A drive through the gorgeous Columbia River Gorge is one of the most popular day trips from Portland. It makes for a long day filled with roaring waterfalls, magnificent natural scenery, a hike or two, and of course a few tasty pints of local Oregon beer from some of the best Columbia River Gorge Breweries.
According to the Oregon Craft Beer website, there are more than 275 breweries in Oregon, a mind-blowing 117 in the Portland Metro Area alone. It’s no stretch to call this part of the U.S. a real “beervana.” Some of the absolutely greatest of those are found along the scenic Columbia River Gorge, which is the focus of this brew-filled blog post.
Due to the massive number of breweries in this area, picking the best Columbia River Gorge breweries from Portland to Hood River is no easy task. Some of the breweries below are no-brainers, while others are included simply because I like them for their vibe, because of my personal experience I had there. That being said, every single one of them is worth visiting.
Back Pedal Brewing, Portland
My personal favorite brewery in the Portland city center, Back Pedal Brewing stands out for its small scale, relaxed vibe, quietness and the fact there’s no food. The focus here is beer and beer only. I love that. It’s refreshing compared to the nearby large Pearl District brew pubs with full menus.
On top of that, they’re also well-known for their BrewCycle, a Portland brewery tour on a large group bicycle.
Upright Brewing, Portland
This basement brewery just across the Broadway Bridge from the Pearl District in the heart of Portland is what I’d call a “hidden gem.” You literally walk down a set of stairs and into a basement. You arrive at a small taproom set amid a collection of kettles and other brewing equipment.
The awesomely low-key Upright Brewing makes some killer Belgian and French-style beers, including a selection of delicious saisons and sours.
Culmination Brewing, Portland
On your way out of the Portland city center, you might want to swing by Culmination Brewing. Located just off of I-84 in East Portland, this atmospheric taproom is a great place to hang out for a while, enjoying one of their 20 beers on tap.
I particularly like the vibe of this place. Its bar is centered in a large brewing space with a seating area made up of barrels, stools and high-top tables. If you’re feeling like a snack, get their house pretzel with beer cheese. It’s probably the best pretzel I’ve had in Portland.
Migration Brewing, Gresham
You’ll be beyond the Portland city limits when you reach Migration Brewing, situated literally just after the I-84 exit in northern Gresham. Its location is super-convenient, a great stopping point on your way out of or back into Portland.
By all definitions, this is a true brewpub, though. Don’t go there if you’re after a real small-scale local brewery vibe. If you’re starving and thirsty, on the other hand, this is an excellent place to visit for lunch or dinner.
5. Thunder Island Brewing Co., Cascade Locks
There aren’t too many Columbia River Gorge breweries between Portland and Hood River. In fact, Thunder Island Brewing is the only one that’s actually on the shores of the Columbia River. And it’s that very setting that makes it worth including in this overview.
It’s one of the most scenic breweries in Oregon, overlooking
the river and its flanking cliffs and mountains. The star of the show here,
however, is the Bridge of the Gods, which crosses the Columbia River and
connects Oregon and Washington. If you’ve seen the movie “Wild” with Reese
Witherspoon, you’ll recognize this bridge as the spot where she ends her hike
on the Pacific Crest Trail.
There’s also a campground a short walk from the brewery, as well as viewpoints, a visitor center and a couple of hikes.
pFriem Family Brewers, Hood River
If I had to pick the best brewery in the Columbia River Gorge, it would have to be pFriem. In fact, this fantastic brewery is one of the best breweries in Oregon. Even though it only launched in 2012, its star is now well-established in the Oregon craft beer firmament.
Housed in a modern-industrial building on Hood River’s waterfront, pFriem focuses on Belgian-style beer. On tap, you’ll find several abbey-influenced beers, including strong blondes, strong darks and tripels, as well as barrel-aged sours. Additionally, they have a few excellent Pacific Northwest-style IPAs, just in case that’s your go-to brew. A top-notch brewery in every aspect, this one.
Double Mountain Brewery, Hood River
A fun hangout in downtown Hood River, Double Mountain Brewery has a small outdoor, street-side seating area and cozy interior. Grab a seat at the bar or at one of the wooden tables, order a beer and a pizza—they’re famous for it!—and kick back.
I particularly like this Columbia River Gorge brewery because of its laid-back atmosphere, young crowd and staff, good beer and location. It’s an ideal spot to fuel up after hiking in the Gorge or nearby Mt. Hood National Forest.
Bonus: Solera Brewery, Parkdale
Geographically, Solera Brewery cannot be considered one of the Columbia River Gorge breweries. Yet, I simply have to mention it because of its sensational views. It lies close enough to Hood River, just 20 minutes south on Route 35, to make it easily accessible from the Gorge. It’s also about halfway between Hood River and the heart of Mt. Hood National Forest, making it a popular place for a break from driving.
But like I said, it’s the views that make this a stand-out brewery. (The beer is good, too, though!) From its backyard seating area, filled with wooden benches and tables, the view of Mt. Hood towering in the distance is phenomenal. This might just be the most scenic brewery in Oregon.
I have to stress, though, that it’s impossible to visit all Columbia River Gorge breweries mentioned here if you’re driving yourself. It’s obvious, but I’ll say it anyway—don’t drink and drive! There are plenty of campgrounds in the area as well, so that makes it easier, and safer, to visit more than one brewery. Spend two to three days in the Gorge. It deserves it!