Best Oregon Breweries 2018
Oregon is home to around 250 breweries, and rare is a town of any size without at least one. Portland is the famous hub of brewing in the state, but there are actually as many great breweries outside the Rose City as inside it (see Portland's best breweries here). Here are twenty of the best, geographically dispersed so you're never far from a tasty pint of beer.
Although the Rose City gets all the attention, the state of Oregon is home to some of the country's best breweries. Nearly every region of the state has at least one excellent brewery to put on your itinerary, and many of these are located amid jaw-dropping beauty. You could spend all your time drinking beer in Portland, but you'd miss a lot if you did.
My criteria for deciding which breweries are "best" is consistent with the Best of Portland list. I make my recommendations based on the breweries doing the best work at that moment. Because there are so many excellent breweries, I've chosen these based solely on the beer, though I know ambiance and food are important. I look at things like overall quality of the core lineup, number of exceptional beers, creativity and new products. I also like to expose people to the range of different kinds of breweries Oregon has--there are more than just IPAs here now.
One final note: Southern Oregon hasn't been left off the list. Though there are a number of breweries in the region, none are currently doing the excellent work of others on this list. I hope to be able to change that in future lists. And now, onto the list.
Back in 1987, one of Oregon’s first breweries was founded along the banks of the Columbia River in tiny Hood River (pop. 7,000). For decades, Full Sail would have easily made any list of the state’s best breweries, but since its purchase in 2015 by a private equity firm, it has lost focus. Fortunately, over the decades it has acted as an incubator for brewing talent, and all the breweries from the region on my list were founded by Full Sail alumni. Hood River is just an hour from Portland down the Columbia Gorge, one of the most scenic stretches of road in the country, and visitors to the Rose City should strongly consider a day trip if they want to see Oregon’s beauty—and visit some of its best breweries.
The eldest of the trio was a pioneer itself when Matt Swihart and Charlie Devereux (who has departed for Wayfinder) launched it back in 2007. That was the moment IPAs were becoming less a style and more a lifestyle, and Swihart’s hoppy ales helped hasten the transition. Beyond that, Double Mountain has a wild program that features fruit grown in Swihart’s orchards, released each summer. And, whereas Full Sail was born looking out to the region and country, Double Mountain has always focused on the people who show up every day, in droves, to knock back pints and superb thin-crust, wood-fired pizzas.
Brewpub: 8 Fourth Street, Hood River, OR 97031 Hours: Sun-Thu 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm. Food: Wood-fired pizzas that are a cut or two above traditional pub fare.
pFriem Family Brewers
Founder Josh Pfriem (pn. Freem) methodically worked his way through a series of brewing jobs in order to learn lessons from different kind of breweries, and it shows in the consistent level of quality across pFriem’s beers. The brewery will release around 50 bottled products this year, and they run the gamut from classic German lagers to experimental juicy IPAs and—reflecting the real passion of Pfriem and his head brewer Gavin Lord—exceptional wild ales. I have yet to taste a poor beer and only one I thought was just average—the brewery’s batting average is incredible. That’s why many locals will tell you this is Oregon’s best brewery.
Brewpub: 707 Portway Ave, #101, Hood River, OR 97031 Hours: 11am-10pm. Food: A full menu of above-average pub food plus some European classics.
Solera may be Oregon’s least-visited breweries, which is an enormous shame, because on clear days it is without a doubt the most picturesque. South of Hood River in the fruit-orchard town of Parkdale, Solera has a perfect view of nearby Mt Hood. The vista is just gravy, though—the real reason to visit is the beer. Co-founder Jason Kahler has used the terroir of this fruit-growing valley to amazing advantage, dosing his beers not just with local peaches and cherries, but the yeast that lives on their skin. He makes absolutely wonderful saisons (Some with wild yeasts, some not) and delicate, balanced concoctions inspired by the place he lives. It is all the more remarkable to find such sophisticated beer in a pub peopled mainly by locals, many of whom arrive in the afternoon after a day in the fields.
Brewpub: 4945 Baseline Dr., Parkdale, OR 970418 Hours: Closed Weds. Mon, Tue, & Thu 4-10pm, Fri-Sat noon-11pm, Sunnoon-7pm Food: Limited menu of sandwiches and snacks.
Other notes. The Columbia Gorge divides Washington and Oregon, and there are a few breweries to note on the north side. Across from Hood River in White Salmon is Everybody’s Brewing, and on SR-14, running alongside the river in Washington are newcomer and standout Backwoods Brewing (Carson)—try their lovely IPA for sure—and venerable Walking Man (Stevenson). Closer in to Portland you’ll find 54-40 (Washougal) longtime local brewer Bolt Minister’s wonderful house of sessionable ales and lagers, and recently-opened Grains of Wrath (Camas) by IPA champion Mike Hunsaker.
Outer Portland and Wine Country
The western half of Portland and suburbs further out are almost bereft of beer. Only when you venture further out, to the verdant Pinot-covered hills of wine country, do they pick up again. Two, in particular, are worth a drive to visit.
Well-made German lagers are finally starting to find their way into craft brewery lineups. A decade before the trend began, there was Heater Allen, the tiny McMinnville brewery that helped paved the way. Brewer Rick Allen made a slightly rustic version of the classic German pilsner and refused to cater to consumers besotted by hoppy ales. Even as sales came slowly, he stuck to his guns adding only equally traditional schwarzbiers, bocks, and kölsches. The only American style you’ll find is a steam beer—suitably understated. Rick’s daughter Lisa has taken over most of the brewing and has been a leader among the new generation of Portland-area brewers.
Taproom: 907 NE 10th Ave, McMinnville, OR 97128 Hours: Closed Weds. Fri 3-7pm Sat 12-6pm Food: No food, though food trucks are generally outside, minors and dogs welcome.
Wolves and People
Christian DeBenedetti provokes his share of envy. After a successful writing career, with work in the New York Times and National Geographic, he set about making a destination brewery on the family farm. Wolves and People is a hugely ambitious project to bring terroir—the taste of place—into his beers. Not only does he use local ingredients and fruits, vegetables, and herbs from the farm, but he has harvested local yeasts as well. His beers are by definition farmhouse products, and he draws on the traditions of Europe to guide his aesthetic, which nevertheless ventures off into unexplored combinations of flavors and process.
Taproom: 30203 NE Benjamin Rd, Newberg, OR 97132 Hours: Fri 4-8pm Sat 12-8pm Sun 12-6pm Food: No food, minors welcome.
Oregon has 363 miles of gorgeous, rocky coastline, and it has long been one of the state’s prime tourist destinations. For most of its length, the emerald, fir-covered Coast Range tumbles into the Pacific Ocean. The black basalt coastline is battered by the sea, leaving spouts and plumes of white froth. The breweries start at the northernmost point and extend down to Brookings just north of the California border. Here are a few of the best starting north and moving south.
The mouth of the Columbia River is so large and impressive that when Lewis and Clark arrived, the latter wrote “Ocian in view! O! the joy!” The city of Astoria rose near that spot, and Ft. George has always aspired to capture the sense of history and place it represents. In its early years, the brewery tended toward winter-slaying dark ales (they host the state’s best fest every February, the Festival of Dark Arts, celebrating stouts). Their first flagship was an IPA, however, and co-founder Chris Nemlowill has always tended toward the hops. Now the brewery is known as one of the state’s premier hop houses, though they offer a broad array. The brewpub, meanwhile, functions as something like the town living room.
Brewpub: Hours: 1483 Duane St, Astoria, OR, 97103 Mon-Thur: 11am–11pm, Fri-Sat: 11am–12am, Sun: 12pm–11pm Food: Full menu downstairs, wood-fired pizzas upstairs.
Bouy’s location, hanging out over the river, with a floor window to sea lions below and a panorama of the Columbia beyond, would draw visitors even if the beer was pond water. Instead, people would happily visit a basement for Buoy’s delightful lager-centric lineup. The standouts are the helles and Czech pils, two of the best in the state, but the brewery also makes a dunkel, an eclectic selection of Belgians, and of course a hoppy ale or two (their IPA is one of their best-sellers). The kitchen is excellent, and many tourists stop in purely for the food and the view.
Brewpub: No. 1 Eighth (8th) Street, Astoria, OR 97103 Hours: Closed Weds. Mon, Tue, & Thu 4-10pm, Fri-Sat noon-11pm, Sun noon-7pm Food: Limited menu of sandwiches and snacks.
De Garde is that rarest of beasts, perhaps unique outside Brussels—a brewery making exclusively spontaneously-fermented ales. Brewer Trevor Rogers chose Tillamook because its climate, where temperatures never get much below 40 or above 80, allow for this kind of brewing year-round. The coast is also the habitat for excellent microorganisms, and these produce gently acidic beers aged months or years in vats and barrels. It has rightly become a brewery people make a pilgrimage to see—and a new downtown Tillamook taproom welcomes arrivals.
Taproom: 114 Ivy Ave, Tillamook, OR 97141 Hours: Thu-Fri 3-7pm, Sat Noon-7pm, Sun 11am-5pm Food: No food and no minors allowed.
In another contender for “best view” is Pelican’s original pub on the beach at Pacific City, overlooking one of two Haystack Rocks (the other is at Cannon Beach, where a second Pelican recently opened). It’s a spectacular place to drink beer, whether the weather is stormy or mild. Founding brewer Darron Welch always has seasonal-appropriate beers, from summery Kiwanda Cream Ale to chill-fighting Mother of All Storms, a barleywine. Pelican is also one of the most important incubators of talent, with alumni scattered throughout the state.
PACIFIC CITY Brewpub: 33180 Cape Kiwanda Dr, Pacific City, OR 97135 Hours: Sun-Thu 10:30 am-10pm Sat-Sun 10:30am-11pm. Food: Full menu. CANNON BEACH Brewpub: 1371 S Hemlock St, Cannon Beach, OR 97110 Hours: Sun-Thu 11 am-10pm Sat-Sun 11am-11pm. Food: Full menu.
The small town of Yachats (pronounced YAH hots) is on a lonely but spectacular stretch of the central coast. Yachats Brewing is a relative newcomer (founded 2013), and has aspirations to be more than just a place for tourists to get mediocre beer and overpriced burger, like the brewpubs I’m so many tourist hubs. In fact, the lineup is an ambitious range that includes a focus on Belgian styles, barrel-aged specialties, and experimental beers using ingredients like locally-sourced salal berries, cranberries (another coastal specialty), and Szechuan peppercorns. They know most people will want pales and IPAs, of course, and offer a full slate of them.
Brewpub: 348 US-101, Yachats, OR 97498 Hours: Mon-Thu 11:30 am-9pm Fri-Sat 11:30am-10pm Sun 10am-7pm. Food: Full menu.
Other notes. The big dog on the coast is Rogue, with its headquarters and main brewery in Newport. Far from being a showcase brewhouse, the place is industrial and gritty—which perfectly reflects the working town of Newport. Arch Rock, in Gold Beach on the southern coast, makes a spectacular rustic pilsner and has a solid lineup. Finally, Wolf Tree in Newport has a spruce ale as its flagship as well as an interesting and eclectic range.
Central and Eastern
The state of Oregon has four million people, but two-thirds are located among the counties the constitute the Willamette Valley. The Cascades run lengthwise north to south on the Valley's east side, and on their eastern slopes all the way to Idaho--around two-thirds of the area--is the vast, sparsely-populated high desert. To give you a sense of just how few people live in certain parts of Eastern Oregon, consider this: the six easternmost counties are collectively the size of South Carolina, larger than ten states, and contain just 80,000 people. When you look at a map of Oregon and see the concentration of breweries thin in the east, that's why. Still, every town of more than a few thousand people--and some with fewer than that--have their own brewery.
The center of gravity, however, is Bend, which has an astonishing two dozen or so breweries--with fewer than a 100,000 people. The reason is Deschutes Brewery, a first-gen leader that has become a regional powerhouse. The interest in beer it generated inspired others, and many of the national-caliber brewers drawn to Deschutes have gone on to found their own breweries nearby.
Founded by Deschutes alum Paul Arney, Ale Apothecary is in many ways the inverse of Bend’s largest brewery. Arney has adopted an incredibly hands-on process that keeps volumes very low (he makes less in a year than Deschutes makes in a day). He sources all his ingredients locally and makes mixed-fermentation ales that often involve unusual processes, like traditional wooden-log lauter tun for his Finnish-style beer, or harvested tree parts or foraged ingredients. The expense of the bottles are reflected in the man-hours invested into the beer, though the prices are sightly more manageable when the pours come in four-ounce increments at the taproom.
Taproom: 30 SW Century Dr #140, Bend, OR 97702 Hours: Thu-Sat 2-7pm Food: No food, but minors are allowed.
Deschutes was the brewery that built Bend's beer culture, but Boneyard may have become the town's favorite house beer. Their flagship, RPM, seems to be on tap everywhere. There's a reason, though. When it debuted in 2010, it was the first ultra-juicy IPA the state had seen, and it inspired a whole new wave of IPAs. Founder Tony Lawrence is another of the Deschutes alums, and he built the entire brewery around the idea of hoppy beers. Boneyard has managed to become the state's 8th largest brewery despite the fact that their production is entirely draft beer.
Taproom: 37 NW Lake Pl B, Bend, OR 97701 Hours: 11a-6pm all days Food: No food and minors are not allowed.
Crux Fermentation Project
Crux Fermentation Project is a late-career project by Larry Sidor, a legendary figure who started before craft beer existed. Before starting Crux, he was the master brewer at--of course--Deschutes, though his career started at Olympia decades earlier. At Crux his interests tend toward traditional European styles--lagers and saisons—along with an eclectic mix of barrel-aged projects, hoppy ales, and even some dark ales, a vein in beer mostly abandoned by other brewers. The brewery and pub are located in an old auto body shop, and the location feels slightly off the beaten path, but inside Sidor and Co. have created a wonderful drinking environment.
Brewpub: 50 SW Division St, Bend, OR 97702 Hours: Sun-Thu 11:30 am-9pm Fri-Sat 11:30am-10pm Food: Sandwiches and snacks; food trucks outside.
Founded in the resort town of Sunriver, near Bend, this brewery flew under the radar until it started winning awards, culminating with a win for best small brewery of the year at GABF in 2017. The standard line-up is a fairly innocuous affair in terms of range--their history as a resort brewery is evident there. But the beers are very well-executed, and that's why they earn their accolades. The flagship is a notably assertive pale ale, and some of their more interesting offerings are seasonals and one-offs. My favorite is Cocoa Cow, a chocolate milk stout.
Bend Pub: 1005 NW Galveston Ave, Bend, OR 97701 Hours: Sun-Thu 11am-10pm Fri-Sat 11am-11pm Food: Full menu.
Baker City is a small town on the eastern edge of the state that has done little to attract the attention of urbanites in the distant valleys. Its hometown brewery--that's another matter. Pretty much everyone in Portland knows Pallet Jack, the brewery's lip-smacking IPA. It's brewed in an earlier model, with zesty hopping and a fair bitter snap, but it's so well-made it remains a huge favorite. Barley Brown's is known as an IPA house, but at the pub you'll find a solid line of British favorites (with a food menu to match). Like Sunriver, it was named best small brewery by the GABF, just four years earlier.
Brewpub: 2190 Main St, Baker City, OR 97814 Hours: Mon-Sat 4pm-10pm Food: Full menu.
Other notes. If you're anywhere near the Blue Mountains of Joseph/Enterprise during the summer, make a plan to stop in at Terminal Gravity (Enterprise). It becomes the town meeting place in the afternoon, and has given me two of my great brewery experiences. Prodigal Son (Pendleton) is another excellent place to stop--fantastic space and excellent beers.
The main population centers south of Portland are the capital of Salem, the least-interesting large city in Oregon (by a mile), and the college towns of Eugene (University of Oregon) and Corvallis (Oregon State). Until surprisingly late--a decade ago--Eugene and Corvallis had very little beer game. The arrival of Ninkasi in 2007 changed all that in Eugene, and a year later, Block 15 opened in Corvallis. The two towns are just at the edge of day-trip distance from Portland, but the following breweries should encourage you to consider it. Stay overnight and you'll be able to expand your reach.
Matt Van Wyk worked for many years at Eugene’s Oakshire, creating a number of indelible beers there, but in 2016 departed to start Alesong along with brothers Brian and Doug Coombs. The brewery focuses on wild ales, building different releases from their stocks of wood-aging beer. Many breweries invoke wine to describe their products, but Alesong really uses winemaking as a touchstone. Not only are their beers vintage-aged, but their balance, structure, and character evoke robust Cabernets and delicate Pinots. The brewery works with a lot of local fruit, giving their beers an additional element of winemaking—terroir.
Tasting Room: 80848 Territorial Highway, Eugene, OR 97405 Hours: Thu-Mon noon-8pm Food: Food trucks on the weekend—check schedule.
Block 15 may be the most-underrated brewery in the state. The little downtown-Corvallis brewpub started life in 2008 with a slightly daring list that included a Belgian ale or two. But co-owner Nick Arzner was a studious, endlessly curious brewer who wanted to explore every corner of the beer world. What he’s built is a brewery that can brew in literally every tradition—and makes some of the best examples of each. If people know Block 15, it’s usually for the saturated IPA, Sticky Hands. But they also do a spectacular pilsner (Gloria!) and a line of lagers, as well as barrel-aged stouts and strong ales, classic English ales, and most impressively, wild ales, some of which start in the coolship beneath the brewery, where wort is inoculated by Willamette Valley yeasts. A few years back, the brewery opened a production facility with a taproom that features more of the wild and specialty ales.
BREWPUB: 300 SW Jefferson Ave, Corvallis, OR 97333 Hours: Sun-Thu 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat 11am-1am Food: A full menu. TAPROOM: 3415 SW Deschutes St, Corvallis, OR 97333 Hours: Sun-Thu 11:30am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-10pm Food: Small plates and sandwiches.
Did I just say Block 15 was the most underrated brewery in Oregon? Dave Marliave at Flat Tail might take issue with that. Despite routinely winning awards at the GABF and offering a wonderful OSU-themed pub for locals to feast on rib-sticking food while they watch the game, Flat Tail is never mentioned among Oregon's premier breweries. It should be. Dave is just as curious as Nick Arzner, his neighbor two blocks to the west, and more inventive, willing to try things like all-corn mashes and a unique way of making his award-winning Dam Wild beers.
Brewpub: 202 SW 1st St, Corvallis, OR 97333 Hours: Mon-Thu 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat 11am-1am, Sun 10a-11pm Food: A full menu.
In 2007, when Ninkasi debuted, IPAs had been a regular feature of the Oregon scene for over a decade. But longtime Steelhead brewer Jamie Floyd and his partner Nikos Ridge updated the style when they released a slate of all-hoppy ales, and created a turning point in Oregon. After a few years, the brewery started brewing delicate, balanced lagers, surprising some of their longtime fans (but not people who knew Floyd). They have continue to change and evolve and have become one of Oregon's most-popular breweries.
Tasting Room: 272 Van Buren St, Eugene, OR 97402 Hours: Sun-Wed Noon-9pm, Thu-Sat Noon-10pm Food: rotating food trucks.
Other notes. Agrarian Ales is located on a working farm outside of Eugene that affords lovely summertime views of hop fileds from the outdoor lawn. Brewers Union Local 180 is in the remote town of Oakridge, in the forest, and serves lovely English-style cask ale. Falling Sky has a mini-chain in Eugene of solid beers. Finally, Oakshire continues to make excellent beers after Van Wyk's departure.
PHOTOS: Brewery websites and social media accounts unless otherwise noted.