Just like Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, you too can blaze a trail along the Columbia River Gorge–an ale trail!
I knew I wanted to visit a few breweries in White Salmon and Hood River when visiting my cousin in the area, but I was surpised to learn there was a ful-blown ale trail in the area to help guide you along! There are 13 breweries, on both sides of the Columbia River, that make up the Breweries in the Gorge. While you need to visit 11 of the 13 to get a Breweries in the Gorge pint glass, my quick weekend itinerary only allowed for me to hit eight, the closest eight to Hood River/White Salmon if coming from the west. Like my Bend Ale Trail post, this is a long one, so you might want to pour yourself a pint and get cozy before reading!
Day One: Thunder Island, Pfriem, Full Sail, Double Mountain, Big Horse Brew Pub
I chose to begin my adventure by swinging through Cascade Locks, home of Thunder Island Brewing, on my way to White Salmon. Cascade Locks is famous for being home of the Bridge of the Gods, a famous landmark along the PCT (catch it at the end of the film adaptation of Wild), but also being one of many areas in the Columbia River Gorge devastated by the 2017 Eagle Creek fire. I had heard through the social media grapevine that Thunder Island was doing all they could to support the firefighters in the area, and have to give them mad props for that. I grabbed my map (all breweries had hard copies, there is also an app for Android and Apple) and a sampler and did an immediate 180 to sit outside. I had seen on social media pictures from their patio, and did the view ever live up to the hype.
I think I wouldn’t be wrong if I dubbed this the most stunning view from a brewery in the state (or country?). To top it off, as soon as I sat down with my sampler a bald eagle flew from above to snag a salmon from the river. Postcard-perfect does not begin to describe it–and the beer was delicious too! The very first beer in my sampler, Saison du Melon, might have been my favorite beer of the entire trip! I rounded out my sampler with a Remember the Forest IPA, Ekuanado IRA, and an Oregon Pony CDA, all of which were tasty. I was very impressed by the number of Breweries in the Gorge offering CDAs, one of my favorite styles, compared to Seattle.
Once I hit White Salmon, dropped off my bags, and got settled, it was time for the gauntlet. Hood River will soon have five, count ’em, FIVE breweries for which you can get stamped (Ferment Brewing, currently on the map, is opening soon, hence me not going). While they are all within a stones’ throw from each other, I’d definitely advise breaking up the Hood River breweries over two trips if you have the time. With my cousin as DD, we first went to pFriem Family Brewers (the p is silent). Close to the river, pFriem was smaller than I anticipated, and packed to the gills. After watching like a hawk, I was able to snag a seat by their amazing firepit and have a lemon zest farmhouse ale.
Tummies rumbling, we moved to our next stop, Full Sail Brewery. While all of the breweries offer food, we liked the full range of options at Full Sail so I ordered a chicken burger to go with my sampler. And what a sampler! I loved the sailboat shape. I went with mostly summer hits for the sampler, including a watermelon wheat, lime lager, two cervezas, and a taproom-only nitro pale that all went down easy with the view. The outdoor seating here is even covered with heaters and a weather-proof clear curtain that can keep you warm and dry if it’s wintertime but you still want to take in the sights. Full Sail also had plenty of televisions inside for sports fans too.
After the first few stops, our last breweries blur together a bit. Double Mountain and Big Horse Brew Pub were just a few blocks apart, but it was mostly uphill. While we were too stuffed to eat, the pizza smell from Double Mountain was heavenly. I had a pint of their Sluice Box IPA before I decided to try their Irish stout. If you like smoky beers, the Black Irish Stout is for you. Big Horse Brew Pub offers Scottish, Belgian, and rye beers if you want a further break from the hops (in addition to pales and IPAs).
Day Two: Walking Man, Backwoods, Everybody’s Brewing
After conquering Dog Mountain, we hobbled off the trailhead shuttle that deposited us in Stevenson. As tired as we were, we had the smallest of springs in our step, knowing Walking Man Brewing was not even a half-mile away from the fairgrounds. Home of tons of outdoor seating and the mind-blowing Homo Erectus IIPA, I knew I’d have to get something hoppy here. As I was DD, I was thrilled to know they let you do individual-sizes of their tasters, as I felt two schooners after a hike would be pushing it. I tried their Trespasser New England-style IPA and their Night Step CDA which I slightly preferred. While you can find Homo Erectus in the city, I still got a fresh bottle to bring home.
Just a few miles east on the highway in Carson is Backwoods Brewing. Picnic tables outside or shade inside, you can’t go wrong here. True to their name, they had wood everywhere on the bar and the walls. I love their blueberry wheat, so was thrilled to finally see the brewery in person. I also was a fan of their Copperline Amber, but knowing I could easily get both in cans at home, I went for the Mosaic Single-Hop pale. I did enjoy my beer, but was kicking myself for volunteering to drive, as a fresh blueberry wheat would have been refreshing in the sun, especially after burning (approximately) eight thousand calories on the hike.
My last brewery on the trip was White Salmon’s Everybody’s Brewing. Currently in the process of building a larger place next door, with the amazing food and beer and too-close-to-be-real patio view of Mt. Hood it’s not shocking that Everybody’s can pack them in. No longer DD, I dove into a sampler, which is pre-designated from either their core line-up or more experimental beers. Along with an order of chicken tikka masala, I chose experimental, and greatly enjoyed most of them.
Starting off with the Monster Cookie Imperial Milk Stout, I was delighted. I love a good sweet stout, and this one had chocolate and milk to spare. A Cold Press coffee porter, insane coconut porter, and 86 Irish stout rounded out the dark beers, with an amazingly hoppy Green Ice Pacific Pilsner being one of my favorites. On That Dust was my IPA and the Cot Damn apricot sour rounded out the taster. I really felt the sampler covered the gamut of styles, and for a beer that packed a punch like a sour or the Monster Cookie, a taster was the perfect size. My cousin and I rounded out the night with their warm, gooey, perfect peanut butter brownie, and I slept like a champion that night.
Had I had more time, I would have maybe continued to The Dalles for the two breweries there, or through Goldendale to hit Dwinell County Ales to round out my map. Or, if continuing from Hood River to Bend, Solera Brewing is as close as you can get to Mt. Hood, and the last stop for the map. While I’m bummed I didn’t get to see every brewery on the map (and also bummed Mt. Hood was behind the clouds when I was at Everybody’s), the Breweries in the Gorge are a great way to blaze a trail along the Columbia River–Lewis & Clark would be proud!