When I got invited to Salem to experience their new Ale and Cider Trail, I said hell yes. Typically, I’m not a huge craft beer drinker. You’ll usually find me drinking whiskey or red wine or, if it is beer, my beloved Coors Light (no judgement, please). But I do enjoy a good craft beer from time to time and I was excited to learn more about the brewing process and beer in general. I had a blast hopping around the Salem Ale and Cider Trail, which includes twelve breweries and cideries total throughout Marion and Polk counties. How does the Ale Trail work you ask? Why simple, pick up a Salem Ale & Cider Trail passport at any participating brewery or the Travel Salem office downtown. Visit each brewery and cidery in the passport, get a stamp at each one and then you’ll receive a Salem Ale & Cidery Trail pint glass!
My first stop on the Salem Ale and Cider Trail was Gilgamesh Brewing. Look at the bad ass presentation on this flight of brews, awesome. Gilgamesh is also a full service restaurant and the owners utilize many of their unique beers in their menu items. Check out my blog, The Yummiest Things in and Around Salem to read about the bomb grilled cheese I had here.
Next up on my beer adventure was a super fun place – Salem Ale Works. Two college buddies and former wildland firefighters opened up Salem Ale Works in 2013. Here, beers are handcrafted in small batches and they use as many fresh, local ingredients as possible. They had a honey and basil ale that blew my mind.
Next up: Santiam Brewing. This was a rad spot with a restaurant and tasting room. They served their flights in super impressive fashion, ten beers to taste on this arch that stretched across the entire table. Whoa. I promise I didn’t drink all the beer that was put in front of me over the three days I was here (that would have been impossible). I did, however, taste each one. These guys offer 15 Santiam craft beers on tap as well as rotating guest wine and cider taps.
One of my favorite experiences of this trip was getting to visit the Rogue Ales & Spirits Farm and their tasting room. This is a just a short 20 minute drive away in darling Independence, Oregon. (And the trip out is beautiful). Rogue is one of the largest brewers in the state and Independence is home to one of it’s two farms. Many of the beer, spirits, cider and soda ingredients are grown here including 52 acres of hops, two acres of prickless marionberries, one acre of cucumbers, and one acre of pumpkins. Cheryl from Rogue gave us a fantastic tour of the farm and walked us through the hops harvesting process; something I found extremely cool. I’m hoping I get to return in late August to witness this myself. There’s a lovely little tasting room on site where you can sample Rogue Ales to your heart’s content.
My next stop on the Salem Ale & Cider Trail was Seven Brides Brewing. Seven Brides is committed to sourcing fresh, local ingredients for their beers and you can taste it in the brew. This brewery works hard at being environmentally friendly. The cooling water is recycled each time they brew, and the spent grain goes to a local farmer to feed livestock.
Vagabond Brewing is my next brewery and this is a rad spot I could see myself hanging out at regularly if I lived in the area. It’s a big, open, welcoming space with communal tables and a bar that just beckons for me to sit and drink beer on it all day. These guys feature their own beers as well as two rotating ciders on tap.
Cider lovers don’t dismay, there are a couple of stops just for you on the Salem Ale Trail including 1859 Cider, a happening place I visited on Friday night for a flight of cider. I will be honest and tell you that cider is not my favorite thing – it’s usually too sweet for me. My bartender was kind enough to pick me out ciders to try on the dryer side though, and they did not disappoint. This would be a really fun place to hang, it was definitely jamming the night I was there.
And thus concludes my journey on the Salem Ale and Cider Trail. I’m bummed to report that I did not make it to all 12 breweries and cideries, but I gave it the most valiant of efforts and drank as much beer as I could in the three days I was there. So beer lovers, take note, Salem has so much to offer in the way of breweries and cideries! Pick up your passport and hit up the Salem Ale & Cider Trail!