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New brewery in Cascade Locks hopes to bank on bike tourism

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Thirsty riders head into Cascade Locks after a day
on Columbia River Highway State Trail.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

There’s no amount of research about the huge economic benefits of bike tourism that can compare to seeing a bit of it happen before your eyes.

Years in the planning and opening Saturday, the new Thunder Island Brewing Company in Cascade Locks, Ore. (home of the spectacular Bonneville Dam and the Bridge of the Gods) is a Portland-grown project that’s setting out to serve tourists — especially those enjoying the newly reconnected Historic Columbia River Highway on their bikes.

“I think of the Gorge as a bicyclist heaven… We both want to support and promote as much cycle tourism as we can.”
— Dave Lipps, Thunder Island co-founder

“The opening of our brewery has everything to do with the new trails and also a trails study done by PSU students,” co-founder Dave Lipps wrote in an email to BikePortland last week. “Both Dan and I are huge cycling advocates and have lived car-free lifestyle in Portland for many years. We are hoping with the completion of the new trail cycle touring in the Gorge will boom.”

Lipps and co-founder Dan Hynes describe their company as “an adventure-based small batch brewery” with beers that are “inspired by a love of outdoor adventures, with a nod to local history and with a respect for all that the scenic Columbia River Gorge has to offer.”

Thunder Island also now happens to be the closest brewery to Multnomah Falls, the state’s No. 1 outdoor tourist attraction. The small operation is 44 miles east of Portland, right by the river’s edge and below the historic highway. Lipps noted that they “plan to have extensive, high-quality bike parking,” something he said he learned the importance of while leading bike tours in the Gorge himself.

This venture isn’t worth toasting just because it sounds like a perfect place to kick back after a long ride. It’s a great illustration of how bike tourism (and the thousands of businesses, small and large, that spring up to serve it) doesn’t just happen. It depends on lots of things happening all at once:

— quality destinations (thanks in part to decades of government protection, this stretch of the Gorge must be one of the most beautiful places on the planet)
— a substantial state investment (we’ve been covering the old highway’s $8.1 million renovation since 2007, and many have been at it for far longer)
— private entrepreneurs who understand the bike market (like Lipps and Hynes)

The bike path leads directly into Cascade Locks.

If Lipps and Hynes’s hunch is right, they’ll be just the first of many new businesses created by this constellation of events.

Thunder Island is opening with a pale ale, a Scotch porter, an IPA, and a Kölsch on tap, with seasonal and specialty beers on the way. It opens this Saturday, Oct. 19, with a party from noon to 11pm featuring music, games, door prizes and craft beer. Pirates Fish and Chips of Hood River will be on site offering food for purchase. Minors aren’t allowed inside the tasting room, but a there’ll be family-friendly covered outdoor seating area.

Starting Sunday, October 20th, beer will be sold in the tasting room Thursday and Friday from 3 pm to 9 pm, Saturday from noon to 10 pm, and Sunday from noon to 8 pm.

“I think of the Gorge as a bicyclist heaven,” Lipps told BikePortland. “We have everything here: great views of the Columbia River and numerous waterfalls, beautiful camping sites, and bike friendly routes with easy climbs. We both want to support and promote as much cycle tourism as we can.”

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