This week’s brewing adventure took me to a new town in Oregon: McMinnville. Located a little southwest of Portland, they have a small but impressive brewing scene, and my first stop was at Heater Allen Brewing. A self-styled artisan microbrewery, they specialize in German influenced beers and provide a nice counter point to the commercialized version of that style that comes out of the corporate world. So grab a beer and enjoy the first of several reviews from one of my new favorite Oregon beer towns.
- Beer – I have a self-admitted dislike of lager style beers, so I was worried I wouldn’t be able to be objective in my assessment of their crafting. With that in mind, I have to give praise where praise is due: their beers are incredibly well done. Balanced, nuanced, smooth drinking, they speak to the effort that has gone in to years of perfecting the recipes. The brews stay true to the style they love, with a strong emphasis on malt flavor and minimal hop floral or bitter aromas, a truly novel concept in the PNW. There is a smoked beer on tap that could easily have been overpowering but managed to blend the smoke and malt characteristics together seamlessly. Despite the one porter on the menu there is a lack of diversity in other styles that of course makes me a little sad, but in the end the solid nature of the beers must outweigh the lack of other options. Score: 4/5
- Brewery – One of the smaller breweries I have ever been to, there was a grand total of two tables and some standing room at the minibar on the inside. Access to the patio is through a large roll-up door and it is bit larger than the interior and in the nicer times of year I imagine is quite lovely to sit on and drink. Heater Allen embraces one of my favorite styles of breweries, truly just a small area designated as tap room amid a working brewery. With minimal decorations and the gleaming brew kettles peeking around the corner, I imagine on brew days the place smells strongly of that magical aroma of soon to be beer. They do not have a kitchen on site so the only food available are some pretzels scattered around the room, though food trucks do make an appearance from time to time and you can bring outside food with you. Their hours are quite limited right now so be sure to check the website when planning a stop at the brewery. Flights are $12 but they are generous pours of all their beers. Well worth the money to sample everything they have on tap. Score: 2.5/5
- Ambiance and Entertainment – Entertainment is what you make of it here. While there are a few board and patio games available, there are no televisions and the live entertainment is sparse. As their tasting room is small and relatively new in its current iteration, I can’t fault them too much in this respect, but that patio begs for live music when the weather is nice. Score: 2.5/5
- Location – Hidden in a commercial area of town, they are not too difficult to find, and I really like the secluded feel of the place. Follow your GPS and the signs to the unassuming red warehouse and find a place to park in small parking lot or on the street. The best part about their location is its proximity to so many other great breweries and restaurants that you can visit once you have had your fill here. You can start at Heater Allen and walk to at least 3-4 other venues, allowing you to explore much of the local beer scene. Score: 3/5
- Customer Service – Wonderful customer service. The bartender was friendly, talkative, gave generous pours on the taster flight, and always made sure we didn’t need anything. He even let us sample one of their freshly tapped offerings that was not yet available. He made the experience that much more enjoyable. Score: 4/5
Total Score: 16/25
Favorite Beer: Sandy Paws (2018) – 7.2% Baltic Porter
Final Thoughts: Even if you are not a huge lager beer fan, I highly recommend checking out Heater Allen if you are nearby. I expect they will continue to grow on the strength of their beers and look forward to visiting again in the future.