Full Sail Brewery / Whitecap Pub

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From the patio deck of the two-story brewery of Full Sail in Hood River you can sample fresh beers and watch the windsurfers tackle the mighty Columbia River below. The outside area featured nine metal patio tables and chairs while the inside tasting area had a dozen wooden tables and chairs. From the tan 15 foot ceiling imbedded and hanging lights kept the small light wooden bar well-lit. The walls were covered with brewing photos and through the large windows the town and river were clearly visible. Not visible from the tasting room was any sign of the brewery, but a short walk down the hall changes that.

Our tour guide was Darcy, distractingly attractive, she explained how the operation began in 1987 with their JV Northwest system and was the first to bottle and distribute craft beer in the U.S. The large industrial-looking facility was previously used for pressing pears. Outdoors stand the grain silos with Hugh Baird being the preferred specialty grains supplier. The brew length is 250 bbls and three brews feed into each fermenter. Each week sees 12 new batches as the 50 employees complete their tasks in four 10 hour days. The four-day work week is just one of the factors that helped Full Sail earn its rating as one of Oregon's Top 100 employers. This brewing schedule allowed 1995 production of 78,000 BBLs and 1996 to reach an estimated 85,000 BBLs. With a capacity of nearly 250,000 BBLs we can expect even more growth. The bottling line cranks out 350 bottles per minute and 70 kegs per hour can be filled.

The cask-conditioned Ale was a clear gold color with a smooth hop flavor. The Full Sail Golden Ale showed a clear dark straw appearance followed by even flavor balance that tilted toward the hoppy side and overall had a nice creamy mouthfeel. The Full Sail Pilsner, at 4% ABV, was a gold color with a hoppy aroma and crisp hoppy flavor. The Full Sail Amber had a deep amber color with a nice malty flavor mated with a medium body. The Equinox ESB weighed in at 4.5% and the dark gold liquid was very full-bodied with a hop over malt flavor balance. The Full Sail Brown Ale, at 4%, was a light brown color with a chocolaty aroma, creamy head and a flavor combination of both caramel and chocolate. The 5% IPA was gold in color, well-carbonated, with a medium body and hoppy aroma and flavor. The Main Sail Stout, at 3%, gave a creamy head, opaque appearance, light body and pronounced roasted flavor. The Full Sail IPA was a gold color, well-carbonated, and yielded a medium body matched to a hoppy aroma and flavor. The Top Sail Porter was opaque, with a sharp black malt aroma and flavor, medium-bodied, and coffee-like in its finish. The Old Boardhead Barleyhead, at 9%, was smooth and malty with light hops and a sweet finish. The Imperial Porter came in at 9% with a big body, dry chocolaty flavor and very dry finish. The rich Imperial Stout offered a very big body along with a full mouthfeel, high alcohol character, slightly sweet flavor balance and a dry finish. Other brews often available include: WasSail Winter Ale, Full Sail Red Ale, Full Sail Springbock, Mercator Doppelbock, and Full Sail Oktoberfest.

Just a short 65 mile scenic drive east of Portland on Interstate 84, Full Sail Brewery offers tours by appointment, comfortable tasting accompanied by available snacks and sandwiches, and a great view. Tasting room hours are Noon to 5 PM Monday - Wednesday and Noon to 8 PM Thursday - Sunday. A sampler tray of one dozen beers costs just $5 any usually includes one cask-conditioned. The food menu offers Veggie Chilli, Quesadillas, Black & Blue Nachos, Chicken Sausage Sandwiches and Calzones. Prices range from $4 to $6. The business' progressive work practices are matched by their progressive business practices such as 90 day freshness dating bottled products, donating underfills to local charities, and crushing any returned out-of-date product.

Full Sail Brewery / Whitecap Pub
506 Columbia
Hood River, OR
(503)386-2281, (503)386-7316 Fax

Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - July, 1996 & Updated July, 1998

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