As a writer, sometimes the toughest task is to conjure a title. Though attempting to summarize a community as diverse and multifaceted as Oregon City’s brewing landscape turned out to be a far more complicated undertaking.
In planning to tour the city with my trusted local guide Melissa, it all seemed pretty straight forward: visit 5 relatively young breweries and examine the scene. If only it were that easy, as we ended up visiting 8 locations, each with their own distinct vibe.
One of those breweries also shares a space with a cidery/meadery, all in a steampunk setting. Another brewery was hosting a release party for a collaboration with another brewery in town. Then, only a stones throw away, we stopped into a 32 growler taproom just down the street from another cidery and taproom. And yet another brewery was out in the countryside, inhabiting a barn.
While I knew there would be a lot to try and experience, the complexity and variety of everything on hand was beyond expectations. So here’s how it all went down, to the best of my recollection, and why seeking out all Oregon City has to offer is worth your time.
The HiVe Taphouse: Shattered Oak Brewing & Batch 1 Brewing
We started in the central part of Oregon City’s “Upper Shelf,” at The HiVe Taphouse. Upon entering the lobby of this former auto repair shop, we encountered a live bee colony, mounted to the wall under glass, that’s connected to the outside world through a hole in the wall.
The main attraction though is the huge taproom/brewfloor. Quickly apparent is The Perky Pantry food cart housed inside (loved the Philly Cheesesteak), as well as the tanks and brewing equipment for both operations, all lining the periphery of the interior. The taps themselves are mounted on a gorgeous acid treated copper back-splash (seen above), with each tap handle given a custom design.
What makes The HiVe so unique and worth seeking out is the awesome variety of cider, beer, and even mead that can also be blended or floated by their beertenders. Not to mention the beautiful resinous wood tables, the friendly owners and staff (thank you Ryan, Dustin & Melissa), the cool steampunk bathrooms, and the small, artsy details through the space.
Of the Shattered Oak beers I had, the Trail Pale, Child’s Play IPA, and The Roots Milk Stout (with Tahitian vanilla beans, on Nitro) were all delicious. I also enjoyed Batch 1’s Cherries Jubilee floated on Rev Nat’s Viva La Pineapple, dubbed Pineapple Upside Down Cake.
While all the places we visited were cool in their own way, this one was the most memorable, as the space exudes a passion for what they do, like few other places I’ve been to in the Portland area.
Oregon City Brewing
Heading down the hill to the Willamette River, then to the north side of the downtown district, we next visited Oregon City Brewing. I’ve seen a lot of pictures of their space but never knew they featured 36 craft beer taps. Not only was I astounded by the variety, but also the quality of beer on tap.
While there we sampled 5 beers, all pretty consistent. Of note was the El Rio de Crimea Baltic Porter featuring Mexican vanilla beans, cacao, cold-brewed coffee, and cinnamon. We also really enjoyed the Guavador Dali – a tropical IPA with Guava, as well as the Coming to Fruition: Marionberry sour.
And while we had already had lunch, it was cool to see that Olympia Provisions has an OP Wurst location here, offering hot dogs, sausages, charcuterie, and more. Had we not so many more places to visit, I would have loved to explore more of OCB and will definitely be back.
Arch Bridge Taphouse
Heading just south into the heart of downtown, we hit up one of the few places in Oregon City I’d been to previously, Arch Bridge Taphouse. Winning the Best of Oregon City award for Best Taproom, Arch Bridge prides itself in providing 16 delicious taps of quality beers from throughout Oregon and around the country, plus a wonderful selection of bottles and cans for purchase.
As luck would have it, they’d just wrapped up a Block 15 tap takeover. My cohort had the wonderful Giving Thanks Wild Ale (rum, brandy and bourbon barrel blended). I went out of state with Chapman Crafted Beer’s Hop Resonance DIPA, seen above. We also tried Grimm Artisan Ale’s (Brooklyn, NY) dry-hopped gose with raspberries.
With a sophisticated tap and bottle list, all in a cozy space downtown, you can’t go wrong at Arch Bridge.
Just through the tunnel and down the road from Arch Bridge, you’ll find the funky confines of Feckin Brewery. I’ve never quite been to a space as stripped down and DIY as Feckin, though I was pleasantly surprised by how good the beer I did have was.
The entire space has a casual, ramshackle feel – effectively an Irish Pub and brewery set in an industrial building. The location features live music in the evenings and a firepit outside, though it was a bit early for all that, as we landed there just before 5pm. And I’m not sure what time the axe throwing happens, but they’ve got a dedicated space for that as well.
Also on-site, just added last summer, is a smokehouse kitchen offering smoked pork, sausage, brisket, and turkey legs.
Of the 16 taps flowing during our visit, 6 were Feckin beers, with the remaining taps featuring other smaller Oregon breweries including Uptown, Gilgamesh, Ground Breaker, Pints, Three Mugs, Drinking Horse, Stickmen, and 12 Bridge Ciderworks. I opted for their Top O’ The Feckin Morning – a cold-brew coffee Porter with vanilla infused Irish Whiskey, on nitro. It was a savory delight.
In the end, this feels like a great place to spend a Friday or Saturday night. I’d love to come back and enjoy those late night festivities, as well as sample their amazing sounding smokehouse menu.
Bent Shovel Brewing
While every stop on this survey of Oregon City was unique, I can’t say that I’ve ever visited a brewery located in a rural neighborhood barn. Bent Shovel Brewing was an ideal place to find ourselves as the sun sank behind the hills.
The brewery itself features 12 taps fed by a 10 barrel system. The variety on tap, which are all beers brewed on premise, was impressive as they featured, among others, a Lager, IPA, Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout, and a Schwartzbier, which I chose.
There’s definitely more of a laid back, family vibe here, which felt like a break from the bustle of the other locations we visited. After a few games of cornhole and a brief conversation with owners Rick and Shelly Strauss, we were on our way back to town, once again running into Rick at their collaboration release happening at Coin Toss Brewing.
Coin Toss Brewing
Returning back to town, we wound around the industrial park where Coin Toss Brewing resides, just off of Highway 213 between Fir Street and Beavercreek Road. This quaint taproom, connected to Tim Hohl’s 10 Barrel brewhouse, packs in as much as possible in a limited space.
We timed up our visit to catch the tail end of their collaboration release with Bent Shovel, cleverly named Toss This Job and Shovel Wit!, a delicious Belgian Wit brewed with orange peel, coriander and blood orange puree. The name is a celebration of both Tim and Rick leaving their previous careers earlier this year to become full-time brewery owners.
Tim was kind enough to give us a quick tour of the brewhouse and chat about his passion for the local beer scene. We both had the collaboration beer, and I also enjoyed their Nine Eyes Organic IPA. With 11 of their own beers on tap, including a Lager, Hoppy Wheat, Hoppy Saison, a CDA, and a Gose, there is something for every taste on hand.
The Growler Run
As we began to wind down the evening, we got in a quick dinner while trying a few choice options at The Growler Run, a 32 tap list featuring predominantly Northwest beers, cider, wine, and kombucha.
I enjoyed the Black Hole Sun, a dark cream ale with coconut, from the Portland nano-brewery Pono Brewing. It was cool taking in the intricate chalk art and surveying their Digital Pour tap list, the only one we came across all day. Located in the O.C Point Shopping Center, there’s also great food available next door at Hawaiian Time and across the way at Five Guys Burgers.
12 Bridge Ciderworks and Taproom
We finished up our day with our 8th location, a cool cidery taproom, located just a block away from The Growler Run. Featuring 8 of their own cider taps, 2 guest cider taps, plus 6 guest beers, 12 Bridge Ciderworks offers a veritable cornucopia of options on hand.
While sitting in the taproom, you can easily watch the staff working in the ciderhouse through the chain-link fence that separates the two spaces. We were also lucky enough to catch some live acoustic guitar being performed.
I enjoyed my second cider of the day, the Broadway Cran Pom – a lovely cranberry pomegranate apple cider, fermented with Nouveau-style wine yeast. The other ciders on-hand featured cold-brew coffee, passionfruit, blueberries, maple syrup, mango, and habenero. If you’re a cider fan, you’ve gotta check this place out.
Reflecting upon this wonderful kick-off to the Memorial Day weekend, I was truly blown away by the amazing community that connects Oregon City’s brewers, cideries, and taprooms. For example, while visiting Coin Toss, we ran into folks who work at The HiVe, Bent Shovel and Arch Bridge. They’re all in it together, working hard to not only flourish at their own small business, but to also support those whom they collaborate with regularly.
I can’t thank my guide Melissa enough for introducing me to this amazing scene, as well as all those we met who gave us their time to discuss their passion. I look forward to being back in OC soon, where the craft beer, cider and atmosphere are as magical as the people who create them.