It’s exactly how you hope a brewery starts: A hobby among friends, families or coworkers grows into a business creating one-of-a-kind beverages that customers can’t get enough of.
Tualatin Valley’s homegrown beer scene is full of these success stories, and more are popping up all the time. The only way to taste some of these unique brews is to visit the area, a zone just west of Portland that includes urban centers like Beaverton and Hillsboro, as well as rural communities like Gaston and Timber and some of the Willamette Valley’s best wine territory.
Much like the region itself, Tualatin Valley breweries are casual and community-oriented. Expect collaborative brews featuring local ingredients, potentially poured by the folks who made the beers in the first place. While many breweries have second tasting rooms elsewhere, some local favorites can only be tasted in the Tualatin Valley.
Plan your visit by checking out the Tualatin Valley Ale Trail, a passport program that maps out the area’s 22 craft breweries. Then head out to explore the traditional and inventive flavors of these only-in-Tualatin Valley breweries. Here are three excellent ones to check out.
From Microprocessors to Microbrews
Mike Haines and Michael Kinion founded Vertigo Brewing, one of Hillsboro’s oldest breweries, after working alongside each other at Intel for more than 35 years. When they started eyeing a second act for their careers, their shared love of home brewing led them to elevate their status from co-workers to co-owners.
“Co-owners, co-brewers, co-janitors — you name it, we do it,” Haines says with a laugh. “It seems like kind of a stretch coming from one [industry] to the other, but brewing beer is very process-driven.”
While the tech industry requires you to stay tight-lipped about trade secrets and keep an aggressive eye on competition, Haines and Kinion loved that the Oregon beer industry was the opposite.
“We do collaborations with other breweries. If we need something, they’ll most likely share it with us. They will come use our brewery or we’ll brew over there,” Haines says. “It’s just a totally different mindset. I like that camaraderie.”
While they make Northwest-style hoppy IPAs such as their namesake Vertigo IPA, the duo also brews a wide range of creative beers including award-winning fruit beers and barrel-aged seasonals. Their Madagascar Vanilla Porter and Razz Wheat, made with real raspberries, are local favorites. Patrons can bring takeout food to enjoy in their taproom, and the brewery hosts food carts on Fridays and some Saturdays.
“We’re usually known by word of mouth. People call us their secret brewery,” Haines says. “If you like small-batch craft beer, we’ve got some beers you won’t find anywhere else.”
A Family That Ferments Together
When Jay Jennings started home brewing in 1978, he launched a hop-filled legacy that he and his family continue today.
Now the owners and operators of Three Mugs Brewing Company in Hillsboro, the Jennings first brought their beer-making expertise to the area with a home-brew supply store. Now they pour their own pints in a dog- and kid-friendly taproom that typically features about 20 of their own beers alongside guest beer and cider taps.
Jay’s wife, Wendy, runs the taproom, and their son Joshua is the head brewer. Joshua says he likes experimenting with flavors, especially local ones. He incorporates coffee beans from their neighbor, Elliott & Murrey Coffee Roasters, into their Espresso White Chocolate Ale and uses discarded bread from nearby Oyatsupan Bakers to make their Baker’s Golden Ale.
“Whatever I can’t brew with, our local farmer gets, so it’s a nice little sustainability circle we’ve got going,” Joshua says.
While enjoying a pint at Three Mugs, you can grab lunch from Fresh Thyme Soup Company, just across the way, which delivers its soups, salads and paninis to the brewery — including a kids’ menu.
Both Jay and Joshua describe the Tualatin Valley beer scene as burgeoning. “It’s a real up-and-coming area. We continue to see more and more small breweries pop up,” Joshua says. “There’s room to be had.”
A Gathering Place for Laughs and Lagers
Waltz Brewing started as a home-brewing hobby between Adam Zumwalt and his friends — one that eventually burst the seams of his Forest Grove garage.
“At times we had 50 kegs at the house with 6 to 10 kegs on draft,” Zumwalt says. “People would come over, hang out, have a beer and they’d always say, ‘You guys have got to open a brewery.’”
Zumwalt took the plunge and started Waltz Brewing, which serves up Northwest classic IPAs, pales, ambers, barrel-aged beers and sours. Zumwalt says a few of his home-brew recipes are still on tap, including the Kolsch, But No Cigar. Food deliveries and takeout from local restaurants are welcome.
Zumwalt says his vision for the business is to emulate the atmosphere he had with his buddies enjoying a few pints in his garage. That means no TV, no poker machines and no minors. “By doing that, you foster good conversation and really enduring friendship,” he says.
It’s also helped develop a real sense of community, bolstered by regular live music, trivia nights and an annual food drive every December. “People have just made it their home, and I’ve always tried to say yes to new events, anything that is expanding our community,” Zumwalt says.
If You Go:
Whether you like it hoppy, crisp, sour or dark, there’s a pint to please every beer drinker along the Tualatin Valley Ale Trail. Visit the website to see a full list of participating breweries and order your own ale trail passport to collect souvenir stamps from each brewery.