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There's Plenty More Beer Past Portland

Geoff Young, July 26, 2013 -   

Oregon is called Beervana for a reason. Portland? Blake Murphy has provided an excellent account, to which I would only add that the public transportation system must have been designed by suds lovers who anticipated a need. What I wouldn't give to have this arrangement back in San Diego. Also, if you enjoy minor-league baseball, the Hillsboro Hops serve an array of BridgePort brews.

But beyond the Rose City, there are many places that boast world-class beer. With apologies to Astoria, Bend, Corvallis, and your favorite town, here are a few gems I've enjoyed in recent years.

Pacific City

It's easy to miss Pacific City. Big mistake.

Two hours west of Portland, it is home to 1,000 people and Pelican Pub & Brewery, which overlooks a postcard beach and has won several walls full of awards. I'm partial to MacPelican's Scottish Style Ale. This smooth, malty brew captured gold at the 2012 World Beer Cup. It also captured my heart.

Last summer, when my wife and I drove along the West Coast, we stopped here for breakfast and bought a six-pack of bombers (many varieties; you can't go wrong) for the road. This summer, on a return trip, I paired the MacPelican's with “steak diablo” served with rice, avocado/mango salsa, and grilled shrimp. It didn't suck.

The food, drink, and view make Pelican a perfect place to relax and watch the sunset. The pub also serves coffee roasted in nearby Tillamook. This isn't CoffeeGraphs, but it's worth investing in a bag of their beans if you like that sort of thing.

As far as I can tell, Pelican doesn't distribute outside of Oregon and Washington. They also ship to only 60 percent of the states, so buy bottles while you're there.

Newport

An hour to the south is Newport and Rogue Ales. Rogue operates a public house and, a few miles away, a full brewery (aka Brewer's on the Bay). Both serve full meals with friendly service. If you're stuck for food ideas, go with the Reuben sandwich. It seems to be what everyone in Oregon eats, so that's usually a safe bet.

On the beer side, my standby is Hazelnut Brown Nectar (4.15 BAR). Sweet but not cloying, it complements kung pao chicken and other dishes that contain nuts. Hazelnut Brown is popular enough that we can regularly find it in bottles and on tap as far south as San Diego.

The more spirited among you might try Hazelnut Spiced Rum. Yeah, Rogue does spirits, including the spiced rum and a Spruce Gin. I'm not a huge gin fan, but theirs was palatable. Our waitress claimed it makes a great cucumber martini.

At the brewery, near the Oregon Coast Aquarium, Rogue holds regular garage sales. They sell boxes of beer as well as other merchandise at discount prices, which explains why we came home with two new T-shirts, a baseball cap, and a hoodie.

We also bought a cooler in Newport as our check-in bag. The clothes made excellent packing material. Ten 22-ounce bombers plus clothes in the cooler came to 37 pounds, so we could have crammed a few more in there if needed. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Eugene

With less than a full day in Eugene, a mere two hours southeast of Newport, it was a challenge to sample as many different beers as possible. But who doesn't love a challenge?
Highlights included a flight at Steelhead Brewery and local brews at the ballpark. PK Park, home of the Northwest League Emeralds, serves Oakshire and Ninkasi products.
In an upset, my favorite was Ninkasi Total Domination IPA (3.1 BAR). I typically don't love IPAs, but this is well balanced and lacks that abrasive aftertaste I've come to associate with the style.

Despite favoring porters, stouts, and browns, I could imagine myself enjoying Total Domination on a regular basis. But I'd be just as happy with Oakshire's Overcast Espresso Stout (3.12 BAR) or Steelhead's Break-Action Porter.

Better idea: All of the above. Throw me a Reuben sandwich while you're at it.

Ashland

Three hours south of Eugene, just north of the California border (if you end up in Redding, you went way too far), lies Ashland. It is home to the famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival and also to a couple of breweries that deserve to be famous.
Standing Stone doesn't bottle but serves a handful of styles on premises or in growlers. Their brews are solid if a tad on the tame side by today's standards. Those of you familiar with San Diego breweries, think Karl Strauss.

Caldera's flavors are bolder. Hemp Brown Ale and Pilot Rock Porter bring the malty goodness, but Mogli Chocolate Bourbon Oak Aged Imperial Porter (2.06 BAR) is not to be missed.

Ballast Point's Victory at Sea (7.28 BAR), the highest rated Imperial/Double Porter, is brewed right around the corner from my house and might be my favorite beer. Mogli isn't far behind. It checks in at 8.5 percent ABV and is dangerously drinkable. The bottles also feature a photo of Mogli, the dearly departed dog after whom the brew is named. I love porters. I love dogs. There you go.

Caldera's tap room, located on the banks of Lithia River, sits below street level and is a bit dark inside (there's also outdoor seating that looks nice but that is farther away from the beer). Locals hang out here without pretense. According to our bartender, this was Rogue Ales' original base of operations before they moved to their current larger facility in Newport.

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Go to Portland. It has great beers, great public transportation, and Powell's City of Books (be sure not to buy “all the books” after you've had a few pints). Then when you're done there, head down the coast or down I-5.

Or go anywhere. After all, this is Beervana.

Geoff writes about baseball at Padres Public. He also hangs out on Twitter as @ducksnorts and Untappd as ducksnorts.

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