Fruit Loop beer?

1 Oct

Enjoying a pint of Solera’s Hedonist IPA at the base of Mt. Hood

I’m back in Hood River for a girls weekend with my best friend. She’s never been before, so it has been a fun exploration of the city and surrounding area. We’ve walked the downtown, shopped at all the cute little stores, enjoyed excellent local food, and explored the Fruit Loop. If you’ve never been on it, it is a must, especially this time of year. There are tons of fresh produce stands that also sell ciders, specialty jams and sauces, pies, ice cream, craft goods, and local meat. This time of year there are more varieties of apples and pears than you could remember. And scattered in between these different stops are local wineries. We hit two today and are planning on hitting another two or three tomorrow. As for breweries, there are four in Hood River now, but only one on the actual Fruit Loop, at the halfway point.

The Fruit Loop starts in downtown Hood River and leads down Hwy 35 to Parkdale, which is where we ended up this afternoon, and is where the lone Loop brewery, Solera, is located. However, you won’t actually find it on the Fruit Loop map. Note to the brewery: get on that. The Loop then leads back to Hood River via Hwy 281 passing more wineries, produce stands and delicious baked goodies.

Solera lives in the space left empty by the Elliot Glacier Public House after they retired from brewing and closed their doors. Michael and I had an opportunity to visit once when it was Elliot Glacier. We actually really enjoyed some of their beers, including a seasonal stout they had on tap. But I also had some pretty strong opinions about the space, menu, and (lack of) marketing. So I was actually really looking forward to visiting Solera to see what they were doing with this little gem at the base of Mt. Hood (location, location, location!).

Granted, the town is quite small, and there isn’t a large population in close proximity. That said, when you walk out the back door of the brewery, there is an amazing view of orchards with Mt. Hood as the backdrop. There is a ton of market potential being on the fruit loop – an attraction for tourists and locals alike. I go every year. Often multiple times. I mean, come on, amazing pears for only 39 cents and 79 cents a pound!!?!. Plus, it is near Cooper Spur Mountain Resort and several mountain recreation areas. And it is a terminus for the Mt. Hood Railroad. So, there is a lot of through traffic to capitalize on.

Given the view, and the fact that it was a beautiful late summer / fall day, we sat out back on the patio. We tried just a couple quick tastes (not full taster glasses) to decide what we would order, so some of my notes will be very brief as they were what I picked up on from only one or two sips. From there we each picked a pint: Michelle, the RollerGirl Scottish Ale and me, the Hedonist IPA.

Sour Wheat: extremely light in color and flavor, the body too thin in my opinion, and extremely low in the pucker factor.

Peach Wheat: the peach was barely detectable, and it was only slightly sour, not really even tart. the wheat was the most noticeable flavor.

Half-Pint ISA: light-bodied, with a nice fresh taste and a bit of hop giving it a lightly bitter aftertaste. extremely session-able, with enough flavor to make it enjoyable. this would be a great tailgating beer. great name by the way.

RollerGirl Scottish Ale: a pretty amber brown color, the aroma was light, with just a hint of toasted malt, and enough bitter hop to keep this from being a malt bomb. it had a nice nutty, caramel flavor and was medium-bodied. this may have been the lightest scottish ale i have ever had, which made it really drinkable on such a hot afternoon.

Hedonist IPA: my pint had a nice, bold citrus and floral hop aroma, which carried through in taste as well. there was enough malt to take the edge off the hops and a strong, lingering bitterness that made this beer enjoyable for quite a while. medium-bodied and pretty balanced. i definitely enjoyed my pint.

My overall impression? That they are still getting settled. A little unrefined around the edges. The interior, both the layout, and the decor, is definitely better than when it was Elliot Glacier, but the back patio is disappointing for sure. It feels run down and slopped together. They are relying on Mt. Hood to make the sell, and it does, but it wasn’t enticing enough for me to remain for a couple more beers and the rest of the afternoon. In my opinion, that space could be so much more, but maybe that’s because I actually dreamed a lot about it when it was for sale before Solera made the move. If the back patio was more enticing and comfy and had a few less flies, and the interior was a little warmer (its a little stark), I think it would make a big difference. Also, a paint job of the exterior could up the curb appeal significantly, making it feel more polished before you even walk in the door. The building itself has a ton of character, but you can still see the letters spelling Elliot Glacier Public House and have to look for the sign on the side that says Solera.

Although I enjoyed a couple of the beers, I didn’t come home super excited about any one brew or the visit overall. I wasn’t dying to tell everyone about it (like I was about Pfriem, post coming soon!). But if I lived in the area, I would definitely enjoy a growler here and there. I’m not sure when I’ll be back to Solera. Maybe next fall, when I make the trek again for the amazing pears and pink apples at Kiyokawa Orchards. I am looking forward to seeing what changes are made by the time I make it back (patio, please!), and what, if any, new beers are on tap. But cheers to a decent start.

p.s. if you haven’t voted yet, vote for my next beer review as it is a tie (see righthand margin)!

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2 Responses to “Fruit Loop beer?”

  1. Brian October 2, 2012 at 6:42 PM #

    That patio is a gem, but not if they don’t do a little something to fix it up. First time I walked out there and saw Mt. Hood and the orchards, I remember being blown away by the potential.

  2. grotusque October 3, 2012 at 2:10 PM #

    Hm…it does seem like you’ve spent most of the post suggesting ways this could be improved. Still, maybe something to check on come Spring when they’ve had a bit of time to settle in and get adjusted.

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