Friday 22 November 2019

Diary of a travel writer: On the trail of real beer and whiskey in Oregon

THURSDAY The city of Portland is small and manageable with European-size blocks and a great train service -- the Max -- that brings me into the centre in 40 minutes for two bucks.

The streets have something of San Francisco's world-championship collection of homeless men, although less menacing. The city's signatures include its food carts, its bicycles and the best bookshop in the USA, Powell's. Oregonians are proud of how environmentally aware they are, so somebody got an entire hotel and recycled it. The Ace Hotel is now one of the trendiest in town, despite the fact that it looks as if it has been furnished out of a skip.

FRIDAY Oregon has had two inches more than its annual average rainfall already. The rivers are full. My cycle-tour guide asks me to lift my bike up to get on the floating bridge that has risen a foot above its access ramp.

I stop by the Crystal Hotel to meet Mike McMenamin, a hotelier and philanthropist with a Tyrone grandfather who owns 58 properties, 24 of which have their own brewery. He shows me the music venue and talks enthusiastically about his trips to Ireland.

Later in the week, I worked my way through his wines at Edgefield and the whiskeys that are distilled there (the Devil's Bit, is only available on St Patrick's Day).

SATURDAY The guys at Enterprise Rent a Car give me a Dodge with a stern-voiced GPS. She doesn't lead me astray. Driving around a corner on Santiam Pass my breath is taken away by the beauty of the panoramic volcanic stage-show. The snow snuggles on Mount Washington's sugar-loaf summit.

SUNDAY The lifts are closed on Mount Bachelor but Cathy Carroll in the High Desert Museum says I should hike up and ski down. Her museum has the best volcano room I have ever seen and debris that tells the story of the Oregon Trail. The Oregon Trail wasn't as romantic as the movies showed it she says: "They walked 2,000 miles from Missouri."

MONDAY Bill Willits is my host at Five Pine Lodge in Sisters. The air is clear, the view stunning.

TUESDAY Bend, Oregon is a tasty little town in a beautiful part of the world. There is also a championship collection of breweries, so I stop by four of them -- real beer with real ingredients as opposed to the rice sugar they use in many mainstream beers.

WEDNESDAY On the way back to Portland, I drive over Mount Hood and stop by the Columbia River Gorge, where the water is thundering over the Multnomah Falls. I can stand in the dew of one of the great natural wonders of the world. Someone said there is a water shortage at home.

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