TRP visited Full Sail Brewing in October 2010 completely by chance. We were driving west to Portland on I-84 and needed a place to watch our beloved Jayhawks play some basketball. I just happened to look up Hood River, found there was a brewery, called to confirm they had TVs, and sure enough, 20 minutes later we found ourselves at the brewery watching the Jayhawks. Now you have to remember at this point (early on) in our trip, we knew we wanted to stop by breweries when we could, but we weren’t officially on a brewery tour. Looking back a beer geek might think “how did you not know about Full Sail” and yes, I would question the same thing of myself, ashamed that we did not know about it until our fateful visit late October. Thank goodness for fate, it really has turned our trip in the right direction. (ok I digress)
About the brewery: “Founded in 1987, Full Sail was the first commercially successful craft brewery to bottle beer in the Pacific Northwest for retail sale, and one of Oregon’s early microbreweries.”(Wiki) On the tour we also learned that Full Sail has been employee owned since 1999 (the reason for the “47″ on some of their branding, is a nod to the original 47 owners) and they are 100% manual brewery. Meaning, they don’t have computers running any of their brewing process and they switch all the lines (to transfer beer) by hand. This is a very impressive feat when you realize how much beer they are actually distributing. The other cool little fact we learned, they rotate to allow all the brewers to make their own batch, as a part of the Brewmaster Reserve line that they release roughly every 10 weeks. This allows the brewers to experiment and get creative with all kinds of beers whereas larger breweries might not have such a luxury.
About the location: Hood River was a great place in our opinion. Cute little port town on the Columbia River, population just over 6,000, it is the “western gateway” to the Mount Hood Scenic Byway and to a major section of the Historic Columbia River Highway. It is also home to some of the best spots for windsurfing, kitesurfing, kayaking, skiing and mountain biking. From what I am told the brewery had a large influence to putting Hood River on the map and I am sure glad it did!
The beers are excellent, and not just in my opinion, they’ve consistently won numerous awards over the years for many different beers including one of my favorites, the Amber Ale, and more recently their Session Premier Lager and Black Lager. The food was great and really I just can’t say enough good things about this place. It’s only 1 hour east of Portland, so there really should be no excuse to not make a day trip out of it and check this place. AND if you really are pinched for time “there is also a smaller Full Sail brewhouse in Portland, Oregon which serves as their research and development center and is where the small batch Brewmaster Reserve and Brewer’s Share beers are concocted”, which probably warrants a visit no matter what. We missed this the first time around. (Wiki)
Photo credits go to Kory Hauser