Best known as the capital of Oregon, the delightfully pleasant, family-friendly city of Salem is also home to a growing craft beverage scene. While no one was looking, Salem gave birth to and nurtured a craft beverage and culinary scene that possesses all of the artisanal elements you’d expect to find when visiting larger regional cities. Let’s also not forget that Salem is quite literally a stone’s throw away from Willamette Valley wine country and the recently anointed Van Duzer Corridor AVA. The town also boasts an outstandingly renovated waterfront park and its once semi-abandoned historic district has come to life with bar-raising food, drink and entertainment options. Dare we say, Salem has vibe. Here are just a handful of the fine drinking establishments that are helping to provide it.
Willamette Valley Vineyards
With regards to wineries, Willamette Valley Vineyards is the big dog on the block. And with good reason — they have all the things. Award-winning wine, stunning views from the elegant hilltop tasting room and outside patio, delectable and thoughtful food pairings, and they’re open until 8 p.m. on Fridays in the summer.
Eola Hills Legacy Estate Vineyards
One of Oregon’s oldest and largest wineries, Eola Hills, is just 10 minutes west of Salem. They recently opened a new hillside tasting room, and it is awesome. The vineyard and valley views from the Legacy Estate are exceptional and pair nicely with the gourmet picnic provisions and Barrel Select Reserve portfolio.
“Smooth as honey, aged in wood.” The slick melding of the phrase from an Oliver Goldsmith play gives us the Honeywood Winery, Oregon’s oldest producing winery and Salem’s only urban winery and tasting room. Honeywood produces a lineup of traditional grape varietals like Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, bolstered by more than a dozen fruit wines, including whimsical canine-inspired pours, like the “Pug Pear” and “Retriever Riesling.”B
Benedictine Brewery & St. Michael Taproom
The idyllic, Bavarian-inspired town of Mount Angel, roughly 15 miles northeast of Salem, is home to some pretty special things. A world-class Glockenspiel, a rousing Oktoberfest and, most recently, monks that make beer. The Mount Angel Abbey isn’t new, but the Benedictine Brewery & St. Michael Taproom sure is. Opened in September of 2018, with a focus on centuries-old traditional recipes for Belgian-style beers, they are one of only three monastic breweries in the United States.
Xicha is the Pacific Northwest’s only Latin brewery. The family-friendly establishment focuses on deliciously drinkable ales and lagers, along with a restaurant that serves fresh, authentic Latin American dishes including tostadas, empanadas and a lineup of legit, hand-pressed corn tortilla tacos.
Rogue Hopyard & Chatoe Rogue Tasting Room
Rogue Brewing‘s 300-acre working hopyard doubles as a local outdoor hangout featuring lawn games, picnic tables and, of course, craft beer. In addition to 12 taps, patrons can sample Rogue spirits and soft drinks using hops and ingredients grown right on the farm. An on-site food truck provides a good base in the boiler for extended tasting sessions.
Venti’s Cafe & Taphouse — Downtown
Venti’s sports two Salem locations with each being everything you’d want in a taphouse. Their downtown location features 32 rotating tap options between the street-level lounge and the basement bar, plus a full bar and robust food menu with extensive vegan/vegetarian options and a heavy bend toward seasonal and locally sourced.C
1859 Cider Company
The year that Oregon attained statehood served as inspiration for the naming of the 1859 Cider Company. And it’s pretty much on the nose in terms of their approach to the craft. With a back-to-basics philosophy and seven generations of farming the Oregon Territory behind them, 1859 produces a lineup of ciders with depth and character. Sample their ciders at the downtown Salem tasting room.
Bauman’s Farm Store & Cidery
What has become one of Salem’s most popular farm stores, Bauman Farms was homesteaded in 1895. The officially recognized Century Farm was where Great Grandpa Stephen started making cider for friends and neighbors back in the early 1900s. Bauman’s officially started producing a line of hard ciders that the rest of us can sample in the 2000s, using fruit and ingredients right from the farm.
Divine Distillers is Salem’s first small craft distillery producing Eau-de-Vie, rum and brandy using locally sourced ingredients. They offer a unique experience with their Farm to Glass tastings, where visitors are invited to sample the fruit, the wine and the spirit, in order to trace the flavor profiles of those ingredients throughout the entire distilling process.
Taproot Lounge and Cafe
Here’s where some of that aforementioned vibe comes into play. The repurposed historic building that now houses Taproot is heavy on ambiance. The food offerings are strong, with breakfast being executed with particular aplomb. Add live music and an impressive lineup of classic cocktails and house libations in the evening, and the Taproot serves as the perfect bookend establishment to a day well-spent.
Archive Coffee & Bar
The Archive is a hip, laid back hangout that is a coffee bar by day, craft beer and cocktail lounge at night. The elevated pub grub menu is certainly no slouch, but the real magic lies in the artfully composed listing of potables that harkens back to the Golden Age of craft cocktails with intention.