February 20th, 2019

Downtown McMinnville: Never far from a great beer

Rick Allen is proud of his work.

“We brew German beers,” he says, sitting in his small taproom. “and we want to be the best brewer of German-style beer in the country.”

He’s a success. Heater Allen Brewing has been making great German beers since 2007. His Pilsner is considered by many to be the best in the nation. Really! We looked it up.

His was the second brewery in McMinnville, following only Golden Valley Brewery. Now there are five breweries in the downtown area alone. In fact, you never have to walk more than four blocks to get from one brewery to another.

While McMinnville is famous for its wines, the beer is quickly making a name for itself. That comes as no surprise to Rick who decided to create his brewery in McMinnville for one key reason.

“McMinnville has fantastic water,” he says. “It owns its watershed. I looked at Salem. I looked at Corvallis. This is far and away the best place.”

Other brewers in town would agree with him but we wanted to find out on our own. So, beer-geek buddy Dave and I set out our own McMinnville Downtown beer trail.

But is McMinnville a beer tour destination?

“I think we’ve reached a point where we have enough critical mass in McMinnville that people will come to visit for the beer,” Rick Allen says. “We’re already a bit of a destination.”

We started our recent tour at Hotel Oregon (310 NE Evans St.) in the heart of downtown. While the beer is not brewed on site, Hotel Oregon is part of the McMenamins brew pub/restaurant group serving its well-known Hammerhead Northwest Pale Ale, Terminator Stout and a constantly changing list of beers. Enjoy a pint in the restaurant, a dark corner in the Cellar Bar or on the rooftop patio.

Allegory Brewing’s patio allows plenty of space to relax.

Four blocks to the east is Allegory Brewing (777 NE 4th St.). It’s the last building on your left before the railroad tracks. You’ll find an eclectic and constantly changing menu that you can enjoy inside or on the patio. The gas-fed fire pit creates a cozy evening destination. We saw several dogs on leashes curled up as well.

Just north of Allegory is  Grain Station Brew Works (755 NE Alpine) in the city’s historic Granary District. Good beer meets good food in what they call a “rustic-chic” setting inside a restored barn. There’s patio seating and an outdoor stone pizza oven during summer months. Haystack Gold, the brewery’s flagship beer, salutes to the haystacks that once dotted the fields outside of town.

Walk a little farther and find Heater Allen (909 NE 10th Ave.). Rick Allen’s tap room and patio are only open Fridays and Saturdays. It’s wise to check the website for hours. He doesn’t serve food but welcomes anyone who brings it with them. If you’re looking for something unique, try the smoked  Rauch Bock. Yes, a smoked beer. The beer-geek loved it.

Golden Valley’s McMinnville Pub and Brewery (980 East 4th St.) opened in 1993 and has since become as well known for its food as its beer. Sit at the large, classic bar spanning one side of the restaurant or find a table and order a steak from GVB’s own Angus Springs Ranch. Try their Red Thistle ESB.

Dan Shryock is writes about cycling, coffee, beer and travel throughout the Pacific Northwest. On a good day, he experiences all four.