Bike-to-Brew Guide

Pedaling to pints of craft beer in a state with experience in both

By Bob Woodward

Mountain biking in Sisters. /
Photo by Bob Woodward
Mountain biking in Sisters. / Photo by Bob Woodward
Mountain bikers on the trail to beer pub paradise in Central Oregon.
Mountain bikers on the trail to beer pub paradise in Central Oregon.

Without question, Oregon has earned a worldwide reputation for its craft brewing industry and craft beers. What started with a few Portland area brewers has spread to include more than one hundred microbreweries in a state many now lovingly call “Beervana.” Integral to Beervana are its many public houses, where ales and lagers find good company with comfort food.

As craft brews and public houses have become synonymous with the Oregon experience, so too the state has earned a reputation as a road and mountain biking destination. The symbiosis of the two endeavors is virtually inseparable. Which came first, the bike or the brew?

Variety pervades both—from IPAs to stouts and porters, ales and lagers to riding challenging mountain routes to coastal byways and roads that plunge deep into evergreen forests.

Astride a mountain bike, there are thousands of miles of singletrack trails to ride year-round in topography that varies from steep mountains to the wide open expanses of high desert country and everything in between.

There are also cycling events and competitions to consider. Oregon is the epicenter of American cyclocross racing, the home to two of America’s best known mountain multimile bike trail systems (Bend and Oakridge), the scene of an outstanding week-long mass participation road bike tour of the state (Cycle Oregon), and the oldest ongoing multiday stage road race in the country—the Cascade Cycling Classic.

The prospect of a great beer and food at the end of the road makes for a perfect ride. Here are 1859 staff-tested ride-quaff combinations that will make time spent in the saddle most rewarding. Go to our Facebook page and tell us your own favorite bike/beer combinations.

The Gorge

Radical Post Canyon Rides Require Double Mountain Reflection

The Ride

Known worldwide as an epicenter for windsurfing and kiteboarding, Hood River is also home to some of the most challenging mountain bike riding in Oregon. West and a shade south of downtown Hood River, Post Canyon is best known for its challenging (often scary) freeride trails with road gap jumps, wicked steep downhills and stunts (man-made jumps and teeter-totters). This is a trail system that demands good bike handling skills.

Less Resistance

Cross over to the Washington side of the Columbia River and ride the old railroad grade trail that parallels the Klickitat River near the town of Lyle. Any length of ride out and back. The Klickitat Rail Trail extends 31 miles from Lyle to Warwick.

Local Beta

Don’t ride Post Canyon after heavy rains, when the dirt turns to sticky glop.

Wild Card

Have dinner, or catch a murder mystery play on board the Mt. Hood Railroad as the train heads to nearby Parkdale and Odell, where you can also buy fresh fruit from local orchards.

The Pub

Double Mountain Brewery and Taproom (doublemountainbrewery.com) is a classic old school, unpretentious pub that could have been plucked from Ireland or Scotland and set in the heart of downtown Hood River. The place hums with activity and mixes artists, cyclists, windsurfers and local business types. Worth a pint or two. Food at Double Mountain is hearty in keeping with the pub’s atmosphere. The brewery’s beers cover a wide spectrum from a light, tasty Kolsch to the hops-laden Hop Lava, the Vaporizer dry-hopped pale ale and a smooth India Red Ale.

Portland

Portlandia - Hopworks Urban Brewery

The Ride

Take a bike, any bike, be it a mountain, road, commuter, unicycle, fold-up, tandem and ride it around the town that’s been called the most bicycle friendly town in America. Ride through neighborhoods in search of a hip coffee shop, bistro or bar. Peddle up the dirt road leading into Forest Park or paved Skyline Boulevard that borders the Park. Cross one of Portland’s bridges and come back across another, ride around Mt. Tabor and Rocky Butte, tour Blue Lake State Park on the city’s eastside, find a less-traveled route and cruise out to and then around Sauvie Island to the northwest.

Less Stressful

Ride the easy one-and-a-half mile paved waterfront Vera Katz Esplanade on the east side of the Columbia River between the Hawthorne and Steel bridges, or through Tom McCall Waterfront Park on the west side of the river.

Local Beta

You do not—repeat, do not—have to wear fancy lycra cycling apparel here. It’s a come-as-you-are cycling scene from vintage to urban
hipster and everything in between.

Wild Card

Indulge in some culture with a visit to the Portland Art Museum, known for its outstanding permanent and traveling exhibitions, such as the sleek AutoMagic photos of Ray K. Metzker.

The Pub

What’s more Portland than drinking an organic beer made from fresh humanely euthanized hops and barley? Nothing. Hopworks Urban Brewery (hopworksbeer.com) is famous not only for the ten organic brews it serves (among them HUB lager, Velvet ESB and Deluxe Organic Ale), but also for its sustainable food offerings. Mix in a comfortable atmosphere and you’ve got the right place to end an urban cycling adventure.

Bend

Golden Triangle Leads to 10 Barrel

The Ride

Bend’s reputation as bike riding paradise is justly deserved what with all sorts of road riding opportunities, cyclocross competitions, thousands of local cruiser bike riders and more than 200 miles of mountain bike trails kept in tip-top shape by the Central Oregon Trail Alliance (COTA) volunteer organization. The mountain bike riding is spread out around Bend, but the most popular riding area is the “Golden Triangle.” Bounded by Century Drive on the way to Mt. Bachelor on the south and Skyliners Road to the north and close to Bend’s west side. Variety is what Golden Triangle riding is all about.

Less Resistance

Ride the trail that starts near the roundabout on Mt. Washington Drive and runs parallel to Skyliners Road out
to Phil’s Trailhead, up Kent’s and back down Phil’s and back (six miles).

Local Beta

Avoid the overly crowded Phil’s Trailhead on weekends and start your rides from trailheads on Century Drive.

Wild Card

Spend time at the High Desert Museum south of Bend to get a clear idea of Central Oregon’s natural history.

The Pub

With great beer, good food and a pleasant mix of indoor and outdoor ambiance, 10 Barrel (10barrel.com) has been SRO from day one. Roll-up garage doors that bring in the outdoors on warm days and an evening firepit make this place welcoming to cyclists. When it comes to beers, 10 Barrel’s Sinistor Black Ale and Apocolypse IPA have become local standards.

Sisters

Pedaling Peterson to Three Creeks

The Ride

The good thing about the Peterson Ridge mountain bike trail system is that it starts just a few blocks from downtown Sisters. The better thing is the trail system’s variety. But the best thing is the trail’s proximity to the Three Creeks Brewing Company. The Peterson Ridge trail system offers something for everyone from flat, easy rolling trails, to slightly more technical routes to trails that will keep expert riders focused and gripped. There’s a long outer loop trail and several inner loops that can be combined in whole or parts to make up exciting routes.

Less Resistance

From the main trailhead off Elm Street follow the odd numbered trails up to 17 then go left and follow the even numbers down from 18 to form a five-mile loop.

Local Beta

As Peterson’s lower trails get soft in the summer, the upper trails stay firm and less dusty.

Wild Card

Bring a rod and fly-fish the crystal clear, trout-rich waters of the Metolius River.

The Pub

Opened in July 2008 in a building designed to look like an old-fashioned livery stable, Three Creeks (threecreeksbrewing.com) offers a pub and family restaurant area as well as an outside deck. Topping the list of most popular craft brews brewed on site are the Knotty Blonde pilsner and the Hoodoo Voodoo IPA. The Fivepine Chocolate Porter is new and turning many heads. If you’re lucky, Three Creeks just might have on tap some of its delicious (soft, creamy and with a hint of coffee) St. Patio’s Irish Stout.

Eugene

Coyote Creek Loop to Steelhead

The Ride

Long before Oregon became known as the cycling friendly state, Eugene was well known among cycling’s cognoscenti for turning out top level bike racers and entrepreneurs creating bike frames and bike products. Today a dedicated roadie can fuel up on an espresso and head out in any direction from town for a ride that takes them quickly from an urban environment to a bucolic countryside and back. A popular 40-miler starts at Acorn Park, heads south via the Lorane Highway and Spencer Creek road to the town of Crow. From Crow, it’s back to the starting point via Greenhill, Fern Ridge and city streets to the starting point.

Less Resistance

The Ruth Bascom Riverbank Trail bike paths on the east and west sides of the Willamette River in town make for easy, scenic riding. Rides of two miles to 12 miles.

Local Beta

Even though Eugene is noted as a bike-friendly city, be observant of the rules of the road to avoid conflicts with motorists.

Wild Card

Take in the Saturday Market with its wonderful mix of tiedye apparel, fresh produce, music and street theater.

The Pub

Located near the popular 5th Street Market, Steelhead Brewery (steelheadbrewery.com) is a spacious establishment with a casual environment. There are plenty of high-backed padded armchairs to plop into after some long mileage in the saddle. If you like beers with character, try the Hairy Weasel Hefeweizen, the Barracuda Blonde (a cream ale), or the Raging Rhino red Scottish ale.

Eastern Oregon

Above Hell's Canyon and a Tumble to Terminal Gravity

The Ride

Big vistas make riding the eighteen-mile out-and-back Windy Ridge Trail along the spine of Hells Canyon a must. The peaks of the Seven Devils are clearly visible and, at points along the trail, riders can see all the way down to the Snake River. At the trail turnaround, there are also excellent views down into the Imnaha River Canyon.

Less Resistance

Try the aptly named, and easy, Tenderfoot Wagon Trail, ten miles.

Local Beta

Cellphone service might be spotty as you get deep into the backcountry, so don’t count on your phone as being your lifeline.

Wild Card

Spend the day relaxing at Wallowa Lake outside of Joseph, one of Oregon’s true natural gems.

The Pub

Post ride, the Terminal Gravity Brewing Company (terminalgravitybrewing.com) in Enterprise has the most tranquil setting of any brewpub or brewery in Oregon. A stream flows through the property where patrons relax at tables in an aspen grove. The pub food menu is a tasty step up from typical pub-grub items. Brewed treats are the IPA, ESG (Extra Special Golden), Bar X Stout, the chocolate-and-coffee-infused Breakfast Porter.

Southern Oregon

Pedaling Theater Country with a Caldera Brewing Company Intermission

The Ride

When it comes to riding the road, Ashland is an incredible base for rides to the west, south and east of town. Rides are as relaxed or grinding as you want with numerous out-and-back and loop routes. Among the local classics are the steep climb of the Dead Indian Grade east of town and then on to the Lake of the Woods and back. Another idea is to head south towards Emigrant Lake or take the Ashland Loop Road to the Mt. Ashland ski area. Another route heads north from town and then east to historic Jacksonville and on to the scenic Applegate River Valley with several return options.

Less Resistance

Try the paved bike path that runs between Ashland and Talent to the north. Twelve miles round-trip.

Local Beta

Leave early in the morning to beat the heat if you’re planning Dead Indian Grade ride. Soak your feet in the cool Ashland Creek in town
after your ride.

Wild Card

Head over to historic Jacksonville for an evening of music at the Britt Festival outdoor amphitheater.

The Pub

The Caldera Brewing Company’s (calderabrewing.com) taproom sits on the banks of Lithia Creek smack dab in the middle of downtown Ashland. Walk a few blocks and attend a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The pub offers a cool respite on a hot day with either a Lawnmower Lager, Ginger Beer, Hopportunity Knocks IPA or Oatmeal Stout in hand.

Willamette Valley

Mountain Bike Mecca Where All Trails Lead to Brewers Union Local 180

The Ride

Not too many years ago Oakridge was a dying timber town in search of a new identity for an economic boost. Enter a few intrepid mountain bike enthusiasts who have slowly turned the area into what could easily be the West Coast’s mountain bike mecca. Riders come here to make long, multihour rides like the twenty-mile Alpine Trail that happily ends with three miles of downhill. Other routes starting from Timpanogas Lake southeast of Oakridge include making five- to twenty- five mile high-country loops or the riding down Middle Fork of the Willamette River for thirty-five miles back to Oakridge.

Less Resistance

Try the short “fitness” side of the Salmon Creek Trail on a five-mile out-and-back ride close to town.

Local Beta

Bring a map as there are 4,300 miles of dirt road and 500 miles of trail in the area.

Wild Card

Drive to Westfir and then along the North Fork of the Willamette River for some great swimming-hole options.

The Pub

Head to the Brewers Union Local 180 (brewersunion.com) in the old part of town. The atmosphere is that of a cozy British pub. There are no TV sets, only darts and pool for diversion. And keeping with the Brit tradition, all beers are served at room temperature. Worth sampling are the Au Naturel session bitter, the Quid Hoc Sibi Vult ESB, the Union Dew IPA and the wonderfully named Frost On The Pumpkin 8-grain Stout.

Elkhorn Loop

The Elkhorn Loop and Barley Brown's

The Ride

It would be hard to name a more dramatic, scenic Oregon road ride than the loop that takes cyclists north from Baker City through the towns of Haines and North Powder before turning west to make the long climb up to the high alpine country surrounding Anthony Lakes. From the lakes, the route rolls along south with the Elkhorn Ridge towering off to the east. After connecting with Highway 7, it’s an easy ride back into Baker City and Barley Brown’s Brew Pub.

Less Resistance

Ride out and back on Highway 203 from Baker City to Medical Springs (the site of an old health spa). Fifty miles.

Local Beta

Ride early or ride late to avoid the summer heat of Eastern Oregon.

Wild Card

For a glimpse into Baker City’s past including its mining, timber, agriculture and Chinese history, visit the Baker Heritage Museum.

The Pub

Located in the heart of a town in a former bakery, Barley Brown’s (barleybrowns.com) is the place for good post-ride grub and popular brews. Barley Brown’s continues to win awards for their brews. Among their 2010 medal winners were their Hot Blonde chili beer, Disorder Stout, WFO IPA and the simply named Turmoil, a balanced India black ale.

Oregon Coast

Coastal Cruising with a Rogue

The Ride

Considered by many Northwest cyclists as a two-wheeled rite of passage is riding the 337 miles from Astoria to Brookings along the Oregon coastline. This is a ride for those who love big vistas and cooling ocean breezes. A welcome break in any multiday ride down the coast is a stop in Newport.

Less Resistance

Out of Newport, ride east on Highway 20 through the Siuslaw National Forest to Toledo or Eddyville and back, fourteen and forty miles.

Local Beta

Riding the coast north to south takes advantage of prevailing winds that give you a subtle assist.

Wild Card

Pay a visit to the historic Yaquina Head Lighthouse and its interpretive center.

The Pub

Just across the Yaquina Bay Bridge from downtown Newport, the Rogue Brewery and Pub (rogue.com) is famous for its dreadfully-named Dead Guy Ale, Brutal IPA, Daddy’s Little Helper and Russian Imperial Stout. Plus, there's always the smell of salty ocean air and calming view from the pub.

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