After (what seems like) the 15th glass of world-class Pinot, wine country can get a little stolid. Full disclosure– there are only so many “subtle complexities” I can palate, before my palate draws a blank. So during a recent jaunt to McMinnville, after tasting some of the best wines I’d had in the region, it struck me that I wanted a beer. A classic, no-tasting-notes, easy, bubbly beer. But where—in wine country—does one go for a cold brew?
To my happy surprise, it turns out there are several breweries within a stone’s throw of McMinnville’s tasting-room epicenter. They’re turning out great beers, in plain sight, tucked among the wineries (one or two are even on the main road.) Since my motto is “do as the locals do” (that’s not really my motto,) we asked our wine steward which brewery she preferred. She directed us to her favorite beer-gettin’ place– “We love it,” she said, as she was pouring another jammy-yet-frisky red. “My husband and I hang out there all the time.” And so it was decided.
Off to Grain Station Brew Works
Jumping in the car, it was a quick drive to Grain Station Brew Works, in a close-by-yet-tucked-away corner of McMinnville, known as the Granary District. There it was– a barn-like beacon of rustic small-townyness—a huge building with an even bigger outdoor patio, and the most appealing sign of the day: BEER. But there was more to the story, Grain Station was Oregon’s first Community Supported Brewery, so they support local farmers and producers with every barrel of beer they produce, and you support them by drinking it. Their brewmaster, Mark Vickery has some real Northwest cred, with a 25-year history of brewing and training in famous breweries like Bridgeport and Deschutes.
Grain Station Brew Works is built for a crowd, but don’t let the size distract you. There’s the patio, and inside the barn, an enormous game room with darts and pool tables , and probably three other rooms that we didn’t get to because BEER.
The Beer and Food
On our visit, they had nine kegs tapped, plus a couple of hard ciders. Hard cider is the next big thing. Among the available beers was their excellent Bet the Farm IPA, which pops up quickly if you google the Grain Station. They also do guest taps, seasonals, and small-batch beers, so you can get your saison on if you time it right. We went for the Pitchfork Pilsner, Hank’s Dark Ale, and a third that I can’t recall now because the first two were so tasty. It also may have been that I was distracted by the perfectly presented plate of calamari and the heavenly aioli that accompanied it. It’s rare when you stop in your tracks and say, out loud, “that aioli is amazing,” but it was.
And then there was the Maple Bacon Burger. It’s everything you want it to be, on a brioche bun, and since you’re this far in– you may as well skip the side salad and go for the fries. This is one of those burgers that people stare at longingly from across the room, regretting their own menu choices. Be proud of your selection.
Of course, Grain Station also has a rotating list of local wines to round out the quite excellent menu. So if you’re looking for a frisky Pinot Noir with that Reuben sandwich or Margherita Pizza, they are happy to oblige.
On September 20, GrainStation will be having their Oktoberfest Prost, which also marks their first anniversary. There will be beer games, Oktoberfest lager, non-beer games, menu items for the kids, and an Oktoberfest costume contest.
The New McMinnville motto– Come to wine country, drink the beer!
755 NE Alpine St.; Ste.200 McMinnville, OR 97128