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Monday, August 30, 2010

Get Your Kicks on I-84

Okay, so it doesn't have the same ring as Route 66; but I-84 from Portland to Ontario, Oregon may be among the richest troves of beer in the US. Along those 375 miles, you encounter seven sizable towns (Hood River, the Dalles, Boardman, Pendleton, La Grande, Baker City, and Ontario) and three tiny ones (Biggs, Arlington, Rufus). The population of these towns, collected together, is 75,000, or about the same size as Medford, our small state's 7th largest city.

Yet also along this route, you will encounter seven breweries (and that's if you don't take a bridge across the river where you can immediately locate two more). Not bad. There is a bit of a rocky stretch there between Hood River and Pendleton, where you have to drive nearly 147 long miles between breweries. Thereafter, you find a brewery in every major town all the way to the Idaho border.

For those not familiar with this stretch, it is, shall we say, stark. An amazing climatic shift happens in east Hood River; the firs change over to pine, and then disappear altogether as the wet climate gives way to arid high desert. Humans have managed to cobble together hardscrabble lives along the Columbia River, herding cattle and tending fields--but not many of them. It's not a landscape that supports much life at all. Each city huddles under river-fed trees in the bright sunshine like little oases, but they don't seem to promise much in the way of exceptional beers. But this is Beervana, so appearances deceive.

I wonder, is there any other stretch of America so apparently bereft of civilization but rich in craft breweries? We are fortunate indeed.

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PHOTO: H ROACH

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

All my Beervana BA compatriots are always glad when I venture from The Big (La Grande) with Eastern Oregon goodies. Prodigal Son is off to a fine start, their Bruce Lee Imperial Porter is certainly one of the up and coming beers on the Oregon craft beer scene. Moreover, being right in the middle between Terminal Gravity ( a great lunch spot out front in the summertime) and the phenomenal Barley Brown's (home of one of America's best brewmasters, Shawn Kelso) life out here on the other side of the mountains is good!-jdense

timgray said...

I thought there was a new brewery in The Dalles. Is it not online yet?

Anonymous said...

There is a great new taproom in The Dalles with plans to expand into a brewery. Another brewery is planned on brewery grade, but construction hasn't even started yet.

Jason said...

The taproom in The Dalles is called Clocktower Ales. No news from them on expansion to brewing but they have some great taps. The other planned brewery in The Dalles - Abraxus Brewing - will not happen for at least a few years. They ran into funding problems and then one of the partners/brewer relocated out of state.

Anonymous said...

You may as well head on over into to Boise where there are now 10 breweries kicking ass. Daggerfalls IPA can't be beat.

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