Prime growing conditions and favorable clay-loam soils have fostered Oregon’s rapid emergence as one of the world’s ﬁnest wine-growing regions. A 30-minute drive from downtown puts travelers on the doorstep of the scenic Willamette Valley wine country, making winery tours a popular activity for Portland visitors.
The logical next step for many Oregon craft brewers? Distilling liquor with the same dedication to quality and willingness to playfully experiment that they’ve employed when making beer.
House Spirits, recognized for its Medoyeff Vodka and Aviation Gin, was founded by two former brewers who wanted to stamp the taste and flavor of the Pacific Northwest onto their versions of vodka, gin, rum and whiskey.
One of the first players on Portland’s distilling scene was Clear Creek Distillery, which made its debut in 1985. Using local fruit, much of which is grown in his family’s orchards in nearby Hood River, Ore., Clear Creek distiller/owner Steve McCarthy turns out a variety of products — eau de vie, grappa, whiskey, liqueurs and brandy — cited by The New York Times Magazine as “what many experts believe to be the best fruit brandies ever made in the U.S.” Clear Creek’s piece de resistance is its stunning Pear-in-the-Bottle brandy, which features a nearly perfect, fully grown pear inside each bottle.
Why not Saké?
After all, next to rice, the most important ingredient in this fermented alcoholic beverage is water, and we’ve got plenty of that. SakéOne in Forest Grove, Oregon, is the world’s only American-owned and operated sakéry.
Produced there are premium traditional sakés, as well as fruit-infused sakés. Premium saké, that is, the really good stuff, is served chilled, like white wine. A word to the wise: Our friends at SakéOne tell us that lesser quality sakés are often heated to mask their shortcomings.