Beer and wine during our full-time travels in the PNW
Sampling new beers at local breweries and finding the best tacos/burgers/pizza is one of our favorite things to do when exploring a new place. So it makes sense that the first installments of our Oregon/Washington travels are about eating and drinking.
Let’s start with beer.
Phil and I both claim Boulevard Wheat as our “gateway” to craft beer. It was and is every where in our college town just 30 minutes from Kansas City where Boulevard brews it. Even before we were dating, we were spending time together at Free State Brewery and 23rd Street Brewery in Lawrence, drinking their beers.
Phil and I both are into IPAs -- and have gotten really into hazy IPAs in the last two years -- but Phil branches out beyond my tastes with imperials (ales, stouts, etc.). I like witbiers and hefeweizens. We both appreciate a subtle fruitiness and enjoy stouts and porters when the weather is cool enough.
If you go to the Columbia River Gorge (area separating Washington and Oregon east of Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington) and have a few days: get the Beer Passport. There are now 13 breweries in this area but there were only 11 in 2016 and 10 in 2017 when we visited. We’ll highlight our must-visits and let you pick the rest to round out your passport (get your passport stamped at 11 of the 13 breweries and you get a prize (in 2016 it was a Breweries in the Gorge glass!)
Full Sail is the largest of these breweries and the first in Hood River, Oregon. (Hood River boasts the most number of breweries per capita in the U.S.: 7 in a town of 10,000 or so in 2016). The beers they distribute are decent but they have some awesome specialty beers only available on site. The food at the brewpub is pretty good and view of the Columbia River is superb. When we took the brewery tour, we also got free tasting glasses.
Everybody’s Brewery is across the Columbia River from Hood River in White Salmon, Washington. Their selection of beers is great, the food is great and the view of Mt. Hood (across the gorge back in Oregon) from their large back deck is stellar. In case you are wondering, I will run out of adjectives to describe views in the Columbia River Gorge. Everybody’s Brewery regularly hosts live music. They are moving locations in 2018 so here’s hoping they still have a great view to go with their great experience!
Solera Brewery is 30 minutes south of Hood River in the small town of Parkdale. We almost didn’t go to this one in 2016 because it was farther away from the others but am glad we did since we ended up near Parkdale for a month in 2017. Solera seemed to be the newest of the ones we visited in 2016 with fewer beers and less variety but it had a small town feel and we definitely enjoyed the beers they did have. Their large backyard is just 100 feet away from a fruit orchard with Mt. Hood as a very close backdrop. Solera hosted a Kriek festival (cherry beers and ciders) when we were in the area in 2017. The drinks were awesome but the festival itself seemed a bit pricey for what you got but I couldn’t imagine a better location for a small beer festival. More than once in 2017 we got our growler filled with their beer for a hike or outdoor enjoyment.
Double Mountain Brewery is back in Hood River, not far from Full Sail. Possibly my favorite of this group for overall beers. Phil definitely has one or two of their beers that he is aging in our storage unit! Food here — including pizza! — is great.
Thunder Island Brewery is in Cascade Locks, Oregon about half way between Hood River and Portland. We’ve never sat inside here because the outdoor area will make you never, ever, ever, EVER want to leave. The brewery is on the shores of the Columbia River but I believe is planning a move in the next year so they have more space. They have a small, but delicious food menu. They have the best nachos we have had anywhere.
pFriem Brewery is located across from the riverfront park in Hood River, Oregon. It has the best collection of beers in this area and a more elevated food menu. A couple of pFriem beers also aged in our storage until for about a year. Phil just drank the Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout and will likely dream about it until he’s able to get more.
Other Notable Mentions in the PNW:
Hair of the Dog Brewery in Portland, Oregon has been brewing interesting beers for awhile. And they have bottles of beer available for purchase that have been aging for more than 15 years! Phil loves this place and while I like a couple of the beers they have on tap, I'm not that into aged beers. (I know.) If you are into checking out some finely made aged beers and have a budget for your aged beers, definitely check out this place.
Pelican Brewing Company, with a location in Tillamook on the Oregon coast was one of my favorite stops. The beers were excellent enough I decided I needed a t-shirt (it has a pelican standing on top of a cow on it so it was hard to pass up). I couldn’t get enough of their Sun Flare Dry-Hopped Pale Ale. Pale Ales aren’t usually my go to but this one now has be reconsidering that choice. Just noticed pictures of their beachfront brewery at the original Pacific City location… we’ll, um, definitely have to visit again because that location looks incredible.
Geaux Brewing Company, in Bellevue, Washington, was a fun, cozy little spot in the suburbs. They had a variety of beers and everyone in the place was friendly. The Bellevue location is now closed but the location is Auburn (south of Seattle) continues on.
Wine and Cider
Our very first wine tasting was in 2016 while in California. I discovered I liked Pinot Noir (at least good ones). What we found out about the Oregon - and specifically Columbia River Gorge/Mt. Hood area is that - due to the climate - this was a place where they made excellent Pinot Noirs.
The Airbnb where we stayed for a month in 2017 was right on the “Fruit Loop”: A drive south from Hood River to Parkdale and back north to Columbia River west of Hood River. Aptly named because of the amount of fruit grown in this region. Cherries, berries, peaches, and of course, grapes.
Wy’East Winery was our first wine stop on the Fruit Loop as it was just 5 minutes from where we stayed. Wy’East is the name for Mt. Hood by the Multnomah Tribe. We had a great conversation with the woman who served us our tasting (the tasting host is just as important as the quality of the wine!) and the wine was delicious. We purchased a couple bottles of the Pinot Noir Blue Chip.
Aniche Cellars’ tasting room in downtown Hood River was a fun little visit I did on my own one afternoon while Phil was working. I bought a couple bottles though I cannot remember now what they were.
Kana Winery in Yakima, Washington was a welcome visit. We had decided to visit Yakima for the disc golf and breweries but we had the best visit at this winery. Yakima Valley produces the most hops in the country but the beer scene is still trying to catch up with the high quality craft beer that's exploded in recent years. (And the disc golf tournament reminded us not every city does disc golf like Kansas City.) Kana Winery had great wine and a great host.
Fox-Tail Cider and Distillery, also on the Fruit Loop highway 35 between Hood River and Parkdale, was a fun little place where we got to try A LOT of cider in 2017. We definitely did not know this much variety of cider existed. And the custom samplers were super cute. As of Fall 2017, they're now making fruit vodkas and brandy!
Special shout out to Mt. Hood Winery: beautiful tasting room with an even better view of Mt. Hood. The customer experience aspect wasn’t our favorite as they weren’t doing tastings when we first visited and had to return. The view though was worth it.
Did we miss trying your favorite wine, beer, or cider in the northwest? Let us know - we’ll definitely be back and know there’s lots more to discover!
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