Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Not Strictly a Beer Trip

During my recent mini-roadtrip, I tried to visit local brewpubs around the state whenever it was practical. That wasn't the sole or primary focus of the trip, but I managed to work a few in during the trip. My rule (ok, guideline) for the trip as a whole was to only go places I'd never been before, so I figured I'd try to apply that to the beerish portion of the excursion as well.

After my adventure at Saddle Mountain, I decided it was time for a beer. (If you read this blog regularly, you probably know I decide that quite a lot.) Luckily, in Oregon beer is never far away. So I made the jaunt over to Bill's Tavern & Brewhouse, right in the heart of Cannon Beach.


It turns out that Cannon Beach had held its annual sandcastle contest a few days earlier, so Bill's was out of everything except their Blackberry Beauty and Spruce Lager. I tend to be something of a hop bigot, and I'm sure I'd have gone with something else if the selection had been wider. But it was a hot day, I'd been out hiking, and both beers were light and refreshing. So it all turned out ok in the end. The fish and chips were pretty decent too.

Neither the blackberry nor the spruce brew hits you over the head with its namesake ingredient, which to me is a good thing.


Beervana has a review of the place, and there's more about the beers at BeerAdvocate, Beer Me!, and PubCrawler.

Pleasant as those beers were, what I really wanted was an IPA. One of their guest taps was something called "Vortex IPA", from somewhere called "Fort George Brewing". I hadn't heard of them or the beer, and although it sounded promising, I was on a mission to try the house brews. Rules (or guidelines) are rules (or guidelines).

Turns out that Ft. George Brewing is local, just up the road in Astoria. I thought about heading up there around dinnertime, since I was staying in Astoria that night, but I ended up just falling asleep instead. I left town before lunch the next day, since I had to go catch a ferry, so I haven't actually been there or tried their beer yet. But here's their building, for future reference:


My rule (ok, guideline) for the trip as a whole (not just the beer) was to focus on places I'd never been before, so I didn't drop by Astoria Brewing or the local Rogue outlet. Not because they aren't worth visiting, far from it. It's just that I usually always go to Astoria Brewing when I'm out there, and there's a Rogue outpost a short stagger from my office.

A couple of days later, I drove for hours in the hot sun to get to Crater Lake, and then I spent a couple more hours in the hot sun taking photos, so once again I decided it was time for a beer. The drive was a bit longer this time, but worth it. Klamath Falls has two brewpubs, believe it or not. I only had time for one, so I decided to visit Klamath Falls Brewing, since I knew the least about it. The other brewery, Mia's & Pia's, is primarily a pizza place and I wasn't in the mood for pizza just then, so that's how I made the call. Unscientific, I know, but that's just how it is sometimes.



Klamath Basin had their Crystal Springs IPA on tap, bless their hearts. I've since realized I've seen it as a guest tap here and there in Portland, but I'd always passed over it in favor of something else. That was a big mistake. I'd been missing out on a really great beer.

The beer menu says their most popular brew is their golden ale, and gently hints that the IPA is very hoppy and might be on the bitter side for some people. That's the sort of thing I love to see: They're making the beer they want to make, and aren't dumbing it down for the newbies. A good rule (ok, guideline) is to always order the beer the beer menu warns you about. I seem to recall the IPA ran in the 80-9O IBU range, at something like 5-6% abv. I really ought to have written it all down, but I didn't, and I'm sorry. It's loaded with nice citrusy Northwest hops, I remember that much. If you see it around town, or you find yourself in K-Falls, give it a try. And if you're in K-Falls, the grilled tri-tip sandwich is what to eat. You can't go wrong with fish on the coast, and east of the Cascades you generally can't go wrong with beef. Eating anything other than beef on that side of the mountains has really got to count as unpatriotic or something.

Yes, I'm afraid I only had time for the one beer, since I still had to head east another couple of hours to get to my hotel. Klamath Basin also had a red that sounded promising, but it'll have to wait until next time, I guess.

At the time I didn't realize the brewery runs on geothermal heat, possibly the only one in the world to do so. Is that cool, or what?

More about the place at RateBeer, Road Brewer, and GuestOnTap.

A couple of days after that, I'd spent an hour or two in the hot sun at the Painted Hills, and decided it was time for... cider. For a change. Actually I was under strict spousal orders to drop by Bad Seed Cider over in Bingen, WA, just across the bridge from Hood River. We'd run across their cider at a Spring Beer & Wine Festival a couple of years back. They don't have any distribution at all in Portland, so every now and then we have to make the trip out to Bingen to stock up. This time it was so we'd have something good to drink during the Tour de France, instead of our usual cheap French rose.

I unaccountably forgot to take a photo of the place. It's a little storefront right in downtown Bingen, and I actually missed it the first couple of times through town because their new sign now reads "North Shore Wine Cellars". They do wine in addition to cider, and wine is a much larger market, so I suppose that's an understandable decision. I mention this so a.) you can find the place, and b.) you won't be intimidated by the phrase "wine cellars".

You might've gathered by now that I'm rather fond of their cider. If you like your cider dry, you just might enjoy it too. If you don't, I really don't have any useful advice to offer you, except maybe to grow some taste buds, already.

And yes, I'd been there before, despite what the rules say. You see, there are rules (and guidelines), and then there are spousal directives, which are another matter entirely.

So as I've already said, the trip wasn't primarily about beer, and I strayed from the Path of Beer on a few occasions. So since we aren't being strict here, I might as well throw in something beery that isn't from the mini-roadtrip at all, while I'm at it.

I was out near Estacada the other day, doing a bit of exploring that I haven't posted about yet, and once again I decided it was time for a beer. This time it was really close at hand, since Estacada has its own brewpub. Seriously. You run across Fearless Brewing at a lot of the local beer festivals, always featuring their Scottish Ale. That's a good rendition of the style, I understand, but the style itself is not among my favorites. I figured I'd check the place out and see if they had something that suited my personal biases a bit better.


The IPA was pretty good. I think I may have liked the Klamath Basin one better, but it's not like I had the two to taste side by side. I mentioned this was unscientific, right?

Believe it or not, I didn't try the tater tots. Tater tots are fine, or way more than fine, usually. When you're having a bratwurst & sauerkraut, though, what you really want is a pile of onion rings on the side. But you knew that already.


You know, come to think of it, I think it's about time for a beer right now. Mmmmm...... beeeer......

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