Aaron Swaney photo                                Camping trips go better with Oregon beer.

Aaron Swaney photo Camping trips go better with Oregon beer.

Camping trip provides excuse to sample the beers of Oregon

Whenever I wander down to our neighbor to the south, I make sure to pick up a number of beers I can’t get at home.

As I’m writing this, I’m imbibing on a selection from one of my favorite Oregon breweries: McMinnville’s Heater-Allen Brewing, which specializes in German and Czech-inspired lagers. I’m drinking it in front of a crackling fire in the wilds of Oregon while tapping this story out on an iPhone. Life’s pretty good.

You can’t find Heater-Allen beers outside of Oregon, making the acquisition of one that much sweeter.

It was serendipitous to find myself in Oregon the week of the famous Oregon Brewers Festival, one of the nation’s longest running craft beer festivals. Unfortunately I won’t be near Portland any of the festival’s five days, so I just had to hold my own beerfest. Here’s a sampling of the beers I tried on my trip. (Note: Like Heater-Allen, some of these beers will be hard to find outside of the Beaver State, but most are worth the effort):

Stop 1: We’re starting our family camping trip with a stay in a downtown Portland hotel. After getting everyone settled, I walk to a nearby Whole Foods and peruse a really strong beer selection. I pick out a 22-ounce bottle from a Portland brewery I’m not familiar, Royale Brewing, and enjoy it later that evening. The Fat Unicorn Pale Ale is solid, but forgettable.

Stop 2: Whenever I’m in Portland I have to stop at The Beermongers. We hit the SE Portland taproom/bottleshop on the way out of town and I pick up a box of diverse beers from a number of Oregon breweries, including Burnside Brewing, Sunriver Brewing, Three Creeks Brewing, Heater Allen Brewing, Oakshire Brewing, Ex Novo Brewing, and a collaboration beer from Portland’s Ecliptic Brewing and Bend’s Worthy Brewing. Highlights were Heater Allen’s Das Bier Kolsch, Burnside’s Coax No. 1 Polish Marynka and Mosaic hopped IPA, and the Mango IPA from Ecliptic/Worthy.

Stop 3: Midway to our destination we stopped for lunch at Bill and Tim’s Barbecue in Eugene, Ore. They had Agrarian’s SommerSteiner on tap. I was unfamiliar with the Eugene brewery so the choice was easy. Agrarian prides itself on using locally sourced ingredients, including hops, and the quality was evident. The clean, crisp summer ale was definitely in my top three beers of the trip.

Stop 4: On our way through Coos Bay, Oregon, we stopped at 7 Devils Brewery. I got a taster flight of five beers and the family some poutine and a soft pretzel. The summer blonde was best of the bunch. The beer is solid, but the restaurant and ambiance are top notch. If you find yourself wandering along the coast in southern Oregon, 7 Devils is definitely worth a stop.

Stop 5: Just up the coast in Yachats I found my beer nirvana.Yachats Brewing, which has only been open a year, is located right along Highway 101 and is a hidden gem. They have great beer, a vegan-friendly menu — my wife has a very restrictive diet — and a number of hard-to-find ciders and beers in bottles. I tried the Cetacea, a saison brewed with Szechuan peppercorns, and their Pacific Wind IPA. Both beers were flavorful, clean and made by somebody who knows what they’re doing. The brewery operates small and only had five beers on tap while I was there, but they have a Crowler machine, a small canner, to allow customers to take beer home.

I know I left a lot of worthy Oregon breweries out (Pfriem, Double Mountain, et. al) and couldn’t try one beer I really wanted to, Ferment’s El Campo, a Mexican Saison (it wasn’t on tap yet at The Beermongers). But overall it was a great opportunity to try a bunch of new beers.

One final note: this was just enough beer to keep a father of three sane on a week-long camping trip.

Cheers!

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