They say the secret’s in the water. Eastern Oregon’s majestic mountains aren’t just there to look pretty, they also provide a unique filter for the water; infusing it with subtle flavors you won’t find anywhere else. The end result has been dubbed the “Brews Byway,” a series of award-winning breweries that stretch from John Day to Pendleton to Baker City and a whole lot of places in between.
With the arrival of Fall and cooler temperatures, there’s no better time to come in from the cold and experience this bounty of first-rate breweries. So grab your designated driver and follow along on a trip down Eastern Oregon’s Brews Byway.
The Byway begins at 1188 Brewing Company in downtown John Day. Corrugated tin, family photos and local artwork line the walls of this family-owned nano-brewery. Stop in for the Black Oak Instigator, a smooth, creamy porter with just a hint of chocolate, or the seasonal Leafdropper IPA. Don’t miss the Pork Street Tacos, whose house-made mango salsa and chipotle sour cream are a great way to fuel up for a full day of tasting.
From John Day, follow the Journey Through Time Scenic Byway west as it weaves through sprawling cattle ranches, past fossil beds, ghost towns, and friendly western communities, and connects with Interstate 84. Then head east to the newest addition to the Brews Byway: Ordnance Brewing in Boardman, which offers 14 hand-crafted brews and one guest cider on tap.
Just up the road, The Prodigal Son Brewery and Pub in Pendleton serves up tasty brews and locally-sourced pub food. Give A Beer Named Sue a whirl or sample the seasonal Christmas Carole, an Eastern Oregon take on an English barleywine.
Next the Brews Byway heads to Milton-Freewater and Dragon’s Gate Brewery. Complimenting Walla Walla Valley’s well-known wineries, Dragon’s Gate focuses on crafting Belgian-style farmhouse ales from a wide variety of hops grown on the brewery’s own estate. Laht Neppur Brewing Company takes its name from the Gaelic phrase, “Drink to life” and serves up award-winning brews that conjure up another phrase: “Life is good.” Give the Backseat Blonde Ale a try.
As you continue east, you’ll find the majestic Wallowas and a brewery whose beers are only surpassed by the view. Terminal Gravity, in Enterprise, serves up its namesake Terminal Gravity IPA from a porch-lined craftsman house turned tasting room. On a sunny day, snag a picnic table where you can take in the fall colors and an inspiring view of the snow-capped Wallowas rising in the distance.
A drive on the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway leads to Baker City and Barley Brown’s, otherwise known as the GABF 2013 Brewery of the Year. Fair warning: The hardest part will be choosing what to order. Barley Brown’s keeps 22 beers on tap; each is hand-crafted and many of them are award-winners. Get started with the Pallet Jack Ale.
The final stop in our Brews Byway Tour is Tandem Brewing. Located in Ontario’s Jolt’s and Juice Coffee Shop, Tandem is Oregon’s easternmost brewery and one of the most bicyclist-friendly too.
Elizabeth Farrar is a freelance writer and travel enthusiast living in the heart of Eastern Oregon. She enjoys photography, yoga, reading, drinking Oregon Pinot and cheering on her beloved Oregon Ducks. To read more of Liz’s work, please visit: www.elizabethfarrar.com.