We were excited to return to Portland for our ninth Oregon Brewers Festival. But with two previous beergeek.TV episodes covering the West Coast’s best beer fest, we needed to do something different. After much thought, we decided a road trip to Portland would be new and exciting.
At noon, I picked Merideth up at work for the long drive north. Crossing over from the coast to the Central Valley, we hopped on I-5 at Santa Nella. The plan was to drive almost half the interstate’s 1,381 mile length before stopping in Corvallis, OR for the night. Along the route, we had a few beer stops.
The drive through the Central Valley was certainly not the most exciting, but mile after mile of expansive farmland finally gave way to some hills after Redding. Soon after that, Mt. Shasta loomed in the distance, the namesake for our first brewery stop of the day. We pulled into the parking lot of Mt. Shasta Brewing Company in Weed, CA a little over six hours after we left Salinas. Besides being home of a brewery, Merideth has a personal connection to Weed. Her Mom was born in this tiny Northern California town.
Mt. Shasta’s brewery and pub is located in an old creamery. A warm day, we walked in through the pub’s big rolling door and grabbed a couple of seats at the bar. After six plus hours on the road, we were ready to try some legal weed. The sight of the bartender placing a taster set in front of us had never been so welcome. Our seven beer set included four regular beers and three seasonals.
The Golden Ale was perfect for the day, a very refreshing brew. Their IPA, a brew I have had before, was really solid. The most intriguing beer was the Strawberry Ginger seasonal. I love anything with ginger but unfortunately, this wasn’t the ginger-bomb I was hoping it would be.
Mt. Shasta Brewing would have been the perfect spot for a relaxing game of Scrabble but we still had the other half of our drive ahead. So, after finishing our taster set, we pressed on.
Crossing the border into Oregon, our next stop was in the Bard’s town, Ashland. Shakespeare aside, Ashland is also home to a pair of breweries. On our road trip plan included hitting one on the way up and one on the way home.
Caldera was the brewery we were going to hit on the way up. Unfortunately, Caldera wouldn’t count on the brewery list as the actual brewery is located across town from their downtown tap house. This violated rule #1, the beer must be brewed on premise.
Grabbing a table on the main level of their multi-deck patio, we quickly ordered a taster set and some dinner. On the five beer paddle, I picked three that I would like and two that I thought Merideth would like. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Turns out one that I picked for Merideth, the Dry Hopped Orange, was not an orange flavored beer that had been dry hopped. It was actually an IPA that highlighted citrus hops. I loved it, Merideth not so much. However, the best beer on the now hopbomb heavy sampler was the Rauch ür Bock, a wonderful smoked beer.
Caldera Tap House was another short stop as we still had three plus hours to drive to our final destination of the day, Corvallis. Quickly eating our meals and drinking our samples, we were back on 1-5 heading north in under an hour.
After over twelve hours on the road, we rolled into Corvallis at 12:30am. Corvallis was a ghost town at that early hour but we hoped that Block 15 Restaurant & Brewery might still be open. In all our road weariness, we managed to find the brewery. A couple of staff remained inside, but the stacked chairs indicated that they were closed. That was probably for the best as “Miss Cranky Pants” was tired. The brewery could wait for the following morning.
Late Thursday morning, we were at the doors of Block 15 waiting patiently for them to open. While we only had another hour on I-5 before reaching Portland, we didn’t have all the time in the world. We were meeting a friend at Oregon Brewers Festival in a few hours. Another quick sample set it would be.
We got to chose five beers from their selection of over a dozen. What jumped out at Merideth and I were the number of session beers available. Three of our five beers, the Kölsch-style Summer Knights, Glo Golden Ale and Hop-a-long Amber were 5% ABV and under. The star was the Hop-a-long, a hopped up brew that came in at 4% ABV. On the hoppier end, the One Hop Tomahawk was an excellent one hop IPA. As the name implies, it is hopped with just the Tomahawk variety of hops.
We had one more stop before arriving in Portland. Located a short distance from Corvallis in the nearby town of Albany, Calapooia (Cala-poo-ya) Brewing Co. was our next stop. Situated on a quiet side street along the railroad tracks, the pub looks more like a quaint cafe from the exterior. The interior has a similar feel but the extensive beer list revealed the pub’s true identity.
And in our speed dating version of brewery tours, we only had time for yet another sample paddle. Of the eight samples, we got to choose two, the other six being their regular brews. My standout was the Big Aft Pale Ale while Merideth liked River Dog ESB. However, we both agreed that the star was Devil’s Hole Stout, a wonderful roasty, chocolate brew.
In what was the running theme for the drive up to Portland, Calapooia Brewing Co. was another cozy brewpub where we could have relaxed the day away playing Scrabble. But that wasn’t the plan. We were out the door in twenty five minutes and on our way to Portland.