The second leg of our four-day Eastern Oregon road trip started at Unity Lake State Recreation Site where we had spent the first night. We headed north through Sumpter for breakfast and to photograph The Elkhorn Saloon. (next trip we will have a beer!)
We drove through Granite and Starkey – a town so small you can wake up next to yourself – passed an immense camp for firefighters which had about 150 tents, and on to LaGrande – which requires a correction from Installment I of the Eastern Oregon tour on this blog. We did not hit the two taverns in La Grande (Long Branch Saloon and The Hideout) until the second day and not on day one.
After visiting the aforementioned two saloons, we pitched our tent that night at Catherine Creek State Park, which is accurately described in the website as, “a cool, quiet and peaceful setting.”
We then contemplated the benefits of escaping from the daily routine and just relaxed in God’s Country as you can see by the picture below………
We hit the road again in search of a dinner venue – like a good steak considering all the beef on-the-hoof we had observed. We heard good reports on the Cove Tavern and Steak House, but it was closed on Mondays and we ventured into the City of Union.
Steve, being an educator and astute observer, stated, “You know, both dogs and pick-up trucks seemed to be ubiquitous in these environs.” (He then defined “ubiquitous” and “environs” for Dave and me….) As evidence, we saw the following two signs on taverns we visited:
The historic Union Hotel was also rumored to have a great steak and was impressive, but it was closed as was another Union institution – LG Brewskis, a very interesting looking pub which will have to await our next trip.
As we got back on the road, Dave wondered why there were a number of cities with nautical themes in their names, but without a trace of water around. Examples included Cove, Island City and Hot Lake. Our attention span was not sustained long enough to try for an answer.
Hungrier now, we ended back in LaGrande, which was fortunate because we had a fantastic dinner at 10 Depot Street, a restaurant which also had one of the most impressive bars we saw on the trip.
Unfortunately, we were not going to be in town for the La Grande Pub Tour “….which kicked off its Celtic Festival,” and for which $10 would secure a ride on the trolley making the rounds. (10 Depot was the first stop.)
We had a nightcap at the Mt. Emily Ale House – the one disappointment on the trip. Although it was a Monday night, there was a decent crowd, but the bartender was inattentive and did not have a clue about the products produced by his brewery. The beer was also not very impressive, which is also the case with their website.
It was a full moon and we were awakened in the middle of the night by screeches and screams – many more decibels in intensity than the snoring which had started early that night. It was coyotes.
Dave then awoke with a start and admired the view of the moon and stars before exclaiming, “Where in the hell is my roof?” before we assured him he was not at home and our tent had a vent-hole at its top.
The next morning, Dave demonstrated his culinary skills with a great breakfast and we headed for Baker. Upon reaching the city we took picture of two more bars before stopping at the Bull Ridge Brewery and Pub. A conversation at 10:50 AM between Steve Larson and his wife gives some context:
Steve: Hi Babs, we are in Baker waiting for the Bull Ridge Brewery to open. We’ve already been to two bars earlier this morning.
Babs: Isn’t that a little early to start drinking beer?
Steve: No. No. You don’t understand. Don just took pictures of the first two. All we’ve had this morning is coffee so far.
To lend credence to Steve’s assertion, the following are two bars in Baker which we photographed but did not visit on this trip although like General McArthur – “We shall return.”
Waiting until the Bull Ridge opened at 11:00, we drank what, for us, was an early beer. Camas, the helpful waitress (named after the flower) told us a little about the establishment which is housed in an historic building – originally a mercantile warehouse and opened two years ago in September.
We had pints of Bull Ridge’s Tumbleweed and Flagstaff Pale Ale, which were excellent. As a side note and rationale for AM drinking, beer was probably the safest liquid we could consume since Baker City was in the middle of a battle with cryptosporidium which had contaminated its water and sickened dozens of residents.
Camas then told us we should see the Brewer for a tour and we met Johnny Brose, who was a smart, articulate and friendly young guy who gave us a personal tour.
He demonstrated real pride and knowledge of his product and the brewing process. I was both surprised and pleased to learn that he is an Oregon State graduate who earned his degree in Food Science and Technology with a focus on Fermentation Science. OSU is one of only two universities in the US to offer a fermentation degree and is home to an internationally recognized hops research initiative
He was a Baker City High graduate and before returning to his home town he interned at breweries and wineries for a year in Germany learning his craft.
Jonny was extremely helpful and has lofty goals for the brewery. He receives Thebeeerchaser of the Month of November in recognition for his enthusiasm for his profession and his competence in his craft – also being a Beaver.
Haymaker Hefeweizen, Bear Claw Porter, Whitetail Pale Ale, Gun Sight IPA, Rut Dust Amber and Lone Pine Lager.
He plans to roll out a winter ale at the beginning of December, but has not named it yet. How about Beaver Dam Winter Ale?
We recommend you visit the Bull Ridge Brewery and Pub when you are in Baker and say hello to Johnny Brose.