2544 19th St. SE, Salem, 503-689-1260, santiambrewing.com. 11 am-10 pm Sunday-Wednesday, 11 am-11 pm, Thursday-Saturday.
Santiam ages well. Over its five years in business, the Salem brewery has slowly created a downright distinguished barrel program. Their cozily wood-grained taproom, located between Southeast Salem's Walling Pond and Stone Quarry Lake, is decorated with the national flags and pirate obsessions of nine different co-owners. And the beer menu is no less far-flung, with 15 home taps spanning styles from edelweiss to Bloody Mary beer—with quality that can swing just as widely. But consistently, it's the oaked beer that makes the brewery worth a visit. The Pirate Stout has become the brewery's flagship, a rum-barrel-aged coconut beer like a vanilla-kissed Mounds bar that nabbed Santiam a gold medal at the 2017 Oregon Beer Awards. This year's wine-barrel-aged Jean Peche Lambic comes on sweet with apricot and peach before giving way to earthy oak and funk. And the best beer we tried there this year, an accomplished Vlaams Rood Flanders red, was bursting with funky yeast and juicy cherry notes. Santiam now routinely lays its barrels back for over a year; with the brewery as with the barrels, the patience has paid off.
Nearby: Tuck into downtown Salem for the best cider in the state in at 1859 Cider Co. (249 Liberty St. NE #140, Salem, 503-584-1306, 1859cider.com) hidden in a back alley behind the original location of Straight From New York Pizza. Its winemaker owners coax out astonishing apple and yeast flavors with minimal residual sugar. Their strawberry and cherry ciders likewise lack rivals in vividness of their adjunct fruits.