Thursday, May 17, 2018

Day Trippin': McMinnville & Newberg

Last weekend we hopped in the car with a couple of friends who had suggested taking a day trip to the McMinnville-Newberg area. They took on the task of putting together a list of places with the necessary information in advance so all we had to do was arrive at the specified time/place and off we went.

Upon entering McMinnville city limits we decided our first stop would be Allegory, the year old brewery where Charlie Van Meter (formerly of Sasquatch and Logsdon) has landed. Situated along the railroad tracks its outdoor space was perfect for the blue sky day that was upon us. Umbrelled picnic tables were placed closest to the building with a take out-style ordering window in the side of the building. Nearby sat cornhole games waiting for some competitive folks looking for a game, a raised area (presumably a stage) occupied one corner of the parking lot with ample space in between for food trucks, more seating and plenty of thirsty souls.

Prior to visiting we'd had some Allegory offerings and we've been fans of Charlie for some time but what we had at the brewery was really outstanding. From the grape-and-barrel-aged All the Free Time to the fruited sour Soursop Summer Hop to their hoppy offerings, there wasn't a beer in the bunch that we would hesitate about ordering again. While this stop alone would have been worth the trip, especially since we had the pleasure of chatting with Charlie and his wife Jenna briefly, we had to pull ourselves away to continue on.

Next up we put our sights on Grain Station but before we put the car into gear we realized it was with easy walking distance. Locking back up we meandered down the quiet side streets, coming upon Grain Station from their patio side. As it was around lunchtime on a beautiful weekend day, the patio (and even inside) was hopping. Making a quick decision to reroute, we continued another few blocks toward Heater Allen with plans to stop back afterward.

Housed in a nondescript red building, Heater Allen was opened in 2007 by Rick Allen, a former investment banker set on making "the best Bohemian-style Pilsner possible." Daughter Lisa joined the brewery at the end of 2009 after starting her career in the wine industry. Last year she took over the role of head brewer and earlier this year they completed a remodel of their patio, a compact area that spills out from the indoor bar and seating area. 

Pils is their signature beer in a lineup of German and Czech style lagers and when we visited they also had a NW version of it - Galaxy Pils. The hopped Pilsner was delicious and a great choice for our hop-loving palates. The remainder of the tap list was filled in with other traditional styles - Dunkel, Schwarzbier, Zwickelbier and Bock. After enjoying our beer on the quiet patio we decided it was time to get something more substantial than the snack we were munching on, perfect timing for visiting Grain Station. 

We didn't have much information on Grain Station, no experience with their beer so we'd set quite low for them. Upon arriving we were quickly seated in a comfortable booth and set to running through the beer list. What popped out to us was that Grain Station seemed to have a thing for barrel-aged beers. That was fine by us so in went our order and out came some beers which quite exceeded our expectations including:
- Saison Vermouth was brewed with rye and spent vermouth botanicals, with 2/3rds of the final blend being aged in sparkling wine barrels, the other 1/3rd in vermouth barrels. The result is a slightly sweet Saison with tasty vermouth notes.
- Oak Zymology followed a similar path, a gin barrel-fermented Saison, with great aroma and funky, delicious barrel notes. 
- Other barrel-aged beers included gin barrel-aged Rose Marie and whiskey barrel-aged Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Fate of the Gods.

Our next stop could be categorized under, "we're nearby, why not?" Evasion is a gluten-free brewery and although none of us (clearly) have gluten issues, visiting seemed the prudent thing to do. Sporting a surprising 10 beer taplist, their two Pinot Noir barrel-aged farmhouse beers hit the highest notes for us. Ripe? was fermented with Pinot Noir juice while Commit to the Funk built on that with the addition of Brettanomyces and a secondary fermentation with Pinot juice. On the hoppy side Hophoria IPA, with Mosaic and Citra hops, is worth ordering. 

While we enjoyed the experience we had to keep moving, heading on to adjacent Newberg and Deception Brewing. We'd visited their comfortable indoor/outdoor space before and were looking forward to enjoying their offerings again. Barrel-aged beers seemed to be a theme of the day that continued here with the gin barreled Old Tom Gin IPA getting the highest ratings from us. Also tasty was Ragged Rocks, a solid CDA that offered a well balanced combination of hops and malt.

The final stop of the day, as evening was creeping in, was Chehalem Valley Brewing Company. Choosing a seat on the spacious patio, we found the beer menu to be typical of many brewpubs. It covered the usual spectrum of beers, light to dark, less hoppy to presumably more hoppy. After making our selections we were split to as what we enjoyed most. Their flagship Chehalem Valley IPA hit some of our taste buds just right while the others found enjoyment in the roasty Bald Peak Black Ale. Where Deception's CDA was appropriately hoppy, Bald Peak skewed more toward a Black Ale with its [deliciously] roasty notes.

With a great day behind us and the sun setting, it was time to wrap it up and head home. Our adventure certainly wasn't a comprehensive look at breweries in the area but if you're looking for a day trippin' idea perhaps our stops will help guide your adventure.

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