With Dan posting his travels in the Summer of Dan (TM), I decided to throw my parallel journey out there into the ether of potential beercation interest. Both of us were visiting the Pacific Northwest ostensibly for the National Homebrew Convention or Homebrew Con, but why not extend our trips to visit some local breweries and eateries? I headed out on Friday, June 22 with my wife Sarajo (Sj) for our third trip to the Portland, Oregon area. For most of the trip, we hung out with our friends Ron and Denise, with brief forays including Dan the Man himself and some other Minnesota beer friends out for the conference. This is my travelogue which includes pictures, opinions, and way too much beer! Your results may vary, but take what you can from these musings and hopefully, it will help spur you to try some of these places out. I’ve included personal ratings of beers I mention on a scale of 0-5. Please also feel free to comment and question!
If you want to listen to the episode of A One Pint Stand where Dan and I discuss our travels, click below!
Day 4: Hood River
With a smattering of Blue Star donuts (forget about Voodoo people…) and coffee on our bellies, Sj and I met up with Ron and Denise early in the day for our second foray outside the Portland area. Driving along the scenic Columbia River gorge we saw our share of cliffs, monster pines, waterfalls, and more. Many of the hiking trails we wanted to check out had been shut down due to recent forest fires and many areas looked pretty barren compared to our last trip. Oh well.
Instead of hiking, we opted to stop at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery and check out some fish! This was a pretty cool complex with some great statues and landscaping to take pictures of. Oh, and fish! We got to see pools full of giant sturgeons and hefty rainbow trout, both from above and from below. I attempted to take pictures of the fish with varying results. I felt a bit bad about all my traveling companions having to help carry my various tripods, lenses, and other equipment around behind me like sherpas on a Tibetan mountain climb.
Watching the tiny minnow-sized trout trying to jump upstream in their pools was inordinately funny. That such a tiny fish could throw itself so far out of the water in a vain attempt to get “upstream” just seemed like a deep statement of the human condition. Or maybe I’m reading too much into this.
I’ve also been trying to get a few good shots of crows for the past 2 year with no success, so when my friends pointed out the murder of crows near one of the ponds I was excited as can be! I’m assuming it was a mother and two immature brood based on appearance and the fact that the mother was not happy with me inching up closer to their little family gathering. Getting quite an earful, I finally succeeded in a few decent crow shots. Then the mother decided to dive bomb Ron and another random passerby, leaving me unmolested. Karma baby!
Having spent more time than expected at the hatchery, we took a very quick trip to the Lock and Dam to observe a monolithic technological marvel from the WPA era. I didn’t really spend much time photographing here, and we were getting hungry.
For lunch, we met up with the elusive Dan in Hood River at pFriem Family Brewers. Sj and I had experienced pFriem shortly after they opened on a previous trip to Oregon for my cousin’s wedding. At that time they were focussed on Belgian styles and only had a few options to choose from. However, the place had great potential and bumped up to our best surprise brewery of that trip. We made it a priority of our last trip to Portland 2 years ago and things had only improved. Again, this trip to Hood River was an essential part of our trip planning.
I do not have enough good things to say about pFriem. The setting, right along the river and across from a park and beach, is beautiful. The brewery itself (much expanded since my first trip out) is rustic, understated, but new and shiny at the same time. The food is excellent, with a focus on locally sourced foods and some incredible frites (fries) that bring me back to Belgium. We shared sampler trays to get to try all the beers they had to offer (12+) and did not find a poor beer in the bunch. pFriem has been working on blended fruited sours (a-la Belgian lambics) for a few years and are really perfecting the art here. The cherry rich Kriek (4.5) was a wonder. The strawberry sour was a little less perfect with strong leather and horseblanket that overwhelmed the fruit (3). The basic IPA was one of the best West Coast IPAs I had on this entire trip–perfectly balanced between malt and hop (4.5). And the star of the show? The Pilsner (5). Since when does the pilsner outshine sours and near perfect IPAs? Since now. Universally the pilsner was the table’s favorite beer of the meal and made my top 5 beers of trip.
We took a foray across the river to Washington on a narrow and rickety metal bridge that seemed to be made specifically to pull your car into oncoming traffic, in an attempt to visit Everybody’s Brewing. Unfortunately, they were either doing a deep clean of the brewery or moving, since people were carrying stoves and equipment out of the place and it was closed. Dejected, we got back in the car and Sj again did her Star Wars Death Star trench run impression back across the river.
Back in Hood River, we decided to visit more breweries. Like you do. The next up Double Mountain Brewery–an older (2007) local institution known for their hoppier fare and pizzas. Still full on lunch we opted for just beer samplers here, but tasted through all of the beers offered. The beers had a lot of range from cider, to sours, to several IPAs and pale ales. Overall everything was decent but hard to follow our experience at pFriem. My favorites from this trip were the Kolsch (3.75); Sweet Jane IPA (4); and In The Pines Pale Ale (3.75) and very piney. This place is a little old school but has lots to offer and the pizzas look great. Worth a stop for sure.
And one more brewery in town: Full Sail Brewing. This brewery was built in 1987 in an old cannery building and was one of the early craft breweries in the country. These days I feel that Full Sail has dropped on the map a little in popularity, but perhaps this is just because older breweries aren’t “sexy” enough. We dropped in this day for one sail shaped sampler platter prior to heading back to Portland. There were a lot of beers to choose from and even a few Kombuchas, so we stuck with the harder to find stuff. Overall we were pretty impressed with the offerings, with the exception of the pilsner (2.75) which not crisp and clean. The Bourbon Cherry Rye was really good and approximated the flavors in a Manhattan (4). And the Bourbon Barrel Top Sail Imperial porter was well balanced and roasty (4). Worth a stop and the deck has a great view of the river down below.
On our way home we tried to pull off and visit McMenamins Edgfield but apparently Robert Plant was performing there and it was a zoo to get into. We turned around and headed back to town.
Maybe some food? And beer? Hey I’ve a Great Notion… Ok, that was sad. We ended up at Great Notion Brewing (which had been closed when I was right next to it on our last visit). This place is known for its hazy NE IPAs and sours, and has really burst upon the local scene. No one seemed to know who they were on my last trip here 2 years ago, but now they come up in most people’s top suggestions of local breweries to visit. Dan again joined us here after checking into his hotel/BnB. We even saved some beer for him. The beers were good. Very good. I’m a fan of NE IPA and some of the milkshake IPA beers, and Great Notion had the best of this style to be found in Portland. I’d still probably choose St. Paul’s Barrel Theory over them, but they have a similar vibe and style. The stand out best beer they had on tap (prompting us to all order our own full pour of it) was the Peanut Brother stout (4.75). I would put this up against Junkyard’s Peanut Butter Bandit, and feel it was better than Dangerous Man and Waconia Brewing’s peanut butter porters. The Supple milk stout was sweet and had maple syrup flavor up the wazoo (4.5). Ripe IPA and Juice Jr. were both fantastic NE IPA’s (4). They also had a Papaya Mochi milkshake IPA (4) and a Blueberry Muffin sour (3.75) that were both unique and worth trying. One of my top Portland breweries from this trip for sure. We returned here later in the trip.
Maybe one more brewery? With darkness coming on we shambled to Ex Novo Brewing next. This is a very small brewery with some limited seating. This feels like a tight, working brewery and you really feel like you are right in the middle of things. As with nearly every taproom in Portland, they have a small kitchen and we ordered some much needed meals. Our server Will was very attentive and funny, making for a pleasant last stop of the day. My chicken sandwich was a bit burnt, but the flavors were good. These folks had a large variety of beers to choose from, and most were above average. My favorite of the ones we tried was V For Vienna Lager (4) which was simply a great example of the style. Perle Haggard Pilsner wins purely on name (3.5).
And Time for BED.
Up Next: Wine. And more beer. And food. So much food.
Creameries: 1 (Eric 0)
Fish Hatcheries?: 1