The city of McMinnville is about an hours drive from Portland and known mostly for it’s wine, but as the cities 6th brewery opens it’s taproom this week, Mcminnville is making a strong case for a being a new Oregon beer destination. McMinnville was founded in 1856 by William T. Newby and has always been a big farming and agricultural community but was originally known for it’s walnut trees and turkeys until the Columbus Day storm of 1962 wiped them out. Years later Oregon’s wine pioneers cleared the land of dead trees and began planting grapevines. By the 1990’s McMinnville earned the reputation of Oregon’s wine capital of the fertile Willamette Valley for having the most vineyards. Now with six breweries in town McMinnville might want to consider adding some hop fields in amongst the vineyards.
McMinnville’s Alpine Avenue Improvement Project transformed a portion of their NE Alpine Avenue downtown into an urban street conducive to pedestrians and the community and encouraging local street events like fairs and festivals. The redevelopment project was finished in April of 2018 and provides a central pedestrian route through the Northeast Gateway District that discourages vehicle traffic and is great for gatherings.
NE Alpine Avenue runs adjacent to “The Granary District” and connects three of the main breweries of Mcminnville: Heater Allen, Grain Station Brew Works and Allegory Brewing. The oldest brewery of the bunch and one of Oregon’s early brewing veterans Golden Valley Brewery is just a couple blocks off Alpine Ave. on Lafayette making an incredibly short pub crawl between four of the cities top beer destinations. But the beer scene of McMinnville does not stop there, you also have Evasion Brewing making gluten-free ales, The Bitter Monk taproom and bottleshop and McMenamins Hotel Oregon.
David Sanguinetti is the owner of The Bitter Monk and founder of Allegory Brewing and a long-time advocate for the craft beer scene in McMinnville. By producing such events as the annual ORtoberfest to being a constant promoter of local breweries like Heater Allen, Sanguinetti along with local forefathers of craft brewing Rick Allen and Peter Kircher have built something special here.
Golden Valley Brewing
Golden Valley is forefather of the McMinnville brewing community and is an Oregon classic with 25 years in business. Golden Valley considers their business a continuation of history, the first brewery in McMinnville since Ahrens Brewing Company in 1878. Golden Valley’s original and longtime brewmaster was Mark Vickery who brewed with John Harris in the early days of Deschutes. Today, Glen Hay Falconer scholarship winner and 20-year brewing veteran Jesse Shue heads up brewing operations with experience at Silver City Brewing, Hair of the Dog and Pelican. Shue has really dialed in the lineup at Golden Valley to showcase classic ales and new modern favorites, all done very well. Golden Valley’s flagship Red Thistle Ale is a bit of a throwback and one of the only ESB’s brewed year-round in the Pacific Northwest. I am a big fan of their work with newer beers like their clean, crisp, floral, citrusy and bright Chehalem Mountain IPA and smooth Red Hills Pilsner. Not to be limited to clean and classic beers, Shue has a growing sour/wild barrel-aged program with some killer fruited mixed fermentation beers like the recent release of Frambtastic Pour in bottles.
Golden Valley Brewing now has two locations with their flagship pub and brewery in McMinnville and a Beaverton satellite pub and restaurant that was opened in 2012. Both Golden Valley’s are dimly lit, full of polished wood and a classic old world pub feel that I love. The McMinnville restaurant and pub is still the best, dripped with history and an impressive massive old bar like they don’t make anymore. Golden Valley owner Peter Kircher also has a family farm called Angus Ranch. The ranch is 76 acres of farmland where the cattle are free to roam in an uncrowded pasteur, grazing and munching on spent grain from the brewery that contains twice the protein and fiber of normal feed. The ground beef and steaks from Kircher’s cattle make it onto the elevated hearty classic American pub menu offered at both Golden Valley locations. 4308, 980 NE 4th St, McMinnville, OR 97128
Heater Allen Brewing
Former investment banker and homebrewer Rick Allen started Heater Allen Brewing in 2007 as a nano-sized operation nestled in-between wineries offering a cold beer to wine tourists amidst their tasting flights. Allen spent some time winemaking before deciding the beer industry was the place to be. Allen is nothing if not a classical perfectionist, devoted to recipe development and classic German-style beers that eschew the hop loving pacific northwest. I would argue that Heater Allen’s Pilsner would please most hop heads though, light and crisp yet full bodied with a big hoppy finish and plenty of bitterness, it’s a German-style lager for hop lovers. Since starting off as a nano sized 20 gallon brewery and then scaling up to a 6 barrel brewhouse in 2008, Heater Allen made it’s 2nd upgrade to the respectable 15 barrel brewhouse they now brew on in late 2013. Heater Allen also completed a recent remodel of their tasting room just this year which makes their bare bones tasting room a little more pleasant with a fairly secluded back deck/beer garden for enjoying that authentic Bobtoberfest lager every Autumn. The regular lineup is that great Pils, accompanied by a tasty dark but light bodied Schwarz and classic Dunkel. However there are always a handful of seasonals like Bobtoberfest available and the most they have strayed from traditional German-style beers is to dry-hop their Pilsner with Galaxy hops. All of their organic growth has lead Heater Allen to expanded their offerings from the occasional dip into Portland to regular distribution all the way up into Seattle with both draft and bottles. Most of the brewing duties have been passed down to Rick Allen’s daughter – Lisa Allen who is now a veteran brewer in her own right who has been brewing since 2009 and the head brewer since 2017. 907 NE 10th Ave, McMinnville, OR 97128
Grain Station Brew Works
Founded in 2013 by former Deschutes brewer and Golden Valley brewmaster Mark Vickery and local businessman Kelly McDonald, Grain Station Brew Works is the anchor tenant in the Granary District development. This area just off the main downtown corridor and Alpine Ave. was established as a major site for local farmers to store and purchase grain and feed but has since turned into a mixed use redevelopment project with wineries, a spa, restaurant and commissary and many other local businesses including Grain Station Brew Works. Sadly a few years after getting off the ground Mark Vickery departed and in 2016 McDonald sold the brewery to Jeff and Kelly Glodt who also own Robert’s Crossing Restaurant in Salem, OR. Luckily the new stewards of the brewery have taken over with loving hands and Joe D’Aboy who was their assistant brewer became the head brewer and pioneered a new barrel-aging program. The new owners quickly opened a second location of Grain Station in Monmouth, Oregon and primarily just brew beer to supply the two pubs. Grain Station has had renewed beer interest from beer geeks statewide after their Pitchfork Pilsner won a gold medal at the 2018 Oregon Beer Awards in February. On my recent visit to Grain Station I found a very solid to great lineup of beers and in addition to the awesome pilsner they have some great saisons and experiments in gin barrel-aging. I tried a fantastic Saison called Oak Zymology that was actually fermented in gin barrel and conditioned sparkling wine yeast. The brewery has another saison on the way, this one with 15lbs of spent gin botanicals from Ransom Spirits. If you are not that adventurous you will find golden ale, hefeweizen, IPA and stout on the menu. The location is also killer with a pizza pub, next door to a coffee shop, wineries and a homebrew supply store. 4130, 755 NE Alpine Ave #200, McMinnville, OR 97128
McMinnville’s newest brewery and one of my personal favorite breweries to open within the last few years is Allegory Brewing. Founded by The Bitter Monk taproom’s owner David Sanguinetti and founding brewer Charlie VanMeter, these guys got off the ground running with a wide assortment of interesting styles. Located in a former meat/charcuterie production space just off of the main strip in town, Allegory Brewing has a tasting room and huge enclosed lot they use as a beer garden and event space with regular local food carts. VanMeter cut his teeth with more classical styles at Sasquatch Brewing in Portland, then learned farmhouse brewing and wild ales at Logsdon Farmhouse Ales before helping start up the brewery at Yachats and creating some amazing foraged ingredient beers. Van Meter brings all of his former influences together at Allegory Brewing with a dizzying array of styles that jumps around from rotating sours with fruits like blueberry to trendy Brut IPA and Hazy IPA to classic Keller Pils and coffee Stouts. VanMeter and company always seem to be tapping into local talent and calling on their buds for collaborations from just across the road ones with Heater Allen to Portland’s newest in Ruse Brewing. Allegory Brewing for now is mostly available at their taproom with distribution to better beer bars around Portland but if you get a chance it’s worth the trip to their beer garden. Thursday, Friday, Saturday after 3pm features local pop-up Pizza Capo (alums of Portland’s Oven & Shaker) making some of the finest wood fired Napoletana-style pies anywhere. Settle in with a flight of Allegory beers and a Spicy Salami pie and side of Giardiniera. 777 NE 4th St, McMinnville, OR 97128