If you are looking for a fun weekend away from the local pub scene, we highly recommend a road trip to the historic community of Pendleton, Oregon. Less than a four hour drive from Portland and home of the famous Roundup Rodeo, our friends Tim and Jennifer Guenther have opened the town’s first craft brew pub, The Prodigal Son.
Located in quiet downtown Pendleton, The Prodigal Son is housed in the historic 1915 Haw building, once the home of the Packard Dealership. The Guenthers and their partner, Chef Matthew Barnes, took special care to restore and preserve the character of this extraordinary space, leaving the original uneven cement floors, adding antique lighting, and mismatched rustic wood tables and chairs. During the construction, they uncovered a remarkably preserved 90-yr-old mural advertising Albers Brothers Milling Company on what was once the outside wall of the neighboring building. Residents of the town began bringing them bits and pieces of history for them to use throughout the space (you’ll just have to come see what we mean). They acquired original theater seats from the now defunct grange hall for the addition of a small movie and banquet room. They were also able to reuse much of the original hardware in the building, which lends to its cozy historic atmosphere.
Tim gave us the special “friends and family” tour of the brewery, sharing his insight into their brew process and capacity. Prodigal is running a 10 barrel system, and at the time of our visit, they were working double-time to keep up with demand. Depending on the season, the pub generally has eight house brews on tap and adds in their seasonal brews throughout the year. As per usual, we recommend the beer sampler with 6-8, 5oz tastes of their current brews on tap. You won’t be disappointed.
The delicious crafts brews and friendly service are not the only things that stand out at Prodigal Son. Chef Matthew Barnes designed a mouthwatering menu that might be best described as gourmet pub food. We split the Valcar’s Revenge: Sexton Ranches beef patty seasoned with herbs and spices, Hill meat bacon, blue cheese, sautéed mushrooms, and caramelized onions on a toasted Cookie Tree Bakery sesame bun – hands down the best burger in town (or any town for that matter). We also recommend the oven-baked Mac&Cheese, with creamy Montery Jack, swiss and Tillamook cheddar (don’t forget to add the bacon – totally worth it). And of course, we couldn’t leave without trying the hand-dipped, ale-battered, buttermilk-marinated onion rings, deep fried to perfection.
We recommend lodging at the clean, comfortable, and affordable Rodeway Inn, conveniently located just a block from Prodigal and within walking distance of everything in town. After you enjoy dinner and a couple pints at of your favorites at Prodigal, we also recommend hitting the night life in Pendleton, such as Hamley’s Steakhouse, The Rainbow or Crabby’s Underground Saloon, which were all quite happening on the Friday night we were there. For the much needed morning espresso, Hamley’s Café is a great place to stop before enjoying breakfast at the Main Street Diner. Then be sure to wander through town to do some shopping at the great local businesses that help support this western town.
When the pub opened for lunch, we loaded up two growlers of our favorites, one each of A Beer Named Sue – Golden Ale and Splendor in the Glass 3.0 – Dry-hopped Pale, placing them on ice for the trip to Hood River and Double Mountain Brewery (but that’s a different story…). Prodigal has growlers for purchase if you forget to bring your own.
For those of you here in Portland who would like to sample what Prodigal Son has to offer, East Burn, Roscoe’s, and the famous Horse Brass, all have at least one PS brew on tap. However, the road trip to Pendleton is worth it, especially if you make the stop in Hood River on the way home for additional craft brew adventures…