Newberg, McMinnville, Salem, Independence, Silverton, Corvallis – is there a small town in the Willamette Valley that doesn’t have a brewery? I don’t think so. Don’t feel sorry for me because I live in the mid-Willamette Valley. Despite my 50-mile distance from Brewvana, my opportunities for beer touring are multiple.
Following are a few of my favorite breweries to visit within 30 miles of my home in Independence, but there are certainly more. Check out the Oregon Brewers’ Guild map for more suggestions, oregoncraftbeer.org/breweries/willamettevalley, or visit www.oregonbeergrowler.com to see where our writers have already been.
Or, visit any of the Albany-Corvallis breweries to pick up the Mid-Valley Sip Trip brochure, which has a great map of 10 breweries, distilleries, cider houses and meaderies in that area.
980 NE 4th St., McMinnville
McMinnville’s Golden Valley Brewing was the first in a rising tide of west-side breweries including Heater Allen (McMinnville), Long Brewing (Newberg), Fire Mountain Brewhouse (Carlton), Chehalem Valley Brewing (Newberg) and the soon-to-open Grain Station Brew Works (McMinnville). Golden Valley’s Peter Kircher has set the bar high. His classy Craftsman-style pub and his dedication to local foods (from his own farm) and fresh beer ingredients lead the way for the other boutique breweries in the region. My suggestion? I love Golden Valley’s Chehalem Mountain IPA and their Third Street Wheat to wash back their sausage and cheese plate. Sausages are from their own livestock, fed on spent grains from GV’s brews. After touring this region, fall into bed at McMenamin’s Hotel Oregon in McMinnville, one of my favorite haunts in this area.
990 1st St., Silverton
Seven Brides – Silverton’s hometown brewery – the ‘brides’ refer to the owners’ seven daughters – is a fabulous place to stop after hiking the nearby Silver Falls State Park, touring the Oregon Gardens, visiting the city’s great art galleries and shops, or whooping it up at the Homer Davenport Days Aug. 2-4. Here’s my suggestion: Call the Oregon Garden Resort and make your overnight reservation, then take in one or two of the above activities, stop off at Seven Brides afterward to either fill your growler or have a few pints at the saloon then fall into the fabulously comfortable beds at the resort. After breakfast in the morning, tour the gardens, go back to Seven Brides for beer and lunch and then take in another activity. This really is a sweet town. My favorite brews are Frankenlou’s IPA, Drunkle, and the Black Cat Porter.
2065 Madrona Ave. S.E., Salem
The Salem area’s beer culture – has gone from 0 to 60 in just a few short years, jumpstarted by The Ram, which is a chain but brews in Salem, and Pale Horse, with its popular Hillbilly Blonde, and super-fueled by Gilgamesh, a local family-owned brewery. Last year, the Radkes turned their brewing and wood-crafting acumen into a successful brewpub last year, moving from their tiny Turner home into an industrial park “Campus” funhouse. The woody and warm fireside Gilgamesh brewpub has attracted Salem’s hoards – I’ve never been there on slow day. I like their Vader CDA, but their Mamba, with its tangerine and rye flavors, is also nice. I always order the Baja Chipotle fish tacos but I should branch out a bit – they have a wide selection of dinner and lunch entrees and small plates, and an outside patio.
2544 19th St. S.E., Salem
Several homebrewers and self-proclaimed beer geeks pooled their resources last year and set up shop in and industrial park not too far from Gilgamesh. Within months they had expanded to include a tasting room open seven afternoons a week. There are always at least 10 various brews on tap, but this brewery is emerging as a cask ale specialist, thanks in no small part to English brewer, Ian Croxall. You’ll always find at least four “beer engines” connected to a firkin.
3590 Wigrich Rd., Independence
I’m not only mentioning this because it’s the brewery closest to my house, but also because it’s a just a fun, farmy place to visit for the whole family. This time of year you can sit in the yard and watch the cornhole players, watch the turkeys strut past, have a bite to eat from the food cart, take a class in bee-keeping or soap-making, and drink the latest Rogue brew, all in the shadow of the hopfields. Two years ago, Rogue fired up a nanobrewery in the farm building behind the tasting room and patio, a stone’s throw from the Willamette River, so those beers, and others from Rogue, are on tap, in addition to their bottled beer. This is a great country place for a family outing, especially in the summer and fall, when the tours are each weekend. It’s open seven days a week.
300 SW Jefferson Corvallis
There are two sides to Block 15 – the two-level casual food and drink brewpub side, and the Les Caves side, a small fine-dining atmosphere with beer and food pairing as its main attraction. Both sides feature Block 15’s great beers and display an almost fanatic dedication to local products in their cuisine. The Block 15 side has at least a dozen of its own beers on tap, from cask ales to IPAs. Les Caves also offers a variety of other Oregon beers on tap and in bottles or cans. What do I suggest? A local salad for lunch at Block 15, and for dinner, an entrée at Les Caves with Afton Field Farms chicken or pork, all nicely paired with an Oregon beer.
Flat Tail Sports Pub and Brewery
202 SW First St., Corvallis
Where do Oregon State University students (over 21 of course) take their parents when Ma or Pa visits them at school? Flat Tail, of course, for several reasons: By day, this brewpub looks downright mild. There’s a beer here for every taste -- from sours to gruits to ales and kolsches – and the Beaver memorabilia and big screen televisions all provide enough distraction to blur parental squawking. By night, this can be a crowded haven of youngish cruisers looking for a $3 pint and an oyster shooter or a frickle (fried pickle chips) to top off a long day of “studies.”
A few others in Corvallis-Albany
Oregon Trail Brewing, 341 S.W. Second St., is the oldest, and possibly the smallest brewery in Corvallis (not counting homebrewer’s garages). It is connected to the Old World Deli, where I had eaten lunch for years before realizing there was a brewery in back! Brewery is open noon 5 p.m. Monday – Friday.
Sky High Brewing, 160 NW Jackson St., Corvallis, is now completing its top story restaurant, but the brewery and the cozy tasting room (food service available) overlooking the brewery is open, serving great beer. Always good is the Linus Pauling Peace ale and the Big Air XX IPA. Interesting is the Monk’s Mana, a Belgian honey Tripel brewed with local honey and Crosby Hop Farm hops.
Mazama Brewing, 33930 S.E. Eastgate Circle, Corvallis, opened this year with a focus on Belgian-style brews. A great stop for those who also want to try cider and mead, in the same complex.
Calapooia Brewing Co., 140 Hill St. N.E., Albany. On any given Sunday at 4 p.m. you are likely to find me and my posse getting down with the bluesmeisters at Calapooia’s weekly blues jam. I will most likely have a RIPArian IPA in front of me, and at least one of my buddies will be quaffing the chili beer, for which this brewery is famous.