Sometimes it is amazing to thing of how vast Oregon is. In land area, the Beaver State is the ninth largest in the country, stretching 295 miles north to south, and 395 miles east to west. In all, Oregon covers more than 98,000 square miles of diverse landscape. For the beer traveler, journeying from places like Beer Valley in Ontario to Standing Stone in Ashland is impossible in a twenty-four hour period.
Today we visited Oregon’s southernmost microbrew destination. Wild River Pizza in Brookings, Oregon resides a hair north of the California border along the scenic coast. Driving south from Gold Beach to Brookings, the rough terrain of the Siskyou mountains settles into a misty, magestic coast dispersed with countless breathtaking monoliths. Wild River Pizza of Brookings is one of the company’s five locations, all in Southeastern corner of the state. Two breweries reside in Grants Pass and Cave Junction. Along with the Brookings location, ale houses can be found in Medford and another location in Grants Pass.
Upon entering a lively pizzaria, we encountered barkeep Randy, a friendly and helpful lad with a self proclaimed like for “microbeers.” He graciously let us taste the six Wild River offerings available on tap. Above him hung banners indicating past wins at the Great American Beer Festival. After a few tastes, it was easy to understand the success of Wild River. We sampled the Honey Wheat – a soft, clean, mildly sweet and sessionable beer; the Oktoberfest – a shiny clear orange-copper (mildly amber) bodied brew with no head and a big Munich malt profile. This beer had a prominent sticky caramel and candy presence with a creamy, full-bodied appeal. Further, we experienced the Double Eagle Imperial Stout – a deep rich, nutty, chocolaty stout with an assertive hops profile. A thick tan head and a chewy raisin, toasty finish made this my first choice for a full pint. To my delight, 16 ounce pints at Wild River were just $3.75! A Bohemian Pils lager poured a copper shining body with a fluffy white head. An amiable selection to rival the often favored Budweiser of this area, the Pils was a 1996 medal winner at GABF. Next, the IPA was excellent as well. A light golden West Coast hue with a creamy white head unlocked an amazing hoppy-malty balance. Big floral waves of well-built flavor made this beer a pizza-worthy presence. Lastly, the Snug Harbor Old Ale, a 1993 GABF winner, was one heck of a strong ale. WIth a bold chestnut-copper color and a soft off-white head, the fruity sweet malt notes of this beer was mouthwatering. A hearty, robust, yet not overly sweet flavor finished with a well-balanced and welcomed hops twang.
After enjoying our beers and pizza and chatting it up with Randy for a bit, we met couple Becky and Darrel Miller, the owners of the establishment. They were quite hospitible and talked at lengths about Wild River and the beers. Becky said her father-in-law had been in poor health and this was a reason why WIld River had not entered brews into the Great American Beer Fest for a few years. It’s a shame because I’d gander they’d win themselves a few more medals. Main brewer Scott Butts currently does a majority of the brewing in Grants Pass, and what a job he does.
Wild River boasts being one of the best family fun places since opening in 1975. Founded by Darrel’s parents Jerry and Bertha Miller, the original Cave Junction pizzaria was called Shady Oaks Pizza. In 1990, brewing began under the name Steelhead Brewing Company. But do to another Steelhead, they changed the name in 1994 to Wild River. Featuring a diverse crowd of people of all ages, the Brookings pizzaria includes video games, pool tables, huge dining areas, and flat screen tvs. It was a great place for us to unwind on our travels, enjoy good pizza and great beer while getting to meet some friendly folks. If you’re ever in the area, Wild River is a great stop for any beer enthusiast upon leaving or entering Oregon at its southeastern end. You can even pick up bottles of their tasty brews to go.
Angelo grew up in Maine and is proud to call New England his original home. Cascadia is now his home. He fell in love with great beer in Oregon, Washington, and Northern California.
He has been a correspondent for the Portland Tribune's Guest on Tap column, LivePDX.com, and has been featured in publications such as Beer Northwest and PDX Magazine. Angelo also has a great interest in independent music, and has been a booker and organizer for shows around the Portland under the name Pop Tomorrow! Angelo garnered much knowledge regarding beer from his experiences homebrewing, working at Belmont Station, Pyramid Brewing, Upright Brewing, By the Bottle, Beer Revolution, Olde Depot Public House, Falling Sky Brewing, Cascade Brewing, and from many many knowledgeable, passionate, and loving people along the way. It is Angelo's mission to bring "infotainment" and "edumation" to the readers of this website. If you have any questions or comments, or would like to contribute, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org