“There is nothing in the world like that first taste of beer,” wrote John Steinbeck in his 1945 novel Cannery Row, set in Monterey during the Great Depression. Fast-forward to post-pandemic 2022, and another rugged, working-class place, Southern Oregon, where you’ll find locally crafted brews that are exceptionally satisfying, sip after sip. Steinbeck would have loved it here.
The area is home to a host of microbreweries, some new, some well-established, plus a slew of lively taphouses that will satisfy your wildest craft beer cravings, from sours to hazy and imperial IPAs to chocolate stouts. Fresh from the vats or picked from rows of taproom taps and coolers stocked with hundreds of varieties, Southern Oregon is a craft beer fan fantasy come true and, better yet, just a day’s road trip (or one-hour flight) from the Bay Area. Here’s where to imbibe, and where to spend the night.
Once considered just a quick refuel and fast food spot on Interstate Highway 5, this small city along the Rogue River has come into its own as a beer, wine and food destination.
Weekend Beer Co.
This brand-new brewery and taproom is located just outside the city center in a newly constructed facility. The light, airy inside space has picnic table seating and up-close views of the brewing action; outside, play cornhole on the wide patios. Food is provided by resident food trucks Catalyst Pizza (New York-style, thin crust pies), Tacomania (street tacos and burritos) and Valentinos (burgers, sub sandwiches). The brewery features five core beers and five to eight rotating taps year-round, all made in-house by brewmaster Brandon Crews. The brewery also sponsors a very fun and unique floating pub experience on the Rogue River called the Paddled Pub.
Established in 2014 and located in the historic brewery building in central Grants Pass, this brewery’s year-round beers include Nookie IPA, Yellow Belly Blonde, Rainie Falls Red, and Hyperion Porter.
Wild River Brewing & Pizza Co.
A Grants Pass craft beer destination since 1994, Wild River Brewing & Pizza Company produces a wide range of microbrews, including a honey wheat, American IPA, brown ale, Kolsch, stout and porter — a perfect pairing with their wood-fired pizzas. Other locations include Medford, Cave Junction and Brookings.
Spend the Night
The historic riverside resort Weasku Inn, just outside Grants Pass, was once the fishing vacation spot for Walt Disney and Clark Gable. From $188. The Riverside Inn and Lodge is set along the Rogue River. From $139.
Known for its juicy pears, Rogue Valley wines, award-winning cheese and craft beer, Medford has more than half a dozen microbreweries to explore. Three of the largest and most noteworthy are Common Block, Opposition and Bricktowne Brewing.
Common Block Brewing Company
A large brewery and restaurant with indoor and outdoor spaces, Common Block is located in the Commons area of downtown Medford. Sitting outside at picnic tables, you can order fresh tap beer from the bar in what looks like a converted shipping container.
Initially called Apocalypse Brewing, the brewery changed names in 2013 after a copyright infringement lawsuit by 10 Barrel Brewing over its name. With a curious gas mask logo and an equally strange slogan “raise a pint and embrace the chaos,” this quasi military-themed craft brewery and pub has five regular and 10 rotating specialty brews.
Bricktowne Brewing Company
A dozen beers are on tap here, and six big-screen TVs provide all the visual entertainment you need. Try local favorite the Ore-Gunslinger Double IPA, billed as “the ultimate double IPA”. With a palate-wrecking bitterness and aggressive hop flavor, this beer is considered “a weapon of mass intoxication.” Also worth trying is the Darth Kreigers, a bold, boozy brew with a coffee kick.
Walkabout Brewing Company
Seeking to recreate a laid back Australian vibe in downtown Medford, this seven-barrel brewhouse and tasting room offers eight taps of fresh draft beer, food and a large outdoor area, complete with a fire pit. Flagship originals include Worker’s Pale Ale and Jabberwocky English Strong Ale.
Portal Brewing Company
Located in Medford’s old Central Fire Hall in the downtown historic district, Portal’s 14 taps provide a steady flow of IPAS, red and blonde ales and a cream ale. Dark beer lovers will like the Hoptopus Double Imperial Cascadian dark ale. Pub food ranges from gyros and shawarma to bacon quesadilla with roasted chili peppers.
Stay the Night
Compass by Margaritaville is a new property that opened in late June. From $299.
Set at the base of 7,532-foot Mt. Ashland, the town of Ashland is the home of the esteemed Oregon Shakespeare Festival and other performing arts series, and is, hands down, a nirvana for craft brew fans.
This spacious mountain-view brewery and restaurant is set in a modern industrial-style building just minutes from downtown Ashland. Try their excellent IPAs with a flight of their best-seller Oregon IPA, Repeater, Hop Hash, Cousin Rick and When Doves Cryo. For complex stout lovers, there’s the Chocolate, Lavender, Pink Peppercorn Imperial Stout. An excellent restaurant menu includes a weekend brunch breakfast, pizzas, pastas, fish tacos, burgers and salads.
Skout Taphouse & Provisions
Settle into this relaxing spot on lovely Ashland Creek on the plaza in downtown Ashland, just across the street from Lithia Park, with a fresh brew from their wide selection and a smoked trout dip, and then segue to a raclette and bacon sandwich on sourdough, fish and chips with horseradish coleslaw, or bratwurst on a Kaiser roll.
A popular neighborhood brewpub, Gils offers a fine, rotating selection of local craft beers on 23 taps and pub grub like fresh tamales and Cubano and chicken cheesesteak sandwiches.
Stay the Night
Built in 1925 and lovingly restored, Ashland Springs Hotel is reminiscent of small European hotels and close to Lithia Park, the Plaza restaurant district along Ashland Creek and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival theaters. From $214, including breakfast. A curative thermal spring is found deep beneath Lithia Springs Resort, which features 38 bungalows, rooms and suites, each with soaking tubs, set among four acres of gardens. From $165, including breakfast.
Quiet Klamath Falls is somewhat of a sleeper destination, often overlooked by Bay Area travelers heading to central Oregon’s natural treasures and the resort town of Bend. The former mill town is definitely worth a stop, however, for a stay at the splendid Running Y Ranch and superb mountain, road and gravel biking in the Klamath Basin region.
Mia and Pia’s Pizzeria & Brewhouse
Mix with the locals on the wide patio that’s perfect for warm weather months at this craft beer spot with an Old West vibe. Inside on the big and oddly shaped bar, set under a long harrow outfitted with racks holding hundreds of beer mugs, you can sample some 13 craft beers and stare at the eclectic interior and taxidermy, a stuffed beaver in an Oregon State T-shirt and a growling mountain lion right set right on top of the bar. There are pinball machines and an Oregon State Lottery room, too.
The Falls Taphouse
With two food trucks, wide outdoor patios, a rooftop beer garden and hundreds of beer choices in coolers lining the wall, The Falls offers more than two dozen crafts brews on tap, mostly from around the Northwest, and a varied live music schedule.
Stay the Night
The Running Y Ranch is a luxurious all-seasons resort about 8 miles from downtown Klamath Falls on Highway 140 that features an Arnold Palmer-designed, 18-hole golf course, kayaking, biking, fitness center, indoor pool, mini golf and equestrian activities. From $190.
More from Marin:
- The Best Local Beer Gardens: Where to Get the Tasty Brews Along With Great Food
- Wildlife Hikes In Marin: Top Trails to Take, Animals to Spot and What You Can Do to Help Protect Them
- Celebrating the Earth This Month With a Nod to Marin’s Rich History of Environmental Activism
Ben Davidson is a Bay Area native and spent his early years in Mill Valley. He is a former Sunset staff travel writer and also contributes to Diablo, Westways, VIA and 7×7.com. He has lived in Fairfax since 1997.