By Heather Larson
A KALEIDOSCOPE OF COLORFUL KITEBOARDS. A medley of hiking options. Never-ending scenic splendor. You’ve arrived at the Columbia River Gorge. Augment all that with a new craft beer trail. Recently established and well-received is Breweries in the Gorge or B.I.G. This route includes 12 breweries, stretches 130 miles, skirts the Columbia River and encompasses both Oregon and Washington.
Try all of them. Not in one day, though. Instead, take your time and book a night or two at the centrally-located Best Western Plus Hood River Inn: waterfront lodging with a pool, spa, restaurant and the 2.5-mile Shoreline Trail to walk or jog off a few of the beer calories.
Then hit the beer trail at any of the starting points below. For a list of breweries, a map and more details on B.I.G, visit breweriesinthegorge.com.
Thunder Island Brewing
Cascade Locks, Oregon
Visitors often request the Chocolate Thunder Stout (my personal favorite) or the Dry Creek IPA at this seven-barrel brewery and tasting room, which opened three and a half years ago. Pair your selection with scratch-made food like a pulled pork sandwich or Hood River apples and brie and eat outside overlooking the regal Columbia River.
Insider Tip: The Pacific Crest Trail (2,650 miles) runs through Cascade Locks, so you can pre-buy a beer here for the next parched hiker who stops in. thunderislandbrewing.com
Sedition Brewing Company
The Dalles, Oregon
Opened in a remodeled ice house less than a year ago, Sedition is the youngest brewery on the trail. Brewmaster Kyle Rossman calls his style “drinkable.” That means: After one, you want to drink more. On tap, with more to come, are Common Sense, a California Common; American Helles Bock, an American lager; IPA and Hoghead Red, a robust red ale.
Insider Tip: The paninis here are exceptional. seditionbrewing.com
Full Sail Brewing Company
Hood River, Oregon
Ask any of the personnel along the trail and you’ll find most of them honed their skills at Full Sail. With more than 300 awards for their beers, you don’t want to miss this one. Their flagship Amber Ale has won 20 gold medals. With so many brews to choose from, try a flight served on a sail frame first.
Tours run daily on the hour between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m.
Insider Tip: Full Sail has an archive of beer spanning its 30-year history; ask your server which one is available when you visit. It won’t be on the menu. fullsailbrewing.com
Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom
Hood River, Oregon
Owner and brewmaster Matt Swihart creates what he likes to drink instead of brewing to a particular style. Most of his hops come from the Yakima Valley in Washington or the Willamette Valley in Oregon, which lets him visit the growers and rub the hop flowers in various fields to find the best aromas. See for yourself by tasting the Hop Lava or The Vaporizer. The pizza here is so delicious, our reed-thin, 8-year-old dining companion ate a small one by herself and finished with a root beer float.
Insider Tip: Hood River doesn’t have an open-container law, so you’re free to grab a bottle and stroll the downtown streets with beer in hand. doublemountainbrewery.com
Backwoods Brewing Company
Backwoods focuses on balance yet highlights the hop and malt flavor profiles. Their Logyard IPA and Copperline Amber have taken off in popularity. A new release, the Double Tequila Cutt IIPA, a double IPA aged in tequila-soaked oak, promises exceptional flavor.
Insider Tip: Ask to speak to Jordan Tanasse, the sales director, if you would like a tour. They aren’t advertised to the public, but he’s happy to oblige. backwoodsbrewingcompany.com
White Salmon, Washington
Beer enthusiasts like the Country Boy IPA and the Local Logger Lager (say that 10 times fast). Everybody’s style is traditional and approachable whether you order a sour, IPA or pale ale. Take your cold one out to the patio for a spectacular view of Mt. Hood.
Insider Tip: Co-owner Christine Ellenberger suggests asking for the classic chicken wing sauce on a Caesar salad. everybodysbrewing.com