By Iris Yokoi, OC Register
1805: Lewis and Clark enter the Lower Columbia River in what is now the state of Oregon to explore land west of the Mississippi River for westward expansion of the United States.
2018: My friends and I cross the Lewis and Clark Bridge over the Lower Columbia River to explore Oregon’s North Coast Craft Beer Trail, the latest example of Americans’ entrepreneurial spirit and love of good food and drink.
I have long been a fan of the red wines of Oregon, especially the pinot noirs. But this time, it was the beer trail along Oregon’s North Coast that drew me to the state. And I found a new love, which made me feel like a cheating spouse.
How could I even think of wine when every stop along the North Coast Craft Beer Trail presented dozens of flavorful, lemony, hoppy, sour, refreshing drinks to taste? A different IPA, ale, gose, kolsch, cider and even root beer to enjoy at every bar? It was hard to resist any of them.
Friends picked me up at Portland’s airport, and we headed for Astoria, the epicenter of the beer trail, which meanders along Highway 101 and includes the coastal communities of Seaside and Cannon Beach. The trail was launched in 2012, an idea hatched by community leaders inspired by the Bend Ale Trail in Central Oregon.
“I’d go to Bend every summer since the ’80s, and I watched the Bend beer culture grow,” says Dan Bartlett, Astoria’s former city manager. Meanwhile, brew pubs were sprouting all over Oregon, inspiring beer festivals and other summer events that showcased local brews. “We used to say Astoria was a fishing town with a drinking problem. We’re now a great little drinking town with a fishing problem.”
You’ll need a passport — which lists all the participating breweries, restaurants and shops — to thoroughly experience the trail. Pick one up at any of the breweries or the visitor centers in Astoria/Warrenton, Seaside or Cannon Beach. (Visit 10 of the stops, get your card stamped at each and you’ll get a souvenir prize, too; www.oregoncoastbeer.com.)
Of course, no one goes thirsty on the Craft Beer Trail — and some of the breweries and restaurants along the route offer kid-friendly root beer, sparkling apple juice and Astoria Brewing Co.’s Orange Cream Sodas.
Here are some of my favorite experiences along the route:
Pelican Brewing Company, Cannon Beach: The Beak Bender IPA with its zesty orange and citrus flavors, and the smooth Kiwanda Cream Ale with a floral hop aroma and a sweet malt flavor. It also has the best whimsical sampler tray. pelicanbrewing.com
Public Coast Brewing, Cannon Beach: Imperial IPA, a Double IPA (8.9 percent alcohol by volume) that’s pungent but balanced with lemony citrus flavors. Also, the burgers are excellent here, a good place to stop for lunch in sunny, friendly Cannon Beach. https://publiccoastbrewing.com
Rogue Ales Public House, Astoria: Dead Guy Ale, a smooth German Maibock style brew, and Hot Tub Lager with a refreshing tealike after taste. And the location Inside the old Bumble Bee Tuna Cannery offers a mini-museum about canned fish. www.rogue.com
Astoria Brewing Company: The oldest microbrewery in Astoria today offers a variety of beverages to taste and enjoy, from pilsners and blondes to IPA, porters, stout and even rosé. The Pineapple Crawler was refreshing, not cloyingly sweet, and the Ichiban IPA was so tasty, it made me wish I could have some sushi with it. https://astoriabrewingcompany.com
Hondo’s Brew Pub and Tap Room, Astoria: A small shop and tasting room with a homespun vibe. No fancy or modern furnishings, but a very knowledgeable, interesting brewmaster who likes to experiment and create a variety of brews, from ciders and gose to ales and lagers, and mix them up, too. Enjoy a full glass of Tart Cherry Gose for just $5! http://hondosbrew.net
Buoy Beer, Astoria: There’s so much great beer to enjoy here, but the location is the most noteworthy aspect. It’s another former fish cannery-turned-hot spot for food and drink. If you’re lucky, you can get a seat on the wooden deck and gaze over the water while sipping super IPAs to a serenade by rowdy sea lions. www.buoybeer.com
Seaside Brewing Company, Seaside: A long list of great brews, including Sneaker Wave IPA, with fruity notes from Mosaic Hops, served up in a brick building that was the Seaside City Jail and City Hall, circa 1914. The jail’s black iron bars are still in place, reminding you to proceed carefully on the tastings. http://seasidebrewery.com
The Wine and Beer Haus, Seaside: Don’t let the location in an outlet mall stop you from entering this treasure trove of a store. Owners Jeff and Karma have what locals say is the largest beer and wine selection on the north coast. The smooth KBS Stout we tried was espresso-strong in color and taste, while the Fort George Brewery’s Breaking the Mulled strong ale offered addictive cinnamon spice. www.facebook.com/wineandbeerhaus
Travel: 8 must-stop beer spots for an Oregon coast road trip