Siskiyou On Tap
Great stops along the Siskiyou Beer Trail…
Northern California has had a major influence on the way Americans enjoy craft beer, from San Francisco’s Anchor Steam to Chico’s Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. But a number of other small-batch breweries at the top of the state are waiting to be tapped, and the Siskiyou Beer Trail provides an efficient route to try five of them. “Beer lovers should explore Siskiyou County because there is more available than one would think. And, combined with all the outdoor activities, there’s no better way to end the day than with some good food and cold beer,” explains Sean McCamish, the head brewer of Siskiyou’s most historic brewery, the Etna Brewing Company.
What makes most of the locations in Siskiyou unique is not only the landscape, but the fact that many of them can actually be “beer blazed,” or hiked from point to point along the famed Pacific Crest Trail that connects Dunsmuir in southern Siskiyou County to Etna in the west. But for those looking for more ease than effort to reach their brews, there’s also a great weekend road trip route that links them all.
Starting in Dunsmuir, beer connoisseurs and foodies likewise delight in Dunsmuir Brewery Works in downtown Dunsmuir. Brewmaster Aaron Greener’s Blood, Sweat and Tears IPA, a 7.2% hop-forward beer, has been described as having “a complex flavor profile” with “just enough malt” to give “layers of flavor.” The kitchen also turns out an equally satisfying mix of dishes, using local ingredients where it can.
Just a few miles up the road in Mount Shasta, one of the region’s smallest breweries, the “nano-brewery” called
Siskiyou Brew Works of McCloud, just opened its first tap house in Mount Shasta’s downtown, so its German-style beers can now be enjoyed in both Mount Shasta and McCloud, a mere 15 minutes to the east. Like many of their North State brewing neighbors, Siskiyou Brew Works’ beers are “hand crafted in the shadow of Mt. Shasta using artesian spring water and natural, GMO free ingredients,” according to their website. McCamish of Etna Brewing Company explains why using good water in brewing is important. “Clean mountain water is very low in mineral content, allowing us to make great beers more easily.”
While Mount Shasta does not yet have a craft brewery of its own for beer, it does feature a kombucha brewery called Alua that is made with Mt. Shasta’s famous water. In town, the city also has two other beer and food experiences worth a stop on a food and brew itinerary. Pipeline, one of the city’s newest craft kitchens and tap houses, offers a popular outdoor seating area on the main drag, while the seasonal Garden Tap provides a craft beer garden experience surrounded by Native Grounds Nursery. Another standout in the ambience department is just a few miles north in Weed. Sitting right under the shadow of Mt. Shasta, the longtime Mt. Shasta Brewing Company is known for its “distinct beers and quirky alehouse” where locals in the know can order an off-menu “porta-peno” – a mix of the popular Porter and jalapeño brews. Another local favorite is Lemurian Golden Lager, playing a literal tongue-in-cheek homage to some of the mythical lore surrounding Mt. Shasta.
The last town stop on the Siskiyou Beer Trail is just “over the hill” from Yreka to Etna, where a tiny population of roughly 700 hosts a local distillery and two breweries on its Main Street, giving rise to the nickname “Grain Street.” This is home of the Etna Brewing Company that traces its roots back to the 19th century. “The brewery was founded in 1872 but closed due to Prohibition, then was reopened in 1990 by our assistant brewer, Andrew Hurlimann. The brewery sits on the site of the original bottling plant from the 1800s and a lot of the wood inside the brewery is from the original building,” recalls McCamish. In the summer, Etna’s “Grain Street” floods with hikers from the Pacific Crest Trail who bounce back and forth in-town between Etna Brewing and the other local brewery, Paystreak Brewing. McCamish notes the town’s vibe when it comes to sharing the wealth. “The experience we want customers to have is feeling like they are part of our small community – enjoying a beer with friends new and old, and have each sip make you want to take another.”
For anyone making the journey to sample what Siskiyou has to offer, McCamish has some final advice for visitors. Although he’s speaking about the Etna Brew Pub in particular, his words pertain to the other stops on Siskiyou’s Beer Trail, as well. “Insider’s tip: ask to try the beers first. We will let anyone try our beers before they commit to a full pint. We want people to drink something they like and tell their friends about us.”