Sunday 24 March 2013

Oregon Trail

This post is part of a series, why not take a look at some of the earlier posts before reading on...

It's good for what ails you.
After what seemed like a very short 48 hours in Portland it was time to say goodbye (or should that be 'see you later') to this fair city. I was now riddled with a bastard flu virus and was unsure if drinking would form part of today's plan which involved our friends Mike and Laurie driving us down the Columbia Gorge to their home in Walla Walla, Washington. Of course the original plan was to stop at several breweries on route and despite feeling like a lukewarm sack of horse shit I'm never one to throw a spanner in the works, besides not everyone in our party was blighted with illness so who am I to be unfair to those of good health.

After breakfast we loaded up the car and I loaded myself up with co-codamol and a triple shot latte and gradually started to feel a little more human, albeit a very spaced out and highly caffeinated human. As we left the high rise buildings and bridges of Portland behind the vast expanse of Oregon started to unfold before us. It was a beautiful day with the sun bouncing off the Cascade mountain range and the towering, snow-capped Mount Hood  shone resplendently in the distance. We we soon cruising alongside the Columbia River taking in the beautiful scenes that the States of Oregon and Washington had to offer. Our first stop was at the stunning Multnomah Falls, maybe it was the revivifying spray of the falls or perhaps it was a second triple shot latte but I was starting to feel ready for a drink of the fermented variety and so we made our way towards the town of Hood River, home of Full Sail Brewing Co.

A full 24 hours had passed since I last had a beer at Bridgeport Brewing, arguably the longest amount of time I've gone in the States without an alcoholic drink but this was soon to be rectified. Full Sail are well known in the USA for their Session Lager and eyeing the menu I see that alongside regular brewery sights such as an Amber and an IPA there were German inspired Weizen and Bock beers which hinted at some of the influences in Full Sail's brewing. Despite being ready for a beer I definitely couldn't stomach a full pint so opted for a tasting flight, the Session Lager was first up and it was a solid brew, certainly more full bodied and flavourful than Budweiser or Pabst Blue Ribbon but not really my kind of beer. Next up was the Session Black Lager which was much the same as its pale cousin only with a little more body and a slightly unpleasant burnt bitterness at the finish so not something I'd drink again. 

'Vendell's Veizen' Weizen Bock was next up and it's pleasant banana, clove and bubblegum notes washed away the burnt toast notes from the Black Lager, there was also a little alcohol on the palate which gave away this beers big 7.2% ABV but despite this it was a solid brew. The Amber was equally as pleasant but I still wasn't being bowled over by any of these beers, they were solid, dependable beers for people who were finished with American adjunct lagers and ready to take the next step into the beer universe but they weren't for ardent hop junkies such as myself. I finished with the IPA which, much like the one from Bridgeport was decent enough but mute compared to some of the heavyweights I'd sampled so far on this trip. Despite this the Full Sail brews were highly accomplished, clean and well made plus my palate was potentially being restricted by the flu.

The Prodigal Son Brewery & Pub
We got back on the road and watched as the landscape started changing from lush pine forest to dry, lumbering hillside with little to no vegetation, it was remarkable how the landscape changed so quickly. Mike and my Dad both work in the wheat industry and we were heading deep into wheat country so the conversation inevitably turned to wheat, barley and of course, hops interspersed with blasts from Oasis' Definitely Maybe emanating from the stereo. Our next destination is Pendleton, famous for one of America's largest Rodeos, the Pendleton Round up and we pass the gigantic stadium on the way to our next stop, the Prodigal Son Brewery.

The tasting flight here consisted of eight different beers so my Dad and I got one to share between the two of us. I found the brews at Prodigal Son to be a little hit and miss, where the 'Beer Named Sue' was thin and tasted a lot like sweetcorn, Ella IPA was decent with an incredibly robust malt profile (arguably a little too robust for my tastes) but was loaded with delicious pink grapefruit, mango and pine resin flavours. The Max Power double IPA had far too much malt going on for my tastes with caramel and toffee popcorn notes vastly outweighing the bitterness but the Fatted Calf Sacrificial Stout was rich, full of coffee and burnt sugar nuances but a really dry finish belied the 7.9% alcohol content. The real highlight here though was the Bruce/Lee Porter which hid it's 8.1% ABV behind cleverly woven layers of coffee, chocolate and molasses, it was a treat to the taste buds.

We were running behind schedule and soon had to leave the Prodigal Son tasting room behind, I'd love to come to this place on a busy Friday or Saturday night as it's a really great use of space with big open tables and tidy little alcoves if you want a little more privacy plus the food looked great. We had one more stop to make before we hopped over the border to Washington, we were headed to the tiny town of Milton Freewater to pay a visit to what is possibly the smallest commercial brewery in existence.

Continue on to Dragon's Gate Brewery...


  1. We didn't get a chance to visit any of the breweries along the way as we massively under-estimated the length of the Columbia River Gorge and how long it'd take to drive through the Cascades to Eugene. Next time, next time...

    1. I know what you mean, a drive in the States has a way of looking compact but you quickly realise the vast size of each State once you get on the road! I hope you get back there at some point as do I as there is still so much I need to see!