While the Salem area has long been known as a mecca for boutique wineries, a cadre of craft breweries has sprouted up recently – making Salem one of Oregon’s latest towns to embrace the craft beer craze.
One of the first independent brewers to ignite the craft beer revolution in the Salem area was Gilgamesh Brewing Company. Gilgamesh was founded in 2009 when three brothers – Mike, Matt and Nick Radtke – along with their father Lee, started brewing out of their home in Turner. Demand for their product grew, as did the family’s desire to create a welcoming gathering place, so in November 2012, the Radtke’s opened The Campus, a full-service restaurant, bar and brewery.
Also in 2012, Santiam Brewing Company opened a 3-barrel brewery and taproom in an industrial area in Southeast Salem. In coming months, the company will expand to a 10-barrel system. At Santiam, you’ll always find at least 14 beers on tap including four cask-conditioned ales.
In the same Southeast Salem neighborhood as Santiam Brewing sits Salem Ale Works – a nano brewery founded by college friends and former wild land firefighters Justin Ego and Jake Bonham. Beers reflect the owners’ quirky side, with names like Hootenany Honey Basil and Slow Roller Raspberry Mint.
The newest brewery to call Salem home is Vagabond Brewing Company. Opened in early 2014, Vagabond is located in Northeast Salem and has a decidedly urban feel, with plenty of space for special events, including live music and even yoga classes. Beers are brewed in small batches using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible.
New breweries have popped up outside of the city limits as well. At Rogue Farms’ 33-acre hop yard in Independence, guests can visit the tasting room, tour the hop processing facility and stay overnight in a 100-year-old farmhouse converted into a bed and breakfast. Four-legged family members are also welcome at the Hopyard – as long as they keep their paws off the farm’s free roaming chickens or turkeys!
No ale-themed trip to Salem is complete without visits to the two relative “grandfathers” in town: The Ram Restaurant & Brewery and McMenamins Thompson House. For more than 15 years, the folks at The Ram have been brewing up award-winning brews, while Thompson House brew master (or should we say, brewmistress) Jen Kent creates inspired ales like Copper Moon and the ever-popular Ruby.
While you can always explore Salem’s breweries on your own, the best way to experience them may be with a guided tour from Ale Ways, Salem’s new brewery tour company. You can sign up for one of the company’s designated itineraries or create your own customized pub crawl adventure.