Monday, July 27, 2009

Day Three: Olympia to Hood River

Soon after waking up in the morning, we drive down towards the state capital in search of breakfast.

"I didn't know Olympia was the capital of Seattle," Vlad observes. For some reason Vlad has a mental block that prevents him from remembering the actual name of the state we are in.

We arrive at a breakfast place, only to find that it is closed on Mondays, so we walk a couple blocks to try another place. And fail again; also closed on Monday. For a bustling capital, Olympia seems rather lackadaisical. Or maybe it's just lazy because it is the capital.

Eventually we settle for a sandwich shop rather than a proper breakfast, and head to our first stop of the day, Fish Tale Brew Pub.

Here we discover the reason why nothing else is open; Everyone in Olympia appears to be at Fish Tale. Despite the fact that it is barely 11 in the morning there is a steady crowd.

"Hello, boys," the middle-aged women sitting at the bar greet us hungrily as we enter.

"Err ... hello," I say suspiciously. I am not a piece of meat.

Fish Tale has a nice lounge with games and comfy couches, so we plop down and make ourselves comfortable. We tell our server about our trip and he is ecstatic; everywhere we go people seem to be ecstatic for us. I guess there is something about the idea of semi-professional drinkers that appeals to the people serving them.

We get a round of tasters, and what a round it us. Fish Tale specializes in certified organic beer brewing, which may seem a bit trendy in our green-obsessed marketplace, but the results are indisputably good. The Mudshark Porter is smooth and easy to drink, the Eightmile Alt is refreshing and the Amber Ale is spicy with just the right amount of sweetness to it. They also have three great ciders on tap, my favorite being the Dark & Dry.

We are so entranced we go through three pitchers, and another round of pints besides, although I have to stop after the tasters as today is my day to drive. When we are finally ready to leave the server tells us that the last round is on the house in honor of our trip. We are moved close to tears ... good beer and good people.

We hope back in the car and continue south, stopping off in the middle of Washington state in the aptly named Centralia. Our destination here is Dick's Brewing Company, but when we arrive at the brewery they sadly inform us their tasting room is not open today. But never fear, their beers are also available on tap at their retail location, Northwest Sausage and Deli, which is four minutes away.

We sit down to another round of tasters, and order three more pitchers of our favorites: Dick's Danger Ale is their most popular beer, and is a darker ale with a lot of toasty flavor. The Working Man's Brown is one shade darker than the Danger, and the Silk Lady is a light, Belgian-style golden ale with a hints of fruit and spice that remind me of a hefeweizen. The Northwest Sausage and Deli has a nice secluded little patio in the back, but the restaurant is totally dead except for us and I wish the brewery had been open today.

We're six pitchers deep so far this day, and as the sole sober person I am a little worried about my traveling companions. Case in point: when we return to the car, Vlad realizes he forgot to buy any sausage, so he runs back into the deli. After several minutes of trying to herd four loud and uncoordinated passengers into the rental car, I realize Vlad still hasn't returned. I look in the rear-view mirror and see him 30 feet directly behind us ... trying to hitch a ride on the street.

We find this act mildly amusing, but when drive over to pick him up he chides us "Hah, hah, guys, very funny. Pretend to leave me in the middle of nowhere."

We are a little confused by the act now. "Vlad, we just drove over here to pick you up. You've been standing here for like five minutes."

"No," he says, falling back in his seat with a sigh, "I know you guys wouldn't actually leave me, but you drove around the corner, or whatever. I looked for you everywhere."

Now we are bewildered. There is only one other car in the parking lot besides ours. "Vlad, the car didn't move an inch - we were waiting for you in the exact same spot we parked."

"Fine, have your little joke," he says dismissively, and promptly falls asleep.

An hour and a half later and we are exiting the state of Washington (or the state of Seattle, depending on who you ask) and hook east to follow the Hood River to the town of Hood River, home of Full Sail Brewing Company, one of the big names in the Oregon brewery industry.

At Full Sail I meet up with my sister Cristen and her boyfriend Charlie, who are visiting from their home in Newport, four hours west on the Oregon coast. Since they live in the home of Rogue Ales, they are jaded in regards to having easy access to great beer and let us do most of the tasting at Full Sail.

You can find Full Sail beers pretty much anywhere, but some of their specialty beers that are harder to find outside of the brewery are almost better: the Session Lager in particular is very good, and comes in a short little bottle as a nod to its Prohibition-era inspiration. I swear they also had a stout served on nitrogen that I liked, but I can't find mention of it anywhere on the web.

After we finish up at Full Sail we follow Cristen and Charlie up the hills to Parkdale, a little town with a great view of Mt. Hood. The place they have rented for the weekend is an insanely cool farmhouse that has been renovated as a vacation rental. The main building is a traditional farmhouse that has been lovingly remodeled, but the property also features a tiny cabin that dips below ground to unexpectedly become rather spacious, a wooden tower called the pool house, and even a real-life treehouse, complete with a proper bed and bathroom.

There is a hot tub with a list of rules posted on it. The original sign read "No Food or Drink in Hot Tub," but someone has also handwritten in the warning: "And no screwing! You will lose your deposit!"

“But you will receive another type of deposit,” I crack. The reviews on the tastefulness of this joke are mixed.

We spend the rest of the night sipping Oregon beer and wine by the fire with Charlie's dog Blue, before heading to sleep.