Something's happening in the Gorge. It's going to be a long time before any region can match the Seattle and Portland metro areas for good beer, but the Gorge may be the best stretch in rural Beervana. When Double Mountain opened a couple years ago, it began to tie Full Sail and Walking Man together as a distinct beer region. (Hood River also has Big Horse, a notch below these others in terms of beer quality, but a beautiful place to enjoy a pint.) Those are three of the Northwest's premier beer geeky breweries. Late last year, Everybody's Brewing opened across the Columbia from Hood River in White Salmon. And based on the beer I had on Friday, we may have to add it to the list.
White Salmon, for those of you who haven't driven across the bridge, is not exactly like its southern neighbor. Hood River reminds me of the towns that dot New England--a picturesque little downtown of well-preserved buildings and very little in the way of modern intrusions (McDonald's, strip malls, etc.). White Salmon, by contrast, is smaller and more hardscrabble. It looks like other cities you find along the I-84 corridor. It's a town where most vehicles are trucks, and most of these are hauling something. In other words, not the most likely location for an ambitious "small- to medium-sized brewpub," as Everybody bills itself. But hey, this is Beervana, and we have breweries even in unlikely locations.
Their beer list is a typical of a Northwest brewery--mostly English-style ales, but stronger and hoppier, as is our custom. One interesting deviation is a super-hopped steam beer (aka California common). The beer I tried at Eastburn was their Country Boy IPA. You can both tell a lot and very little about a brewery by tasting its IPA. On the lot side, you can tell whether or not the brewer has the chops to make a credible offering in the most common style. On the little side, if it is credible, it doesn't exactly tell you much about what the other beers will taste like. Country Boy was an impressive beer, though, so I'm excited to try more.
Everyone knows what an IPA tastes like, so a brewery must figure out a way to make theirs stand out. Country Boy's is resinous and woody. I'm not sure how they pulled this off with Centennial, Amarillo, and Cluster hops, but they did. It actually tastes like it's been aged in oak, so woody is the quality. It is also quite dry, which, when combined with the woody resin, makes it come across like a refined, almost austere beer.
Definitely a nice showing for the first beer out of the gate, and on par with Walking Man, Full Sail, and Double Mountain. Whether the other beers meet this standard remains to be seen. Color me hopeful.
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