west coast beer tour

driving the Gorge

We just got back from our annual road trip down to Santa Cruz, and as usual we planned our route to include visiting as many new-to-us breweries as possible. Not hard to do on the west coast these days.

Bert's Pub in Yakima

Our band played a concert in Wenatchee, so we used my parents’ house as our starting point and headed down Hwy 97 to the Columbia Gorge. We stopped for lunch at Bert’s Pub in Yakima, which had some good reviews online. When we got there we realized it was the same space that used to be Grant’s Brewpub, where we’ve played music before. Weird. In any case, they had a great selection of local beers and some surprisingly good food. I had a Bale Breaker IPA and Jon had a Yakima Craft.


The fried fish was really excellent!

Satus Pass

Backwoods Brewing

Onward down 97. Satus Pass was still somewhat on fire but open to traffic. We drove down the Gorge highway to Carson and stopped at Backwoods Brewing, a place we only knew about thanks to Six Gill in Fremont. In some ways this was our favorite brewery of the whole trip – very homey, with friendly people and really excellent beer. We got a sampler and liked pretty much everything. Their Pale was particularly fine.

down the stairs

Walking Man Brewery

please don't walk on the garden

On our way out of Carson we passed a sign for another brewery (Acadian Farms nanobrewery, anyone been there?), but we were on a mission to get to Walking Man and passed it up. Next time! We drove the very short distance to Stevenson and found our way down to the garden at Walking Man, home of the fabulous Homo Erectus and Knuckledragger brews. We tried a few of their other beers but I don’t think those two flagship beers can be beat.

At that point I was feeling a little overly beered, so we headed straight into Portland and had a very odd, late dinner at Toro Bravo that involved no beer at all (it did involve glacially slow service and an allergy scare, whee!) However, the next day our route took us into Bend, which has more breweries per capita than any other town in Oregon. We were stopping in town for lunch and needed to get to Redding before bedtime, so we couldn’t realistically visit more than two places. We picked 10 Barrel and Good Life.


10 Barrel was overflowing with people, but we lurked near the bar and snagged two seats as they came open. We saw a few samplers go by and decided they were a little too comprehensive for just the two of us. Instead we got tasters of the India Session Ale, the Apocalypse IPA, the Wheat IPA, and the Rye Pale, all of which were good although the rye was a little syrupy. We settled for a pint each of the Apocalypse and the Wheat, and ordered lunch.

Philly dip

The food was great! I had a sort of Philly cheesesteak-type thing on sourdough with an addictively salty jus for dipping, and Jon got a pulled pork sandwich. Our bartender also recommended the pizzas, but we weren’t quite in the mood at the time. I would definitely come back here to eat, although I’d try to avoid a sunny weekend day in the future.

Good Life Brewing

After that we made a quick stop at Good Life, whose beers came highly recommended, and shared a sampler set. I liked their Descender IPA well enough, but wasn’t particularly impressed with the others, particularly the “Sweet As” which was, frankly, way too sweet.

After escaping Bend we settled down for a long, boring drive. We thought about stopping at the Weed Alehouse (a favorite of ours) or checking out Dunsmuir Brewing, but we had a long way to go and wanted to get into Redding, so no more beer that day. (We did, however find a surprisingly nice restaurant in Redding – Moonstone Bistro. Sustainable, local, interesting food, and a decent cocktail list!)

driving south

Our next day of travel did not involve any brewpubs. We stopped and had lunch with old college friends in Oakland, then headed into Santa Cruz where we had dinner with my brother-in-law, his partner and a couple of their friends. I did find a Grand Teton Sweetgrass APA in their fridge, which I liked a lot.

Santa Cruz Mtn Brewing

afternoon snack

The following day, after a visit to our favorite winery to stock up, I was feeling ravenous so we swung by Upper Crust pizza for a slice to go and went to Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing Company for a pint to go with it. We’ve been here many times, but I enjoy sitting in their odd little patio and watching the foot traffic in Swift Street Courtyard.

West End Taproom

Tuesday. We went to our other favorite winery to buy a case to take home, and asked them about the new restaurant we had noticed a few doors down, West End Tap & Kitchen. The winery folks were enthusiastic, so we tried it out for lunch. It’s in the space where Bonny Doon used to have their tasting room and the Cigare Volant restaurant, and they’ve only been open a few months so haven’t quite settled into the enormous space, but I like what they’re doing so far.

beer list

IPA flight

West End isn’t a brewery, but the owners seem to have family connections to several. Their beer menu includes brews from Hermitage, Almanac and West End (not sure who brews those, I’m pretty sure they’re not made on site). We got the IPA sampler, which included several single-hop varieties and some blends from Hermitage in San Jose.

West End Taproom

Based on the winery people’s recommendation, we got the calamari to share. It really was good – not remotely greasy, perfectly tender inside its breading, with a nice buttermilk dip (i.e. Ranch dressing). I wasn’t crazy about the marinara sauce as a dip, though.

West End Taproom

Then we shared a cheeseburger and fries, just because you always have to see how people do their burgers and fries. It was incredibly juicy, very flavorful. Good fries, too.

low visibility

Standing Stone Brewing

We made the trip home in two days. The first day we made it to Ashland, OR in fairly good time, so we took ourselves to Standing Stone Brewery, intending to taste some beer before heading elsewhere for dinner. Didn’t quite work out that way – we really, really liked their Double IPA (really lemony and fresh tasting) and somehow our server talked us into getting a pitcher, which took us so long to drink that we figured we may as well order dinner. His cunning plan, no doubt. Also, by that time so many people were waiting for tables we thought we should just count our blessings that we had a table in Ashland at all. The valley being full of forest fire smoke didn’t seem to be much of a deterrent except to make the outdoor seating a lot less popular.

dinner at Standing Stone

We ordered one pizza and a salad to share. Pretty good! The Caesar dressing was as anchovy-heavy as any I’ve had, always a good thing.

Amnesia Brewing

Amnesia Brewing

lunch at Amnesia

Last day. We left early and made it to Portland just in time for lunch. We really wanted to try Amnesia Brewing, which has a brewpub tucked away in the Mississippi district. They don’t do a lot of food, but we were able to get a very delicious grilled cheese sandwich and a sausage with kraut. We asked to try all their IPAs before making up our minds, and were given tastes of the Copacetic and Desolation IPA. When Jon asked if we could also taste the seasonal Latona IPA, the bartender said something like “Oh, I didn’t even see that, and I don’t give a shit. I guess you want to taste it, huh?” She was quite right, it was pretty dull. We loved the others though, big bold and hoppy.

back to Washington

We headed back across the Columbia, through rush hour Puget Sound metro traffic and on towards home.

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