Beer Trails: Hood River. It's just barely Oregon

Previous posts in this series:
Vancouver, the gateway to the Gorge
Highway 14, Stevenson and White Salmon

This is the final installment in our series of reports on our recent trip to the Columbia Gorge. Our previous post talked about the breweries on the Washington side of the river (Walking Man and Everybody’s Brewing). In this post, we’ll talk about our stay in Hood River, OR.

DowntownHoodRiverIf you’re going to do the Gorge, there’s no better place to stay than Hood River. A delightful little town with a very cool, young and energetic vibe, it is centrally located for touring the area’s breweries. Hood River is outdoorsy and hip, but it is also just your average small town. It’s where Walmart meets Wilco – where Carhartt meets Patagonia. Downtown is charming and easy to stroll. There are galleries selling local artwork alongside adventure shops selling kayaks and snowboards. Within easy walking distance of each other in downtown Hood River, there are three breweries/brewpubs: Double Mountain, Full Sail and Big Horse.

First, let’s talk about where to stay. We opted to save some money and stay at the Comfort Suites (out by the WalMart, just an $8 cab ride from downtown). This was an affordable room, but also provided us with a free breakfast –not an outstanding breakfast, but a serviceable breakfast. The room was fine. It was clean, which is the most important thing when you’re traveling on the cheap.

Downtown Hood River. Hood River Hotel on the right.
Downtown Hood River. Hood River Hotel on the right.

Another recommendation would be the Hood River Hotel. It is a European style, historic hotel located in the heart of downtown. We stopped in and took a look around. It is lovely and the rooms were reasonably priced – more expensive than we’d budgeted for this trip, but certainly not at all out of reach.

Next, let’s talk about food, and then we’ll get to beer. On Saturday night, at the recommendation of someone at one of the breweries, we had dinner at Brian’s Pour House. This place is billed as a sports bar and gastropub. They offer an impressive, thoughtful selection of mostly-local beers, but the food is what will knock your socks off.  This is not normal pub grub. The fried calamari was as good as any I have ever had. For the main course, I had an amazing pasta dish. House smoked duck, seared sausage, roasted root vegetables and mushrooms tossed with rigatoni pasta in a rich duck stock. Kim enjoyed her fish tacos, served with lime cured cabbage, pico de gallo and jalapeno remulade with jasmine rice and salsa. We cannot recommend Brian’s Pour House enough. It was outstanding in every respect.

Now let’s talk about beer. We would be lying if we said that Double Mountain was anything short of our favorite place in town. Three times in two days, we found ourselves enjoying this casual brew pub, which is obviously the favorite choice of the adventuresome locals as well. On Friday night, we stopped by Double Mountain thinking that we’d have a bite to eat, sample a couple beers and then move along. Then we learned that there was going to be live music. Then a very fun and energetic crowd showed up and Mrs. Beer Blog ended up dancing with the rest of the crowd to Tony Smiley, a two-man electronic wonder band. Then we ended up closing the joint. It’s that kind of place.

When you walk through the front door, it is cozy. In addition to tables there are couches. Through a doorway to the right of the bar you will find another, large room. There are moveable tables that are pushed aside to make a dance floor as the night wears on and there are deep, comfy couches. This part of the pub is, basically, a garage. Large garage doors open to the street. This room also houses the brewery.

They have a simple way of doing things here. You must step up to the bar to place your order. If you order food, they’ll come find you once it’s ready. They specialize in Pizza – thin crust, yummy pizza.

The bar at Double Mountain Brewing
The bar at Double Mountain Brewing

The beer is outstanding. I was particularly fond of the IRA (India Red Ale) and the Hop Lava IPA. We’ve noticed that Double Mountain is beginning to have a presence here in the Seattle area; therefore, many of you will have the opportunity to try their beers soon. (They’ll be in town for a brewers night celebration at Naked City on Tuesday, Dec. 15th and hopefully we’ll be pouring the Double Mountain Fa La La later this month at the Winter Beer Burcham).

On our way to Hood River, someone told us, “If you go to Double Mountain, it will be your new favorite brew pub.” They might be right.

I know that some craft beer aficionados look down their noses at Full Sail. It is a production brewery, after all. In my opinion, the most important thing is that a brewery still cares. Sure, Full Sail might be big, but they still care. They still make some damn good beers. They just make them 1,100 kegs at a time. (Not all of their beers are produced on that scale, but you get my point.) Full Sail is a green business. It is employee owned. I’m sorry if it they’re big, but there’s a lot to like about Full Sail.

The bar at Full Sail.
The bar at Full Sail.

The Full Sail pub is awesome. The view is outstanding, the food is good, and they’ve got a ton of beer on tap, some of them Full Sail offerings you have likely never even heard of.  In my opinion, any trip to Hood River would be incomplete without a stop at Full Sail.

On the south side of downtown, up against the hill, is a large house that is home to the Big Horse Brewery and Pub. There are a lot of stairs. How old is the house? We didn’t really get a straight answer. We really didn’t learn a lot when we visited. We tried. Although they weren’t busy, perhaps we came at a bad time (9:00 on a Saturday night).

The one thing we did learn is that the beer is very good. I suppose that is the most important thing, right? Seriously, we really liked the beer. After we wrestled a few samples and a couple of pints from the staff, we decided to head back down the street to Double Mountain where we were welcomed warmly and our presence was appreciated.

The next morning we went for a hike and enjoyed the waterfalls of Eagle Creek (you got to do some outdoorsy stuff when you’re down at the Gorge) and then headed for home.

We made one last stop for lunch in Battle Ground, WA and paid a visit to the new Laurelwood Public House. It is brand-spanking new, located in a freshly-spawned suburban village. While the Public House will have a small brewery, our bartender told us that it will only produce seasonal beers. On tap we found the full complement of Laurelwood beers.

Portlands Laurelwood Brewing - the new public house in Battle Ground, WA
Portland's Laurelwood Brewing - the new public house in Battle Ground, WA

After lunch, we put the pedal to the metal and headed north, satisfied that we’d gotten the most we could out of our Thanksgiving weekend.

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