The Brewing Lair in Blairsden, California might just be my all time favorite location for a brewery. While it’s address is Highway 70 right near the intersection with California 89, its location is tucked away in the forest up a dirt road. You won’t hear the cars speeding by – only the creaking of the tall pines and an occasional happy bark from one of the dog visitors.
The Brewing Lair is all outside, with wooden picnic tables, adirondack chairs, a spacious lawn, disc golf course, and even barbecues that you can BYO-meat to and grill out. The often have live music throughout the summer, too. We usually stop by the Brewing Lair after a day of biking at the nearby Mills Peak Trail. Though the Brewing Lair occasionally has a food truck on site, you can bring your own food, and we tend to pick up greasy fare at the burger spot in downtown Graeagle.
As if the amazing location isn’t enough – the Brewing Lair has seriously good beers. Over the past few years, I’ve tried quite a few. (All descriptions by the Brewing Lair)
Uncle Elliot’s IPA (3.75/5): A heavy-hitter IPA with a strong grapefruit flavor
Ambush IPA (4/5): A well-behaved IPA, notes of fresh baked bread and dank weed. Our most popular beer.
Take a Hike Red IPA (4.5/5): A spicy-floral red IPA
Deep Cover Black IPA (4.5/5): Dry, espresso & pine
Dope is King Pale Ale (4.25/5): Simcoe and Citra hops with a hint of caramel. Early 1900’s miners raced down Eureka Peak on 12’ wooden skis, claiming that the victory relied on “good dope”—ski resin.
Visiting the Brewing Lair is a one-of-a-kind Sierra experience, and I highly recommend that you try it out!
Next up on our Big Island vacation – the breweries of Hawaii!
Of course, we had to go to Kona Brewing Company. Especially since it was within walking distance of our vacation rental. Greyson and I didn’t walk, because I stepped on an urchin! But that’s a story for another blog post. Pretty much everyone who likes beer has had a Kona beer- I love their mixer pack.
Here’s what they say about themselves:
Aloha. That’s how most conversations begin here. It’s also how many of them end. But “Aloha” doesn’t just mean hello and goodbye and love and welcome. It means more than a word can express. It’s a feeling. A way of life. “Aloha” is the idea that we are all connected to everyone and everything around us and that true joy is found in respecting this connection. And it’s in this aloha spirit that the Kona Brewing Company was founded back in 1994 by Cameron Healy and his son Spoon Khalsa. They combined their love of Hawaii and its pristine, natural beauty with their fondness for delicious, local brews, and lucky for us, their dream lives on more than 20 years later.
One of the many awesome things about Kona Brewing is their commitment to sustainability. They use solar power, recycle water at on-site gardens, and use spent grains in the pizza crust at their brew pub. They also brew beer on the mainland to reduce transportation and shipping impacts! The brewery is definitely worth a visit if you’re in town. They have a few beers that you can only get in Hawaii that aren’t available on the mainland. Also, all the food we ordered was delicious, especially for such a large location. I really liked the poke and the kalua pork nachos!
Here’s what I tried (all descriptions by Kona Brewing):
Kanaha Blonde Ale (4/5): Our brewer’s were inspired by the trade winds to create this smooth, refreshing blonde ale with the adventures of summer in mind. After a day riding the winds over shimmering waters, Kanaha Blonde ale is a bright, sessionable beer that will ease you ashore without weighing you down. Real mango fruit adds a juicy, tropical flavor that is easy like the islands. This crisp Kona brew will take you up, up and away.
Rift Zone Red Ale (3.25/5)
Hanalei Island IPA (3.75/5): Hanalei Island IPA is an easy-drinking, sessionable beer that combines the hoppy aroma of an IPA with a tropical Hawaiian twist. Passionfruit, orange and guava balance the hops to deliver a coppery, session-style ale that reflects the flavors and spirit of the islands.
Lemongrass Luau (4.25/5) Lemongrass Luau is a crisp, refreshing blonde ale brewed with a touch of wheat malt, ginger, and fresh lemongrass. With its modest alcohol content Lemongrass Luau can be considered a session beer, perfect for pau hana, sharing pints with friends, and great with almost any meal.
Kua Bay IPA (4.5/5): Kua Bay IPA is a bright, bold, copper-colored India Pale Ale. Piney hops, spices, and a subtle caramel maltiness make it a delicious beer that’s both full-bodied and flavorful. Only available in Hawaii!
Gold Cliff IPA (4.75/5): Gold Cliff IPA features real pineapple, along with bright, tropical fruit aromas of Mosaic and Citra hops and a hint of smooth caramel malt.
Of course, we weren’t done after Kona Brewing. Greyson and I had a red eye flight, so we had a quite a few hours to kill after the rest of the family left, and, after some beach time, we headed to another brewery. We basically stumbled on Ola Brew, seeing signs for a new brewery as we drove around Kona.
Ola Brew was awesome – friendly staff, great beer (and interesting looking cider, that we didn’t get a chance to sample), and a spacious location that is great for hanging out. They aren’t currently serving food, but there was a food truck parked outside when we visited. While Kona was fun to check out, it feels pretty corporate, while Ola Brew felt more local. My favorites were the A’a IPA (New England style 4.25/5), the Lager (4.5/5) and the IPA (4.75/5). I also tried the Luhia Pale Ale (3.75/5) and the Old Industrial IPA (3/5), which I didn’t like as much as the first three, but were still enjoyable. If I make it back to the Big Island, I will definitely head back to Ola Brew.
All too soon, our trip through North Cascade National Park was over! We had plans to spend a couple days biking and hanging out in Winthrop, Washington before heading to Reardan for our wedding reception in my home town.
Winthrop is a cute little tourist town just on the east side of the Cascades on Highway 20. The downtown is historic, old west style, and it’s a good base camp for families who want to get outside. Our first stop was the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, which came highly recommended. Like many places we visited on the #toasterroadtrip, this was high season for Winthrop, and though a weekday, the brewery was packed! While the food and beer at Old Schoolhouse was some of the best we had on the trip, the service left something to be desired, especially at the bar. Like I said, it was super busy so I don’t blame them too much and would still recommend them highly. Just be prepared for it to be busy and potentially pretty slow. Here’s the beer (all descriptions by Old Schoolhouse Brewery)
Epiphany Pale Ale (4.25/5): A medium-bodied pale with moderate bitterness, slight caramel malt flavor, and citrusy hop aroma. This is a good beer to start with when building up the courage for the stronger beers.
Ruud Awakening Douple IPA (4/5): Big, bold American IPA with plenty of piney, citrusy, and floral Pacific Northwest hops that completely overwhelm its medium malt body. This is our signature beer, named after Evan Ruud, the first hop-head in our family.
Renegade IPA (4/5)
Imperial IPA (4.5/5): Our Imperial IPA is bigger and more balanced than its little brother, Ruud Awakening IPA, with a stronger malt presence and increased hopping rate. Mild caramel malt character and plenty of Pacific Northwest hops. The Imperial IPA is part of our Brewer’s Reserve Series.
We camped at Pearrygin Lake State Park, just a little ways out of the town of Winthrop. The campground is huge, and I imagine it can get to be quite the party scene during certain weekends, especially in the motorhome heavy section of the park. However, we were near the lake with mainly other tent campers. Our section was quiet and peaceful, and our lake front neighbors never even showed up. We took advantage of this and used the empty site to access the lake. It seeemed a little pricey, especially for a state park campground, but I think we’d just gotten used to the cheap prices of Canadian Provincial campgrounds. I’d definitely camp there again – check out this sunset!
Unfortunately, smoke from some of the many wildfires last July started blowing in, and we decided to cut our stay to only one night. We woke up in the morning, and headed to a bike shop to ask about local rides. The person working was super friendly and showed us a bunch of options, but they were all long with a ton of climbing, which we weren’t into on a hot and smoky day. We ended up just doing a quick spin to stretch out our legs on an easy trail near Sun Mountain Lodge before packing up camp. We jumped in the lake one more time, and then headed east towards Reardan!
After an absolutely amazing time in Canada, it was time to head back the US. Luckily, we couldn’t be too sad, because we were heading to one of my favorite towns, Bellingham, to visit some good friends, Rebecca and Corey. We had a few goals – ride Galbraith, see friends, and drink good beer. We managed to do all of them.
On day one in Bellingham, Greyson went and rode Galbraith with Corey while Rebecca and I hung out with their daughter. After Greyson and Corey got back, we headed to Kulshan Brewing Company. When I lived in Bellingham, there was only one brewery – Boundary Bay. Now there are way more and it seems like new ones pop up every few months! I’ve had Kulshan beer a bunch of times while back visiting the PNW, but this was my first time visiting their brewery location. We went for the very generous six-beer sampler, and here’s what I tried (descriptions by Kulshan):
Party iN the Woods (4/5)
Pilsner (4.25/5): We raise a glass to the men and women who pioneered this classic session beer in 1842. Crisp and refreshing with clean and balanced bitterness from floral, bright and spicy Noble hops, this lager is our tribute to their hard work, precision and good taste. Prost.
Good Ol’ Boy Pale Ale (4.25/5): This beer is your best friend, reliable, refreshing, honest and true. Life is gritty, wash it all away with a Good Ol’ Boy Pale Ale, and do it again tomorrow. Enjoy Absolutely.
Bastard Kat IPA (3.5/5): Brewed with passion and precision, Bastard Kat is an American Style West Coast IPA with a prolific full hop flavor and aroma predicated upon the citrus notes of the Cascade Hop. Brewed for your next adventure.
Bull of the Woods Double IPA (3.5/5): Walking down endless rows of a green forest, the onslaught of hop aroma seduces one to a time, a place, a dream, a memory, an ideal ideal. How can I put that in a pint and deliver it unto you? Never limiting, always pursuing, climbing to the top. Allow yourself to be enveloped by this blanket of hops, and dream a little dream, of a forest of green.
Sunnyland IPA (5/5): Crisp, Refreshing, Hoppy, Hoppy punch up front, soft middle, and an evaporating finish.
After only a couple of days in Bellingham, we had to be on the road, but I still hadn’t had a chance to ride at Galbraith this trip. We decided to go on a short ride before we headed east.
I’d ridden at Galbraith a few times before, but this time we tackled a different section of the trail network. We parked at the parking area on Samish Way and headed north on Gailbraith Lane. The first real trail we hopped on was Dog Patch, a pretty easy climb. We popped out on a fire road and climbed that for about a third of a mile before getting back on the trail with Three Pigs. We only stayed on Three Pigs for about a half mile before turning right onto Pony Express. Pony Express crosses a fire road, and there we got back on Dog Patch before finishing it out on Last Call.
I’m by no means an expert on Galbraith, but I thought that was a fun short loop – it was under 4 miles with less than 500 feet of climbing. It took us under an hour – and I imagine it would be way shorter if we didn’t have to route check quite so often.
While we were bummed about leaving Bellingham and our friends behind, we were looking forward to our next destination – North Cascades National Park!
So one thing I quickly learned when planning this trip is that, unless you’re staying in the Whistler village or on the mountain, you’re probably hanging out in Squamish, BC. That’s fine, because it turns out that Squamish is an amazing town. It reminded Greyson and me a lot of Truckee, actually.
Squamish, BC is an outdoorsy town on the northern end of the Howe Sound. It’s in a gorgeous setting, with towering granite cliffs and unbelievably blue water. It’s about 50 minutes from Whistler, and the drive is on the gorgeous but nerve wracking Sea to Sky Highway. In addition to miles of mountain bike trails, it’s also famous for climbing – especially Stawamus Chief. Think of an outdoor activity, and you can probably do it in Squamish – hiking, kayaking, trail running, rafting, etc.
After a full day of downhill mountain biking in Whistler, we were too exhausted to ride the trails of Squamish, which is probably our biggest regret of our whole road trip. Oh, well, we’ll just need to go back! Unsurprisingly, we visited several breweries in the Whistler/Squamish area and I really liked them. We were there in early-July, which is definitely high season in Squamish, so all of these breweries were packed. If you go during a busy time of year, prepare to stand or share a table with friendly locals. I also got to pet a lot of cute dogs at these breweries, too.
First up was Backcountry Brewing. This brewery has a full kitchen (we had good thin crust pizza) and was super busy. We tried two IPAs, Close Talker (3.5) and Sid Rogers Lil IPA (4.25) that appear to have gone off the menu. I really liked this place and would definitely go back. They also have cider, if you can’t do gluten.
Next was A-FRAME Brewing, which was just down the street. Here we did a four beer tasting flight, and this was my favorite Squamish brewery overall. We sampled (beer descriptions by A-FRAME): Okanagan Lake Cream Ale (4.5/5): Okanagan Lake Cream Ale is pale gold with a sweet malty flavour, light in hop aroma and a smooth dry finish.
Elfin Lake Belgian Ale (3.5/5)
Shuswap Lake IPA (4/5): Shuswap Lake IPA is a bold, lean and assertive West Coast IPA. Brewed with Galena and Horizon hops in the kettle and dry-hopped with Centennial, Chinook and Cascade hops. This hop forward ale has a smooth, crisp, hop forward flavour with Centennial hops providing medium aromas of floral, grapefruit and mild citrus.
Sproat Lake Pale Ale (4.75/5): Sproat Lake Dry-Hopped Pale Ale is a fresh, light and sessionable ale where every new batch is hopped with an entirely different varietal. This batch of Sproat Lake Pale Ale focuses on the juicy side of today’s most popular hops. Brewed with Flaked Oats, Wheat and dry hopped with Amarillo, Mosaic and Citra. Smooth and silky malt body, light orange hues with aromas of citrus, orange zest and tropical fruits.
Finally, we have Coast Mountain Brewing, the only brewery we went to that was in Whistler. Here we tried (again, descriptions by brewery):
Forecast West Coast Pale Ale (3.75/5): Forecast gives us a peak into the future where fairer days breed serious mountain Apres sessions. The incredible Amarillo dry-hops here add tremendous, beautiful fresh-squeezed juice like character.
Day Dreamer NE IPA (3.75/5): Beautiful hazy, juicy goodness with notes of tropical fruits and citrus throughout. Brewed with generous additions of Canadian flaked oats, flaked wheat and tremendous late and dry-hop additions of Citra hops.
There are not a ton of camping options in the Whistler/Squamish area, especially for non-private campgrounds. We ended up staying at two private campgrounds and one night in a hotel.
Our first night in the area, we camped at MTN Fun Basecamp in Squamish which I would highly recommend. The sites are spacious, the crowd wasn’t too rowdy and there are bike trails right from the resort. It also looks like a great base camp for rafting and climbing and booking guided trips as well. Post biking, we got a room at the Sea to Sky Hotel. The hotel was fine, the price was decent and the rooms were clean. They had a bike storage room, which was just a conference room, but better than nothing. I wished we could have locked up our bikes while they were in there, though. The best part of Sea to Sky Hotel was the restaurant within walking distance Pepe & Gringo’s (also known as Pepe’s Chophouse). Generally, when a place has a bunch of different cuisines on the menu, none of them are that good. But Pepe’s had Indian, Italian, and Indian and more, and everything we had was delicious. Finally, we stayed at Riverside Resort in Whistler. This is a private campground with walk in-only and drive in camping, motorhome spaces, and rental cabins. This was definitely the worst place we camped – very much a party campground and pretty pricey.
Overall, I’d recommend staying in and exploring Squamish and making the trek to Whistler when needed. If you really want to stay in Whistler, splurge and stay in the village. Overall, Whistler and Squamish are awesome and I can’t wait to go back.
The Sunshine Coast has a small population, but it’s big enough to support a few breweries, and I think we were able to try them all. Beer descriptions provided by brewery.
Townsite Brewing, Powell River
First up is a brewery in the historic Townsite District in Powell River. Townsite Brewing is in an older, but updated building with fun brewing artifacts on the walls. Townsite Brewing has the only Belgian brewmaster in all of BC, and it showed in their beers. If you love Belgian-style beers, you’ll enjoy Townsite. Obviously, Belgian isn’t my favorite style, but I still enjoyed several of their beers.
Zunga Golden Blonde Ale (3.75/5)
(zung-ga) 1. a word peculiar to Powell River meaning rope swing, esp. over water
2. A delicious golden blonde ale. This golden blonde ale has a light bitterness and a balanced body to create a dry, refreshing finish, with hints of European hops. It is the perfect accompaniment to a hot day up the lake.
Suncoast Pale Ale (3/5)
Suncoast is our draught-only offering and our definition of a session beer. Think smooth, amber and yummy! This is for hanging out with great friends and enjoying lotsa laughs.
Note: You can only get this beer if you visit their Sunshine Coast taproom!
Tinhat IPA (4/5)
1. logger slang for hard hat;
2. a peak (elev. 1193m) along the 180km Sunshine Coast Trail;
3. a West Coast IPA
Loads of pungent, piney, citrusey hops give Tin Hat IPA a strong bitterness that is balanced with a malty body. Pair with strong flavours: curry, smoked meat, Gorgonzola cheese.
Perfect Storm Oatmeal Stout 3.5/5
1. what happens when the perfect mix of people come together to form a brewery; 2. a delicious oatmeal stout
We’ve got a truly great team here at Townsite and every day we are thankful that we get to work with each other producing some really great beer. As Chloe is often heard to remark, ‘What we have here is a perfect storm: from brewing, to sales, to distribution & marketing.’ To celebrate this serendipity, Cédric has brewed up the perfect storm of a beer: a rich, round, roasty oatmeal stout using flaked oats and roasted barley to add to our house roast malts (Chocolate and Crystal) and hopped with Columbus, Cascade and Golding.
Persephone Brewing Company, Gibsons, BC Persephone Brewing Company is at an amazing location a little outside of Gibsons, BC on the south end of the Sunshine Coast. It’s on a working farm, complete with gardens and livestock – though the animals can get a little smelly! You can wander around the grounds with your beer, check out the hop yard, grab snacks from a food truck, or just sit outside in their covered courtyard. We enjoyed hanging out there so much that we ended up doing two tasting flights!
Black Lager (4.25/5)
A full bodied dark lager. Roasty, clean and chocolaty with a graham cracker finish.
Goddess Golden Ale (5/5)
Modelled after an English style summer bitter. Crisp, dry and refreshing, with a light biscuity malty character. A delicate, herbal hop aroma, backed with an assertive bitterness.
Persephone Pale Ale (4.5/5)
This medium bodied, light coloured ale is bursting with juicy citrus and tropical fruit aromas from Citra hops. The pleasant citrusy hop flavour and modest bitterness is balanced with a light malt profile. A sessionable beer for the hop lover.
Persephone IPA (3.75/5)
A classic Northwest IPA with big citrus and grapefruit flavours with hints of mango and passionfruit on the nose. Medium bodied, with a light biscuity malt character.
Dry Hopped Cider (3.25/5)
This was a super sour cider! I don’t really like overly sweet ciders, but this went too far in the other direction.
Keller Pilsner (4.25/5)
A crisp refreshing unfiltered lager with a bright, floral hop aroma. Very light in colour and body. The slight bready malt flavour is balanced with a firm bitterness and spicy flavour from a massive amount of Czech Saaz hops.
Multi Grain Saison (2.75/5)
A bright, refreshing farmhouse Saison brewed with barley, wheat, rye, oats, corn and rice. Light in colour and body with notes of peach, clove and black pepper.
Smoked Porter (3.75/5)
Aromas of smoke and roast up front, this strong, dark ale is brewed with a hefty percentage of beechwood smoked barley malt and roasted malts. Rich and roasty with a balancing hop presence, this is a perfect beer to pair with food or to sip on its own on a cold winter’s night.
Gibsons Tapworks, Gibsons, BC
We discovered our final brewery of the Sunshine Coast by accident – Gibsons Tapworks hadn’t shown up in any of my brewery searches! We were killing time, wandering around Gibsons while waiting for our ferry. I spotted a sign that advertised beer tasting, and away we went. The location was cute – lots of light and modern and beach decor. I really loved two of their beers, the Beach It session IPA and the Stormrider IPA. Definitely seek out this taproom while you’re waiting for the ferry.
I realize I’m jumping around some chronologically, but I wanted to collect my Vancouver Island recommendations in one place.
First, and most importantly, the beer.
White Sails Brewing, Nanaimo, BC
We stopped at White Sail Brewing in Nanaimo on our drive from the ferry to Englishman River Falls Provincial Park. The brewery is in an industrial type building, but beachy and full of light on the inside. I enjoyed all of the beers that I tried. Beer descriptions from the breweries, unless obvious. I tried:
Brickyard Beach Red Cream Ale (4.25/5)
Restrained hop bitterness with a balance of light caramel grain and a clean, dry smoothness to finish.
Mount Benson IPA (5/5)
Medium bodied. This beer offers a well balanced clean malty flavour characterized by its distinguished hop bitterness. Delicious aroma of fruit and citrus.
Ridge Ryeder Rye IPA (4/5)
This is a seasonal that’s not always available.
Snake Island Cascadian Dark Ale (3.75/5)
Medium bodied. Full flavoured with hints of chocolate and coffee. A healthy dose of Pacific NW hops to balance the dark malt character. Dark colour profile that drinks like an IPA…. delicious!
Cumberland Brewing Company, Cumberland, BC
Cumberland Brewing Company has a hippie vibe and constantly has lots of high end bikes parked outside. It’s a good fit for the mountain bike focused downtown of Cumberland. We ate there and had a couple of beers. The food was delicious, if a little pricey. I wasn’t super into the the beers they had listed – their beer list leaned towards bitters, wheat beers, sours, etc. The beers we ended up getting were decent, but not on my favorites list. The brewery is definitely worth visiting because the food and atmosphere are great though. I tried Finally IPA (3.75/5) and Tropical Hop ISA (3.75/5.
Beach Fire Brewing, Campbell River, BC
Beach Fire Brewing was my favorite brewery on Vancouver Island. The staff was friendly, the beer was great, and the interior was beautiful. We got there right after it opened on a week day, so it was pretty empty, but it seems like it’s usually a popular place. I am usually an IPA all day person, but at this brewery I noticed the beginning of a trend. I was preferring BC Pale Ales over their IPAs. I tried
Beach Blonde Ale (4.5/5)
Light, refreshing and flavourful. Perfect for a hot day at the beach, or where ever you find yourself soaking up the west coast sun. A clean, light body with a touch of malt sweetness, this balanced brew sports a subtle hop bitterness and flavour. It‘s all yellow polka-dot bikini, without the peroxide.
Ember Red Ale (3.5/5)
A smooth drinking, crimson-coloured Scottish ale. Malt forward with caramel and subtle roasty and chocolate flavours, balanced with mild English hops. It’s perfect for keeping your fire pit glowing.
Hight Tide Pale Ale (5/5)
A hop forward, west coast pale ale with restrained bitterness, but a big hop aroma and flavour. Just as the tides change, hops in this beer may ebb and flow to showcase new and novel varieties. It will always reflect a stoic focus on a new-world hops with rising flavours of citrus, pine and tropical fruits.
Wheelbender Stout (4.25/5)
Gladstone Brewing, Courtenay, BC
We stopped in at Gladstone Brewing to kill time while we waited for our ferry to the Sunshine Coast. We only tried a couple of beers, which were pretty good. The location was really crowded and loud and we were feeling pretty overwhelmed, but would be fun for a rowdy night. I tried
Gladstone IPA (3.5/5)
The Gladstone Straight 6 IPA glints a dark copper, aromas of tropical fruit can be found, but resinous pine is much more prominent. Lightly malted, strong bitterness from West Coast hops is the focus, complimented rather than diffused by bright citrus flavours courtesy of a generous amount of Southern Hemisphere hops. What malt character remains is most apparent after swallowing, where the light sweetness works to hold the bitterness on the tongue.
Gladstone Pilsner (3.5/5)
A bright, clear, golden Lager, the Gladstone Pilsner smells of crisp yeast and lightly spicy hops. Noticeably bitter, the combination of generous hopping and Pilsen malt results in an extremely refreshing brew. A light toasted finish creates a full body that remains dry and does not linger on the tongue.
We stayed at three campgrounds and a motel on Vancouver Island. I’d highly recommend the campgrounds we stayed at near Parksville (Hammerfest Trail Network) and Campbell River (trail write up coming soon!). We stayed at Englishman River Falls Provincial Park outside of Parksville and Elk Falls Provincial Park near Campbell River. These parks are quiet, clean, well maintained and CHEAP, especially if you’re used to California State Parks prices.
We stayed at a private campground in Cumberland, which was very close to Cumberland Forest, but not the nicest. The campsites were small and close together and it was hard to find a flat place to pitch our tent. There’s not a lot of other camping options around Cumberland, so I’d recommend finding a motel or vacation rental. There’s a mountain bike focused hostel in Cumberland, The Riding Fool, that seems cool, but we didn’t stay there so I can give it a first hand review. Courtenay and Comox are a very reasonable driving distance as well.
We cooked a lot of meals at our camps, but also tried a fair number of restaurants on Vancouver Island. We were more focused on beer and biking than food, but we ate a few places I can recommend. First up, Lefty’s Fresh Food, where I had probably my favorite meal on the island. I had an omelet with smoked salmon, artichokes and gruyere and parmesan cheese. I still think about that omelet. In Cumberland, I loved Rider’s Pizza. I pretty much never say no to pizza, especially after a bike ride. Finally, we hung out at the Broken Spoke in Courtenay for quite awhile. It’s a bike themed coffee shop with delicious and strong coffee, comfy couches, and plenty of magazines to read.
Oh, and Greyson tried his first poutine while we were on Vancouver Island.
We went to 18 new breweries on #toasterroadtrip, our beer and biking focused honeymoon, one brewery reigned supreme: Buoy Beer Company in Astoria, Oregon.
My best friend Jodi and her boyfriend Jeff (co-owner of the awesome Independent Beer Bar and beer expert) recommended it, and we were so happy they did. First of all, the brewery is in a beautiful location with a view of the water. It’s in a refurbished industrial building and the setting adds to the delicious beer and tasty food. I ate an amazing clam chowder and Jodi recommends the deep fried cheese curds.
Now, the beer (all descriptions by Buoy Beer Company unless obvious):
Cream Ale (4.75/5 stars):Crisp, clean, classic. Where Ales meet Lagers, a uniquely American brew is born. Our Cream Ale is fresh and inviting, with a restrained use of Willamette hops for a crisp, familiar finish. It’s like those days we get here, where impossibly big clouds frame the purest, sunniest sky you can imagine. This was my favorite beer at my favorite brewery.
Pale Ale (4.75/5 stars): Buoy Pale Ale mixes subtle sweet notes of Pale, Crystal, and Munich malts followed by a wave of floral and citrus flavors from a tri-fecta of Oregon grown hops. Beers up! Close second to the cream ale.
IPA (4.5/5 stars): Full of flavor, this NW IPA is proof that you can go big without the bitter bite. No hop shock here. Well-balanced and lovingly dry-hopped with Meridian and Crystal hops for a rich, citrusy finish. Beer with a backbone – born from a place where a little heavy weather never hurt anyone.
Northwest Red Ale (4/5 stars): Big, malty, hoppy. Five malt varieties commingle to create a dark red color with a balances malt base. Late kettle additions and dry-hopping with Ultra and Sterling hops bring out the NW Red’s defining character. A lot’s happening under the surface here; like it is with the mighty Columbia River, rolling right outside our window.
Amarillo Single Hop IPA (4.25/5 stars): This single-hop series uses the same traditional IPA malt base for each edition, with the only change from batch to batch being the type of hops that are used. This non-complex malt base allows for the varying hop profiles to be showcased in each release. Amarillo offers citrus and grapefruit flavors with fruity spectrum of aroma descriptors: grapefruit, orange, lemon, melon, apricot and peach
You should definitely stop by Buoy Beer Company for food and beer if you’re traveling 101 between Washington and Oregon. It’s also so good that you should make it a destination if you’re on a beer tour. I can’t wait to go back!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.