Where: Full Sail Brewing, an employee owned micro-brewery in Hood River, a town that’s as sporty as it is scenic.
Why we went: We first tasted Full Sail’s highly regarded Session lager when beer lovers Austin Hill and Kelly Goodman of Travellious brought some to our Memorial Day #TravBBQ. While I’m not a huge beer drinker, the Pacific Northwest’s microbrew culture is beginning to wean me off of wine.
Who’s there: Located on a bend in the Columbia River Gorge that gets exceptional and steady winds, Hood River is the kite-boarding capital of the US. Before you drink, go down to Waterfront Park and watch them catch air.
The town also draws aficionados of other outdoor sports, including windsurfing, mountain biking, skiing and hiking. So chances are, the person next to you at Full Sail’s bar earned those calories (even if you didn’t).
Tossing them back: As soon as we spotted the taster trays -which give you 7 4 oz tastes for only $7 – we came up with the brilliant idea of trying every beer on tap (I don’t like hoppy beers so I knew that my intake wouldn’t be over the top).
And so we did. Among the offerings: Full Sail Pale Ale, Full Sail Amber, Full Sail IPA, Session Premium Lager, Session Black Premium Dark Lager, LTD 03, Jimvar Bohemian Pilsner, Sliante Stout on Nitro, Saison A Pleine Voile, Wassail, Chops II IPA, Hop Pursuit Extra Pale, Elevation Imperial IPA, Imperial Porter and Old Boardhead Barleywine. Several of the beers were only available at the brewery.
Munchies: Full Sail has a standard pub menu, with salads, burgers and all the other apps you love to eat when drinking beer. We ordered spinach and artichoke dip, as well some buffalo chicken wings. The food was OK, nothing special or egregious. You’re here for the beer anyway!
Order this: My first favorite from the tasting was the LTD 03 – no surprise, as it’s a pilsner-style lager with a crisp finish (I prefer light wheat beers to hoppy ales). But then I tasted the Saison a pleine voile – one of the brews found only at the pub. I loved the lemony smell and dry taste. A perfect beer for summer. The Jimvar Bohemian Pilsner – a Czech-style beer – also gained high marks from Don and I.
Meh: I don’t like strong beers, so I only took a taste of the Imperial Porter and the Slainte Stout. Your mileage may vary.
The damage: A mere $45 – a bargain, considering how much we tasted.
Go back? Yes. Hood River itself is a very cute town, and we wish we would have stayed there overnight (unfortunately, we had reservations in Stevenson, Washington). I will definitely look for Full Sail beers in the store, though – especially the LTD 03, which you can buy outside the brewery. And if we’re there during the summer again, we’re definitely going to snag a seat on the patio, which overlooks the Columbia River.
Deets: Full Sail Brewery is right in downtown Hood River, which is about 90 minutes east of Portland if you take I-84. True craft beer fans may want to take the free 30-minute brewery tour, which is offered daily at 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m. For those who don’t want to make the trek to taste, Full Sail also has a Riverplace brewery in Portland.