Beers by the Beach: Sampling Oregon Coast Microbreweries
By Anne Marie DiStefano
(Oregon Coast) - Microbreweries, brewpubs and small batch specialty beers are an Oregon tradition, and the Oregon coast is no exception. All along the Oregon Coast Highway, in seaside towns big and small, you can find talented and passionate brewers. Some have made names for themselves pretty far inland, while others are content to provide exceptional pints to the adventurous few.
Starting in the north, the historic shipping town of Astoria is home to Fort George Brewery and Public House, and the Astoria Brewing Company. Fort George is known as a community gathering place, with live music and top-notch albacore fish and chips. While many of the beer styles here are British in origin — porter, an oatmeal pale ale, and the signature Vortex IPA — the taps may also feature, depending on the season, Belgian-style wit and fruit beers made with local produce.
The Astoria Brewing Company is also home to the Wet Dog Café, an Astoria institution since 1995. The riverfront deck is open in summer and fall, allowing visitors to take in the vast Columbia River and its Industrial Age traffic of barges and commercial vessels. Inside it’s a cozy, brewpub atmosphere, where you can sip Solar Dog IPA (so named because the brewery is solar powered) and ales ranging from blond to amber to a dark, malty porter. The full menu includes 18 different kinds of burgers.
About 15 miles south of Astoria, in Gearhart, you’ll find on outpost of Oregon’s far-ranging and creative McMenamins chain of brewpubs. McMenamins’ Sand Trap, on the greens at Gearhart Golf Links, offers beers that are familiar to all Oregonians: Hammerhead, Terminator Stout and Ruby, made with raspberries. There’s a trusty menu of burgers, tater tots and pizza, and this location is notable for its outdoor seating, including a fire pit, and for live music.
In Cannon Beach, there’s Bill’s Tavern & Brewhouse, which is famous for its blackberry beer. The Blackberry Beauty is light and fairly crisp, fruity without being sweet or syrupy. Other house-made beers include Duckdive Pale, Evil Twin IPA, and Rudy’s Red. Expected menu items like burgers and fish and chips are complemented by clam chowder, oysters and home-made chili.
For a seat smack-dab on the beach and powerful, award-winning brews, head to Pacific City and the Pelican Pub & Brewery. In the summer, you can sit outside, watching waves, kites and surfers. The pub itself is dwarfed by a massive haystack rock that rises from the ocean.
Pelican’s Kiwanda Cream Ale is a winner, literally, having taken gold at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival, among other awards. Named for nearby Cape Kiwanda, this fruity and floral ale puts the sweetness of malt in the forefront, but has a clean finish. It’s poured alongside Doryman’s Dark Ale, MacPelican’s Scottish Style Ale, Tusnami Stout, and others, including rotating seasonal or specialty brews.
The kitchen is open from breakfast through to late at night, and works to incorporate beer into its recipes. You can get buttermilk-beer pancakes for breakfast, beer-cheese soup for lunch, and for dinner, pan seared Pacific rockfish in a Kiwanda Cream Ale, tomato, and caper sauce. The menu also suggests the right beer to accompany each entrée.
In addition, every year the Pelican hosts three Brewers Dinners, featuring expert pairings of beer and Northwest cuisine.
Lincoln City is home to The Lighthouse, another link in the McMenamins chain. It’s fun and quirky, although it’s not really in a lighthouse. Still, it’s a reliable stop for burgers, sanwiches and pizza. As a bonus, the Lighthouse has an outstanding whiskey selection.
Another well-known brewery is Rogue, whose flagship brewpub is in Newport. Rogue actually has three outposts in Newport, along with other locations up and down the coast, from San Francisco in the south to Issiquah, Washington in the north (there’s also a Rogue pub in Astoria.) Their beer is distributed nationally.
The Rogue Ales Public House, founded in 1989, still operates as a bustling brewpub. The newer Brewers on the Bay is also bustling, and offers a view of the much-photographed bridge over Yaquina Bay.
Dead Guy Ale is Rogue’s signature brew. It’s a rich and malty beer made in the style of a German maibock. Other favorites include Chocolate Stout, Hazelnut Brown Nectar and the Old Crustacean Barleywine.
Rogue has also gotten into the distilling business, making whiskey, gin, and — pirates that they are — three kinds of rum. The Rogue House of Spirits, a brief distance from Brewers on the Bay, is open for tastings and tours from June through September.
In the southern town of Florence, if you look closely, you’ll find Wakonda Brewing Company, a small craft brewery with a small tasting room. Wakonda’s Beachcomber Cream Ale has something of a cult following, and the Sneaker Wave Pilsner is reported to live up to its name. Other beers include the Timberbeast IPA, Black Elk Stout, and Firthur, brewed with fir needles and named after local son Ken Kesey’s famous bus. The tasting room is only open limited hours, but the beers are also available locally at spots like Beachcombers Pub and Grill.
List of brewpubs:
Fort George Brewery and Public House. 1483 Duane St. Astoria, Oregon. 503-325-7468. www.fortgeorgebrewery.com.
Astoria Brewing Company & Wet Dog Café. 114 11th St. Astoria, Oregon. 503-325-6975. www.wetdogcafe.com.
McMenamins Sand Trap. 1157 N. Marion Ave. Gearhart, Oregon. 503-717-8150. www.mcmenamins.com/554-mcmenamins-sand-trap-home.
Bill’s Tavern and Brewhouse. 188 N. Hemlock St. Cannon Beach, Oregon. 503-436-2202.
McMenamins Lighthouse Tavern. 4157 N. Highway 101. Lincoln City, Oregon. 541-994-7238.
Pelican Pub & Brewery. 33180 Cape Kiwanda Dr. Pacific City, Oregon. 503-965-7007. www.yourlittlebeachtown.com/pelican.
Rogue Ales Public House. 748 S.W. Bay Blvd. Newport, Oregon. 541-265-3188. www.rogue.com.
Rogue Brewers on the Bay. 2320 OSU Dr. Newport, Oregon. 541-867-3660. www.rogue.com.
Wakonda Brewing Company. 1725 Kingwood St. #4. Florence, Oregon. 541-991-0694.
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