Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hood River: Taking The Long Way To Bend

Continuing the harrowing tale of a man and his wife drinking and binge-eating their way across the great state of Oregon.

After a quick breakfast at our hotel and a stop at a shady bead shop for Sj, we were back on our journey.  My cousin had suggested taking a detour to the city of Hood River (yes it is right on the river and hence well named) to visit Double Mountain Brewery, so we took his good advice and made the trip.  The road there was beautiful, paralleling the Columbia River with amazing views of forested mountains, eagles, waterfalls and more.  Poor Sj had to drive and couldn't fully observe all the wonders to the sides of us.  She's a saint for driving us all over Oregon. 

Sj wearing her Minnesota gang colors

Our first stop in the small town of Hood River was Pfriem Family Brewers, a family owned place that has only been open for a year or so.  I had tasted two of their beers in Portland and been intrigued enough to make this one of our stops.  The brewery is right on the river, with a park currently being built in between the brewery and the water's edge.  The building is one of several new large industrial spaces being built along this small access road, and all look like they should house an REI store complete with climbing wall.  Made of glass, steel and reclaimed wood the brewery itself has a very industrial feel, but very open and comfortable.  Chairs and tables are solid and almost immovable.  The beer sampler came in a cool branded wooden carrier and all were tasty.  My favorite were the Dark Belgian Strong and the Schwarzbier.  Any place that can put out great IPA's, Belgians and Lagers is a success in my book.  The stand-out for this brewery was the food.  Sj and I split a moules frites (mussels and fries) that was as good as any I had in Belgium, with the double fried frites that I haven't seen since that trip.  House made pickled vegetables and deviled eggs rounded out our terrific eating experience.  This was a random visit that ended up being one of my favorite stops in Oregon.  You should go there.

From Pfriem (pronounced Freem) we drove a few blocks to Double Mountain Brewery.  This brewery is located in an older warehouse building downtown.  They have live music frequently, and the place was packed with folks eating their house-made pizzas and drinking the beers.  They had a lot of different beers to choose from, but they seemed to really shine with the IPA and DIPA in classic Northwest fashion.  The Lulu saison with pink peppercorns, hibiscus and rose hips was subtle and wonderful.  I didn't try the whole line-up due to a distinct lack of room in my stomach, and since Sj didn't want to share the hoppy beers with me.  One day she'll start drinking IPA!  The brewpub proper had an old pizza joint feel to it and seemed to be filled mainly with locals, a very popular place.

Best view ever!

While walking a few blocks back to our car (beware, they have old fashioned coin operated metered parking in this town) we passed a brewery I had totally forgotten was there: Full Sail.  Not only is this an older institution, but one of the bigger breweries in the state with good distribution across the country.  I'll admit I've never been a huge fan of the beers, but figured we should try it anyway.  Taking up most of a a city block, this place is massive, but attractive and well-maintained.  The brewpub side of things was nice and doing a gangbusters business.  We were seated out on the balcony, up a few levels from ground on that side of the building and stepped into three levels of seating.  With the stepped seating, each level had an amazing view of the river and surrounding mountains.  Para sails and windsurfers dotted the river, echoing the sail shaped art/sculpture on the walls of the outdoor seating area.  Simply the most beautiful view and location I've ever experienced at a brewery.  We had the seasonal sampler of beers, knowing that I can find some of the regular releases out our way.  Most of these were lagers, ( Marzen, Vienna,  Mexican), and remarkably balanced and well crafted.  I could not finish all of them since I was already feeling full to the brim before we had even entered the place!  I would highly recommend checking them out.  I like the story of the place, being owned by the 47 employees is nice, and they were one of the first breweries to work on Green initiatives before it got trendy.  Interestingly, on our way out we ran into one of the guys we met at Gigantic in Portland.  Small world!

Back in the car for another 3 hours of driving through the mountains toward Bend.  Did I mention how good of a wife I have?  We ended up coming out of the mountains and pine forests into high desert that looked like New Mexico.  One minute majestically tall pines--the next minute sagebrush, dry grasses and small scrub pines.  It was almost disorienting.  After driving through a Native American Reservation and a few small agricultural and industrial towns, we ended up in Bend.  We checked into the  McMenamins St. Francis School, an old decommissioned Catholic school.  We ended up with a bathroom almost the size of the bedroom itself, with  two claw foot tubs, two showers and a stalled toilet.  This is where they put the dirty Midwesterners maybe...

This evening we were invited to post rehearsal dinner drinks and appetizers for my cousin Ladd's wedding.  The dinner itself ran a little late, but we availed ourselves of the open bar: stocked with local beers from 10 Barrel, Cascade Lakes and more.  Most of the apps were cheese related, so I avoided most of them and stuck to beers.  We had a great time catching up with family, and getting to meet Ladd and Jennie's other friends and family.

The view out the back deck of the Rehearsal Dinner hotel

By the time things were wrapping up it was nearly 10 PM and I was ravenously hungry.  I hadn't been sure I would ever need to eat again after my overindulgence in food the past few days, but there it was--the growl of an empty stomach.  We headed back to our hotel and walked a few blocks to the Deschutes Bond Street Pub.  The food was excellent, and so were the beers.  They had around 13-14 different beers on tap, including most of the standards as well as brewpub originals and cask versions.  Sj and I each got a sampler and split them, and still didn't try all the beers!  The stand-out beers were the Gose (this is really trendy now in Oregon!) and the Fresh Squeezed IPA.  That IPA quickly became one of my new favorite beers, hitting just the right note between malt, bitterness and citrus orange flavor.  It is available in MN now, so look for it!

Up Next:  On The Bend Ale Trail!

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