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Monday, February 13, 2017

A Drive Down the Coast

The view from The Horn in Depoe Bay

The Oregon Coast is slowly filling out its compliment of breweries. In the near future, it should be possible to drive Highway 101 from Astoria all the way to Brookings and get a beer from a brewery in every town along the way. I have driven a chunk of that coast this winter (by far the best time to visit the Oregon Coast) and visited three new or newish breweries. Below are my findings.

Public Coast Brewing, Cannon Beach
Twenty-six miles south of Astoria, you come into Cannon Beach, and one of the first structures you pass is Public Coast, a brewery named for Oregon's law that prohibits private ownership of beaches. It's in a building once occupied by the Lumberyard restaurant, and it follows that place's general vibe and approach, which is to say, upscale mainstream. It's a beautiful space, keyed by the presence of the fermenters and bright tanks that seem to peer in from the brewery. Their height lends an air of grandeur to things.

Public Coast is owned by Ryan Snyder, whose background is in resorts. That's the feel you get here. There's a ton of wood, and the pub goes from cozy and shadowy on one side to bright and sunny on the other, spilling out into a large patio scattered with tables. It is nevertheless a bit faceless, and TVs flicker with sports. The menu is similar, featuring basically burgers and fish and chips. They are muy expensive--I got the most stripped-down cheeseburger with fries and it set me back $15; they can range up to $18 sans fries. They're also fairly average. (The five dollar onion rings are well below average--avoid.) It's not bad food, but nothing to make a special trip for.

The beer, made by erstwhile chef and homebrewer Will Leroux, is more promising. He's got a traditional slate of hoppy beers, but dabbles with experimental projects like a peach wit (perhaps his best beer) and a sour blackberry stout. I presume it's kettle-soured, and it's tart; fruity notes help soften the electric current, and soft roastiness helps offset it. I ordered a pint and quite enjoyed it. For my hoppy selection, I chose a Simcoe-hopped pale ale that had a fair amount of diacetyl, but never mind. These are above-average beers, and a good reason to stop in.

Depoe Bay or ocean view; your choice.

The Horn Public House, Depoe Bay
A horn, spouting.
A hundred and twenty miles south of Astoria you come to Depoe Bay, a rocky crescent that captures the sea in a roiling cauldron of energy. As it has smashed into the lava rock over the millennia, the sea water has carved out channels and tunnels. Sometimes a wave enters one and sends surf skyward through vents in the rock--"spouting horns" in the local vernacular. Since 1951, one of the most popular hangouts in Depoe Bay had been a restaurant called The Spouting Horn. When long-time proprietor Betty Taunton decided to retire in 2014, no one was prepared to take it over, and it closed. In homage, the new brewpub in town, located in the same building, calls itself The Horn.

Unfortunately for me, permitting is still in the works with the OLCC, so they haven't started brewing yet. The space is complete and the menu up and running--and in the meantime they're making do with a very nice list of guest taps. It's impossible to say what the beer will be like, but the space is exceptional and the food quite a bit above average. They have a large menu of pub food (pizzas, burgers and sandwiches, salads and seafood), and the fish and chips I had were really exceptional. Beyond that, the view is extraordinary, and you can sit there gazing out at that cauldron for hours if you want. They also have a fully-appointed game room in the back  

The view from the roof of Yachats--which may
one day be used for additional seating.

Yachats Brewing, Yachats
A hundred and sixty miles south of Astoria (about halfway down the coast), you come to a little burg I haven't visited in decades. What I recall from my younger days is a town that was barely there. A few buildings, the usual cluster of hotels, one or two restaurants--yawn too theatrically and you'd miss it. It's grown, and not entirely attractively. It's a choke point for traffic, and the throngs of people swirl like ravening wolves as they search for a table. I entered Yachats at 2pm and found a line out Yachats Brewing's door. I'd managed to get inside the building when a harried server told us they were too backed up to take food orders. Come back in an hour, she told some desperate-looking faces, but I was just there for the beer, so no problem.

Yachats is an ambitious brewery. They've only been open since May, but they're already serving barrel-aged saisons. Saisons are, indeed, something of a house specialty, and serve as a template for culinary additions: sage, rose buds, lemongrass, and so on. They do Brett-fermented hoppy beers, lagers, and of course a range of standard IPAs. The range is so great I got a sample tray of four beers--something I rarely do--and was sipping my first one when assistant brewer Aaron Gillham spotted me and introduced himself. He took me on a tour of the brewery and we spent an hour or two together. I took some notes on the brewery and the beers, but even after tearing the house apart they remain M.I.A. I would love to tell you some of the details, or be able to confidently say that the foeder at right is used for open fermentation only--but sadly my brain's memory coils are not up to the task. 

What I can say is that the beers are interesting, well-made, and promising--but still a bit preliminary. The flavors in some of the saisons didn't quite cohere, some of the hopping in the IPAs was slightly out of balance, and so on. I tasted a fruited wild ale from the conditioning tank (don't remember which one, natch) that was impressive. My takeaway is that it's a brewery to watch. I expect it will become a destination brewery--which won't help the waiting lines in the least.  Since I'm giving you such vague, impressionistic words, the least I can do is leave you with some more concrete photos to look at.

Aaron offers a pensive smile.


1 comment:

  1. Yachats Brewing has already become a destination for Eugeniuses, as it's much closer to us. Too bad you weren't able to get any food-- it's excellent. Very fresh, plus you can get a flight of fermented veggies!