If you’ve heard rumblings about a new brewery in the Columbia River Gorge, we’re here to tell you they’re true. Thunder Island Brewing opened its doors in October in Cascade Locks Marine Park with tremendous views of the Columbia River and the island for which is it named. “It’s a beautiful piece of land where you can walk out and look at 360-degree views of the Gorge,” says Dave Lipps, co-owner.
Thunder Island is the brainchild of Lipps and Dan Hynes, two friends from Portland who previously partnered in what they called a “CSB — community supported brewery,” Hynes says. More of a hobby than an official business, the endeavor got them serious about beer. “We knew we wanted to start a brewery. We just didn’t know where,” Lipps says.
Friends told them about an urban planning survey undertaken by graduate students at Portland State University. “It showed that a lot of people were coming to this community,” Hynes says. Those people were coming to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, bike the Historic Columbia River Highway and sail the famously strong Gorge winds. The survey identified desirable new businesses that could best serve those visitors and locals. Beer was one of the main categories. As outdoor enthusiasts as well as beer lovers, Lipps and Hynes decided Cascade Locks was the perfect fit. “We felt like we had stumbled upon a diamond in the rough,” Hynes says.
Thunder Island currently produces a number of tasty beers – IPA, Kolsch, Pale Ale, Scotch Porter and Mosaic — on a two-barrel system. Assisted by their marketing maven and Jill-of-all Trades Caroline Park, the brewers have plans to develop a building on Wanapa Street, Cascade Locks’ main drag, in a couple of years. For now, their home adjacent to the Port of Cascade Locks maintenance building is a gem of a spot. Starting in April, visitors can enjoy Pirates Fish and Chips from the food cart in the parking lot. Riverside tables will look out onto the Bridge of the Gods, Thunder Island and the white-capped waters of the Columbia River.
Thunder Island has received a warm welcome from locals, visitors and regional brewers, who all stopped in to say hello within the first weeks. “They are all as excited as we are to provide the location for beer in the heart of the Gorge,” Hynes says.
Thunder Island is open Thursday through Sunday in the winter and six days a week in the summer.