Oregon Coast & Oregon Breweries

After our time mountain biking in Ashland and visiting Caldera Brewing, we headed for the coast. The Oregon Coast is known for its gorgeous views, and we were excited to take them in.

Oregon Coast Camping and Breweries // tahoefabulous.com

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I spent a lot of vacations on the Oregon Coast, but I hadn’t been back since high school or earlier. Greyson had never been to the Oregon Coast at all! From Ashland, we headed north on I5 before cutting west a north of Roseburg to follow the Umpqua River along Hwy 138/38. This drive was beautiful, all along the meandering Umqua through bright green fields and dark green trees. Our eventual destination was Tahkenitch Campground and the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, but we enjoyed the scenic route there.

Oregon Dunes // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

Despite my many trips to the Oregon Coast growing up, I had never been to the Oregon Dunes. When we arrived, I was blown away! The dunes stretched forever, and there was an entire forest growing on them between us and the ocean. They’re very unique – the large, oblique shape of the dunes don’t occur anywhere else and they’re one of the largest tracts of temperate coastal dunes in the world.

Oregon Dunes // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

After we got our fill of the sand dunes, we settled into our campsite at Tahkenitch Campground. We were there mid-week, and this campground was basically empty. We got our choice of campsites, and most of them looked really great. There were a few that were close to the highway, but I’d generally recommend this campground. The bathrooms were clean with flushing toilets and there was potable water available. It was pretty mosquito-y, being near some ponds, but not unbearable at all. There were very few other people in the campground, so it was a peaceful night. We made dinner, drank some Game of Thrones wine leftover from our wedding, and went to bed early.

Oregon Coast Camping // tahoefabulous.com
Photos by Lynn Baumgartner & Greyson Howard

Our next destination was South Beach State Park, near Newport, Oregon. We got an early start and headed up 101, taking in the gorgeous ocean views whenever we could.

Oregon Coast // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard
Oregon Coast // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

Oregon Coast // tahoefabulous.com

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We hadn’t planned on stopping in Yachats, but once we saw Yachats Brewing, we flipped a u-turn and went inside. Yachats Brewing was really cute – lots of light and wood, with a locally focused menu. We didn’t end up ordering any food, but everything sounded and looked delicious.

“Carved deep into the stoney coastal headland, and cut from the reclaimed legacy of our industrial past, Yachats Brewing + Farmstore is a reflection of craft, place, and culture. We are located in the heart of the beautiful coastal village of Yachats, Oregon, and surrounded by the Siuslaw National Forest. Yachats Brewing + Farmstore was founded by Nathan and Cicely Bernard in 2013. Starting with a building originally built as a bank in 1965, Nathan and Cicely have transformed the space into a thriving center for local food, great beer, and coastal culture…Remnants of Yachats’ logging roots backdrop the vibrant color, texture and flavor of locally grown produce, pasture raised meats, hand crafted brews, and house fermented vegetables. Our Sauerkraut, Kim Chi, and Garlic Dill Pickles bring living food fans from far and wide. Our restaurant/taproom features 30 taps, including 15-20 of our award winning beers and house made probiotic beverages, such Kombucha, Jun, and Kefir soda.”

Yachats Brewing // tahoefabulous.com

As for the beers, here’s what I sampled and my ratings (all descriptions from Yachats Brewing):

Camp One IPA (3 out of 5 stars)
An American IPA with a slighty hoppy bite; a slighty sweet finsih with an amber dark honey color. This IPA drinks great all year round.

Coastal Dark Ale (3.5 out of 5 stars)
Our version of a Cascadian Dark Ale brewed with all whole leaf hops from the Pacific Northwest. Patagonia perla negra give it a black color and soft roast flavor. Name: The long dark days of winter on the Oregon Coast.

Thor’s Hammer IPA (4 out of 5 stars)
This IPA has a crisp malt build with an assertive piney bitterness and a strong floral finish. Name: A unique intertidal sinkhole near Yachats

From Yachats, we continued up the coast to the campsite we’d reserved at South Beach State Park south of Newport. South Beach State Park is a HUGE campground with literally hundreds of tent and RV camping sites. There’s a ton of stuff to do there, including trails, beach access, ranger talks, a small store, bike rentals, and more. It’s definitely not a remote or low-key campground, but it is very well organized, with clean bathrooms, free showers, and friendly staff. It’s also close to town, so good access for things to do there.

My main goal was to see some otters and eat seafood. We managed to do both, and we threw in a trip to another brewery while we were at it. Rogue Ales is one of the OG craft breweries. It’s in an industrial area of Newport, near the water and the Oregon Coast Aquarium. We didn’t do the whole tour, but we drank good beer and I had a salmon sandwich.

Newport Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

The Beer (most descriptions from Rogue Ales, unless obvious)

Pendleton Pale Ale (4 out of 5 stars)
A light, refreshing pale ale brewed with hops and malts grown on Rogue Farms in Oregon.

Straight Outta Newport IPA (5 out of 5 stars)
We drank A LOT of beers over the course of our honeymoon, and this west coast IPA was in my top 5.

Cold Brew IPA (3 out of 5 stars)
Stumptown Coffee Roasters’ Cold Brew Coffee is blended with an IPA made using Rogue Farms hops for a unique interplay of hops and coffee flavors. Opening with a huge hit of rich coffee aroma that is balanced by a not-so-subtle hop punch, the transition is seamless from one bold flavor to the next.

8 Hop IPA (4.25 out of 5 stars)
The boss of the hop family, this IPA brings brash and burly flavors. INGREDIENTS: Rogue Farms Dare™, Risk™, CaraRed, Maier Munich, Dextra Pils & Dare™ R-1 Malts; Rogue Farms Liberty, Newport, Revolution, Independent, Freedom, Rebel, Yaquina & Alluvial Hops; Pacman Yeast & Free-Range Coastal Water.

Rogue Ales // tahoefabulous.com

Since sea otters are extinct in the wild in Oregon, we needed to go to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. I was worried that I’d been spoiled by the wonderful Monterey Bay Aquarium, and while the Oregon Coast Aquarium is smaller, it is still worth visiting. Of course, I loved the otters, but I was also enamored with the blind, rescued harbor seals and the very intelligent octopus.

Oregon Coast Aquarium // tahoefabulous.com

Once back at our campsite, I went for a run on the trail and the beach. It was a gorgeous stretch to run, but very difficult between the steep trails and the soft, soft sand. I eventually made it to the beach, and I spotted a whale spout!

South Beach State Park Newport Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

It was another mellow night for us, cooking on the camp stove, drinking beer leftover from the wedding, and an early night before our long drive up to Olympic National Park the next day.

 

Try This Beer: Caldera Brewing, Ashland, Oregon

Caldera Brewing // tahoefabulous.com

In addition to awesome mountain biking and beautiful sights, I wanted to visit lots and lots of breweries on our honeymoon road trip. Our first brewery stop was Caldera Brewing in Ashland, Oregon. Caldera is not a small brewery by any means – we can get their pale ale at our neighborhood grocery. I’ve enjoyed their beers I’ve had in the past and I was excited to try it at the source.

Caldera Brewing // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

The brewery and restaurant at Caldera are very large – plenty of seating in doors and a nice outdoor patio. We ate outside to keep an eye on the bikes. Despite the hot day, the patio was shaded and cool. Dogs are also allowed on the patio. I thought the food was delicious as well – especially the salad I had featuring smoked blue cheese. Now on to the important part – the beer. We got a tasting flight so we could try out five different beers.

Here’s what we tried (all descriptions from Caldera Brewing)

Hopportunity Knocks IPA (3.75 out of 5 stars)
IPA brewed with even more body and piney and perfumy hop profile

Mosaic IPA (4.75 out of 5 stars)
Tropical-Style IPA brewed with Mosaic hops imparting hop flavors of mango, passion fruit and guava.

Grapefruit IPA (2.75 out of 5 stars)
American-style IPA brewed with grapefruit juice and zest.

Double Red EyePA (4.5 out of 5 stars)
Double red IPA with very piney and floral hop characteristics.

Ginger Beer (4 out of 5 stars)
A light golden ale brewed with organic fresh ginger and light Belgian Candi Sugar.

 

Ultimate Northwest Mountain Bike Road Trip Itinerary

After Greyson and I got married this June, we went on an amazing, ~4 week honeymoon. We road tripped with our camping gear and our mountain bikes from Point Reyes, up through Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and back again. It was A LOT of planning, but I have to say that our route was just about perfect. I’ll go into more details about the specific destinations – the biking, the camping, the beer, and the other activities. I thought that I’d start with an overview of our route, in case anyone is looking to plan a similar trip.

Planning a PNW mountain bike road trip // tahoefabulous.com

Figuring out our route was a lot of work, but I knew there were some places that we definitely wanted to visit, places that friends recommended, some free hotel nights, and a few other requirements. The main resources I used for planning were:

  1. Trailforks
  2. Google maps
  3. BC Parks website

We needed to be in my hometown in eastern Washington exactly 4 weeks after our wedding, so our itinerary couldn’t be completely flexible. We wanted to not be too scheduled, though, so I broke our trip into a few segments.

  1. Oregon
  2. Olympic National Park
  3. Vancouver Island
  4. Sunshine Coast
  5. Whistler/Bellingham
  6. North Cascades/Eastern Washington
  7. Back to Truckee

PNW MTB Road Trip Route Map // tahoefabulous.com

The towns and regions we picked for mountain biking were

  • Ashland, Oregon
  • Vancouver Island, British Columbia
  • Sunshine Coast, British Columbia
  • Whistler/Squamish, British Columbia
  • Bellingham, Washington
  • Hood River, Oregon

We had a few other must-do non mountain biking destinations, like Olympic National Park and North Cascades National Park and friends we wanted to visit. Using the above lists and research I did on camp sites, I came up with a general itinerary and route:

Route Planning Spreadsheet //tahoefabulous.com

(Though this is our final-final itinerary the “final” one we came up with before the trip got a few changes along the way.)

We had a few places booked to stay – campsites when we thought it would be too busy to get first come-first serve, a few hotels, friends to stay with. This itinerary gave us some flexibility within our set dates. For example, we ended up leaving Ashland a day early for an extra day on the coast as a lot of the trails were closed.

Here’s what we ended up doing Point Reyes, CA > Ashland< OR > Oregon Dunes (via the Umpqua River scenic route) > Newport, OR > Lake Quinault Lodge/Olympic National Park, WA > Parksville, BC > Courtney/Comox/Cumberland, BC > Campbell River, BC > Powell River, BC > Roberts Creek/Seechelt, BC > Squamish, BC > Whistler, BC > Bellingham, WA > North Cascades National Park/Winthrop, WA > Reardan, WA > Hood River, OR > Bend, OR > Truckee, CA. It was an amazing trip, and I can’t wait to share more!

Mountain Biking in Oakridge, Oregon: The Alpine Trail

I just got back from an amazing road trip, mountain biking, camping, kayaking and beer drinking across Oregon and Washington. I had a great time at all of our stops, both those I’ve visited before and those that were new to me. I’ll be recapping our whole trip over the next couple weeks. Our first stop was Oakridge, Oregon.

Mountain Biking the Alpine Trail in Oakridge Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

Oakridge, Oregon is a small town nestled in the heart of the Cascades and parallels the Willamette River, about an hour east of Eugene on Highway 58.  Oakridge had been a busy logging town, but since the down turn in the logging industry, it had struggled, with many businesses closing and families moving away. Oakridge is a beautiful place, with trails for hiking, camping spots along Salmon Creek, rafting and fishing opportunities on local rivers and streams, and, more recently, trails for mountain biking. Oakridge has become a popular destination for mountain bikers – only 2.5 hours from Portland and a “quick” ~7 hours from the Bay Area and Tahoe. (Greyson and I stopped by the local brewery for dinner and literally everyone eating on the patio was visiting from California.)

Mountain biking and other outdoor adventures are helping to bring some much needed money and business to Oakridge. However, it’s a much more complicated story than “mountain biking saves dying logging town!” – check out this interesting article from NPR:

For decades after World War II, the small town of Oakridge in the southern Cascade mountains of Oregon was a booming lumber town. But by the early 1990s, the lumber industry had collapsed, and Oakridge has struggled ever since, losing families and businesses. Now, residents like Randy Dreiling are trying to reinvent the place as a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Dreiling owns Oregon Adventures, which offers mountain bike tours. Some 350 miles of trails have earned Oakridge the self-proclaimed title of “Mountain Biking Capital of the Northwest. Mountain biking is just a piece of the pie. It’s not the end all be all, but it’s what we got. And it’s been good to us,” he says. “Anybody that’s being honest to themselves can see the amount of people mountain biking is bringing to town — more and more every year.”

Greyson found us an awesome campsite, Salmon Creek Falls Campground, about five miles outside of town. We snagged one of the last few first-come, first-serve campsites and set up the tent. This campground has some amazing spots right along the river, but I’m guessing you have to get there early on a weekday to get one of them.

Salmon Creek Falls Campground Oakridge OR

While there are a ton of trails in the Oakridge area, mostly built and maintained by GOATS (Greater Oakridge Area Trail Stewards), we had decided to shuttle the Alpine Trail, booking a shuttle with Oregon Adventures, a local shuttle and tour company. They describe the Alpine Trail as

Oh glorious Alpine! Known as the Crown Jewel, this is one wicked trail. A combination of every pleasure known to mountain biking, you can’t not love Alpine.

I pre-booked the shuttle for 8:45 am the next day, so we decided to head in from our campsite for an early dinner and to scope out where we’d be meeting up. We (surprise, surprise) ended up at the only brewery in town, the Brewers Union Local 180. The brewery only has cask ale (or as they claim, the only “real ale” in Oregon) which undergoes a secondary fermentation in a wooden cask. These ales are much less carbonated that a typical IPA (it reminded me of a beer on nitro), and both of the ones we tried were tasty. This was by far the most popular restaurant in town, filled with tourists and locals alike. It was a long wait for food and beer, but both were worth it. We even met a group of people we’d be riding the shuttle with (and the Oregon Adventures owner!) at the brewery that night.

Alpine Trail Elevation Profile via Strava
Alpine Trail Elevation Profile via Strava

We met bright and early at the Oregon Adventures parking lot to drop off bikes with the shuttle van, and carpool to the bottom of the trail, a few miles from headquarters. We reconvened with the ten or so other riders, loaded into the shuttle and were off on the ~30 minute ride. The shuttle driver was very helpful, pointing out road crossings and landmarks that we’d use on the ride back, and soon arrived at our destination. While shuttling the Alpine Trail means a mostly downhill ride, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any climbing. In fact, you start off the trail with a ~350 foot climb that feels steeper than it actually is on cold legs.

Alpine Trail Map via Strava
Alpine Trail Map via Strava

After less than a mile of climbing, you come to a flat, grassy field with a narrow trail cut out and beautiful views. I remember commenting to Greyson about how it was hard to ride in such a narrow trail, and that I kept bumping my wheel on the edges. Little did I know that this was just a preview of the majority of the trail width to come!

Alpine Trail Oakridge Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

Alpine Trail Oakridge Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

The day was cool and cloudy, which was nice but I had a real problem with my sunglasses fogging up for most of the day! After the meadow, we rode into the trees and the first of the many downhills. At this point, we stopped to put on kneepads. This was the first of many stops – we definitely did not break any speed records on this trail. One of the coolest things about this trail was that it had some of everything – awesomely sticky Oregon dirt, miles of fast, flowy sections, rocky and rooty drops, long climbs, steep exposure, loose rocky sections, epic views and closed in forest canopies.

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I’m used to the wider trails of the Sierra, so the narrow, more overgrown trails took some getting used to, and I definitely walked some sections of narrow trail that had steep exposure. Luckily, the Alpine Trail seemed to be about 85% fun flow on good dirt, with a smaller percentage of steep climbs, loose rocks, and only a few sections that I needed to walk.

Alpine Trail // tahoefabulous.com

According to my Garmin, we climbed about 1,224 feet over the 13.8 miles (the shuttle cut off some climbing and mileage from the full, official Alpine Trail.) The trail was very well marked and easy to follow. We got a little confused at about 12.5 miles in, where there was a junction. The MTB Project app told us to go right to stay on the Alpine Trail, but we were pretty sure we needed to go left to get back to our car. One of the things our shuttle driver told us at the beginning was “when in doubt, go left.” We went left and followed an obviously newer trail (I think called A.T.A.C., but I’m not 100% sure) that did bring us back to our cars.

We quickly loaded up and headed straight for pizza and beer. The pizza wasn’t amazing, but we were hungry so that didn’t matter all too much. After buying some cans of local beer, we went back to the campsite and spent some time lounging in my birthday ENO hammock for national hammock day.

ENO Hammock // tahoefabulous.com

Salmon Creek Falls campground is next to (no surprise) a creek and a small waterfall. Just upstream from the waterfall was a great, but cold swimming hole. We tentatively waded in, and, once my feet and legs were numb, the water felt great!

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We stayed two nights in Oakridge and I wish we could have stayed longer to explore more trails! The town was beautiful, the people were friendly, the beer was good and the mountain biking was phenomenal. That’s all I can really ask in a destination. I loved camping at Salmon Creek Falls, and there are a number of motels in downtown Oakridge. The Alpine Trail was worth traveling for, and it’s a trail I’d love to do again with a little more confidence now that I know what it’s like.

Trail Stats:
Location: Oakridge, Oregon (shuttle with Oregon Adventures)
Mileage: 13.8 miles
Elevation gain: ~1,200 feet
Difficulty: Intermediate

Sierra Summer Essentials

Last year, I shared my top essentials for an amazing summer by Lake Tahoe. Now I’m back to share more of my favorite things for a perfect summer!

Sierra Summer Essentials // tahoefabulous.com

Something to lounge around in/on. We’ve all seen the hammocks that are all over Instagram, and I have an ENO two person hammock that I’m sure will get a ton of use on Greyson and my road trip next week. But even better, I got a LayBag for my birthday from Greyson’s parents!

Laybag // tahoefabulous.com

The LayBag™ as a brand-new product and the lifestyle innovation of the season has been created to perfectly relax anywhere. The inflatable sofa that fills air within seconds is super comfortable and can be described as a clever combination of an inflatable couch with the very simple filling-technique used on dry-bags. No external pump needed!

Therefore it can be inflated and deflated within seconds and stored in a small carrying-bag giving you the opportunity to carry your LayBag anywhere you want, giving you more time to lounge on your LayBag.

I took the LayBag for its first test run this past weekend. We watched the instructional video first, which made inflation look super simple, just flapping the LayBag through the air while alternating sides, roll, clip, and done. It was a little more complicated, and we definitely needed a breeze to help us out. We did get it filled pretty quickly once the wind picked up, and I was floating in no time.
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Sun Shirt/Rashguard. Before Indonesia, I wasn’t 100% sold on the idea of a sun shirt or rashguard. I thought I’d be too hot, and that it couldn’t work that well. I started coming around on the idea when I rafted the American River last June. I wore a NRS Rashguard in the boat, and I didn’t burn at all, and barely had to reapply sunscreen. When I got too hot, I got in the water, shirt and all and the wet fabric helped me stay cool. In Raja Ampat, where it was often over 90 degrees and 90% humidity, I wore a sun shirt pretty much any time I was outside and not in the water. I don’t go to that extent in our fairly mild Tahoe summers, but sun shirts are really nice for hiking on high altitude, exposed trails. Hint for tall/long armed women: this men’s columbia button down in a medium fit me perfectly. I also have a men’s Patagonia sun shirt with a hood that is really comfy.

Approach Shoes: I am a huge fan of sandals like Chacos (which you can probably tell by my telltale Z tan in the above photo!) for summer adventures, but they aren’t perfect for everything. Approach shoes fill the gap when you want something with more protection than sandals, a softer sole than trail runners, and more low key than hiking boots. I recently bought a pair of Five Ten Guide Tennies and they have been great for all sorts of activities this summer. Their sticky bottoms are great for scrambling around on the granite of Donner Summit, they protect my toes from loose rocks on the approach to the climbing wall, and I’ve even worn them biking when I have flat pedals on my mountain bike.

My 5.10 Guide Tennies were perfect for scrambling around on the granite on Oldstead Point in Yosemite National Park.
My 5.10 Guide Tennies were perfect for scrambling around on the granite on Olmstead Point in Yosemite National Park.

Hydration System: The air up here in Tahoe is very dry, and it’s important to stay hydrated during your runs, hikes, rides, climbs, etc. (especially if you plan on sampling some of the great beer we have up here!) I’m a big fan of hydration packs, especially for mountain bike rides and hikes. I have and LOVE the CamelBak Solstice. It’s a mountain bike specific hydration pack with lots of extra features, which I think add to the functionality of the Solstice.

Our newest women’s mountain bike pack is a low rider. The Solstice™ is a full-featured pack that shifts your load—and most importantly, your water supply—down towards your waist. That small change gives you a lower center of gravity and a wider range of motion, which makes it easier to maneuver as you’re barreling downhill. The Solstice also stores enough water and gear for a full day on the trail: a 3-liter Antidote® reservoir, helmet hooks, attachment points for soft armor, and a tool roll to keep your gear organized. We designed the Solstice specifically for women, with an S-shaped harness that curves comfortably around your chest, and a slightly shorter back panel for a more ergonomic fit. The velvetex-lined harness also keeps the straps from chafing against your skin.

I'm wearing my Camelbak Solstice on this trail through the redwoods at Wilder Ranch State Park near Santa Cruz.
I’m wearing my Camelbak Solstice on this trail through the redwoods at Wilder Ranch State Park near Santa Cruz.

For hiking, I have an older Osprey Packs Raptor pack, which is technically a bike specific pack. I like it better for hiking than biking, and I love the fact that the bladder has the easy to use Nalgene screw top. I’ve even gone on some trail runs with this pack, but it’s not the best for that. I almost bought the Osprey Rev 6 to use for trail running/biking, but I decided on a bike specific pack since I use it way more. For running, I’ve been sticking with a handheld bottle, like this Nathan VaporMax Plus.

Cush Comforts for Car Camping. Did you like my alliteration there? I love car camping, and, one of the reasons why I love it is how comfortable you can be! While a few pieces of lighter weight gear make their way into my car camping set up (ahem, this super comfortable Sea To Summit Aeros Premium Pillow), I take advantage of the packing room to bring some larger items. My favorite is a super comfortable sleeping pad. I have the backcountry.com knock off of the Therm-a-Rest BaseCamp (which it looks like they don’t make any more, sadly). If you’re not worried about space and you are worried about comfort, look for a car camping mattress that has a foam core AND inflates.

Greyson recently bought himself a Yeti Cooler. Yes, they are really expensive. Yes, they are really heavy. Yes, they are really that awesome at keeping your food cold. Definitely go check them out in person before you buy them, though, because all of that insulation comes at a price – the usable space inside the cooler. Stay tuned later this month for more of my car camping recommendations!

Tahoe Fabulous Summer Cocktail // tahoefabulous.com

A Perfect Summer Cocktail: I’m not usually a huge fan of sweet drinks (black coffee, gin & tonics, and IPAs, all the way!), but this fruit and herb infused cocktail is perfect for summer.

  1. Muddle half a lime, a couple spoonfuls of watermelon and 4-5 large basil leaves in the bottle of a rocks glass.
  2. Pour in a shot or two of your favorite gin.
  3. Add ice to top of the glass.
  4. Finish with tonic and enjoy! I like to garnish with a slice of watermelon when I’m feeling fancy.

So there are a few of my essentials for this summer. What are you loving right now?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

 

Shoulder Season Fun: Round the Lake Beer Tour – Lake Tahoe, California & Nevada

While we’ve been enjoying Miracle March, spring shoulder season is fast approaching. And, in my opinion, there’s no better time for a beer tour than spring! Maybe it’s because I’m from the Northwest, but it always seemed to me that the Tahoe area could support more breweries than we had. It took awhile, but better late than never – the brewery scene in Tahoe is finally expanding. Between the new breweries and the arrival of shoulder season, it’s the perfect time to embark on a ‘Round the Lake Beer Tour.

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Obviously, you’ll want a designated driver for this endeavor! My route starts in Truckee and heads west, but it can easily be adjusted for whatever starting point you want. 

  1. Smokey’s Kitchen: You’ll want a hearty breakfast before starting out, and despite being a BBQ joint, Smokey’s has something delicious for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. For veggies, I recommend the Huevos California and the Donner Pass Omelet for omnivores. If you’re feeling very ambitious, Smokey’s has a few beers on draft, including Racer 5!
  2. The Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co Brew Pub in Tahoe City opens at 11:30 am, so that’s our first brewery stop. Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co//Truckee, CA Tahoe Mountain is known for its saisons, and that’s what I have to recommend. Try Provisions, a multi-grain Farmhouse saison or ask the bartender for their seasonal recommendation. If you’re a diehard IPA fan (like I am), I like the Hop Dragon Imperial IPA.
  3. Head south on Highway 89, down the gorgeous West Shore of Tahoe. Be sure to pull over at the look out above the famous Emerald Bay. 165702_711569911290_7476821_n Once you’ve reached South Lake Tahoe, head straight to Coldwater Brewery & Grill. Skip the food and head straight for the bar – you’ll want to try Mr. Toad’s Wild Rye.
  4. Next up is Sidellis Lake Tahoe, just down the road. It’s the newest brewery on this tour, but they’ve already got a few delicious beers. I like their Bitter Creek Pale and their nachos for a quick snack.
  5. Now we’re traveling back north – this time up Tahoe’s East Shore. Be sure to hop out of the car at some point – there’s a nice viewpoint just south of Incline Village, or you can make a longer stop at Sand Harbor State Park.
    View of Sand Harbor from the Flume Trail
    Sand Harbor from above. Photo by Katie Riley.

    Need some coffee? You can stop by Tunnel Creek Cafe where they have great coffee and Deschutes beer on draft.

  6. Once you’ve reached Incline Village, Nevada, you’re might be hungry again. Alibi Ale Works doesn’t serve food, but you can bring in takeout (maybe burritos from locals’ favorite T’s Mesquite Rotisserie) and they often have a food truck outside. Alibi Ale Works // Incline Village, NV Alibi always has a bunch of great beers on tap, both their own and from other breweries. They do each beer on a really small scale, so their taps are always changing. This is a good place to get a sample of a bunch of different beers, but, if they have their Scotch Ale on draft, be sure to get that.
  7. You’re on the home stretch now! While not a brewery, you should definitely stop at Mellow Fellow Kings Beach (which is technically on the Nevada side of the line, so don’t miss it). Mellow Fellow has 40 rotating taps, so no matter what you like they’ll have a beer (or two or three…) for you.
  8. The final stop of the tour is back to Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co, but this time, you’ll be hitting up the brewery location in Truckee. You can repeat your favorites from the brewpub, but they’ve often got one or two beers you can’t get anywhere else.

Congratulations! You’ve finished the ‘Round the Lake Beer Tour. Reward yourself with dinner at one of Truckee’s many great restaurants.

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Click here for the Google Map of my ‘Round the Lake Brewery Tour!

Brewery Review: Aslan Brewing Company, Bellingham, WA

I’m still working on my Indonesia recaps, so how about a little flashback? Back in February, Greyson and I traveled to Bellingham to bike, visit friends, and, of course, drink lots of beer. The brewery scene has exploded since I moved away from Bellingham, and I was excited to try the new-to-me Aslan Brewing Co.

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“In the pursuit of the perfect beer, we’ve brewed A LOT of different styles. On our pilot system in a little back alley warehouse, we brewed over 130 original batches. From that, we narrowed it down to our favorites, which we refer to as our Flagship lineup. We offer these Flagship styles year round, while our Seasonal styles are rotating to compliment the ever changing tastes & sensations of the current season. At the end of this page you’ll find our brew graveyard. These are styles we’ve brewed in the past that we more than likely won’t brew again. But, who knows? We may very well resurrect one from the dead!”

Aslan Brewing Co. has a beautiful space near downtown Bellingham with indoor and outdoor seating. It was really crowded the Saturday afternoon we visited, but because seating is family style (aka you share long tabels with other groups), we were seated fairly quickly. We weren’t planning on staying long, so we just ordered a couple of beers and chips with queso (they have a full lunch and dinner menu).

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I got the Midnight Couloir IPA and Greyson got the Ginger Rye IPA. (Descriptions from Aslan Brewing Co. unless obvious).

Midnight Couloir IPA (4/5)
A special style of IPA brewed to help raise awareness for our friends at the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC). Midnight Couloir is a very dark IPA with a robust bitterness and a dry finish. The confluence of rich malt with bitter, piney Northwest hops creates a very complex IPA perfectly paired with the colder months of the year.

Ginger Rye Ale (4.5/5)
This beer falls into the “specialty” category, but it’s based off an American Pale Ale and inspired by a delicious cocktail called the “Moscow Moose”. The ginger is present, yet subtle as is the rye. The wild card is the use of limes, which shine through on the finish. This is an adventurous beer and a staple of our brewery. (Note: I don’t usually like super flavored or “weird” beers, but this ginger rye was delicious! I don’t know if I’d want much more than the 10 oz pour Greyson ordered, but I liked it so much more than I was expecting to.)

After we finished those two beers, we decided that we weren’t done with Aslan Brewing Co. quite yet, so we decided to order a sampler. After much debate, we settled on:

*Dawn Patrol Pacific Ale* (5/5)
This beer is mild yet complex in its delivery. The hop presence is noticed by subtle flavors of pineapples that meld beautifully with the slightly spicy and minty character derived from the use of Rye malt. A somewhat recently pioneered style, this Pacific Ale is delivered unfiltered to accentuate its fresh farm to glass, unprocessed, organic qualities. (My favorite beer at Aslan Brewing Co!)
Blueprint Session IPA (5/5)
Named for one of our favorite Baker shred-zones, the Safety Line Session IPA keeps your unquenchable desire for hops satisfied while keeping your mind sharp. Even though the alcohol content has been reduced, the hop content has not. Expect great Northwest hop flavor that is not overwhelmingly bitter, but complex with an array of alpha acids that will surely ignite your senses.

Mosaic IPA (4.75/5)
When we got our hands on a contract for Mosaic hops we knew exactly what to do with them – make an insane IPA. We used Summit hops for bittering, then overdosed the beer with flavor, whirlpool, and dry hop additions of the freshest Mosaic hops that Yakima had to offer. The result is an intense IPA that will leave your taste buds wondering which way is up. Pungent earthy overtones with undertones of white grape fruit and spice.

Batch 15 IPA (3.75/5)
This hoppy creation is everything a Northwest IPA should be. It showcases the amazing resinous and piney characteristics of Simcoe, the crisp citrus of Citra, and the bitterness of Summit hops. Pouring a beautiful opaque orange, this beer is juicy, unfiltered, and delicious!

Northwest Red Ale (3.5/5)
To get a full flavored dark beer that drinks like a Pale Ale, we paired Crystal 120, Roasted Barley and Black malt with Simcoe, Centennial, Citra, and Summit hops. Notes of cherries, strawberries, and citrus dominate the palate, yet are balanced. The result is a dark beer that is surprisingly crisp, full of flavor, and easy to drink.
While we both really liked Aslan Brewing Co., Greyson didn’t love it quite as much as I did. (But I think that’s mostly because I learned to drink beer on Northwest IPAs and they will always remain my favorite). Aslan Brewing Co’s beers reminded me a lot of the beer at Silver Moon Brewing in Bend (my second favorite Bend brewery), while Greyson was more impressed by Knee Deep Brewing in Auburn.

If you’re visiting Bellingham and like beer, make time to visit this brewery. Aslan Brewing Company is a great place to spend an afternoon (rainy or sunny) in Bellingham. The brewery has a beautiful space, good food and excellent beer.

Weekend in Bellingham Part 2: Beer and Sunshine

Here’s Part 2 of my Weekend in Bellingham recap!

Saturday: 
We woke up after our night out ready for breakfast. Bellingham has a ton of great breakfast options. I love the Little Cheerful and Old Town Cafe, and HomeSkillet was highly recommended by local friends. After debating all of the options, we decided on the newly remodeled Horseshoe Cafe.

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Stacey, Jodi and I at the Horseshoe Cafe.

The Horseshoe has been around since 1886, it’s open late, and it’s attached to the Ranch Room, another great Bellingham dive. I remembered the Horseshoe being great for greasy, cheese covered potatoes and other classic hangover food. With the new remodel, it has classed up its menu a little. Don’t worry – you can still get cheese covered hash browns and black coffee if you want them! I tried chicken and waffles and a bloody Mary. They were both delicious.

It was a gorgeous sunny (!) day, and we wanted to be outside. After breakfast, Jodi, Greyson and I took Jodi’s dog for a walk on the South Bay Trail from Boulevard Park to Fairhaven and back. One of the coolest things that happened while I was living in Bellingham was the conversion of an underused building at Boulevard Park to an awesome, waterfront coffee shop. We didn’t stop at The Woods Coffee Boulevard Park this time, but it’s one of my favorite places to hang out, drink good coffee and watch the sunset.

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Looking at Bellingham Bay from Boulevard Park.

I really  wanted to take Greyson to Chuckanut Drive and Larrabee State Park. I was so excited that we got a sunny day to do so. One of my favorite things about the Pacific Northwest and Bellingham is that people tend to enjoy the outdoors rain or shine, but, there is something special about that first sunny day after a long stretch of winter rain. This Saturday was definitely one of those sunny days!

The drive out Chuckanut was gorgeous, and I let Greyson be the passenger so he could stare out the windows at the San Juan Islands. We arrived at Larrabee State Park, paid our $10 parking fee, and headed towards the water. While the parking lot wasn’t full, there were A TON of people enjoying the sun warmed rocks and water views. The tide was also fairly high, so no tide pooling for us this time.

I tried to find the spot where I had done some climbing in college, but I was unsuccessful. We scrambled around on the sandstone and I wished I had worn my approach shoes instead of trail runners. We explored the social trails along the water, sat in the sunshine and soaked up the gorgeous views until we got hungry enough to head back into town. We decided on a snack and some beers at Aslan Brewing Company. I’ll do a full review of this brewery later, but, spoiler alert, it was amazing!

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Before our dinner plans, Jodi, Greyson and I headed to the Up & Up Tavern (fun fact: the first bar I went to on my 21st birthday). It was remodeled and gussied up while I still lived in Bellingham, but now it’s even nicer. With the nicer atmosphere comes higher (though still way cheaper than California) prices. While I was in college, we were so mad when the happy hour PBR pitchers went from $2 to $3. Now a pint of PBR is $3! It’s still a great bar, but much less dive-y than it used to be.

We had plans to eat dinner at La Fiamma, but, apparently, so did half of Bellingham. The restaurant was so packed we didn’t even bother putting our name on the list. We headed over to Casa Que Pasa for their famous potato burritos (hint: get extra sauce). I’m guessing their other food is good, but, honestly, I’ve only ever ordered the potato burrito. Most of the smaller one is enough to fill up beyond full, and they make great margaritas. We basically rolled ourselves home after dinner.

Sunday:
So I didn’t actually take any pictures on Sunday – oops! I had brunch with my best girlfriends from the college dorms – Jodi, Morgan, Becca, and Becky (and Greyson, ha!) at Becca’s new house. It was a little gray and rainy out again, but that didn’t stop us from taking a walk around her new neighborhood and enjoying the gorgeous view. After hanging out and chatting for hours, Greyson and I headed over to Fanatik Bike Co so he could he see some Evil Bikes in person. Despite the fact that we walked in 10 minutes before closing on a Sunday (sorry!), the Fanatik Bike Co staff were all great, answering all of our questions, letting me throw my leg over a couple of bikes and telling us about their bike rental program.

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Photo from Edible Seattle.

We finished out our trip with a visit to BelleWood Distilling. BelleWood Acres honey crisp apples are my absolute favorite, and I was very intrigued to try alcohol made from apples. We tried their regular and honey crisp vodka, regular and reserve brandy, gin, and pumpkin spice liqueur. I loved the gin and honey crisp vodka, and I wish I could have figured out a way to take them home with me on the plane.

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Boulevard Park at Sunset

I had an amazing time visiting Bellingham last weekend! While a lot of things have changed since I moved away in 2008, many of my old favorites remain. I’m glad Don and the Beaver are still there, but I’m even more glad that the wonderful outdoor opportunities have been protected. Each year, new college students and Bellingham residents get to explore Lake Padden, Larrabbee State Park, the trails on Galbraith Mountain, Whatcom Falls, Mount Baker and more! I can’t wait for my next visit back, and I have Greyson convinced that a summer visit is essential.

Do you miss your college town? Was it a great place to live?

Brewery Review: Knee Deep Brewing, Auburn, California

Earlier this week, I mentioned that Greyson and I spent Valentines Day mountain biking near Auburn, California. Well, what’s a long mountain bike ride without a satisfying post-ride beer? Things were pretty busy in downtown Auburn, so we decided to check out the new-to-us Knee Deep Brewing.

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Knee Deep Brewing is located a ways out of downtown Auburn – near the airport. That worked out pretty well for us, because that meant plenty of parking where we could check on our bikes locked on the back of Greyson’s car (always a good feature for post-ride beers).

In addition to being thirsty, we were also very hungry. So when we pulled up and spotted the No Pho King Way food truck, I was stoked! It smelled delicious, but we wanted to get our beer situation sorted out, so we pulled open the doors to the HUGE Knee Deep Brewing tasting room, and saw this:

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While the space was large and there was plenty of seating, there was a HUGE line for beer. We decided on a division of labor, and I ordered food and Greyson stood in line for beer. I gave him the instruction “Lean more toward IPAs and less toward Belgians”, and I went back outside to order food from No Pho King Way.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I order from a food truck, I expect them to have pho. No Pho King Way did not. It’s not like they had pho and had run out because it was super busy, they just…didn’t have pho on the menu. Well, technically they did, but it was an old menu and they didn’t offer it any more. Working off the outdated menu, I ordered the two of us pho, pork belly tacos, and banh mi fries. (What? We were hungry.) The man working the counter seemed confused by my order. “We don’t have pho,” he said. Perplexed, I assumed they were out. I changed my order to vermicelli noodles with garlic lemon chicken. Next, I ordered the pork belly tacos. “We don’t have those,” he said. At this point, he realized that I was ordering off an outdated menu (to be fair to me, they were placed outside of the food truck) and I decided to settle for the noodles and banh mi fries. I was annoyed, but the food was really good so I can’t complain too much.

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The timing ended up being just about perfect; I got the food just as Greyson was getting the beers. When Greyson told the bartenders that we wanted more on the IPA side, he poured us a four beer sampler of different IPAs and pale ales. Also – the sampler was only $6 – great price for really good beer! The bartender also assured Greyson that this was the busiest it had ever been, and we had no problem finding seats – though it meant sharing  a long family style table with other patrons.

Here’s what we tried:

Breaking Bud IPA (4.75/5) (Photo and Description from Knee Deep Brewing)

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Old school meets new school in this fresh approach to the classic IPA.  At 50 IBU’s and 6.7% ABV, Breaking Bud features the restrained bitterness and alcohol of a classic IPA with newer tropical fruit hop flavors and aromas of Mosaic.  Also in the hop mix are Simcoe and CTZ, creating layers of mango, passion fruit, pine and dank.  A malt bill with a pinch of crystal malt and a hefty dose of flaked wheat keeps the beer crisp while adding flavor complexity.

Hoptologist Double IPA (3.75/5) (Photo and Description from Knee Deep Brewing)

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An American Double India Pale Ale that packs a punch when it comes to hops. The aroma and flavors will give you citrus and pine with a slight malt sweetness that finishes dry.

We also tried the Spring Sipper Double IPA (3.5/5) and the Aviator Series Pale Side (3.75/5). I really enjoyed all of the beers we tried at Knee Deep Brewing. Greyson and I both agreed that it was the most consistently good round of beers we’ve gotten at a brewery in a while. The tasting room is family and dog friendly with games and outdoor seating. I’m not sure if the No Pho King Way truck is there all the time, but, menu mixup not withstanding, the food was really good! While Knee Deep Brewing is a little off the beaten path, it’s worth the side trip.

 

Point Reyes Highlights

Greyson and I spent Christmas down in Point Reyes with his family. We didn’t have perfect weather, but we were still able to get out and hit most of the highlights.

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On Christmas Eve day, we headed to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, hoping to see whales and birds. Thanks to the 50 mile an hour winds, the ocean was too choppy to see any whales.

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Apparently the high winds also affected the birds. We saw way more birds hanging out on fence posts and low rocks than we normally do. Greyson let me use his nice camera with the big lens to get these bird photos – definitely not with my iphone!

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We also stopped by a completely deserted Drake’s Beach. Well, not completely deserted. There was a bachelor elephant seal.

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We didn’t end up doing anything on Christmas, other than jokingly participating in the Christmas Bird Count. I counted six different birds from the comfort of the  hot tub!

The day after Christmas was much calmer, so Greyson and I went to McClures Beach to look for whales. I hadn’t been to McClures Beach before, so we spent some time wandering around and looking for tide pools.

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There wasn’t anything interesting in the tide pools, so we made our way onto the nearby Tomales Point trail. The trail follows along the top of the bluff and I was able to spot 5 or 6 whales way off in the distance through my binoculars.

We also stopped at the famous Point Reyes Tree Tunnel.

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Greyson had heard about a biking museum that had opened up in nearby Fairfax, so we drove down there on Saturday. The Marin Museum of Bicycling and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame is awesome, and Greyson wrote more about it on his blog. You can read more about it here.

While we were in Fairfax, we hit up Iron Springs Pub & Brewery. I wasn’t super impressed by anything other than the JC Flyer IPA.

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Finally, on our way out of town on Monday we stopped by my favorite place in Point Reyes – Heidrun Meadery! We bought a couple of bottles, Alfalfa & Clover Blossom and Macadamia Nut. I also bought some Humboldt Wildflower honey. I wonder what is the predominant “wildflower” in Humboldt County?

Heidrun Meadery had their second batch ever of mead made from honey from their own bees based in Point Reyes. It’s not available in the tasting, you have to buy a separate glass to taste it. We decided to do it, because if you can’t drink a glass of sparkling mead at ten am on a Monday, what fun is vacation? I’m so glad that we did, because it was amazing! I wasn’t a huge fan of their first batch of local honey mead, but this one blew me out of the water. Seriously, if you are in the Bay Area, it’s worth the trip up to Point Reyes just to taste it! Well, and to experience the million other amazing things in Point Reyes!

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