Situated midway between Bend and Boise, it takes most beer geeks a lot of drive—figuratively and literally—to make the pilgrimage to 1188 Brewing (141 E Main St., John Day, 541-575-1188, 1188brewing.com). Similar to what Barley Brown’s did for Baker City, the brewery injected new energy and purpose into this sleepy ranch town of fewer than 2,000 people. 1188 hasn’t reached that level of notoriety yet, but its growing popularity allowed the cramped restaurant to expand into the business next door. Now drinkers have a lot more room to stretch out while enjoying the best beers on Highway 26 east of Mount Hood.
The scenery and some of the names on the tap list are reminders that you’re in cowpoke country—a pile of horse manure might lie in the street out front or a pickup bed loaded with hay bales may be parked around the corner. Toast rural living and all that hard labor cityfolk don’t have to do with Country Roads, a laid-back journey of a beer with pillowy wheat flavors, a squeeze of orange citrus and crisp finish. The brewery closes pretty early—8 pm is the posted time—so if you’re not ready to call it, take your bar tab to the neighboring Grubsteak Mining Company Bar & Grill, where some nights the owner’s dog is ready to smoke any pool shark out there by leaping onto the table and nudging balls into pockets with his nose.