Back in October we made one of our semi-regular trips to Hood River to pick apples and other fruit and while there, stopped for lunch at the Big Horse Brew Pub (aka Horse Feathers). Big Horse is the third brewery within the Hood River city limits (along with Full Sail and Double Mountain), which tallies up one brewery for every 2400 people or so for the town, an amazing per-capita number (compare Bend at one every 8900 people—and we have a lot in Bend!).
Big Horse itself is housed in a large, picturesque multi-level lodge of a building that is built into a hill and backing Winans Park. To get to it you either park on the street below and climb a good number of stairs, or come in from the upper level (through the park presumably); however once you’ve made the climb you are rewarded with fantastic views of downtown Hood River and the Columbia River.
(Oddly Big Horse is one of those rare breweries/businesses that doesn’t seem to have a web presence of their own—no web site, no Facebook profile other than a Facebook “places” page—just the metadata of various review sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon that come up in a search instead.)
Climbing the stairs from the street below, there are three distinct levels to the building: the basement/cellar where (presumably) they store kegs and supplies; next the “lower” level that has a pool room, the kitchen window, and restrooms; and the upper level with the main bar and great views. There is also a wraparound deck that affords outdoor seating when the weather is nice. On the upper level there is even a small stage above the room where the Pub can host live music.
The decor and atmosphere inside is low-key, fairly typical “Northwest Brewpub”: lots of natural wood, various eclectic fixtures and decorations, friendly service. Aside from tables they also have a long booth with a raised table backing the bar, which we sat at (separated from the bar by a glass divider), with bookshelves built into the booth walls full of books and activities for kids.
Of the seven beers listed on their menu, only five were currently on tap: the two that were out were Red Fang and Vernon the Rabbit Slayer, which is a shame because I really wanted to try Vernon, a big fresh hop Imperial IPA that is a big favorite. Of the five remaining, I ordered the sampler tray, and these were my notes:
- Easy Blonde: 5% abv. Hazy yellow, pale white lacy head. Tasty, a wheaty, tartish nose, but grainy and grassy in the mouth, easy to drink. Nicely hoppy for being so light.
- Summer Pils: 5.1% abv. Pale, golden, effervescent. Earthy is the main impression; a little heavy for what I’d expect from a Pilsner. Not terrible, though I wish it were hoppier.
- Pale Rider IPA: 6.7% abv. Brown-gold. Hoppy(ish) nose more spicy than anything “northwest” (like citrus). Flavor is earthy and full of spicy hops, nicely bitter but more English-style. An Americanized English IPA?
- MacStallion Scotch: 6.9% abv. Looks right on to me, mahogany brown. A little diacetyl-y and a touch thin, but nice caramel-toffee maltiness.
- Nightmare Stout: 6.5% abv. Velvety-smooth with a nose that reminds me of Guinness. Roasty, mellow, dark, easy drinking that belies its strength.
My two favorites from this group were the Easy Blonde and the Nightmare Stout, although all were fair-to-good brews. (There’s a picture of the beers in the gallery below.)
I’ll be honest, I don’t entirely remember the food, except that I think I ordered the pulled pork sandwich and I liked it: brewpub fare, but not overly heavy like many are. The lunch along with the sampler tray hit the spot as we were getting ready to spend the afternoon picking fruit; I’d love to visit again (several more times) to get an idea of other offerings and dinners.
Overall I really quite liked Big Horse; the built-into-the-hill, multi-level layout is funky and has something of an old school vibe along with the “Northwest Brewpub” atmosphere, the service is friendly and good, and the views are fantastic. I’ll return if/when I get the chance.
(Incidentally, I don’t know what “Horse Feathers” refers to even though that shows up everywhere as part of the name.)
Big Horse Brew Pub
115 W. State Street
Hood River, OR 97031