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A Beer Odyssey

Better late than never. We can blame it on spring break. Then, we can blame it on a presidential vacation. Either way, here it is.

I recently took a trip to the American Inner Northwest. My party for this expedition was myself, my dad, my youngest brother, and later, my middle brother in WA. We left Grand Rapids heading east, to go west. Then after overshooting our destination we landed in Seattle to go back east the Tri-Cities area of southeastern Washington. The tri-cites are Richland-Pasco-Kenniwick. Look it up if you care. There is nothing in this town but my younger brother and his beautiful family.

Full Sail Session on the Columbia River

The morning after our arrival in WA, we enthusiastically headed for Bend, Oregon via Hood River. The sleepy burg of Hood River exists nestled at the confluence of the Hood River and the Columbia River at the foot of Mount Hood. This small town of around 10,000 people is home to many breweries. Unfortunately, it was 11 am when we drifted into town, and we were only able to make 2 stops. We visited the famous Full Sail Brewing Company first. At Full Sail, we drank in sweeping vistas of the Columbia River Gorge while sampling many Full Sail, and Session brand lagers. We tottered on down the street to Double Mountain Brewing Co. next. Excellent beers. I’m leaving out commentary and reviews of the beers because I have a lot to cover in 600 to 700 words.

With Hood River in the rear view, we hustled to Bend. Almost to our destination, we made the decision to stop at a colorful Mexican restaurant on route. The place was full of promise and character. However, it smelled like an old bachelor’s house. Committed to our adventure, we would not be deterred. As we were seated the only other table that was occupied, got up to leave. But they wouldn’t leave without saying hello to the obvious tourists. They were a friendly band of drunken locals of indigenous decent. By “friendly” I mean loud, talkative, and possibly easily convinced to fight. One was missing many fingers and said he was a logger by trade, the other was too drunk to decipher. When they finally did leave us to our dinner, I ordered the Acapulco Enchiladas. As soon as I gave my order to our waiter, who happened to remind me of Tommy Chong’s slower brother, I had second thoughts about ordering a shrimp dish in this particular establishment. When the food arrived, one plate at a time because Mr. Chong couldn’t seem to manage any more than that, I noticed my dish had a particular aroma. My dad and brothers wolfed theirs down before I could say anything, but did soon notice my peculiar lack of appetite. After trying to eat the meal, I decided my cheese was moldy and the shrimp was not right. Now, with our whole party in mortal peril of a bout with food borne illness, we continued on our journey. That place certainly had a certain charm.

We finally did make it to Bend around 4pm. After procuring hang-over breakfast meats at the nearest Albertson’s, we checked in to our Air B’nB. A beautiful place, but it was time to get out and mix it up in the local beer scene. After packing around 1200lbs of Midwestern meat into our Uber, we got to Crux Fermentation Project. The beer here was also excellent. I’m just going to get this out of the way now, ALL of the beer I had on this trip was top notch. Literally not a bad one, ever. Crux had a vibe that reminded me of a smaller Founders. From there it was a short walk to Immersion Brewing, right next to a raucous biker bar. Again, good beer. Because of our experience cramming 4 men, the smallest of which was 220 and 6’3”, in a Hyundai Elantra, we decided it was well worth the extra 3 bucks to spring for an UberXL. Note, I use Uber and Lyft interchangeably. We made it to Goodlife Brewing Co. for some more good beer and a really bad gin. Goodlife is also a distillery. They need to work on their gin recipe. From Goodlife, we walked home to enjoy several Kokanees and a cigar on our porch.

The next day, we awoke to find that we had dodged the Mexican bullet. Happy that we were healthy, I organized a tour of Deschutes Production Facility for around 1 pm. With time to burn and a mountain looming over us we went up to Mt. Bachelor. It was snowing with 30 foot snow banks along the road, and a ski resort not planning to close until end of May. We hustled down 5,000 feet of elevation and back into spring to stop for lunch at the Bend Burger Company. Seriously the best burger I have ever had. If you are ever in Bend Oregon, make it a point to get a burger there, and of course a beer. There is beer on tap everywhere.

The whole crew at Monkless Brewing.

The Deschutes tour was just another tour of a large scale craft brewer. It was cool. Nothing else to report. From there we got a ride from an Uber driver that likes to rescue aggressive pit bulls, and wouldn’t shut up about her failed marriage. She eventually got us to Monkless Brewing. This was a cool little Belgian style brewery occupying an industrial strip-mall style space. When the garage door was open, they were serving beer. Of course, good beer and monk chants piped into the restrooms. Monkless was a quarter mile jaunt to Bridge 99 brewing. Bridge 99 was a complex assortment of freight containers, garage doors, and a food truck. It was here that we struck up a conversation with an Ostrich Farmer. Mark, as he was called, was more than willing to share with us the ins and outs of starting an Ostrich Farm and the peculiarities of that market. I now want to know where I can get some Ostrich meat.

We found our way back into downtown Bend where we stopped at the Deschutes original pub. It stunk like feet and fish. But right next door was Oregon Spirits Distillers. They had a good gin, and a good rye whiskey. We bought some to go. From there it was a brief stumble down the hill to Bend Brewing Company. More good beer and a nice seat on the patio right on the mirror pond of the Deschutes River. There was a pile of unattended young children running around the patio space. We convinced them to go play on the nearby beer garden grass despite clear signage that the grass was off limits. Ah, corrupting the youth of America. We left the kids, and their inattentive parents, to their own devices and sauntered over to Worthy Brewing and taco bar. More good beer, and good tacos. Our final Uber driver of the evening arrived at the wrong place and insisted that we, travelers in an unfamiliar land, walk to where she had stopped. We insisted that she come to us. In this lifted Yukon XL was a brace of small shitty dogs that the driver insisted we hold on our laps. Whatever, the night was too old and our judgment too clouded to argue.

Bunkers for miles.

The following morning, we packed up to head back to Washington. On the way we stopped at Ordinance Brewing in Umatilla, OR. You may or not be aware that Umatilla is home to the now defunct Umatilla Chemical Depot. UCD was formed in 1941 by the US Army to store everything from blankets, to ammunition, and (more famously) a very large cache of nerve gas and mustard gas. The spectacular part of this is the literally hundreds of square miles of bunkers that stored this stuff. Rows upon rows of earth and concrete bunkers dot the ground to the horizon. When we did finally arrive back in the Tri-Cities, we had a meal at the Ice Harbor Brewing Company. Ice Harbor also had a HB supply shop manned by a young man from Mt. Pleasant, MI. Small world.

The Deschutes Production Taproom sticker spot

At every spot we visited, I placed a PTB Sticker. Bend is a very cool place that has now been tagged. We really could have used 2 more days in Bend. There were many other places I would have liked to hit. Not to mention the very colorful and varied beer bars and restaurants. One thing that was hard to believe was the relaxed and enthusiastic attitude the city has towards beer. We would walk right down the street with a beer in our hand. Some places would give us a plastic cup or a can to go. Talking with a local, I found that the local economy was at one time based on logging and forest products. When that dried up, and some breweries like Deschutes and 10 Barrel were gaining popularity, the city made the affirmative decision to shift the industry to alcohol and tourism. Since then, the town has embraced the brewing industry. It was very refreshing compared to our own sometimes hypocritically “purityranical” local laws about beer.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip, but it is good to be back home. I love our beer scene, and I like my own bed. There are of course many other tales, and anecdotes one would expect from an adventure with the Thunders. Not all of which are fit for publication. If you want to hear more details, I may share them if you ask right.

We have many things coming up on the club calendar. Watch out for Big Brew Day at Trailpoint, Siciliano’s Cup, Siciliano’s Homebrew Party, etc. For any upcoming club events, as always, it’s on the webpage. --DT

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