Hood River's craft beer boom

Hood River's craft beer boom

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BY MATT WERBACH

0213 Brewing 01
Above: David Logsdon of Logsdon Farmhouse Ales spent over 20 years studying yeast and fermentation.
// Photo by Joseph Eastburn

In the 25 years since Full Sail Brewing Company crafted its first beers, the quaint mountain town of Hood River has amassed an impressive array of high-quality breweries and brewpubs. Hood River is home to fewer than 8,000 residents, but within the city, five breweries thrive, and just outside the city ,the towns of White Salmon, Wash., and Parkdale each have a sought-after brewery born from Hood River’s brewing tradition. Full Sail’s success laid the groundwork for a large piece of Hood River’s future as a craft-beer-producing mecca.

Last winter, when Darrek Smith became the brewer at Big Horse Brew Pub in downtown Hood River, he also became the first and only of the area’s seven head brewers to come from outside the Full Sail system. Full Sail and Big Horse opened in the same year with far different intentions. Brewing was not in the original plans for Big Horse, which was set up as a restaurant. The Full Sail founders were focused on becoming a major player in the beer world, and that meant converting consumers of fizzy, yellow American beers like Budweiser to craft beers with more robust tastes and a higher price.

Today the vast majority of beer drinkers are still not craft-beer drinkers, even in Oregon, but Full Sail has largely succeeded in its task, even if the battle is ongoing. In its first year of production, Full Sail brewed 287 barrels of beer. “I remember each one,” jokes Irene Firmat, the company’s CEO and founder. Last year,Full Sail brewed 150,000 barrels as it watched former employees prepare to open three new breweries in the area.