Yamhill County may be best known for its wines, but beer lovers will find plenty to rave about here. In keeping with the rich agricultural tradition that draws so many people to the region, we set out to find breweries and brewpubs that utilize local ingredients and/or serve them in a farmhouse setting. Here are the three outstanding businesses we discovered.
Peter Kircher with Golden Valley Brewery says the inspiration for his farm-to-table restaurant and brewery date back to experiences in Europe over 30 years ago.
“I had classical French training [as a chef], and in the kitchens I worked at we were always bringing stuff in from local farms,” he says. “When I traveled in Europe back in the 1970s, the food was so different because everything was sourced locally.”
When he decided to open a brewery and restaurant in McMinnville many years later, “we started with a vision of sourcing locally and growing as much as we could on the farm.”
Golden Valley was one of the early entries into Oregon’s microbrewing scene. They were the 12th brewery to open post-1980, when the craft beer movement was just beginning to take off. Since that time they’ve been creating IPAs, porters, stouts, kolsches, wheat beers and more. Brewer Jesse Shue uses healthy doses of local hops to create many of their award-winning beers.
Both the McMinnville and Beaverton locations are open daily for a beer tasting or a meal. Golden Valley has full lunch and dinner menus that utilize plenty of local food. The company has its own gardens that supplied the kitchens with around 5,000 pounds of produce last year.
In 2002 Golden Valley started its own cattle ranch. Cows graze on pastures and munch spent grain from the brewery. “That’s part of a sustainable circle that fits nicely with the whole program,” Kircher says. “It’s a true farm-to-table experience, even though our prices aren’t what you’d normally expect from a farm-to-table restaurant. We believe in providing real food at a good value for the guest.”
The “farmhouse” in Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery refers to the style of beers brewed by founder Christian DeBenedetti. But visitors who come to quaff saisons, cezannes and other ales do so in another farm structure: a barn that’s been on this Newberg farm since 1912.
Before opening the brewery in July 2016, DeBenedetti traveled the world studying traditional brewing technique. After spending several years working as a beer and travel writer (his book, The Great American Ale Trail, was also released earlier this year), he decided to put his knowledge of brewing into practice.
He knew he wanted to create the farmhouse-style ales he’d come to love in Europe. And there was no better place to do it than his parent’s barn.
The two-story, timber-framed structure will play a small role in his desire to use traditional brewing techniques. In the winter he plans to open the big double doors in the hay loft and allow wild yeasts to do the work of fermenting the beer.
“There are only ten to fifteen breweries in the world that make beer this way,” he says. “It’s a tricky and risky way to make beer because you never know what’s coming in on the breezes.”
Yeast isn’t the only local ingredient DeBenedetti sources. “Farmhouse traditions tend to mean a brewer uses whatever they have at their disposal,” he says. “They use their own well water and fruit from the farm.” Water is, in fact, sourced from an onsite well, as are fruits such as apples, pears and apricots.
The result is what DeBenedetti describes as “rustic, wheaty beers that tend to be grassy and sometimes herbal. They’re refreshing and great with food.” Currently a food cart called The Wild Hunt, which serves Scandinavian-style cuisine, provides meals to weekend diners. Visitors are also allowed to bring picnics. They’re best enjoyed in the summer, when it’s possible to sit at an outdoor table and enjoy the view of the nearby mountains.
A bold-lettered statement on the website for Grain Station Brew Works in McMinnville makes their mission quite clear: “We craft our beer in the spirit of our neighboring farmers, ranchers and vintners who get their hands dirty every day. Our passion is brewing, and we are committed to creating quality, down to earth, indy craft brews in the tradition of working the land to give back to the place we call home.”
Among the ways Grain Station pays homage to the region’s agricultural tradition is their location. The brewery is housed in a barn that once stored grass seed and other grains before they were loaded onto train cars in McMinneville. People who come seeking liquid refreshments are surrounded by warm-hued wood beams, big barn windows that let in plenty of light, and rustic décor elements.
The beers will seem familiar to farmers from the U.S. and abroad. “Our mainstay is American ales, but a lot of American ales have British influences, historically speaking,” says brewer Joseph D’Aboy. His goal is to brew “traditional styles done in a new American fashion.”
Grain Station produces a fresh hop beer from just-picked local cones every year. But D’Aboy also tries to use ingredients that stay true to the style of whatever beer he’s crafting. He uses German grains and German yeasts (acquired from a lab in Hood River) for German beers, for example. The resulting IPAs, pilsners, reds, wheat beers, saisons and other beers are perfect for quenching you thirst after a long day in the fields (or playing tourist).
Visitors can grab a bite to eat in addition to a beer. Grain Station serves salads, burgers, sandwiches, and pizza with house-made marinara. The owners source much of the food from the nearby farmers and ranchers they salute with their beer.