Weekend Getaway to Astoria

March 19th, 2009 · 3 Comments · Beer Travels, Oregon Breweries

Brewer Bolt Minister pours some pints at Astoria Brewing/Wet Dog Cafe

Brewer Bolt Minister pours some pints at Astoria Brewing/Wet Dog Cafe

One of Jeanne’s and my favorite things about living in Seattle is all of the different weekend trips that you can do from the city. We love getting out of town on a Friday night/Saturday morning and driving somewhere to just get away from the city. This past weekend, we drove the ~3 hours down to Astoria, OR to just relax and drink some great beers. Astoria has three main beer destinations: Astoria Brewing Company/Wet Dog Cafe, Fort George Brewery & Public House and a fairly new Rogue Public House. With plenty of good beer to be had, we figured we would be happy campers this weekend.

First on the list was Astoria Brewing. The brewpub is positioned in a great spot right near the water in Astoria and is a natural lure for tourists looking for a pint while wandering around downtown Astoria. It’s a huge room that offers good beer and food for those in need. Head brewer Bolt Minster met Jeanne and I on this rainy Saturday and showed us around the brewhouse and sampled some of his creations. He set me up with a pint of the Bitter Bitch IPA, which is a 9.6% Imperial IPA that kicks some serious ass. It had big citrus hops and some resin, with enough malt to make it very drinkable; easily one of my favorites from the Astoria visit. Jeanne started off with a pint of the Poop Deck Porter (love the name…), which was also really enjoyable. Other standout beers included an Imperial Wit, Volksweissen Bavarian white beer and a Spiced Pumpkin Ale.

That is one Bitter Bitch!

That is one Bitter Bitch!

Bolt was a pleasure to speak with, and he’s really excited about what he’s doing at Astoria Brewing. After studying history in college, Bolt started off brewing at Philadelphia’s in Portland, and he definitely admits the place was known much more for its sandwiches than its beers. He runs the show when it comes to beer at Astoria Brewing, and he  seems to be enjoying himself experimenting and getting his recipes just how he wants them.

When it comes down to it, Astoria Brewing has some very solid beers that would keep me coming in, whether I’m just passing through town or living right down the street.

After having the pleasure of trying their Vortex IPA a while back here in Seattle, I had some pretty high hopes for visiting the Fort George Brewery and I was not disappointed. Brewer Chris Nemlowill walked us through a sampler of all of their available beers, and he also gave us one of the best brewery tours we’ve had.
The pub is away from the core tourist area of the waterfront, but not by much. The interior has a nice feel to it and the woodwork of the benches, tables and stools is pretty impressive. Chris was telling us that the wood for the huge booths came from wood that was ordered to build a ship about fifty years ago, but it was never used. The room itself is a decent size, and it is the type of place you could go for a pint on a Saturday afternoon and just chill with a book (several people were).

Chris Nemlowill tells us what its all about at Fort George Brewery

Chris Nemlowill tells us what it's all about at Fort George Brewery

Fort George had 10 of their beers on tap, plus 3 guest taps. It was no surprise that I really enjoyed the Vortex IPA, but I was a bit surprised at how much I enjoyed Divinity, which can best be described as a Belgian style ale with raspberries. The fruit was not overbearing and really added just enough to make it interesting. I swear I got tastes that reminded me of scotch bonnet peppers (no spice though), but Chris confirmed there are no peppers used in the beer. It’s just a highly drinkable and very unique beer that I had to have a full pint of after we were done with our sampler. They also had a bourbon barrel aged stout, which uses a beefed up recipe of their Cavatica Stout. For those that like a lot of bourbon in their beer, this one is for you. Other standouts included their Sunrise Oatmeal Pale Ale, XVI Chapel and Nut Red Ale. Also of note was the house-made sausage platter that Jeanne and I split…holy crap was it good! If that is any indication as to how good the rest of their food is, then I’d highly suggest eating there.

Thanks again to Chris for taking some time to drink some beers with us and show us around!

We ended up staying at the Rose River Inn that night, which is a B&B with a perfect location one block from Fort George. The owners (Pam and Dave, beer lovers themselves) were  very nice and the room and food were wonderful. You can walk anywhere to downtown, including both breweries I’ve talked about. That night, Jeanne and I headed to a classy local restaurant called Baked Alaska for a meal right on the Columbia. After some fresh seafood, we topped off the meal with their signature double chocolate chip cookie in a cast iron skillet, and I had a glass of the Fort George Bourbon Barrel Stout as well.

The Rogue Public House has a beautiful spot on the Columbia River.

The Rogue Public House has a beautiful spot on the Columbia River.

On Sunday after visitng a view of the Goonie’s spots (the jail and the football field; and yes, I’m a dork), Jeanne and I thought about heading over to Fort George again as they were celebrating their 2nd anniversary all day. But, we instead decided to head straight over to the Rogue Public House on Pier 39, about 2 miles east from downtown. They have a beautiful location out on the pier, and there is plenty of tasty Rogue beers pouring. Manager Jimmy Griffin filled us in on their plans to start brewing at this location in the fall, and showed us the back where they hold a tank of live crabs for the kids (and adults) to pick their dinner. He also showed us the guest rooms above the restaurant with spectacular views that can be rented out by calling the brewery; not a bad walk home from the bar! After grabbing a pint of their Yellow Snow IPA, it was time to hit the road and head out of town.

For those of us looking to keep a tighter budget these days, short trips like this are a life saver to get out of town for a quick weekend. I’d highly suggest a trip to Astoria, with a visit down to Cannon Beach as well, if you’re looking to get out of town for some different scenery. The town itself is something out of a picture book with its old houses and quaint downtown area, and I’d gladly revisit the town and its breweries any day (and probably soon will; at the very least for the Goonies 25th anniversary celebration in June 2010!).

You can check out my full set of photos here on Flickr.

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • df34

    Sounds like a great trip! Another couple spots to hit down the Oregon coast are Bill’s Tavern in Cannon Beach and of course Pelican Brewery in Pacific City. Both are must hit’s at some point.

  • Bobbrew

    Also not to be missed is the Columbian Cafe 1114 Marine Drive next to the movie theater. Uriah Hulsey is one of the world’s top chefs. I met him early one morning on a Brew Crew bus trip down the Oregon coast. Everyone but me went to the Wet Dog Brewery – I’d had there beers and didn’t want to compromise my capacity too early in the day.

    I stumbled in for breakfast, sat at the counter and watched my meal being prepared. I noticed 4 solid taps of beer and complimented Uriah on his selection. He replied that the good ones are in the back! He then proceeded to pour me a Full Sail Imperial Porter (before it got dumbed down slighly). I was in heaven! The meal was fantastic! Fresh baked bread and 4 flavors of jelly including garlic and jalapeno. The eggs tasted like they were out of his yard. This place rocks for all things TASTE!

    I noticed a small paper menu laying on the counter and it described a specialty Mexican dinner they had the previous night which included 11 (eleven) different Moles (pronounced Mole A). Dang – it’s very difficult finding even one mole at a restaurant in Portland. How would this Heavenly Hole-in-the-Wall joint have 11?

    Columbian Cafe is definitely worth a stop. Be sure to ask “What’s Pouring in the Back”!

  • Hey You Geuze! Plus, Events Tonight

    […] one of the Astoria breweries just has to take the idea and run with it. Actually, I recall from my last visit that either Chris at Fort George or Bolt at Astoria Brewing mentioned that they would be […]

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