Exploring Southern Oregon

For Memorial Day weekend and my birthday, my wife and I took a trip down to Southern Oregon.  Our goal for this trip was to visit Crater Lake (Oregon’s only National Park) and then venture down into Northern California to see the mighty Coastal Redwoods.

Our home base for this trip was Grants Pass, OR.  A small-ish city of about 34,000 people, right along I-5 in the heart of the Rogue River Valley.  In true Oregon fashion, even tiny Grant’s Pass has 4 breweries.  We managed to make it to 3 of them.

The first one we made it to was Wild Ride Pizza and Brewing. Grant’s Pass is the original location and they also have a second location in Cave Junction.  We had already eaten lunch so we just popped in for a beer, but we did get an appetizer called a Torta, which was layers of cream cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and pesto, with crackers and bread.  It tasted like the best lasagna filling I’d ever had.  I’d wager a bet their pizza is damn good.

Between tasters and pints we tried 5 beers. Two of their flagship IPAs, one was a standard IPA and one had citrus peel in it, the citrus one was very good.  We also tried a brut IPA which was good but had a lot of yeast phenolics that I don’t think it was supposed to have and we tried their version of a CDA (called Black Hops IPA) which was OK, but more roasty and chocolatey and less hoppy than I would prefer.  I finished with the Double Eagle Imperial Stout and to me that was the winner. Rich and dark and creamy. I don’t know when (if) we’ll be back in Grant’s Pass, but Wild Ride Pizza would certainly be on the return list.

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The next place we went to was Climate City Brewing, which we went to for dinner.  Located in an older, historic part of town and housed in the former home of Rogue River Brewing Company which opened in the 1880’s and closed during Prohibition. We also tried 5 beers here with dinner in a combination of pints and tasters.  Again, very IPA heavy, which is the new normal. We tried the Savage IPA and Nookie IPA, pretty much the same beer with different hop profiles, we also tried the Citradora Stong Ale which was a Citra dry-hoped pale ale that also had Lemon Verbena tea added to it. Very strong lemon flavor. Very interesting.  The Fireside Dark Ale was a very malty, English style beer that was pretty good. I got a small taste of the Bourbon Bigfoot Porter which was very whiskey heavy. Nice, but suited for small pours.  The winner for me was the Brutylicilous Brut IPA.  A great example of that style, very dry and clean which a HUGE fruity aroma.  In fact, I misheard the server and thought they said “Fruitylicious” which would have fit just as well.  The food was passable for pub food. Nothing special but not terrible. Some of the beers were better than others, but it has a neat atmosphere and if your in town it would be worth stopping by.

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The third place we went to for dinner the final night in town was a restaurant called The Haul. Owned and operated by the folks from Connor Fields Brewing it serves as their official taproom (the brewery is on the outskirts of town and not open to the public). This was the place to be. It was hopping when we were there and it had a very modern, hip vibe (I hate to use the word hipster, but it was a lot of steampunk and long beards). Their beers mostly range through farmhouse styles and Belgians but they had a couple clean beers like an American Pale Ale and a Blonde Ale. The beers were all solid, but the food was AMAZING. I got the Thai Pie which was basically Pad Thai on a pizza, chicken, peanut sauce, carrots, green onions and cilantro. Wood fired pizza and the crust was amazing. Honestly the crust was the best part.  My wife got the Bo Ssam sandwhich which had Korean pork and kimchi on it. Also, very interesting and tasty.  The Haul also has a “secret” speakeasy upstairs that serves mostly cocktails.  After we ate we went upstairs and had a drink before we headed home. I forgot to take any pictures here but if you’re in Grant’s Pass I would highly recommend it.

Bonus non-beer stop:

On the way out to Crater Lake we drove through the Rogue River valley and saw signs for several wineries.  We looked a few up online to see what the had to offer and decided to stop at Kriselle Cellars for a tasting flight.  They offered mostly red wines, but had a handful of whites.  The address is White City, OR but it’s pretty much way out in the middle of nowhere north of Medford.  If we hadn’t driven by it, we would have never known it was there.  I wasn’t a fan of their white wines, but I also don’t drink a lot of white wine anymore.  They had some solid reds.  My favorite was the Cabernet Franc, which is a varietal I’ve heard of but not sure I’ve tasted.  It surprisingly beat out the Tempranillo, which is a favorite of both my wife and I.  They also had a really good blend called Di’Tani which contained all five of their reds blended together.

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I don’t know when we’ll be back in this area again, but we already know we want to return to Crater Lake when there’s not so much snow still up there, and we want to go back to the Redwoods as well, although we’ll likely stay in Northern California to be closer to the Redwoods when we go back.

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