Going Coastal at the Pacific NW Brew Cup

Oktoberfest weekend offered craft beer zealots like us more to do than we could possibly choose from. Having a teleporting device and two spare livers would have made the daunting task of attending all that was offered still nearly impossible.

Since Beervana is a daily beer fest, covering as much of what great festivities as has been offered didn’t allow for much time to get out of town during the summer months. Now that autumn has kicked in, it seems as though there’s still no slowing down. Posting events to our calendar has been a time consuming venture, but hey, it sure beats living in a part of the world where the choices are lacking, if any at all.

So, determined to get out of dodge and soak in some of the remaining sunshine left while many of the trees still held on to their leaves, we hitched a ride with our buddy D.J. Paul and headed for Astoria, Oregon. Our picturesque destination town known for the cult classic film, The Goonies, was the setting for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday’s Pacific Northwest Brew Cup. This event was made possible by the good folks at Fort George Brewery and Public House, who, despite a rigorous brewery expansion undertaking, found time to team up with Baked Alaska Restaurant & Lounge and the Clatsop County Agency. Proceed from this wonderful event went to benefit Clatsop County Food Bank. Thanks to volunteers and about three dozen participating breweries, the event appeared to go off without a hitch. To make matters event better, the setting of this year’s festival was spectacular – situated next to the Astoria Maritime Museum next to the Astoria trolley line at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River. Mother Nature could not have been kinder, offering mostly sunny skies and a warm, windy day to the delight of the festival goers.

We arrived to the festival excited to taste in some unique seasonal offerings. The first beer that caught our eye was the Astoria Brewing Fresh Hop Dark, a murky brown-black bodied fresh hopped ale with a soft beige head. According to brewer John Dalgren this robustly, chocolaty, and esterous brew was made using wheat. To say the least, it was a very interesting and imaginative rendition of a fresh hop brew. We’ve found that the experience of attending beer festivals is most enjoyed when there’s offerings that we’ve yet to experience. Trying new-to-us brews is a real treat and we were happy to find such beers due to location and seasonality.

Bill’s Tavern Brew House of Cannon Beach, Oregon makes beers that you don’t see much in the Portland beer market, so we went for their Duck Dive Pale Ale. This American-style Pale Ale at a light 4.8%, referred to as “A Cannon Beach legend,” offered a crisp malt spine. However, as the beer warmed, the overwhelming presence of diacytel hindered us from finding it so legendary. The recipe development of this beer appeared solid, but somewhere along the way, the execution left something missing.

Favorites of the festival included Fort George’s two brews, a boldly hopped triple IPA dubbed “Omegatex” and a special keg of their Kentucky Coffee Girl Stout, the big beefy coffee stout aged in bourbon barrels. Also among some of our favorites of the fest, was the Golden Valley Red Hills Pils, a Czech-style low ABV Pilsner beer; Deschutes’ Saison de la Bonde, a Belgian-style farmhouse ale employing five different malts and “a plethora of spices”; Alaskan Big Nugget Barleywine, always a treat with its deep amber body, rich hop profile, and seemingly magical warming abilities; Oakshire Espresso Stout; Laurelwood Workhorse IPA;  Block 15 Duke IV Hefe-Weissbier, Silvermoon IPA; Anthem Dry Hop Cider; Alameda Yellow Wolf IPA, Pelican Guillatine; Hopworks Galactic Imperial Red, and more… Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the day was a thoroughly enjoyable Smokin Scotch Ale from McMenamins. Brewed at the Crystal Ballroom, we had the opportunity to meet with brewer Jeff Cooley who was in attendance and celebrating his 40th birthday. Cooley, a brewing veteran, cut his teeth in Northern California, and spent much of his professional career making beer at Mad River Brewing Co.

After trying several of the righteous brews at the Pac NW Brew Cup, a group of us including Oakshire Brewmaster Matt Van Wyk and his family, headed over to Fort George for dinner. Here, several special brewery offering were on tap including their Divinity Raspberry Wit, Working Girl Porter, and two fresh hop brews, CoHoperative and Hopstoria. The food and beer was excellent. It was nice to catch up with Fort George brewers Jack Harris and Chris Nemlowill.

Following a great dinner at Fort George, we headed down the hill to Pier 11 where Wet Dog Cafe housed the beers of Astoria Brewing Company. Here, we settled on a round of Astoria’s Blueberry Lambic. It was a beer we’d been wanting to try for a while and were quite satisfied with it. Not quite as sour as we’d imagined it to be, there was a big fruit presence of the berries that carried a somewhat tart sweetness through a sweet underpinning.

As the sun set and cast a soft blue hue across the large vessels docked on the vast Columbia, we finished up blueberry brews and ventured across the Astoria-Megler Bridge north into Washington state. Our final destination of the evening would be the town of Long Beach about twenty minutes up from Astoria. Here, we would visit the tiny Grey Parrot Brewpub. Housed in a double-wide trailer, we entered and were greeted by owner-brewer Phil Goularte. Along with some locals stopping in for beers after a day of fishing were two parrots, one big green one, and one small gray one. On tap, Goularte let us sample his own variety of wild ales – true spontaneously fermented beers brewed twice a year in the spring and fall by means of ambient airborne bacteria that almost magically makes its way into exposed wort. A 8.0% ABV Wild Red Ale and a 9.7% ABV Wild Stout Ale were offered. The Red is a three year old brew with a cuttingly sour presence and an indescribably complexity, much akin to its younger counterpart. These are the beers we came for. Brewed naturally with a one-of-a-kind flavor that many folks might bock at. We picked up a case of flip-top bottles (six of each sour) and returned on our long arduous journey back to Beervana. Another great weekend in the books.

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