in national competitions, the move turned out to be a safe bet. The addition of the patio behind the pub has been a big draw, with several outdoor tables and a barn-like structure that will help provide shelter from the cold during winter months. The brewery makes beers that are great for all seasons. The award-winning Fuzztail Hefeweizen is refreshing and bright for summer days while Cocoa Cow Chocolate Milk Stout (when available) will be a warm, liquid dessert once the temperatures drop. BRANDEN ANDERSEN
Wild Ride Brew
332 SW Fifth St., Redmond, 541-516-8544, wildridebrew.com
Redmond is Bend’s little brother that’s quickly growing up. With more affordable housing and plenty of space to grow, more people are moving to Redmond to save on rent even while working in Bend. Wild Ride arrived at the perfect time, then. A huge patio greets you as soon as you drive up along with a small food cart pod with three to five trucks. Most days, the brewery door is rolled up and you can spot Paul Bergeman running around inside creating flagships like Hopperhead IPA and Whoopty Whoop Wheat or crafting styles outside the norm such as a hibiscus golden ale or a peanut butter porter. Enjoy any of these options on the concrete patio filled with giant wooden spools that have been turned into tables or high-tops covered by wide, white umbrellas. In addition to hikers relaxing with dogs, post-trek, you may even spot a regular who likes to bring his giant lizard with him to the brewery. BRANDEN ANDERSEN
By Kirby Neumann-Rea
For the Oregon Beer Growler
An ancient beer style has found a perfect home in the Pacific Northwest thanks to the cherries that grow in Hood River County. The combination will be celebrated Saturday, July 9 in Parkdale with Kriekfest, the first known beer festival to honor the sour cherry tradition.
The event is a collaboration between Portland-based beer writer Brian Yaeger and Solera Brewery of Parkdale, owned by Jason Kahler and John Hitt. At least 30 diverse and well-aged krieks will be poured in a park setting with a spectacular view of a towering Mount Hood. The lineup is dominated by Oregon producers, but attendees have the chance to taste ales from around the U.S. and as far away as Belgium — including an entire keg by the renowned Cantillon Brewery. The all-ages event also features savory food, pastries and fresh fruit in a farmers market.
A kriek is, by definition, a lambic aged on cherries for one or more years — usually three. Kahler said, “Lambic is a pretty obscure style on its own, and we’re taking it down to another style, kriek.
“They’re expensive, time-consuming beers to make,” Kahler continued. “You’re dealing with fresh, perishable fruit and a lot of these were made with sour or pie cherries that are more acidic and not sweet, and those are getting harder and harder to find.”
Like krieks themselves, the festival is an idea that has been fermenting a while. Yaeger, visiting the upper Hood River Valley several years ago, suggested it to Kahler and Hitt, and broached the subject again in early 2015.
“I said, with your blessing and cooperation, we can make this happen,” Yaeger described. He put the word out on July 9, 2015, to give brewers with krieks aging in barrels plenty of notice. Yaeger added that while he could have planned Kriekfest in Portland and sold more tickets, it was critical to him to hold it in the heart of the Fruit Loop, with its abundant cherry, apple and pear crops.
“It’s really exciting to have all these beers in one location, especially the location that it is — in the middle of this fruit valley where there is a fair amount of cherries being produced,” said Kahler, who will present tastes of up to four of his own blended krieks made from Ballantine cherries grown in the Gorge.
“We are not aware of a festival like this happening anywhere, specifically krieks. Perhaps in Europe,” Kahler said.
Yaeger said kriek gatherings in Belgium feature ales from specific locales, and a Belgian brewery/restaurant in Maine holds an annual brewer’s dinner featuring krieks, but this is the first event he is aware of that’s amassing a large number of krieks, and only krieks, from around the U.S. and Belgium.
“Cantillon is considered among many to be one of the best breweries in the world, and I subscribe to that theory,” Kahler said. “They produce a very small amount of beer. It’s pretty expensive and hard to get your hands on. We have a keg, and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a keg. To see any Cantillon beers on draft is kind of a treat, but having a kriek is really special.”
Yaeger said, “One of the very first calls I made was to the distributor (Massachusetts’ Shelton Brothers) and explained that this will not be your average request for this beer, that it would be a special festival. And they said, ‘We’ll make it happen.’ That call was another reason to plan this a year ahead, because it paid off.” He said he has not seen Cantillon in kegs anywhere in the U.S. in the past 10 years — ever since the style rose in popularity here.
Yaeger said he sees the festival not only as a chance for people to experience many kinds of krieks in a pastoral setting, but also as a way to profile what he regards as an emerging “Hood River-style kriek.” The Gorge will be well-represented: in addition to Solera, look for krieks from Double Mountain Brewery, Full Sail Brewing Company, Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, pFriem Family Brewers and Thunder Island Brewing Co., all from Hood River County. 54°40′ Brewing Company and Everybody’s Brewing will represent the Washington side of the Gorge.
The sourness spectrum ranges widely, and while Kriekfest isn’t providing specifics on where a beer falls in that spectrum this year, the brewers are open to questions.
“There will be a lot of interesting beers,” Kahler said, all imbued with one shade or another of cherry-delivered crimson.
Indeed, color, along with flavor and aroma, combine to make krieks interesting. And Yaeger announced an exciting addition to the lineup on June 15: Jester King Brewery of Texas has collaborated on a kriek with Michigan’s Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales.
Then there is the featured Cantillon: here’s a tip — get there early. We’re talking one keg of the rare stuff, equating to about 170 four-ounce pours.
By Kirby Neumann-Rea
For the Oregon Beer Growler
At Thunder Island Brewery in Cascade Locks, you cannot improve on the view, but the folks behind this strikingly scenic brewpub are gearing up to improve on the beer.
Thunder Island owner Dave Lipps and marketing and operations manager Caroline Park installed three new insulated fermentation tanks in October, marking one of two major changes in the last half of 2015 in the former storage building leased from the Port of Cascade Locks.
After first making a mere 6 barrels after starting up in 2013, then upping production to 27 barrels in 2014, this brewery beside the Columbia River is about to boom — eightfold within a year or so.
“We will have more and better beer,” Park said.
The brewery’s changes happen largely thanks to the able hands of Brian Perkey, hired as head brewer in June. He installed the tanks while taking time to fix the dishwasher, too in September and October.
After getting a new employee, Thunder Island marked its second anniversary Oct. 17 with a party that poured over into the next day thanks to the town hosting 1,000 competitors in race three of the River City Bicycles Cross Crusade series. The brewery’s association with biking and hiking groups and events, including the Pacific Crest Trail Days every summer, have helped define Thunder Island’s distinctive place in the Northwest brewery map. Easily visible from the brewery are the namesake Thunder Island and Washington’s Table Mountain, Greenleaf Peak along with other gorgeous crags. The pub has seating for 20 inside at white pine tables made by Lipps and double that many on the patio. Long-term, Park and Lipps are looking at building on WaNaPa Street, the main drag in Cascade Locks.
The brewery will find broader distribution but remains oriented to place. If you’ve never been, go to Marine Park just east of downtown, carefully proceed under the rail trestle and take an immediate left and go all the way past the campground, until you get to the end of the road. The spot was mostly a working yard and storage facility until two years ago when Thunder Island moved in. The founders squeezed in a small brewing system — one with modified Navy soup cauldrons and the third brewery to use them. Besides that, there wasn’t much else: a two-top table and four-barstool pub. But that was enough to start creating tasty beers. The patio came later along with a roll-up door and expanded indoor seating.
In the back of the brewery sit a tall, gleaming brite tank and fermenters, which can double as brites. They’re supported by a glycol cooling system installed by Perkey. He and Lipps brewed the last batches in the old two-fermenter system in mid-October and switched over on Oct. 21.
“It’s been hard work, but we only had a short break in production,” Lipps said Oct. 15, noting the chalkboard featured just three beers at the time, down from the typical five or six.
The expansion amounts to an extra 10-15 kegs a week, while also achieving Perkey’s goal of keeping the beer in tanks for three weeks instead of what had been 10-14 days.
“In terms of volume with these tanks, just trying to keep up with our summer demand, we were pushing beers out way too early,” Perkey said.
“Hiring Brian is a game changer for us," Park said. “From a small business standpoint, the best thing is he kind of 'figures it out.' And from a growth perspective, he brings this creativity and energy and ideas that's really exciting for us as we're installing this system and we're kind of mapping out the next couple of years,” Park said. Perkey started at BridgePort Brewery in 1992, worked at Full Sail, Wyeast Laboratories, Gordon Biersch in San Diego and is co-founder of Hood Valley Hard Cider.
Perkey said, “To take 25 years of doing this and parlay it into this growth opportunity that's going on here — plus working for these two, who are super-cool, I come to work every morning and it's like falling in love all over again.
“What's in the tanks, it's alive,” Perkey continued. “It lives and breathes just like you or me. It has a rhythm to its life cycle — from sweet wort off the grain to fermentation to the keg, there's a cycle. There's a flow. It's a beautiful thing to be a part of."
Perkey plans no new beers for a while but will focus on freshening the library of ales, including Flower Power IPA, Scotch Porter and others. With the new system in place, Thunder Island will reach 300 barrels by December and 1,000 or so by summer 2016 — with more to come. The goal is to adequately serve pub customers as well as meet the needs of existing tap clients, located mostly in the Gorge. Lipps said the expansion will give Thunder Island far better potential for tap handle presence “beyond just our one-offs.”
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
OBG Blog Archives
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