Oregon’s Lush Coast

Portland is Beervana beyond a shadow of a doubt, but don’t overlook the Oregon Coast when it comes to good drinks.  Not only is the Oregon coast a beautiful place to visit and drive down, there’s plenty of good breweries and a handful of wineries and distilleries as well.  Starting from the north and working your way south down the Pacific Coast Highway (US 101), although I wouldn’t recommend doing it all in one day.

Astoria: Located at the mouth of the Columbia River, where it meets the Pacific and separates Oregon from Washington, Astoria has a solid and small, but growing, beer scene.  Fort George and Buoy are the two big names in town, they both can their beer and it’s available in the Portland market, but you should visit their locations.  Buoy is out on a dock, completely with a glass floor to watch sea lions, while Fort George is a little further up the hill with commanding views of the town and river.  Wet Dog Cafe and Astoria Brewing Company (which are run together) are right down on the waterfront boardwalk area.  They share a brewery, but both locations are unique.  Astoria Brewing has a simple tap room and bar, while Wet Dog is a full blown restaurant. On the Wet Dog side they have several dog named beers that aren’t available on the other side.  The food is also really good.  Worth a stop. The newest game in town is Reach Break Brewing, which opened about a week before we got to stop in there before Festival of the Dark Arts.  The beer was awesome, and ambitious, starting out day one with a barrel aged stout.  These guys know what they are doing.

Gearhart: There’s not a brewery in Gearhart (that I know of) but there is the McMenamins Gearhart Hotel.  It’s a really cool historic property, and of course you can find all the standard and special McMenamins beers there.

Seaside: Seaside is a pretty cool town, albeit very touristy.  It’s about as close to what I would think of as a “beach” from the Southern US.  Wide sandy beach, arcades and taffy shops, boardwalk etc.  Very “East Coast” style beach town.  I haven’t been to Seaside Brewing yet, but I see it every time we drive through there.  Maybe next time.

Cannon Beach: Cannon Beach is one of my favorite places along the coast.  It’s the first place along the coast my wife took me after I moved out to Oregon and home to the famous Haystack Rock.  The last time we drove through there (on the way home from Cape Lookout) we noticed two new places in town that we’ll need to visit next time we’re in town.  Pelican Brewing opened a new brewery and pub in Cannon Beach.  I had heard about that but finally got to see where it was.  Also, on the north side of town was Public Coast Brewing which, to my knowledge, is very new.  We didn’t have time to stop at either as we made our way home, but we said we would go next time we were in town.  Cannon Beach is also home to the Cannon Beach Distillery.  While we were camping in Cape Lookout our friends had a couple bottles from CBD.  One was Il Keyote, which is an agave liquor that’s barrel aged.  The website says they treat it more like a brandy than a tequila, and I remember it being very smooth and very delicious.

Tillamook: Tillamook is a bit inland from the coast, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention de Garde Brewing.  World famous for their wild fermented farmhouse style beers, absolutely worth the visit.  And let’s be honest, you’re going into town for the cheese curds anyway.  US 101 passes through town, so you’re still on the coastal highway, it just tucks inland around the large Tillamook Bay.

Pacific City: Pacific City is home to the main operations of Pelican Brewing.  They have a gorgeous brewpub located, quite literally, on the beach.  Located next to one of the public parking and beach access areas with great views of the beach and Chief Kiwanda Rock (which I’ve also seen referred to as Haystack Rock.. confusing yeah?).

Lincoln City: Lincoln City is a small town, and is geared more towards grocery stores and supplies than beach rentals and kites.  Lincoln City is home to the McMenamins Lighthouse Pub which, despite being very small, has it’s own brewery and supplies beer up the coast to Gearhart.

Depoe Bay: Depoe Bay is a tiny, tiny town and home to the worlds smallest working harbor.  This is a great place to do whale watching.  Depoe Bay didn’t used to have a brewery, but they do now.  Former Three Mugs brewer and OBC Member Chris Jennings is now the head brewer at The Horn Public House and Brewery located in the former Spouting Horn Restaurant location.  Haven’t been there yet, but it’s on the list.

Devils Punchbowl: So, not a town so much as a roadside attraction, the Devils Punchbowl Natural Area is home to the Flying Dutchman Winery.  A small winery, but with award winning wine.  When we stopped in to do a tasting they told us that the wines are open fermented and barrel aged outside and they pick up some of the salty, ocean qualities.  Not sure if you can really taste the difference, but it makes for a neat story and unique selling point.  The wines were also very good.

Newport: Newport is home to Rogue, which is very divisive, some people love them, some people hate them, but they are one of the largest breweries in Oregon.  They have several locations throughout the state, but their main operation is in Newport.  It’s worth visiting to take the tour, and hear the story about the “massive red erection”.  Across the parking lot is the Rogue Distillery.  They make whiskey and gin using a lot of the same ingredient as they use for beer.  Dead Guy whiskey uses the exact same grain bill as the Dead Guy beer.  Rogue also has a farm in eastern Oregon where they grow a lot of their own grains, hops, fruits and herbs, to use in the beers, spirits and restaurants.

Yachats: Yachats is very small, but home to Yachats Brewery and Farmstore, which my wife and I recently visited on the way down to camping in Florence.  It’s a great place and totally worth the visit.  It’s a bit out of the way but trust me, it’s worth the journey.  Great beer, awesome food and great people.  Go there.

Florence and points South: There’s not really a whole lot south of Florence.  Defeat River Brewing is in Reedsport, which we planned on going to while we were in Florence, but we didn’t make it.  7 Devils Brewing is in Coos Bay, which sounds vaguely familiar.  I feel like I’ve had some of their beers before, but I never been to the location down in Coos Bay.  To my knowledge, there are no breweries south of Coos Bay, but this is Oregon so I wouldn’t be shocked to find out there was.

So there you have it, your brewery tour of the Oregon coast (with a winery and two distilleries thrown in for good measure).  Head on out to the coast and drink in the view! (Sorry, the puns just write themselves).

Yachats Brewing and Farmstore

Last weekend my wife and I went camping down in Florence, Oregon with her family.  This is an annual tradition which happened to fall on one of the hottest weeks in record in Oregon.  Thankfully, it was much cooler down on the coast.  On the way down, we stopped in the tiny coastal town of Yachats to have lunch at Yachats Brewing and Farmstore.

 

I don’t write about every brewery we visit because that would be overwhelming, but if a place is unique, a special experience, or in my thoughts “unknown” or underhyped, I’ll write about it.  Yachats was all three.

Before the visit, I was only vaguely aware of Yachats Brewing.  I had a barrel aged version of their Marbled Murrelet Stout at Festival of the Dark Arts.  It was “on the way”, so we decided to stop in.

Camping is always a food-fest so we decided to split a sandwich, which was a good idea because it was HUGE! BBQ chicken, onions, peppers and cheese, it was great.  Warm polenta and fermented veggies on the side to round it out.  Highly recommend the food.

The two beers we tried were the Coastal Dark Ale (4.5 stars), their version of a CDA, my wife’s favorite style, and the Hyphyweizen (4.5 stars), their version of a German Hef.  Both beers were really good and we ended up taking a crowler of the CDA camping and I got a bottle of their Kriek (which I haven’t tried yet).

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The location was really cool.  Obviously not the original use of that building.  We sat on the side patio, which was half indoors/half outdoors and used to be a greenhouse/plant area.  You could see into the brewery with some tanks back in the back, as well as mics and speakers for live music.

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We got there shortly after they opened, so they weren’t very crowded and the staff was very friendly.  Quick to recommend a beer, ideas about food, pointed out seasonals and special items.  Overall a great experience.  If you’re on the southern Oregon coast, I highly recommend swinging by Yachats Brewing and Farmstore.  They are located right on 101 (Pacific Coast Highway) about a half hour south of Newport.  It’s worth the drive.

Weights and Measures

At a recent employee meeting at the brewery, there was a mention that we may start packaging some of our products in 19.2 ounce cans.  This is an odd size that I’ve seen a handful of breweries releasing.  One day in the car my wife and I were doing what we do best, which is bounce ideas off each other.  A couple of sizes I knew off the top of my head was that 500ml is 16.9oz, so it’s bigger than a half liter, but it’s smaller than a 22oz bomber.  The size doesn’t come out to anything even in ounces or milliliters (568mL).  So what’s the deal?  My wife tossed out “Is is an Imperial Pint?” and I said that it was close, but an Imperial pint is 20 ounces.

Turns out, she was right, and I was… half right? So I did some research and this is what I discovered.  Unbeknownst to me, even with my food science background, the US and the UK measure things slightly differently when it comes to liquid ounces.  There’s several things that play in to it, but the gist of it is a gallon in the UK is the volume of 10 pounds of water (160 ounces) while a gallon in the US is the volume of 8 pounds of water (128 ounces).  But to get quarts and pints, you still divide by 4 and 8 respectively, so a pint in the US is 16 ounces and a pint in the UK is 20 ounces.  But, based on a minor difference in the ounces themselves; apparently one was measured with water, one with wine, so minor density differences, a UK ounce is roughly 0.96 (or 96%) of a US ounce.  So 20 ounces in the UK is only 19.2 ounces US.  What complicates things even further (and brings this full circle) is that several bars now in the US will offer an “Imperial pint” or “true pint” that is 20 ounces US… so actually slightly larger than the “true pint” you would get in an English pub.  So yes.. an Imperial pint is 19.2 ounces.. and 20 ounces… depending on which side of the pond you’re on… or both?

Oskar Blues appears to be the first US brewery to use such a size, debuting Dales Pale Ale in that format in 2012.  A nice light beer.  Founders Brewing also came out with their All Day IPA in that 19.2 size, a 4.5% session beer, meant to be drunk “All Day”.  At some point Oskar Blues jumped the shark and came out with their Barrel Aged Ten Fidy, which clocks in at a whopping 12.9%ABV, in the 19.2 format.  I hope you’re sharing that, or at least not driving anywhere.  My “19.2 oz can” Google search also brings up the Wolf Mother Triple IPA from Golden Road, clocking in at 11.2%, so breweries aren’t afraid to go big in this format.

So that begs the question, why are American breweries packaging beers in UK pints? The answer would seem to me to be, “Because it’s there”.  Ball Corporation makes the cans, which are the same diameter as standard 12 and 16 ounce cans, just taller. (24 ounce cans and 32 ounce cans; often referred to as crowler, a portmanteau of can and growler, are wider). This means you can offer a larger size with only minimal adjustments to your can filler.  Raise the height, set the flow controls to a larger volume and boom, you’re done!  I’ve read in a couple places that breweries like them since it’s only slightly smaller than a 22 ounce bomber, but has the advantages of a can, such as being infinitely recyclable, lighter weight for shipping (full or empty), and no breaking.  The last one is a big deal in the hiking/camping/fishing group and the pack in/pack out mentality.  Easier to carry, easier to store, quicker to cool, great for outdoor activities.

I don’t know what products (if any) we’ll end up releasing in this format, but it sent me down an interesting rabbit hole of science and history that I wanted to share.  I’m a huge geek for numbers and trivia, so this is right up my alley!

Proper Pint Taproom

It seems you can’t blink in this town without a new brewery/restaurant/taproom opening.  Most of it goes unnoticed because we just can’t keep up with it all.  Proper Pint was different.  My wife and I drive by the location everyday and have been watching the progress since before we even knew it was going to be a taproom.  When the signs went up for Proper Pint we were excited to have another beer bar in the area that would be walking distance from our house (Only 7 blocks).

Last Saturday, we drove by the location (52nd and Woodstock) and saw people inside.  They looked open.  We already had plans for that day, but we decided we would swing by on Sunday.  While I was searching the internet for a website with online tap listings and hours of operation, I didn’t find it, but I did run across this great article from New School Beer  which gives a little bit of history of the owner Sean Hiatt, formerly of the Civic Taproom.  The article also has some great pictures of the interior, which I neglected to take because I was more interested in the beer.

So we stopped in on Sunday, and as fate would have it, ended up sitting next to Sean at the bar.  He looked nervous, but in that excited energy kind of way.  Turns out they had opened the day before, when we saw people inside, so this was only their second day open.  We chit chatted with Sean and with Gary behind the bar while we ordered a couple beers and enjoyed the space.  Sean said they hoped to have a “grand opening” celebration in a couple weeks.  He said the target was Saturday August 5th, but that sounded up in the air, so don’t quote me on that.

One of the things I discovered in the article, and then spoke to Sean about on Sunday, was that he built the bar. Literally.  He is an accomplished wood worker and he built the tables, stools, shelves, bar, barback etc.  Anything made of wood in that bar, he made it.  He said it took him about four months to make all the chairs and tables.  Talk about a labor of love!

I would certainly call last weekend a “soft opening”, there are still some kinks to work out, like tap handles that don’t fit quite right and figuring out how to best utilize the flow control taps, but I feel confident they will get those worked out quickly.

Another thing that I observed, which was both a kink to work out and a great example of customer service, was when a patron ordered the de Garde Bu Weisse, and then she came back a few minutes later and told Gary that she thought this was the Zitrus Weizen and not the Weisse.  The two taps were side by side.  Gary poured a small amount from both taps, looked, smelled and tasted them (which is allowed now by OLCC regulations) and told the customer she was absolutely right.  Poured her a new glass and then went to the back to see what had gone wrong and discovered the two draft lines were swapped.  The way he handled that situation was very well done.  Obviously with being newly opened, things like this will happen, but to handle them with class and grace is a tribute to the team there at Proper Pint.

When we were there they had a good mix of beers on tap, which has probably changed by now, including the requisite IPAs and Double IPAs, but also a handful of lighter beers like Kolsch and Weizen and Farmhouse beers.  They also have a couple of ciders on tap and two nitro taps.  One was Left Hand Milk Stout on Nitro, the other was a Nitro IPA from Loowit.  While I loved the hop profile of the IPA, the Nitro made it seem flat and overly sweet.  It was missing that bite from the carbonation.

If you live in SE Portland (or maybe if you don’t) I’d highly recommend you swing by.  I know my wife and I will be back fairly often.

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Proper Pint Taproom is located at the Intersection of 52nd Street and Woodstock Blvd. They are open from noon to about midnight, 7 days a week (official hours not yet posted).  For more information check out their Facebook Page.

2017 Portland Fruit Beer Fest

I haven’t blogged in a while (apologies) but festival season is upon us! This past weekend was the Portland Fruit Beerfest, which due to other obligations and just life in general, was the first Fest my wife and I attended this year. We missed Spring Beer and Wine and Nanofest which was unfortunate, since those are a couple of our favorites, but there’s always next year.

My wife and I like to volunteer to pour beer at these festivals, which is you haven’t done it before, it’s the best way to do a fest.  You “work” for 3-4 hours, pouring samples and taking tickets/tokens and then you are released from your shift and given a cup, tokens and wristband to go enjoy the festival, for free! One of our friends from the homebrew club is the volunteer coordinator for a couple of fests in town, including this one, so of course we signed up. Sometimes it can be boring, sometimes it can be hectic, usually it’s a combo of both.  A sudden burst of activity followed by a lull, rinse, repeat. A few festival require you to have an OLCC Servers Permit (Oregon Liquor Control Commission) but most don’t.  Usually they just have a pamphlet that tells you how to determine if someone has been overserved and then you sign on the dotted line that you solemnly swear you’re up to no good.

They moved the Fruit Beer Fest this year, back to Burnside Brewing, compared to the last couple of years at the North Park Blocks, and I get the reasons why (cost, access to water, electricity etc) but it did make for a smaller, more crowded venue.  That’s typical beer fest, but it still stinks.  The good news is it gave me an opportunity to visit Burnside Brewing after I shockingly realized I’d never been there.

Fruit Beer Fest can be interesting.  Most of the beers are small, one off batches made specifically for the fest with some wild flavor combos.  I tried 13 unique beers at the festival, counting my samples, my wife’s samples and one last one that we split.

In no particular order, we had:

Blueberry Lemonade – HiWheel Fizzy Wine
Fruitlands Blood Orange and Hibiscus – Modern Times
Pineapple POG – Portland Cider Company
Key Lime Pie – 10 Barrel Brewing
Hop Berry IPA – Culmination Brewing
Clown Pie, Banana Cream Ale – Portland Brewing (I poured this one)
There will be Blood (Blood Orange IPA) – Fort George
Kumquat Farmhouse Ale – pFriem
Biere Royale – The Commons
Tiki Club IWA – Sunriver Brewing
Orange Crusher – Cascade Brewing (one of the best of the day!)
Cherry Pilsner – Reubens Brews
Benny Appleseed – Lompoc Brewing

Quite the assortment yeah? Some are better than others, welcome to beerfests, but they are all interesting and unique.

Next June I would highly recommend it.

Another one bites the dust…

New broke last week that Wicked Weed had been assimilated by the Borg acquired by AB InBev’s High End division.  As expected, backlash has been swift and severe.  This time, not just among the beer snob crowd though.  Several breweries who were collaborating with WW and a good chunk (almost 30 at last report) of the attendees of the Wicked Weed Invitational Beer Festival have immediately cut all ties to the brewery.  Don’t feel too bad.  I imagine we’ll eventually find out how many zeros were on that check.  They’ll be fine.

Personally, I’m very conflicted about this buyout.  I can’t really say I’m a huge fan of Wicked Weed’s beer, since I’ve only tried two of their offerings, but I was a fan of the brewery itself.  One of the standard bearers for the quickly growing North Carolina craft beer scene, I was planning to visit them on my next trip out East, whenever that may have been.  Also, listening to the interviews with Walt on the BN’s Sour Hour, not only did I get excited about what he’s trying to do there, but felt like I got to know him and his crew a little bit.  Hence the feeling of deep disappointment and betrayal.

I want to be clear, I don’t begrudge anyone for selling a business when presented with an obscene amount of cash.  Talk about love and craft and artisan all you want, but at the end of the day it’s a business.  The goal is to make money and support your family and support your community.  When 10 Barrel sold for what, at the time, seemed like a ridiculous amount ($10 Million) I thought to myself “Wow… what do you do as a business owner when someone, quite literally, walks in the door with a suitcase full of cash?”  Those of us who are not business owners have no idea how we would react to such a situation.

My ire is more directed at InBev, and I think that’s true of a lot of people, even including the initial knee jerk reaction towards the small brewery of “HOW COULD YOU??” AB InBev is working to manipulate the market, using legal, if not quite moral, ways to do it.  I see it as a monopoly without being a monopoly. “But your Honor, it’s 27 different companies.. that’s not a monopoly.”  It’s not so much that they bought “my favorite brewery” but that they can do so with such ease.  They probably spend more than 10 million dollars taking Wal Mart execs out to dinner.  10 Barrel is barely a blip on their balance sheet.  But it puts them in Central Oregon plus a pub in Portland. It seems as if they just point and say “I want that one….” In the current climate, it’s just another reminder that money is power. “If you can’t beat them, join them” has become “If you can’t beat them, own them.”  You don’t have to work or stand in line if you can just buy your place at the table.  Looking at their acquisitions, they are all scattered across the country in pretty strategic locations.  California, Oregon, Seattle, Chicago, Georgia, New York, Colorado… and now North Carolina.  Adding to the web, adding to the network.  Also, taking another step deeper into “craft” by getting into sour beer.  They grabbed a barrel program when they got Goose Island, but sour beer is a whole different animal.

The immediate reaction by a lot of people is that they will never buy or drink that beer again, and that’s fine, there are millions of choices.  But that can be easier said than done.  I’m not a huge fan of 10 Barrel or Elysian, so those are easy to avoid.  Golden Road I’ve never had before, and suddenly saw it show up in our local Fred Meyer, and then remembered why it suddenly showed up.  This year I did go out and buy some of the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.  I don’t know if I will again in the future, but I do think it’s really good.  I don’t yet know what I’ll decide about Wicked Weed.  I may still try it, just so I can say I had it, and then not have it again.  Or I may swear off it.  Right now you can’t get it here in Oregon, so it’s not hard to avoid.  If they start distributing here, it might be hard to say no, even knowing they are InBev now.  I’ll have to cross that bridge when I come to it.

For now, there’s no immediate choice to make.  My next trip to NC won’t be any time soon and they likely won’t start selling WW beer in Oregon for quite some time, if ever.  I have time to think and mull on it, but mostly it just sucks.  I know full well that the whole “loyalty” gambit that a lot of fans play when a small company sells is mostly bullshit.  They don’t owe us a damn thing.  Granted there have been cases where a brewery has publicly said “We’ll never sell!” and then they do a few weeks later.  That of course is shifty and worthy of scorn.  Wicked Weed to my knowledge had not made any statements similar to that, but who knows.  They made their choice.  Now we make ours.

Beer is a democracy.  We vote with our dollars. Do with that what you will.

Reach Break Brewing

After we got checked in to Astoria for the Festival of Dark Arts, our AirBnB host told us that a brand new brewery had just opened in town.  Of course we had to check it out.  But first we had to find it.  The place was so new it didn’t show up on google maps and we weren’t 100% sure of the name.  Reach something.  After a while we found it.  They don’t have a website that I could find, but they do have a Facebook page which you can peruse HERE.

Turns out it was on Duane street, quite literally a block from Fort George.  So we decided to swing by there on our way to getting in line.  Obviously, we weren’t the only ones who had that idea.  We ran into some of our Portland friends and hung out with them for a while.  They were very ambitious and ordered a half pour of everything on the menu, so we got to try it all.  Being Dark Arts weekend there was mostly Stouts on the menu, but they also had a Session IPA and an English Style Red Ale if you weren’t into the dark stuff.  The Session IPA was super citrusy with huge hop character without being overly bitter.  The red ale had a nice malty backbone.

For a place that had only been open a couple weeks when we got there, they had a very ambitious tap list with several barrel aged offerings.  Of course, if you’re gonna break out a chocolate and vanilla stout aged in Whiskey barrels (Brownie Stout), Dark Arts weekend is the time to do it.

I was really impressed with what they had to offer and I would highly recommend you stop by the next time you’re on the coast.  This is now the 5th brewery in the booming metropolis of Astoria, so you really owe it to yourself to go.  I will be back for sure.