A short while ago I decided to take a self-guided tour of Corvallis’ breweries. I was truly surprised at how fantastic—not good, but fantastic—all the beers were. I come from Portland Land, and can honestly say that I feel no urge to drive up there for the brewery circuit anymore.
Here’s a recap of my adventure…
Mazama Brewing 33930 SE Eastgate Cir.
First brewery of the day, I walked into a humble and friendly room, ordered a Grand Cru (10% alcohol, with characteristics of both a Belgian Trippel and a Belgian Gold Strong ale), took a sip, and… damn. I’m a harsh critic, and not only did this beer defy expectation, but it now sits amongst my top five favorites, including Paulaner Hefeweissen, Neuschwansteiner Lager, Ninkasi Oatis, and Modelo Especial (don’t judge me). The Grand Cru itself was dense in flavor, but without losing its drinkability. It was complex and rather indescribable. Just one hell of a powerfully delicious brew. If I had found a swimming pool of it lying about, I’d have jumped in and drank my way out. It was that good.
On that fateful day I was lucky enough to try their at-the-time yet-to-be-released Pyroclastic Porter. The sample I had, direct from the vat, was still warm and flat. It was also one of the better porters I’ve ever had, with perfect hints of coffee and chocolate in all the right places. I don’t even really like porters.
Sky High Brewing 160 NW Jackson Ave.
My first time in Sky High, I climbed the stairs and found myself in a traditional bar setting with a great vibe. The incredibly nice bartender hooked me up with an affordable selection of five sample beers, including their Bohemian Pils, Gose Terra Fluvia, Dream-on Pale Ale, Linus Pauling Ale, and Panorama Porter. The Dream-on was a great traditional-ish IPA that just about any beer drinker would enjoy, while the Linus Pauling was essentially an orange flavored beer—but unlike most flavored beers, it drank well and didn’t become tiring. While my beersistant, Bean, seemed enamored with the Panorama, what most caught my attention was the Gose Terra Fluvia. One of the most unique beers I’ve ever had, it tastes halfway between a German wheat ale and lemon yogurt. I know that sounds weird, but you have to try it to appreciate it. Sky High’s big strength seems to be the variation in what it offers, and although options like the Gose are currently missing from the menu, they’re always replaced by something else fantastic.
After Sky High we walked to the Old World Deli to try out some Oregon Trail offerings. I selected the Ginseng Porter and Bean picked up the Beavertail (and a 25 cent cookie). Both beers were excellent and shared the aspect of being very, very drinkable. Even the porter had a light touch, and I could see either of these beers being a very welcome guest to the innards of a weary traveler on a hot day. I’ve had light porters before and they all lacked flavor—this wasn’t the case here, as light hints of ginseng were noticeable and pleasant. The environment was really interesting, feeling a bit off the beaten path without actually being off the beaten path. A great place with suds to take a break during a long day downtown.
Flat Tail Brewery 202 SW 1st St.
Wow. Trying out a Cucumber Cuvee Sour and a Daywalker Gruit, I was met with two fantastic beers that the waitress informed me were “the two most eccentric items on the menu.” The Daywalker Gruit was a ginger beer that, much like Sky High’s Linus Pauling Ale, was very flavored but never got old. The Cuvee Sour was the real winner, though, being one of the strangest beers I’ve ever had. Overtly flavorful, it was almost like drinking a thirst-quenching pizza with cucumber and extra olives. Only in a good way. A really good way. An absolute must-try in a comfortable restaurant atmosphere.
Block 15 300 SW Jefferson Ave.
Like Flat Tail, Block 15 has more of a restaurant feeling than the other breweries. Offering more of the classical ales that the average beer-lover craves, there’s an endless menu of well-crafted brews. Believe it or not, I used to actively avoid IPAs—it was Block 15′s Alpha IPA that changed all of that when I first visited about a year and a half or so ago. I’m also into the very smooth Glo Golden Lager, as well as their Lemon Radler, a 50-50 blend of beer and a house lemon soda. Although I prefer Radler made with lemonade instead of soda, it is quite delicious and easy to put away. Block 15 seems to be the only brewery in town offering a Radler, which is a great virtue.
2 Towns Ciderhouse 33930 SE Eastgate Cir.
While not a crafter of beer, 2 Towns nonetheless deserves mention as they make the best damn hard cider I’ve ever had. Seriously. And especially so when you consider the price—any one of their offerings blow the oft-more-expensive competition out of the water. It’s hard to really name a favorite, but I’m definitely partial towards the Made Marion, as they have perfectly rendered the essence of this delicious berry into a drinkable form. One of the cool things about 2 Towns is their large number of diverse seasonals, so definitely check them out on a regular basis.
Although they’re not local per se, McMenamins has been creating its own fantastic brews for years—and they do so at 2001 NW Monroe. Their food is as good as their beer. I just had an Irish stout there the other day that was worthy of a dozen quaffs or more.
By Johnny Beaver