beer in the wine country

sagebrush rainbow

I know it’s taken me all week to get this post up, but our Labor Day weekend wasn’t the kind you recover from quickly. As usual, my band (comprised of me, my husband and my parents) went on its annual pilgrimage to the Tumbleweed Music Festival by way of a lot of wineries. Not to mention two brewpubs and a truly fantastic diner.

winery dogs

We visited the dogs at Two Mountain, Chinook and Hightower – all just as cute as ever. I highly recommend all three wineries for their juice as well. We also visited Portteus, Bookwalter, Tefft, and Blackwood Canyon.

Amid all the winery visits, though, we needed food. And really, when you’re overloaded with high quality red wine, what you really need is a burger, or pizza. And a beer.

Whitstran Brewpub

Fortunately for us, the Whitstran Brewpub just opened in Prosser last year. Apparently the brewery’s been there for some time, but the restaurant side is new. Hurrah, somewhere to eat lunch in Prosser!

Whitstran Brewpub

The place is very simple inside, decorated with framed quotations concerning the virtues of beer. I liked this one:

Whitstran Brewpub

Service was a tad slow, since all the lunch orders came in at once, but we weren’t in much of a hurry. We tasted a few samples and ended up with some very decent pints – I liked the dry-hopped pale ale, Jon had stout, and my parents went for the Highlander. Most of the beers were a bit light-bodied and very low alcohol, but they seemed to be on the right track.

Whitstran Brewpub

Whitstran Brewpub

We were impressed by the food. Basic pub fare, but prepared with attention. The fries, battered and very crispy, were the star, but the coleslaw was also notable. Burgers and fried fish were perfectly acceptable. We ate way too many fries.

Atomic Alehouse

That night we were in Richland, which isn’t exactly a foodie mecca. We decided to play it safe and go back to an old favorite, the Atomic Ale Brewpub. It’s in an old drive-in building right in downtown Richland, with a heavily tongue-in-cheek theme in honor of nearby Hanford Nuclear Reservation. They have Plutonium Porter and Half-Life Hefeweizen, Atomic Potato Soup, and so on. As far as I know none of it is actually radioactive, but you never know in Richland.

Atomic Alehouse

Atomic Alehouse

They also have the best collection of pint glasses and coasters from other pubs I have ever seen. I seem to recall from an earlier visit that if you bring a coaster that they don’t have already, you get a free pint. You’d want to check that with the owner, though.

Atomic Alehouse

Not all the beer here is to our taste, but there’s usually something good. On this visit they had Chinook IPA on tap, which I liked very much.

Atomic Alehouse

Atomic Alehouse

And the real reason to go to the Atomic: pizza. In fact, I’m not sure we’ve eaten anything else there. We usually get the Wanderer, which has Canadian bacon, jalapeños, sausage and olives on a garlic and olive oil-brushed crust. This time we also tried the Godfather, which was a fine pile of meat and olives on tomato sauce, with mushrooms and hot pepper. Nothing too unusual, but very good. The place was absolutely packed (a rainstorm hit while we were waiting for our table, flooding out the outdoor concert going on a few blocks away), but our server was calm and helpful.

Sage Port Grill

Sage Port Grill

And then: it may not be beer-related, but I have to mention the place we found for breakfast the next morning. Located out on the Columbia River trail, the Sage Port Grill is a classic biker hangout/diner, open every day from 7 until 3, and serving the biggest pancakes I have ever seen (possibly excepting the ones in Waimea, Hawaii). I want to go back here and try everything on the menu, preferably after having run several miles along the river. Light it was not, but the food was well flavored and completely ungreasy (as ungreasy as chicken fried steak gets, that is). And the decor is worth spending some quality time with. If you’re in the Tri-Cities and are hungry for breakfast, go there.

Sage Port Grill

See why it’s taken me a few days to recover?

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