We just returned from a vacation. We high-tailed it down the I-5 corridor, hopped around northern California, and returned via Bend, Oregon. This was not a beer trip. We did not set out on one of our beer adventures. Seriously, that wasn’t the point of this trip. Really.
This vacation was about relaxation. That having been said, we didn’t make it far down the road before we found ourselves filling growlers at Northwest Sausage and Deli in Chehalis, the former home of Dick’s Brewing. Northwest Sausage and Deli is still run by the late Dick Young’s daughter and features an ample selection of Dick’s beers on tap and in bottles. Still, this trip was not about beer. It was about relaxing.
A Mind of Its Own
We spent Labor Day weekend camping and relaxing with friends in southern Washington. After that we headed further south, committed to a much-needed vacation from emails, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, beer and beer blogging. Just across the California border we stopped in a lovely little town called Weed where it just so happened that the first establishment we found with restrooms was the Mount Shasta Brewing Company. I guess that sometimes the Washington Beer Cruiser has a mind of its own.
Perhaps our favorite thing about the Mount Shasta Brewing Company was how shamelessly they embrace their “weedness.” The beers were good, but the commitment to the shtick was even better. I suppose you cannot live in a town called Weed without having a sense of humor about it. We filled a growler so that later that evening we could “get buzzed on legal weed.” That’s the way they say it, anyway.
Back on the highway, growler full, southbound again. One night camping near Lake Shasta. Next morning found us back on the road headed for wine country. Then we passed a sign for the Chico exit. Now, this was not a beer trip. We were both committed to that. However, we surmised that there was no way to know how long it would be before we would find ourselves this close to the home of Sierra Nevada Brewing. Maybe we’d never be here again. Life is short.
A brief diversion to the east, lunch at the pub, a quick tour of the brewery, a couple six packs in the cooler and we were back on the road.
Wine Country Damn It!
“Wine! We came down here for wine,” we reminded ourselves. We’d both spent time in the more predictable wine counties of Sonoma and Napa, so we were looking for something a little different. We chose Anderson Valley, where the hot days and cool nights and mornings produce fantastic pinot and chardonnay grapes. Some refer to Anderson Valley as the new Napa.
It was a beautiful drive, the windy and scenic road from Ukiah to Boonville – the exceedingly tiny burg at the center of this Xanadu. This is one of California’s hidden treasures. It is impossibly beautiful and the wine is delicious. Anderson Valley does not have a bank. It does not have a proper grocery store. It has wineries, farms, three tiny towns and one outstanding brewery–Anderson Valley Brewing.
It was not our intention to arrive in Anderson Valley on the exact same day that Fal Allen (from whom all blessings flow) started his new job as the brewer at Anderson Valley Brewing Company. It was pure coincidence. We won’t go into details about who Fal Allen is, or what role he has played in the Washington beer scene. Suffice it to say, he’s somewhat legendary around Seattle. He has since moved on, spending time brewing at Anderson Valley Brewing and more recently overseas in Asia. Now he has returned to Anderson Valley. If Anderson Valley is Xanadu, then Fal Allen is Kubla Khan. And we finally got to meet Kubla Khan.
We spent a day touring the greater surroundings. We took the short drive out to the coast where we visited Mendocino and Fort Bragg. While Mendocino is perhaps one of the most charming beach towns on earth, if you know anything about Fort Bragg it is that you have no reason to go there except to visit the North Coast Brewing Company. We did that.
Then we got thirsty for wine. We visited a few wineries. Bought a few bottles. By late afternoon we found ourselves back in the beer garden at Anderson Valley where we were flabbergasted to stumble upon Eric and Cindy, our fellow Seattle-based beer bloggers (www.goodbeertrips.com). Was it a coincidence or were they stalking us? It’s not surprising that our paths crossed when you think about it. We’re both “out there” a lot.
On to Sonoma
We left Anderson Valley and relocated to Sonoma. A day of wine tasting and then we ended up in Santa Rosa visiting Russian River Brewing’s brewpub. Folks, we all loves us some Pliny the Elder, but until you behold the complete arsenal of Vinnie Cilurzo’s brewing creations… Man, oh man. I don’t want to rub it in, but…
The brewpub in Santa Rosa is fantastic. We sat at the bar and immediately developed a report with our bartender, Gabe. Then we quickly developed a report with the locals sitting at the bar around us. Then we noticed other people taking pictures and ordering sampler racks. This is a destination for beer lovers. A Mecca. People come from near and far to wash their tongues in the Russian River.
Next up, Lagunita’s Brewing in Petaluma, just few clicks down the highway from Santa Rosa. We’ve always loved the Lagunitas attitude. They seem to have so much fun with what they do. Their brewpub (open just over a year now) is a manifestation of the Lagunitas attitude. We didn’t want to leave.
Northbound and Down
Eventually we headed back north. It was a long day’s drive from Sonoma to Bend, where we visited the Bend Brewing Company, the Deschutes Brewery and Public House, 10 Barrel Brewing, Bone Yard Brewing, and Silver Moon Brewing.
After a couple days strolling around town, wandering along the Mirror Pond in Drake Park, visiting great breweries and meeting great people, we decided that Bend just might be the best beer town in the Pacific Northwest. (Town, not city.) It is certainly worthy of any beer lover’s time. Not only do they have a great beer culture, but it is a great place to visit in general. The only bad thing we have to say about Bend is that we had to leave and head back to Seattle.