Beer

Touring Oregon’s Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail

Vaccinated and mindful of the evolving advice on traveling to places beyond our kitchen, we load up the car and drive from Seattle to Oregon’s Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail, including Corvallis, Albany, Philomath, and other towns.

A leisurely, self-guided meander to farm-to-table restaurants, locally-focused wineries, breweries, and distilleries, and to farmers markets, museums, and other charming spots seems just the ticket for our first easing-out-of-the-pandemic road trip.

So, we say yes to an invite, restock the dop kits, air out a duffel bag, pack way too much for a 3-day trip (our packing skills are so rusty!), and hit the road.

A few of takeaways before we share photos and some details about places that welcomed us so warmly:

  • It did not happen in an instant, but we are delighted at how easy it is to morph from scared, stay-at-home-people to the curious, tell-us-more, lets-do-it travelers from ‘before.’
  • The CDC’s new, relaxed guidelines on masking and social distancing came out just as we got in the car. We heard lots of grumbling and “we’re not sure yet what we’ll do” comments from restaurants and attractions. But each place was trying to be mindful of the safety of their staff and guests.
  • The people out there hosting, making, cooking, serving, offering entertainment, and doing all that it takes to reopen the world to travel are working so very hard and so many businesses are not out of the woods yet. I’m rooting for them all.

(Our trip was hosted, but all comments and opinions, are our own)

Eating, drinking, tasting, touring

We did focus on tasting and touring food-focused places. But we did squeeze in visits to a few museums, including the new Corvallis Museum and, on our way down, the Abbey Museum at the Mount Angel Abbey in Saint Benedict, OR, which is home to one of our favorite items; the World’s Largest Hairball.

We could stretch it a bit and say this is food-related: the hairball was discovered inside a pig at a Portland meatpacking plant many years ago. The meat inspector on duty that day declared the hairball the largest he’d ever seen. It may have lost some heft over the year, but today it weighs in at over 2 pounds.

Our beer, wine, and spirits tasting tour took us to Block 15 Brewery and Tap Room (Corvallis), Sky High Brewing (Corvallis) – be sure to try the Blueberry Rosehips Berliner Weisse – Cardwell Hill Cellars (Philomath), Compton Family Wines (Philomath), and 4 Spirits Distillery (Corvallis).

Cardwell Hill Cellars

Each place has a great story and wonderful products and the staff at each site shared heartwarming stories of how supportive their communities have been during the pandemic and how these venues are welcoming tourists now.

Sky High Brewery – Beer Tasting

Deluxe Dining

Executive Chef Danielle Lewis at Castor

We were wowed by the cocktails, the wine, the dishes, and the dedication of the staff at Castor (Corvallis), which offers locally sourced and locally inspired dishes. Our chef’s choice meal included pea & farro salad, shrimp & grits, and a rhubarb bar – among other dishes.

We were charmed, well-fed, and educated by the staff at Eats and Treats Cafe (Philomath), a gluten-free eatery (but don’t tell anyone) known for its BBQ, hearty breakfasts, and desserts.

And we were honored that Sybaris Bistro in Albany created a special menu for our small crew. This unique and very welcoming Northwest Bistro also leans heavily into local sourcing and we dined on with nettle soup, cracker-crusted halibut cheeks, asparagus ice cream with the freshest new strawberries, and warm rhubarb brown betty.

Owner Lynda McHenry at Eats and Treats CAfe

Jaenel and Matt Bennett of Sybaris Bistro
That nettle soup

Farm visits

Our Mid-Willamette Food Trail tour included stops at two farms.

Lilliputopia is a tiny-but-mighty 4 acre farm in Monroe, OR that uses dry farming to grow fruits and vegetables without irrigation, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers. There’s also a petite-but-packed farm store on site.

Leaping Lamb Farm & Farm Stay, in Alsea, OR, is on land originally homesteaded in 1862 and is now a family farm that welcomes visitors for tours and stays. Owner Scottie Jones answered all our questions (even the stupid, city-people ones) and let us hold these 5-day old lambs!

Scottie Jones at Leaping Lamb Farm

This is just a sampling of the agricultural treasures to visit and the tasty places to stop at on Oregon’s Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail. If you go, you can download a brochure here or get in touch with the helpful folks at Visit Corvallis and the Albany Visitors Association for help in planning your trip.

CVG Airport serving Jet CVG beer

The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is now home to the Christian Moerlein Malt House Taproom at CVG.

Opereted by HMSHost, the more than 1,600 square-foot full-service restaurant and bar is located at Concourse A by gate A15.

A local favorite, the Christian Moerlein Brewing Company opened in 1853 in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. The new Christian Moerlein Malt House Taproom at CVG brings a taste of the brewery’s heritage to the airport with both handcrafted brews and a menu that includes meat and cheese boards, salads, burgers, and other beer-friendly entrées.

Among the Christian Moerlein’s signature craft beers being served in a setting reminiscent of Cincinnati’s celebrated 19th century beer gardens is a special new brew called JET CVG.

Here’s the brewery’s description of the JET CVG beer:

It’s a German-style Schwarzbier beer that “jet” black in color with a light mouth feel and clean lager taste. It pays tribute to Cincinnati’s German brewing legacy featuring Old World Pilsner, Munich, Caramunich II, Carafa III, and Chocolate malts as well as German Hersbrucker hops. Aroma and flavor are a combination of roasted malts, slight coffee, and hints of tobacco. 

Sounds tasty!

Denver Int’l Airport gets an on-site brewery and its own beer

Like beer? Or just a cool place to grab something to eat when you’re stuck at the airport?

There’s now a brew-pub restaurant at Denver International Airport (DEN) with its own on-site brewery.

The new venue is called Tom’s Urban Kitchen and Tivoli Brewery and its located at the Westin Denver International Airport, just off the airport’s outdoor plaza.

The brewery portion of the restaurant is franchised by the Denver-based Tivoli Brewing Company, which has roots reaching back to 1859.  At DEN, Tivoli will brew Jet Indian pale ale as an airport exclusive.

As a nice touch, students from Metropolitan State University of Denver who are pursuing degrees or certificates in brewery and brewpub operations will be working in the airport brewery.

While this is the first restaurant with a brewery at DEN airport, Tom’s Urban Kitchen and Tivoli Brewery is a well-known  brand wih four other locations, including Portland, Los Angeles, Connecticut, and Las Vegas.

“Colorado is a paradise for craft beer lovers, and we wanted this amazing, signature space within the Westin Denver International Airport to reflect the Colorado experience with a brewpub that offers exclusive homegrown beverages and a taste of local Denver fare,” said airport CEO Kim Day.

This DEN-brewed beer and brewery will no doubt be a great addition to the “Beer Flights” beer garden the airport hosts each September out on plaza between the Westin and south entrance to the Jeppesen Terminal. That event coincides with worldwide Oktoberfest celebrations and features some of Colorado’s top micro-breweries and brew masters.

Year-round, there are plenty of other places at DEN airport to grab a craft beer, including New  Belgium Hub, the Boulder Beer House Tap House and in many restaurants and bars, including Root Down.

Have a favorite place to drink beer at Denver International Airport? Let us know.

Celebrate International Beer Day – at the airport

You don’t need a holiday to have a reason to order a beer the airport.

Heading out on a trip is usually reason enough.

But International Beer Day – celebrated each year on the first Friday in August – is underway today, so this would be a great day to check out the beers on tap in airport brewpubs across the United States.

There are  way too many to list,  but a few places to check out include Leinenkugel’s Leinie Pub at Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport, which has self-service taps. Cask & Larder at Orlando International Airport, Flying Dog Tap House at Baltimore/Washington International Airport, Goose Island Bar at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Stone Arch at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and some of the others I list in this column about the history of airport brewpubs I wrote a while back for my ‘At the Airport’ column on USA Today.

There are oodles of others – so please add your faves in the comments section below and I’ll start making a list.

Infographic: Where is America's Craft Beer Capital | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista

Oktoberfest at Frankfurt Airport

It’s Oktoberfest season and a good time to check out pubs and tap rooms in airports.

I’m making a list of some travelers’ favorites – so send in y our suggestions, please.

In the meantime, if you’ve got a layover coming up this month at Frankfurt Airport, you can grab a beer in the airport’s traditional beer tent and be entertained daily by Bavarian brass bands.  There’s evidently even a ‘high striker’ on site where guests can test their strength.

Restaurants and bistros throughout the airport are serving special Bavarian specialties, including white sausage, giant soft pretzels and one-liter mugs of fresh tap beer and there are some Oktoberfest-themed items in the shops, including this Minnie Mouse in a dirndl and Mickey Mouse in leather trousers.