Beer and Camping in Whistler/Squamish, BC

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 Beer and Camping // tahoefabulous.com
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.

Beer
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.

Lodging
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.

Try This Beer: Sunshine Coast Breweries

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.

Sunshine Coast Breweries // tahoefabulous.com

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)
DEFINITION:
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.

Sixteen Traditional Ale (3.75/5)

Beach It India Session Ale (4.75/5)

One Sailing Wait IPA (2.75/5)

Stormrider IPA (4.75/5)

Beer, Food, and Lodging on Vancouver Island

I realize I’m jumping around some chronologically, but I wanted to collect my Vancouver Island recommendations in one place.

Beer:
First, and most importantly, the beer.

Vancouver Island Breweries // tahoefabulous.com

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.

Lodging
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.

Camp 8 among the ferns and forest. #toasterroadtrip

A post shared by Greyson Howard (@greyson_goes_outside) on

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.

Food
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.
 

Try This Beer: Buoy Beer Company; Astoria, Oregon

We went to 18 new breweries on #toasterroadtrip, our beer and biking focused honeymoon, one brewery reigned supreme: Buoy Beer Company in Astoria, Oregon.

Buoy Beer Company // tahoefabulous.com

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): Crispcleanclassic. 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!

 

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.

 

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.

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.

 

Drink This Beer: Mammoth Brewing Company

A long time ago (like 2010!), I took a “Yay, you’re done with grad school” trip to Mammoth Lakes, California. We had planned to go mountain biking, but it had been a good winter and the vast majority of trails were still snow covered. We still managed to find things to do, including my first trip to Yosemite and my first trip to Mammoth Brewing Company. At the time, it was just the front room of a warehouse and the tastings were free. I fell in love with their delicious beer and friendly staff. Now they’ve moved to an amazing location with food, outdoor seating, and a great view, but they still brew awesome beer and are staffed by friendly, knowledgeable locals. Their tastings aren’t free anymore, but they’re cheap and the growler fills are still an amazing deal!

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Mammoth Brewing Company offers two different sampler choices – their “regulars” and their “seasonals”. They always have something I like in their seasonal selections, so I think it’s usually worth going for both sampler options. Since their seasonal offerings change so often, I’m only going to review their regulars below. All descriptions via Mammoth Brewing Company website, unless otherwise obvious.

Golden Trout Pilsner (4.25/5) 
Native to Sierra Nevada mountain waters, the elusive golden trout is a brilliantly colored prize for any fisherman. Grassy and crisp like a Sierra stream, this pilsner pours as gold and vibrant as the fish it’s named for. A Sierra-born beer worthy to be named for a Sierra-born fish. Vienna malts give Golden Trout a full body and flavor, while Saaz hops take it downstream to a softer, more floral place. Pairs well with Sierra sunshine.

Paranoids Pale Ale (3.25/5)
Paranoids is named after a double black diamond ski run on Mammoth Mountain; the slope is flat… only on a 40 degree angle! This is a classic American pale ale, featuring a piney citrus hop nose, a full malt body and a clean bitter finish.

Real McCoy Amber Ale (3.75/5)
A Mammoth Brewing Company original inspired by another original, the man himself: Dave McCoy, founder of the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. Pilsner malt, dark Munich malts and Palisade hops combine to produce a smooth, velvety malt character and a balanced hop finish.

Double Nut Brown (4/5) This is basically the only brown I’ve ever really enjoyed, and I love it!
Few things satisfy like crawling out of a tent for a cup of coffee warmed over a fire in the Sierra wilderness, but Double Nut* Brown comes close. Its deep nutty flavor and mild sweetness begs you to stay cozily flannel-pajama-clad all day. Wake up and smell the beer. Double Nut Brown strikes a perfect balance between coffee, chocolate, roasty flavor and a clean finish, making it very flavorful and drinkable.
*No nuts were harmed or used in making this beer!

Wild Sierra Farmhouse Ale (2.5/5)
The Sierra spring is alive in this brew. Our twist on the Belgian farmhouse ales of the Wallonia region, we flavor this beer using local Piñon Pine needles to create a refreshing farmhouse saison. Wild Sierra is brewed with Pilsner malt, Rye malt, Vienna malt, lightly kilned Crystal malts and fermented using a blend of Belgian ale and Saison yeasts.

Epic IPA (4.5/5)
Fearless and bold, our Epic IPA earns its name vanquishing hops at a rate of no less than two pounds per barrel. And yet, this heroic outlaw still achieves a noble balance of clean bitterness, smooth malt, and citrusy hops, making it the perfect sidekick for your next wilderness tale. Not for the feeble-hearted, Epic IPA charges valiantly at your taste buds. Two pounds of Horizon, Citra, and Amarillo hops gave their lives for the greater good in each barrel of this gallantly balanced American IPA.

IPA 395 (4.5/5)This is probably Greyson’s favorite beer of all time. I love it too, just not as much as he does! It’s got the flavors of the Eastern Sierra – juniper and sage. Just smelling it is enough to transport me there. My recommendation is to drink it as cold as possible, preferably cooled in a snowbank or mountain stream.
It’s 5 o’clock Friday and your pilgrimage begins. Echoing the route of past adventurers, you press upward into the altitude. This is Highway 395. A celebration of the finest road trip in California, IPA 395 showcases mountain juniper and local sage, hand-picked from the 395 corridor. Brewed to evoke the spirit of a High Desert rainstorm, IPA 395 compliments wild Great Basin Sagebrush and juniper berries with sweet ESB and crystal malts and, of course, plenty of Centennial hops.

Other Eastern Sierra Breweries:
Mountain Rambler Brewery – Bishop, CA
June Lake Brewing – June Lake, CA

Beer, Pickles and Donuts: Quick Portland Trip

I went up to visit my college friends for a Halloween cabin party in Washington last weekend. I ended up finding a super cheap flight to Portland, and my friend Michelle, who organized the weekend, happens to live there. I asked her if I could fly in a little early and catch a ride up. Voila, mini trip to Portland!

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I hung out in Portland on Thursday evening after my flight, during the day on Friday, a few hours Sunday night and during the day before my flight on Monday, so I was able to hit up quite a few places while I was there. Mostly, I focused on food and beer – specifically strong & bitter IPAs, pickles and donuts.

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My friends live in a super cute neighborhood (filled with gorgeous fall trees) that’s just a short bike ride/walk away from the awesome Mississippi and Woodlawn neighborhoods. When Michelle wasn’t showing me her favorite spots, I was able to borrow a bike and explore on my own.

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First up, the beer. If you haven’t been living under a rock, you know that the Portland beer scene is one of the best on the planet, especially if you like strong, hoppy IPAs. I was able to check out a few breweries while I was there and I really liked or loved most of what I tried. All descriptions from the breweries’ websites, unless otherwise obvious.

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Burnside Brewing Company

Sweet Heat, 4.9% ABV, 9 IBU. Apricot and Scotch bonnet pepper wheat beer. Spice level varies per batch. 2012 GABF gold medal winner. (4/5 – I don’t normally like fruity beers, but this was great! It reminded me of the spicy dried mangos from Trader Joe’s.)

Burnside IPA, 6.5% ABV, 85 IBU. Malt hop balance, Galena, Cascade, Meridian. Dry hop amarillo. (4.5/5)

Too Sticky to Roll India Red Ale, 6.2% ABV, 78 IBU. Quaffable yet chewy India Red Ale. (4/5)

StormBreaker Brewing

Opacus Stout, As dark and rich as the thick cloud formation it is named after, the light roast coffee flavors with subtle hints of chocolate really warms the soul. This creamy, full body oatmeal stout makes this the perfect beer to enjoy when sitting fireside with a blanket on our patio in those long winter months. (4/5)

Breakside Brewery – my friend Chris works at this brewery (check out the beer and bike blog he has with his girlfriend), and we tried a bunch of great ones that I forgot to record. Just believe me, this brewery is great. We definitely tried an IPA, a couple of sour-er beers and an apple ale.

Matcha Milk Stout, A full bodied stout brewed with milk sugar and matcha. Grassy and lightly bitter with a lingering sweetness. (4.75/5 This one came recommended by my friend. It’s not one I would have chosen on my own, but was probably my favorite beer I had this weekend.)

Ecliptic Brewing – the bartender at this bar was super friendly and gave me a ton of recommendations. Unfortunately, I didn’t visit until my last afternoon, so I didn’t get to check any of them out on this trip.

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Canopus IPA, The supergiant Canopus shines in the southern constellation Carina.  Brewed with a special blend of malts for a smooth body and a dry finish, Canopus IPA pays homage to the second brightest star in the night sky.  Sterling hops impart a crisp bitterness, and dry hopping with Simcoe and Centennial completes the ale with tropical and citrusy hop flavor. (3.75/5)

Trans Pacific Pilsner, This collaboration was brewed with The Garage Project Brewery in New Zealand. We met up with Jos during Oregon Brewers fest to craft this American/New Zealand Pilsner. This is a very hop forward pilsner with a dank hop aroma from Simcoe and NZ Nelson Sauvin hops. The malt flavors are creamy with a very crisp finish. (4.5/5)

Altair Fresh Hop Ale, Brewed to celebrate the annual Hop harvest! Altair a bright star in the Constellation Aquila the Eagle. Fresh Amarillo Hops were used making this beer. A light biscuit malt character is balanced with wonderful aromas of orange and slight tropical fruit. This beer was dry hopped in the fermenter. It’s a classic American pale ale! (4.75/5 The bartender found some of the last of this – I’m so glad I got to try it!)

Orbiter IPA, Orbiter IPA unites a constellation of “C” hops (Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Columbus) to create a formidable IPA. Bright and  citrusy hop flavors shine in a medium body with caramel malt character. Dry hopped to amplify the hop aroma and flavor. (4/5)

I also had some amazing lemon lavender cider at Bushwhacker Cider. Lavender is one of my favorite flavors, and it was delicious in the lemon cider. It would be perfect for a hot sunny day on a patio – or, you know, the rainy cold evening we were actually experiencing. Bushwhackers seemed like a pretty cool place, but it was almost totally empty. We took advantage of that by hogging the free shuffleboard table the whole night.

I managed to fit in a few things other than brewery hopping. I had phenomenal short rib kimchi quesadillas at the KOi Fusion food truck.

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I bought some adorable book-related limited edition prints and hipster coloring books at Reading Frenzy. I checked out the ReBuilding Center – I wanted to bring home a souvenir, but couldn’t fit an antique light fixture into my carry on.

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I had three pickle plates (homemade and at Burnside & StormBreaker) and fried pickles (at Breakside).

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And most importantly, I finally tried a Voodoo Doughnut, and Old Dirty Bastard is the way to go. I also tried a couple of donuts at Blue Star Donut. I loved the blueberry bourbon basil.

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Finally, there was this creepy Doll Asylum for Halloween. I did not go in.

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I had an awesome time in Portland, and I can’t wait to go back and visit more breweries. Maybe I’ll even get a hike in!