Have you ever experienced the pleasure of sipping a cool, crisp IPA while gazing at the majestic Mount Hood? Or perhaps you’ve savored a unique sour beer as the sun sets over the breathtaking Columbia Gorge horizon.
In this post, we’ll be visiting the breweries in and around Hood River, ranging from local favorites to the award-winning that have put this region on the craft beer map.
But our exploration doesn’t stop at the beer itself. We’ll also take you to the most picturesque locations where you can sip and eat with an unforgettable view.
And, if you’re traveling with kids, today’s craft brew taprooms are almost always family-friendly.
So whether you’re a craft beer aficionado seeking to delve into the Pacific Northwest’s beer culture or simply someone looking for a fun day out, join us as we hop (pun totally intended) from one brewery to the next.
Worth a stop: Sunshine Mill Artisan Plaza
But before we dive into the brewery scene, let’s start with a hidden gem worth exploring. Picture a place where history, art, and wine converge in a setting unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Welcome to the Sunshine Mill Artisan Plaza, located about 30 minutes east of Hood River in The Dalles.
Once a thriving wheat mill and a producer of Cheez-Its crackers. Its iconic silos have become a landmark in the area. While the mill itself is not hidden due to its size – it is right on the freeway – its what’s on the inside that is the real secret.
Stepping inside, you’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time. The original milling equipment remains, now serving as a distinctive backdrop for wine tastings.
But that’s not all.
As a former factory, the cavernous space has been transformed into cozy vignettes—living rooms, dining rooms, and cafes—each uniquely decorated.
The mill boasts boho, mid-century modern, and Mediterranean-style spaces, allowing you to pick one and settle in for a while.
To complement your wine, you can order a small plate. We highly recommend the Brie plate paired with flights of red and white wines.
If you visit during the summer, don’t miss out on the Mill’s drive-in theater on Friday and Saturday nights.
Whether you’re a wine lover, decor enthusiast, or history buff, a stop at the Sunshine Mill Artisan Plaza is a must when traveling through The Dalles.
Craft brewery tour
Now, let’s dive into our whirlwind tour of the craft breweries that call the Hood River/ Columbia Gorge area home. Starting from the west end, as you journey from Portland, we’ll first visit stunning Thunder Island with its incredible views.
From there, we’ll explore the heart of Hood River. Continuing east, we’ll reach The Dalles, cross the river to Highway 14, visit an outlier, and wind our way back west along Highway 14, visiting three more breweries as we head towards Vancouver.
Before we continue, I want to emphasize that it’s not possible to comfortably visit all these breweries in a single day.
While this episode presents a tour of sorts, it’s meant to be a lifetime adventure, not a one-day marathon. Remember, no beer, no matter how delicious, is worth the risk of drinking and driving.
Our first stop is Thunder Island, situated in Cascade Locks, Oregon. This brewery offers a unique experience that combines beer with the beauty of the outdoors. The outdoor deck provides breathtaking views of the Columbia River and the Bridge of the Gods, accompanied by a grassy event area.
Thunder Island’s founders are outdoor enthusiasts, and their passion is evident in the building’s design, decor, and property. Sustainability and sourcing local ingredients are key tenets of Thunder Island’s philosophy.
As a side note, I won’t be writing much about the beers specifically. When it comes to beer, taste preferences vary from person to person.
You can always opt for a taster tray to sample a variety of beers. Breweries typically offer taster trays, which include several small servings of different beers. If it’s not listed on the menu, don’t hesitate to ask—they will likely accommodate your request.
In Hood River, our next destination, you’ll find a collection of five breweries that should not be missed.
On the waterfront, Pfriem’s brew house boasts a big, bright space with stainless steel brewing tanks adjacent to the seating area, providing a quintessential Northwest feel—a blend of industrial warehouse and artisan furniture.
The food at Pfriem goes beyond traditional pub fare, with carefully curated offerings designed to complement the beer. Don’t miss the mussels and fries, a personal favorite.
Just a block away, Ferment offers an elevated perspective from the second floor and a fantastic view of the river’s activities.
The dining room has a modern, slightly upscale ambiance, while the upper-floor fireplace patio beckons with cozy Adirondack chairs.
Ferment is known for its innovation and love of fermentation, evidenced by its selection of kombucha alongside its beer.
Be sure to try their Reuben sandwich.
Full Sail Brewery, one of the pioneers of the Pacific Northwest craft beer scene, holds a special place in the heart of Hood River. Despite its larger scale and wide distribution, Full Sail maintains its charm.
The brewery and tasting room, perched on a bluff above the river, offer unbeatable views. The menu here is refreshingly simple – if it’s a cheeseburger, they just call it a cheeseburger.
Besides beer, this is a great place to get a good burger and fries.
In the heart of downtown Hood River, you’ll discover Double Mountain Brewery and Cidery, a cozy, wood-wrapped space.
Its proximity to other downtown shops makes it a convenient stop during your explorations.
Double Mountain is known for its delicious pizza. The menu features classic pizza combinations as well as seasonal specials, ensuring there’s always something new to try. Don’t forget to taste their in-house brewed ginger ale and root beer.
Working Hands is also located in Hood River.
The building itself is a testament to the brewery’s focus on fun and community, often hosting various events ranging from trivia nights and fun runs to hot dog eating contests and science meetups.
With four thoughtfully crafted beers and a rotating cider menu, Working Hands recently added food by bringing in a chef to create an elevated pub menu.
A short drive south of Hood River, about 23 minutes away, brings you to Solara Brewery.
While off the beaten path, Solara rewards visitors with a beautiful view of Mount Hood on clear days.
Their menu offers pure comfort food, with their “Huge Bean and Cheese Burrito” stealing the show. Additionally, their adult grilled cheese is a noteworthy option.
Solara specializes in small-batch beer, which means their tap list is ever-changing. Keep an eye out for their limited releases, particularly their barrel-aged creations. On weekends, live music enhances the experience, either indoors or on the outdoor stage.
In November, Solara hosts the Chanterelles and Ale celebration, where brewers and chefs come together—an event that is true “Oregon.”
Continuing east on I-84, we arrive at The Dalles, and Freebridge Brewing.
Freebridge is a unique brewpub space.
When you approach the building on a nice day, they’ll probably have outdoor seating right next to the loading dock.
Or you can go inside, and it feels like you’re trespassing into a work zone, which you are because that’s where the magic happens.
Up the industrial stairs and into a cozy dining room.
In case you misunderstood, I’m saying that this is wonderful and part of their charm.
The pub food has a definite Italian flair. There’s more than one menu item that features meatballs.
Be sure to take a look at the Molasses Stout Chili.
Crossing the Dalles Bridge and heading east towards Highway 97, we come to Dwinell Country Ales—a detour worth taking.
Although I haven’t personally visited yet, Dwinell recently reopened its tasting room after a hiatus.
From the photos available, the brewery showcases a beautiful space adorned with wood barrels, murals, and a sunny patio.
What sets Dwinell apart is their focus on wild fermentation, crafting rustic farmhouse beers, naturally fermented ciders, and even experimenting with wine.
Local sourcing is paramount to them, as evidenced by their website, which highlights the farms and farmers from whom they obtain their produce.
I recommend checking out an interview with the founder of Dwinell on Oregon Live to learn more about their process.
Returning to Highway 14 and heading west toward Vancouver, we encounter three breweries nestled along this picturesque route that are must-stops.
Everybody’s Brewing is in White Salmon – White Salmon is a charming town worth a stop.
Everybody’s Brewing prides itself on offering “beer for everybody,” and their taproom exudes an unpretentious and welcoming atmosphere.
Their brews, bearing names like ‘Country Boy,’ ‘Early Riser,’ ‘Local Lager,’ ‘Old Soul,’ and ‘Copilot,’ are a testament to their laid-back vibe.
The menu features a diverse selection, with an emphasis on burritos made from house-made tortillas.
Families will appreciate the kids’ menu, which includes healthier options beyond the typical fare found.
Backwoods Brewing, located in Carson, Washington, embraces the “wood” aesthetic with artisan wood elements throughout its tasting room.
This venue is a visual delight, boasting wood shelving, taps, and exquisite tables.
Backwoods produces a wide variety of beers, covering the full spectrum from light to dark, ensuring there’s something for every beer lover.
The menu at Backwoods revolves around their exceptional pizza and smokehouse meats. I
n addition, they’re in the process of adding eight cabins for rent, offering a unique lodging experience that I’m excited to explore and report back on.
Our final stop on this brewery tour is Walking Man Brewing, conveniently situated off the highway in Stevenson.
Walking Man has a cozy and intimate interior reminiscent of an Irish pub, setting it apart from many other breweries in the Gorge.
Their patio, nestled amidst shrubs and trees, creates a tranquil oasis despite its proximity to the highway. The menu showcases a selection of burgers, sandwiches, and pizza, all of which are great.
To fully experience the range of Walking Man’s offerings, I suggest trying a taster tray with all ten of their beers.
Travel tip: Ale trails and tourist passports
Here’s a fun travel tip for you.
Have you ever heard of ale trails or tourist passports?
These unique guides, often produced by towns, local businesses, or organizations, lead you on a journey through a region’s hidden gems, such as quirky boutiques, parks, bookstores, and, of course, breweries.
Completing a passport may earn you some Swag rewards or substantial discounts.
What makes these passports special is that they’re not solely focused on the destination but rather emphasize the journey itself.
Each stamp or punch collected becomes a story of the adventures you’ve had on your travels.
For those of us who enjoy a good checklist, there’s an undeniable satisfaction in earning those stamps and feeling a sense of accomplishment – even if the “accomplishment” was spending an hour in a brewpub!