Looking for a fun weekend, I decided to venture up the Columbia gorge to Hood River, Oregon, an adorable little town at the foot of Mt. Hood and about an hour east of Portland. Having passed through multiple times, I have never had the chance to stop in, despite being the home of some big-name Oregon breweries whose beers I love. Getting in to town around lunch time I decided to make my first stop at Big Horse Brew Pub, Hood River’s oldest and smallest craft brewery and restaurant. Grab a pint, unsaddle your horse, and take a load off as I gallop my way through the first of many breweries in this underrated little town.
- Beer – Surprisingly lager heavy, at least on my visit, they also include a few of the requisite IPAs that must be on the menu in the PNW. While I’m not the biggest lager fan, theirs were made well with a few unique twists such as a corn-based lager that really showed some creativity. Their small batch system allows them to endlessly mix and match styles, and the 30 years they have been doing this provides quite the deep tap list. It would have been nice to see more of this variety on tap however, as only two of the eight beers they had on were something other than an IPA or lager. Score: 3/5
- Brewery – More restaurant than tasting room, Big Horse is a multi-storied building with some fantastic views of downtown Hood River and the gorge. The top floor is the restaurant and small bar. With about a dozen tables scattered around the room and the bar tucked in to the corner, it has a wonderfully cozy feeling, though you may brush elbows occasionally with folks walking by. The lower floor is given over to the kitchen and a room that can be used for pool, storage, or large events. Outside is a small beer garden for the warmer months. The food was good, serving mostly pub-style with a twist (try the grilled cheese, it was my favorite), with prices for the food that match the scenery. A flight is reasonably priced at $8 for eight 2-ounce pours and a full pint at $4.50. They are open 7 days a week until a little after dinner, so plan to visit before it gets too late in the evening. Score: 3.5/5
- Ambiance and Entertainment – With a massive stack of board games and a few televisions upstairs plus the pool table downstairs, they provide plenty of things to keep you entertained. While they do offer occasional live music (very occasional), it would be nice to see other events hosted here as I feel like the place is perfect for a good trivia night or something similar. You can rent out the beer garden for private events and even weddings, which to me sounds like the perfect spot to have one. Score: 2.5/5
- Location – As I mentioned earlier, Big Horse is positioned at the top of a hill overlooking downtown Hood River and the Columbia River gorge, affording you a gorgeous vista as you enjoy their beers. Their proximity to downtown allows for you to hop your way from brewery to brewery (or restaurants and bars) if you so choose without having to get in your car. Add in tons of street parking and a bike friendly area and I think it is safe to say they picked a winning location. Score: 4.5/5
- Customer Service – Though I was sat quickly, it took a few minutes for someone to come over and take drink and food orders, even though it was not very busy. That being said, what I ordered arrived quickly, the food was hot, the drinks cold, and the waiter was friendly and checked in often after that. As it is more restaurant than tap room, they do offer table service, so you will not need to travel to the bar for a drink every time, unless you want to. I think it was all around a pleasant experience from the customer service aspect, though I would worry a little about the speed of service during the busier times of day. Score: 3/5
Total Score: 16.5/25
Favorite Beer: Nightmare Stout – 5.5% Oatmeal Stout
Final Thoughts: A random pick for lunch turned in to surprisingly delightful brew pub with fantastic views of the city and gorge. I recommend stopping in at Big Horse while on your tour of Hood River’s breweries, and especially if you like lagers.