Lewis and Clark explored it by 19th-century canoe, and Sam Hill created the Historic Columbia River Highway for curious 20th-century day-trippers. These days, the Columbia River Gorge is increasingly becoming a destination for hoppy adventure. With a growing collection of breweries on the Oregon side, the Gorge offers plenty of tastes for brew fans. Get to know Gorge breweries this season. (Designated drivers and responsible consumption are the keys to safe fun!)
Just 17 miles west of Portland, Troutdale is the gateway to the Columbia River Gorge and the western threshold to the Gorge beer trail. Stop in at McMenamins Edgefield Brewery, the company’s largest brewery, which opened in 1991 in the cannery building of the former county poor farm. Stay overnight in one of Edgefield’s 100 European-style guest rooms and enjoy the entire 74-acre campus, complete with restaurants, small tasting rooms and gardens. Summer session: Try Copper Moon, a 100% organic pale ale with extra malt flavor that will quench your thirst with an ABV just over 5%.
Aaron Hanson, owner of Bunsenbrewer in Sandy, describes his taproom and pub as “half science lab, half living room,” explaining that the decor and glassware carry a laboratory theme. Bunsenbrewer opened in December of 2013 and is the little town’s only brewery. Rising temps: Don’t miss Fahrenheit, a habañero Belgian red ale.
Perched on the banks of the Columbia River, Thunder Island Brewing in Cascade Locks opened in 2013 as the project of beer-loving outdoor enthusiasts. In addition to great beers, you can’t beat Thunder Island’s picturesque patio. Raise a glass: Try the crisp Kolsch and watch the sailboats out on the water.
Parkdale’s Solera Brewery has what is arguably the best view of Mt. Hood. The in-your-face mountain vista from the backyard picnic tables is more than enough reason to park yourself in the sunshine in this little town south of Hood River. Tip a pint: Try the Weather Witch, a blonde farmhouse ale appropriately named for the mercurial nature of the nearby peak.
Flying a bit under the radar, Logsdon Farmhouse Organic Ales is just south of Hood River on Highway 35 and crafts organic, Belgian-style ales using Northwest-grown barley malt, whole-cone hops and hops and fruit from their Hood River farm. Summer sipping: Get a taste of the Seizoen, naturally fermented and carbonated with pear juice and select yeast strains.
Down on the Hood River Waterfront, pFriem Family Brewers brought Belgian-style ales to the fore when it opened its doors in 2012. Just a stone’s throw from a family-friendly park as well as great windsurfing and kiteboarding spots, pFreim is the place to take in the Hood River scene. Fresh pour: The creamy, citrusy Wit is a lovely way to celebrate summer.
Feel special with a sip of one of Big Horse Brewing‘s small batch brews. (They brew just eight kegs per batch in the building’s cellar!) Big Horse is Hood River’s oldest and smallest brewpub, family owned and operated since 1988. Try your luck: Check the chalkboard for current offerings. Hopefully you can snag a pint of Perfect Pils, a light lager that combines floral and spicy hops with traditional German malt character.
Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom is always hopping in Hood River (and it’s not just the beer!). Belly up to the bar, grab a table inside the lively restaurant or get a chair in the sunshine on the sidewalk. Traveling light: On the Wagon (they call it a “small table beer”) is a light, “hop tonic” with an intentionally low ABV — less than 3 percent.
Just around the corner from Double Mountain is the Gorge grand brewdaddy, Full Sail Brewing, which opened shop in 1987. Celebrating its 29th year and counting, Full Sail keeps it real with its experimental beer program. Cool off: Try Full Sail’s newest addition to its popular Pub Series, a refreshing Blood Orange Wheat with an ABV of 5.2%.
Take a look at the brand new Freebridge Brewing, housed in the historic U.S. Mint building in The Dalles’ downtown area. You’ll stick around for a while thanks to the full lineup of original, bold brews. Start the trend: Try Freebridge’s Muleskinner Stout, which is destined to become a fan favorite with strong roasted notes and creamy finish.
For extra credit, head to the big mountain to unwind at Mt. Hood Brewing Company, the “microbrewery with altitude.” whhe menu is sourced locally and the beer is brewed with glacial water from Mt. Hood. Summer ale: The Cascadian Pale Ale is unfiltered and sunny in color with a crisp, clean flavor and just the right kick of Cascadian Hops.