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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

In Astoria

Travel is good for the soul. Even when you decide to just take an impromptu trip an hour and a half down the Columbia River to Astoria, the change is a balm. Take for instance my experience in Rainier, where Sally and I pulled off to get an afternoon jolt of caffeine. In two adjacent parking lots were two venders. The barista (baristi?) was a cheery Eastern European (Ukrainian, Russian?--I'm not good with accents of the region) who made a very nice latte. Then we moved down the line to a guy selling fresh Oregon berries. This was not the huge, watery, under-ripe variety you get in the grocery stores in April. The strawberries were a small, tart mountain variety, and the blackberries had an herbal note. Barely out of the city and I was already having a good time.

Although this will not be principally a beer trip, I did want to scuttle over to Fort George, where a keg of North III appeared on Monday. A winter beer that really impressed last December, I thought it was gone for good. A bit hefty for July, but it made a surprisingly good partner for the albacore sandwich I had for dinner.

Fascinating anecdote
One thing I didn't realize about the Fort George Brewery--it's on the site of the original 1911 settlement of Astoria. Following the War of 1812, the fort they occupied was renamed Fort George after England's king. That's cool enough. But there's an even better part of the story, and an opportunity the brewery needs to exploit.

As it happens, the first woman of English descent arrived in 1814: an English barmaid named Jane Barnes.
To oversee their new empire, the Northwest Company appointed as governor Donald McTavish, a distinguished veteran partner of the firm. In the spring of 1813, as his ship was being outfitted for its voyage to the far side of the New World, McTavish passed the time in a dockside tavern in Portsmouth, England. Behind the bar stood Jane Barnes, a lively, flaxen-haired, blue-eyed beauty. The slumpy old Scot asked her to join him, and in a “temporary fit of erratic enthusiasm,” she agreed. McTavish and Barnes proceeded to the finest stores in Portsmouth to ready her for the voyage.
She was the source of some intrigue, setting off a battle among no fewer than four men (and they're just the ones mentioned in the history books)--including the scion of the local Chinook leader.

So my question: how is it possible that Fort George does not brew Barnes Bitter? An English barmaid visiting the first settlement in Oregon that happens to be the site of the brewery? Synchronicity, folks--exploit it.

Okay, off to seek more modest adventure--


  1. Excellent Opportunity. Hope the label design measures up to the imagination ! Let me know when it
    gets bottle up I'll order the first

    Dorene Kirkingburg/Owner
    The Oregon Maiden Store
    Olde Towne, St. Helens

  2. I'm not gonna lie, that was a pretty cool story. What is this North III you speak of? Should I recognize this? I am intrigued.