A few months ago, I was asked by my younger brother Jon to be the best man at his wedding, which took place in the fairly remote south-eastern corner of the State of Oregon. Lakeview. Knowing that I needed two days for the wedding, and being a smart planner, I took 10 days off of work so that I could spend 80% of the trip brewery hopping. I managed to hit 27 different breweries and drink 400+ beers. While there are a ton of breweries I wasn’t able to visit, the following were safely my 10 favorites along the way:
10. Culmination Brewing / Portland
Culmination has a nice cozy atmosphere, and really good beer. Their Key Lime Cranberry Gose (called “The Funky Punch”) is one of the best beers I’ve ever had, and their Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine was also phenomenal. There are 20 taps with a very wide variety of beer, all well executed. If you need to take a bathroom break, be sure to note the sign on the wall with the bathroom password prior to your journey through the maze that must be conquered in order to get to the restroom. Otherwise, you’ll have to make the trip twice, like I did.
9. Buoy Beer Co. / Astoria
When it comes to atmosphere, Buoy is top notch. Looking out over the mouth of the Columbia River where it meets the ocean, plexiglass plates in the floor with seals looking up at you from under the pier… this former cannery on the Astoria pier turned brewing company is amazing (and you’ve got to make the trip to Astoria anyway to visit #3 on this list, Fort George Brewing). I had a fantastic Berliner Weisse, and some really solid lunch faire as well.
8. Hair Of The Dog / Portland
When you’re in the Hair Of The Dog taproom, you don’t really feel like you’re in a taproom. Its more like you’re sitting in a cafeteria with a lunch counter. But, the beer is great – and thats what matters. This brewery is known for its use of a concrete fermenter for some of their beers, and you can certainly taste the difference between their steel versus concrete fermented variants of the same beer. Overall, the beers at Hair Of The Dog are big and bold, with the 10+% Adam (strong dark); and the ““regular” Blue Dot (x2 IPA) and Blue Dot from the stone fermenter, being my favorites.
7. Double Mountain / Hood River
Double Mountain has a very strong lineup of beers, with their Devil’s “Kriek” (cherry sour) and Peche Mode (sour ale on peaches) being among my favorite beers of the trip. And the pizza… oh, the Pizza is so good. Get the Heirloom Tomato Pie. Thank me later.
6. Base Camp Brewing / Portland
Base Camp Brewing has a huge lineup of beer (with 30 taps, some of which are guest taps), and I tried 18 of them. All were really solid. Their Saison Ambree (barrel fermented, with brettanomyces introduced) is incredible. Also fun and popular is their S’more Stout, which has a freshly toasted marshmallow on the rim of the glass. Base Camp doesn’t have a food kitchen. But they do have some amazing food trucks which you can order from your bartender and which will be delivered to your table. So there is that as well. Great food available, and a ton of excellent beer.
5. Cascade Brewing / Portland
Cascade Barrel House, the outlet for Cascade Brewing’s sour beer lineup, has a huge diverse lineup of sour beers, as well as some “live barrel” beers which are served to you directly from a tapped barrel. There are a lot of fruit and spice and even flower infused beers at Cascade, all of which are carefully crafted and balanced, and very well executed. I highly recommend the visit.
4. pFriem / Hood River
pFriem. What a name, right? This brewery is located a stone’s throw from Double Mountain in Hood River. The lineup wasn’t huge (10 beers, 5 of which are seasonals), but they were damned good. Their “Frambozen” raspberry lambic was my favorite, although their blueberry barrel aged lambic “Blabaer” and their sour saison were also incredible. pFriem is actively working on expanding their production, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if this brewery really takes off. The taproom is spacious and open. I opted to camp out at the bar myself.
3. Fort George Brewing / Astoria
Fort George is located in what used to legitimately be “Property of the US Army, Fort George.” The atmosphere is really cool. Located down near the water in quaint Astoria, this is an absolutely enormous facility. The upper level is a wide open warehouse style pizza joint with amazing stone oven pizza, and a solid beer lineup. The beer works are all in the basement, as is the taproom. Thats where you want to go to drink your beers. The Lovell Taproom is a little hole in the wall tucked in between the brewery and an huge warehouse space which houses hundreds of beers aging in barrels. Every beer I had (which was literally “all of them”) was perfectly executed, and the styles were very diverse. Coffee Porter, to experimental hopped IPAs, to kettle soured browns, a cucumber Kolsch, barrel aged stouts, a tart Berliner Weisse, and a mango Belgian tripel. All were top notch. This is a must visit brewery.
2. DeGarde Brewing / Tillamook
DeGarde is a one trick pony. All they do is make spontaneously wild fermented barrel aged sour beers. And they only have 6 of their beers on tap. That said, make no mistake about it: the best beer I had in Oregon was at DeGarde. Located near a corn field and somewhere reasonably near some cows, based on the smell, DeGarde is housed in a nondescript warehouse only identifiable by the “DeGarde” lettering on the front door. As you approach, you’ll likely find that the place has a line coming out the door. Don’t stand in that line! There is a shorter line to the left which is the express lane for draught beer, which doesn’t always extend out of the building. That’s the line you want. When you get inside, you’ll find yourself in an extremely undersized, cramped, chaotic, muggy tap room and ordering area. Order a couple of beers and then take them outside. The Imperial Stone Berliner Weisse (oak aged with peaches and apricots) was my favorite beer in Oregon. It was phenomenal. Also note that you can stand in the longer line, and take a case of bottles “to go,” with the bottles being a different variety than what is on tap. If DeGarde had a more customer friendly tap room and atmosphere, they would likely have occupied the #1 spot.
1. Crux Fermentation Project / Bend
If there is a perfect brewery atmosphere, Crux Fermentation Project is it. The building is new, modern, and spacious, with a large merch section. They have a solid food menu from their kitchen. The outdoor space is a huge green grassy park with picnic seating, and a variety of top-notch food trucks at your disposal. The park routinely hosts concerts and other events, and is a casual hangout for throwing a football, tossing a frisbee to your dog, etc. And the beer… the beer is phenomenal. Flawless. Diverse. Traditional beers, experimental beers, sours, barrel aged beers, and a huge lineup. One of the top beers of the trip for me was their Freakcake ’16, a 10.5% barrel aged Oud Bruin (sour brown). It was absolutely incredible. Their Half Hitch Double IPA was another personal favorite – notes of tropical fruit and citrus. If there was one downside to Crux, it’s that this place is so incredibly popular that parking is hard to come by if you don’t show up early.