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).

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.

2017 Festival of Dark Arts

I thought I had done a review of this last year, but apparently I didn’t.  This is the second year my wife and I have attended this festival, which is based around only stouts.  Fort George Brewery in Astoria has declared February as Stout Month and hosts this festival every year in the middle of the month.  Last year it was Valentines weekend, this year it was slightly later.  Unfortunately it always seems to fall on Zwicklemania weekend, which means missing that event.

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Last year’s festival happened during a torrential downpour and we got soaked walking from our hotel to the festival.  This year the weather was much nicer, but the downside to that meant it was a lot more crowded.  They rearranged some of the tap locations in an effort to manage the crowds better, but I feel like they went the wrong way and made it worse instead of better.  But besides the crushing crowds and the too loud music (which we just come to expect at an event like this) everything else was top notch as usual.  And of course, we’re all there for the beer!

I don’t take detailed tasting notes at an event like this, but there were quite a few that stuck out as far superior than the rest.  Between my wife and I we tasted 26 of the stouts that were there.  That’s only a third or so of the 63 total available.  Several of the more rare ones run out fast, some we never even saw, and sadly my wife had the dubious honor of blowing two kegs.  She just missed out on the Firestone Walker Parabajava and the Smog City The Nothing.  I was a few people short of The Breury’s So Happens it’s Tuesday, which I knew would go fast.

Quite a lot of the beers at the Festival are barrel aged and double digit alcohol level.  This is one of the few fests where I’m thankful for a 3 ounce pour, because most of these beers it would be hard to drink much more than that.  Thick, rich, boozy, heavily flavored, just a “taste” is perfect.

It’s impossible to pick a favorite, but there were a handful of beers that shone above the rest.  The Lagunitas Willett Whiskey Aged Stout was phenomenal, as was the Ecliptic Bourbon Barrel Aged Oort Imperial Stout.  It’s a coin flip between those two for best of the fest.  Also great was the 2013 Walking Man Bourbon Barrel Jaywalker, the Alesong Rhino Suit, Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Narwhal, the Stoup Rye Barrel Aged Imperial Stout and the Mill City Brew Werks Raspberry Tripwire.

When I’m at a festival like this, I tend to gravitate to beers I’ve never had before and beers that I can’t usually get in this area.  Nothing against Boneyard’s Suge Knight or pFriem’s BA Imperial Stout, but I’ve had them before and I know they are good.  This also means I didn’t try a lot of the Fort George beers, since I’ve had them before or know I can get them pretty much any time.  Coffee Girl, Kentucky Girl, and Tuesday’s Lunch I know I’ve had, and the rest didn’t really look appealing.  Nothing wrong with weird flavors, but I’m not sure about a stout with Candy Cap mushrooms (Subtle Hyperole) or black tea and plums (Kaiju Stout).

The exception to this was Fort George’s new Matryoshka series.  Named after Russian nesting dolls, the base is a Barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout.  A small batch of that was aged with cocoa nibs, and then an even smaller batch of that was aged with cocoa nibs and raspberries.  A stout, within a stout, within a stout.  I had a bottle of the base beer here at the house, and my wife got a taster of the cocoa version while I got a taster of the cocoa/raspberry version and they were both phenomenal.  The day after the festival we went back to Fort George for lunch and also a bottle release of the Matryoshkas.  I picked up a bottle of the cocoa nib and the cocoa nib/raspberry to complete the set.

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Fort George sure knows how to throw a party! We have to leftover tokens to kick start us for next year.  See you in 2018!