The Columbia River Gorge is a 300,000-acre playground claimed by both Oregon and Washington. Its 26 waterfalls, including the 620-foot Multnomah Falls, draw nature lovers while its 10 breweries attract beer lovers, who tend to be one and the same. Full Sail Brewing, which honors the kite surfers and board-heads who recreate on the Columbia River, was first to set up shop in 1987. The town of Hood River is situated between Yakima Valley and Willamette Valley and hosts the fresh-hopped-beer-only Hops Fest during harvest season, making September one of the best months to visit.
Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom
Owner/brewmaster Matt Swihart founded Double Mountain in 2007—and he wields hops like a chef in a spice pantry. Vaporizer dry-hopped pale ale and Hop Lava IPA are year-rounders while Devil’s Kriek and Tahoma Kriek (brewed with red Bing and yellow Rainier cherries, respectively, from Swihart’s own orchard) are seasonal delicacies.They also make the best pizza around.
Pfriem Family Brewers
At the riverfront brewpub that’s equally beer geek- and family-friendly (there’s a play area, inviting bar and beer garden with a fire pit), owner/brewmaster Josh Pfriem crafts beautiful blondes. Take Pfriem Blonde IPA, a flaxen, citrusy hop bomb, and Belgian Strong Blonde, an entanglement of grain and yeast-driven spice. The newest brew, Flanders Blonde, aged in pinot noir barrels, goes in a lemony direction its brunette and redhead sisters never imagined.
Craft beer industry pioneer David Logsdon converted the red barn on his 20-acre farm into an authentic farmhouse brewery. As the co-founder of Wyeast Labs, it’s natural that Logsdon makes yeast-driven saisons and that Peche ‘n Brett, made with local peaches and Brettanomyces yeast, medaled at last year’s GABF.
Owner/brewer Doug Ellenberger is the only former Full Sail brewer to start a brewery across the river. As lagers increase in popularity, Local Logger is all the rage. A heaping plate of pulled pork nachos and a live band on a Friday night complete the package.
Walking Man Brewing
Skamania County’s below-street-level beer garden is where local families, including dogs, hunker down for the night with myriad IPAs such as the imperial Homo Erectus DIPA and sessionable Littlefoot ISA. For non-locals, the fantastic Skamania Lodge is just a mile and a half away.
Hiking is the order of the day with the 700-foot climb to the top of Multnomah Falls (above) as the most popular adventure, but Ponytail Falls is easier and includes a fun behind-the-water trail. Drive the Fruit Loop, a 35-mile scenic highway that winds past wineries and U-pick farms while offering increasingly dramatic views of glacier-topped Mt. Hood. Just east of Hood River in Mosier, wade (or cannonball) into Mosier Falls Swimming Hole, then relax at Rack & Cloth’s Mercantile over farm-to-patio woodfired pizzas and estate ciders.