It rained nonstop on Christie Stone’s birthday. Outside in the cold, she could see her breath.
She couldn’t have been happier.
The Bremerton, Wash., woman spent her special day Saturday at the sold-out Festival of Dark Arts in downtown Astoria, squeezed among 3,000 other revelers.
Public Coast Brewing has created a worthy sibling for its award-winning prodigy, ’67 Blonde Ale.
Introducing ’67 Blonde Lager, a crisp, golden brew that comes along as a light alternative to the traditional avalanche of heavy stouts that dominates the month of February.
The folks at Fort George Brewery have a gift for Astorians (and visitors) that will last the entire month of February. They’re stuffing truckloads of video game and pinball machines into the Lovell Showroom off Duane Street, turning the lecture spot into an instant arcade.
The best part: It’s all free. No tokens or coins necessary.
Most business people dream of having a corner office one day. Kyle Chriestenson already has his – at the corner end of the bar at Breakside Brewery’s downtown Astoria brewpub.
That’s where he can often be found, greeting customers and tending to the demands of being a general manager. That includes importing the right combination of kegged beer from the Portland brewery and ordering enough fresh oysters to satisfy a growing number of customers.
You may only now be hearing about hop water, a beer alternative made largely by craft breweries.
The craze started about five years ago and is now a multimillion-dollar niche fueled by major players in the beer industry, including Sierra Nevada, Lagunitas and Revolution.
On the North Coast, Pelican Brewing based in Pacific City was the first to can hop water. Now Astoria’s biggest brewery has entered the market.
The North Coast craft beer scene kept growing in 2023, seemingly immune to a nationwide slowdown.
The growth was plain to see in a chunk of downtown Astoria: Reach Break Brewing doubled the size of its taproom; Portland’s Breakside Brewery opened a brewpub; and work began on a gluten-free microbrewery in the old Sunflower Dairy building.
Reach Break Brewing is closing its downtown Astoria brewery and taproom, citing rising costs and increasingly stringent regulations that continue to chip away at already narrow profit margins.
“We gave it a good run,” said Josh Allison, Reach Break’s founder and head brewer. “I’m proud of what we did, for sure.”
There are lots to choose from on the beer-soaked North Coast these days.
They’re all mellow gathering places where beertenders cheerfully produce flights of assorted brews, “guests” are encouraged to linger, and families are welcome. Even babies in strollers.
During the darkest days of the pandemic, North Coast craft breweries had to close their taprooms and brewpubs.
It was a huge economic blow, but the businesses survived in part by pivoting almost entirely from draft to canned beer either sold “to go” or through distributors.
There was a problem, however. Most smaller breweries lacked canning lines.
More than ever, they needed the services of the nomads of the industry: mobile canners.
Andrew Brown deserves much of the credit for Astoria Brewing’s revival. His arrival as head brewer in March 2022 signaled a major transformation for the city’s oldest craft brewery.
Recipes that had grown stale were updated. New beers appealing to modern tastes were introduced. The inventive side of brewing, long neglected, was also unleashed, with Brown experimenting and collaborating with other North Coast breweries.
East of Cannon Beach lies a 40-acre farm that serves as a test kitchen for chefs and brewers. And a summer playground. The farmers experiment with varieties of fruits, vegetables, hops and herbs, and the winners emerge on dinner plates and in pint glasses. Especially the abundant blueberries. Public Coast Brewing Co. is a rarity among its peers, a craft brewery that owns its own culinary farm, including a fruit orchard and 10 acres of blueberry bushes. There’s also a huge solar-powered greenhouse raising heirloom tomatoes and other veggies, plus a similarly oversized cold storage building. Brewers Will Leroux and Ben Christianson say the bounty has sparked them to be more innovative, devising beer and hard seltzer recipes that incorporate fruit and more exotic ingredients such as zesty peppers. “It’s a blessing. Farm to tank,” Christianson says with a smile. Fresh produce from the farm also appears on the menus for the Cannon Beach brewery’s adjoining brewpub and its sister restaurant at the oceanfront Stephanie Inn. Public Coast owner Ryan Snyder discovered the farm by chance during one of his regular trips between Portland and Cannon Beach. After touring the grounds, he couldn’t resist. Since acquiring the property a few
When Titus Bentley was about to become the head brewer at North Jetty Brewing in Seaview, there were some sleepless moments. Would he measure up? Could he handle the responsibility?
It was April 2022, about three years after moving to Astoria from Colorado. The job offer was pure happenstance – coming shortly after striking up a conversation with a stranger who turned out to be the mother of North Jetty’s co-founder. They talked about beer. She was impressed by his passion.
For brewers and beer aficionados, it’s almost like Christmas morning.
We’re talking fresh hop harvest time in the Pacific Northwest, a glorious period when craft breweries dispatch delivery vans to the farms to collect the aromatic bounty. And then race back to the brewhouse as quickly as possible.
North Coast breweries are busy whipping up batches of fresh hop beer in a variety of styles, taking full advantage of the splendid harvest now underway.
Fort George Brewery is planning a whopping six special beer releases in September, each made with fragrant fresh hops grown at Willamette Valley farms.
When the first Pacific Northwest Brew Cup happened in 2002, there was no craft beer scene in Astoria.
Astoria Brewing was still called Wet Dog. Fort George Brewery wouldn’t make its transformative debut for another five years.
And the downtown beer zone? A mere fantasy.
It’s nearly summer!
That bright circle in the sky is the sun. The heat you feel is perfectly normal.
So, find your shades, try not to burn your pale skin and stock your fridge and cooler with easy-drinking beer because the days are long (again, normal) and you’ll want to party on.
We sat down recently for a wide-ranging discussion with Brian Bovenizer, Fort George’s decidedly unconventional marketing director. He first visited Astoria in 2008 and immediately was smitten by the fledgling brewery. From a bar stool, he asked co-founder Jack Harris for a job, but that didn’t happen until a year later when he started working as a cook with zero experience.
The company expanded quickly, so it didn’t take Bovenizer long to land a marketing/sales job. He’s been helping chart Fort George’s future ever since. He lives in Astoria with his wife and two children, and still manages to find time to play in a band and surf.
One look at Jonathan Elliott’s face as he describes the ongoing experiment that is craft brewing – breathlessly rattling off exotic ingredients and fermentation tricks – and you know.
You know this man will succeed. He’ll open a brewery, and it will be in Warrenton, where he was raised and graduated from high school, Class of 1998.
“Oh, man,” he says, envisioning that day. “It’d be a dream come true for me.”
Astoria’s Reach Break Brewing has launched a line of hard seltzers with natural fruit flavors as a lower-alcohol beer alternative. Founder and head brewer Josh Allison says his Beachcraft seltzers will be available in 16-ounce cans this summer – in time for beach outings, barbecues and respites on the trails.
By now you’ve probably heard that Fort George Brewery has a cool pier that slices into the Columbia River, offering awesome views. The Beer Pier (official name) made its debut in time for the fireworks show last July 4, totally refurbished with seating and decorative lights. Oh, and there was a pop-up taproom, a food truck and a place for a band to play.
Breakside Brewery opened its downtown Astoria brewpub at noon on Friday, with a little help from its friends. The pub had just passed a final city health inspection and Breakside’s Dan Brownhill was eager to roll up the garage doors for the Memorial Day weekend. The problem: He had no chairs or barstools. The delivery had been delayed until Tuesday.
We all wondered why, on this particular day, at this particular time, the doe would appear. The graceful animal pranced in front of the stage as The Cave Singers rocked, then wandered through the flower-fringed grounds of the Flavel House, the Astoria sea captain’s majestic old haunt.
Cold beer and hot, sunny days. The God of Hops certainly blessed Buoy Beer Co.’s Lager Fest in Astoria. Or maybe just made up for last year’s outdoor festival, when it rained and was unseasonably cold. Whatever. The big takeaway here is heat plus sun equals thirst divided by beer. Or as Brenda of Warrenton put it as she sipped a lager in her Adirondack chair: “I only drink beer when it’s hot. It’s hot.”
Kirsten Pierce doesn’t think she’s funny. Not in a classic stand-up sort of way. And her father, she says with a shrug, doesn’t get her humor at all. But those weekly newsletters she writes for Fort George Brewery? They’re always tongue-in-cheek amusing, and sometimes downright hilarious.
suds with your buds
Share the love of craft beer with your friends and family.
Get in the zone
We’ll be sending out occasional best-of-the-blog roundups for beer aficionados. Join our newsletter mailing list.