Oregon’s Washington County offers visitors plenty of artfully crafted, locally produced beverages to taste, including tea, coffee, wine and saké. Our local beer and spirits industry is growing, and with brewpubs and tap and tasting rooms open to the public, visitors can experience this renaissance first hand.
Cornelius Pass Roadhouse & Imbrie Hall
One of the most ubiquitous names throughout Oregon is McMenamins and its family of ventures, from restaurants and hotels to coffee, wine, beer and spirits. McMenamins has many properties throughout Oregon’s Washington County, as well, including three breweries. During a recent visit to the city of Hillsboro, we stopped into Cornelius Pass Roadhouse and Imbrie Hall for a bite, brews and a little history lesson.
The site, which was a pioneer homestead settled in the 1850s, is a six-acre property with carefully preserved structures, such as the unusual octagonal barn, a popular design from about 1850 to the turn of the century.
We dined at Imbrie Hall, where we tasted the Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale, McMenamins’ fall seasonal ale made at the Cornelius Pass brewery from freshly harvested Cascade hops. As the name implies, this crafted beer is brewed within hours of the hops being picked off the vine. (Imbrie Hall is open seven days a week, starting at 11 a.m. and closing at 11 p.m. or later.)
Also during our trip to the property, we got a peek at the Roadhouse Distillery, which features an Alambic Charentais pot still, traditionally used to produce cognac. The distiller was making whiskey on the day we visited, which was evident in the faint, sweet smells of whiskey-in-barrels (pictured, left) that greeted us.
Situated in a modest industrial complex is Vertigo Brewing, an award-winning small-batch brewery located in Hillsboro, which has received accolades from local craft beer enthusiasts. Its utilitarian taproom is all about the beer; no food service, no pool tables, no televisions blaring. The atmosphere encourages visitors to engage in conversation while tasting a flight of beer, or enjoying a pint.
During a recent visit, we sampled a variety of brews, including the Apricot Cream Ale, a light summer ale with a hint of apricot, and Schwindel Alt, a smooth German-style bier. (Vertigo’s taproom is open Monday-Wednesday, from 4-6:30 p.m.; Thursday-Friday, from 4-8 p.m.; and Saturday from 12-6 p.m.)
Big Bottom Whiskey
We popped into Big Bottom Whiskey–its tasting room is next to Vertigo Brewing–an independent bottler of various U.S. whiskeys. Big Bottom works with multiple distilleries for a base product, and puts the finishing touches (including aging in barrels) at the facility in Hillsboro. The final products are 91-proof spirits that are perfect to drink alone or mixed into cocktails. We sampled Big Bottom’s various bourbon whiskeys, including the “Wild Bill,” a 118.3-proof whiskey (for the adventurous taster). (Big Bottom’s tasting room is open Saturdays.)
Plan a beer and spirits tour of Oregon’s Washington County, with this list of breweries and distilleries. Cheers!