WELCOME ABOARD!

We’re excited to welcome beer fans to Astoria Beer Zone, a blog focused on the North Coast’s vibrant craft beer scene. Expect a mix of fun stories and useful info about brews made here, and the people who make them.

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A BEER FAN’S GUIDE TO GLASSWARE

Ever go to a taproom and wonder why the glasses come in so many shapes and sizes? 

  Tall and skinny. Round and handled. Curvy and tapered.

  Why not just serve beer in the shaker pint glass that’s ubiquitous in American pubs and bars? 

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Q/A WITH KATHLEEN ROOEN OF OBELISK BEER CO.

Kathleen Rooen is one of the North Coast’s leading craft brewing advocates – and it all comes naturally. While not a brewer, her knowledge of beer styles and how they’re made is impressive. And she’s always willing to share her wisdom with a radiant smile.

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TITUS BENTLEY LEAVING NORTH JETTY

Titus Bentley, North Jetty Brewing’s head brewer, is returning to Colorado.

Bentley spent the past two years raising the profile of the Seaview, Wash., brewery with his inventive beers and collaborations. Before that, he honed his skills during stints at Buoy Beer and Fort George Brewery in Astoria.

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BUOY TO OPEN YOUNGS BAY BEER GARDEN

Summer is shaping up nicely, beer fans.

Astoria-based Buoy Beer Co. has announced that it will open a seasonal pub overlooking Youngs Bay, tentatively opening July 5 and serving beer with a view through September.

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CIDERY STARTS BREWING IN ILWACO

This week, Vinessa and Jarrod Karnofski started brewing their first hard ciders in Ilwaco on the scenic Long Beach peninsula. 

Vinessa, the head cider maker, could have played it safe, starting with a few basic fruit flavors. Instead, she went bold with a wide-ranging initial foursome that showcases her culinary training.

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NORTH JETTY MARKS 10th ANNIVERSARY

North Jetty Brewing celebrated its 10th anniversary with the owners tending bar and cleaning tables.

Erik and Michelle Svendsen were happy to pitch in, given the fact that the cozy brewery they founded in Seaview, Wash., was packed all day Saturday with hundreds of their fans.

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CHOOSING THOSE CREATIVE BEER NAMES

Those crazy names.

Dave Coyne’s phone is filled with them. Creative, catchy and often off the wall, the list of potential beer names scrolls on and on.

“I have a very long notes section on my phone. It just keeps going and going and going,” Coyne says, demonstrating with a swipe of his index finger. “They’re not all good, but …”

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PROOF THERE IS A GOD: VORTEX MONTH

When Chris Nemlowill and Jack Harris opened Fort George Brewery 17 years ago, they put a beer on tap that was simply mind-blowing.

That beer, of course, was a deliciously hoppy IPA named Vortex.

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ASTORIA BREWING ROLLS IN THE BARRELS

Astoria Brewing Co. has taken a bold new step on its journey into craft beer relevance.

That’s evident when you descend into the basement brewhouse from the 12th Street taproom and see racks filled with old bourbon barrels.

Inside, special beers are aging.

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HAS THE CRAFT BEER ‘BUBBLE’ BURST?

The sudden closure of Reach Break Brewing in the heart of Astoria was a gut punch. And perhaps a warning: Even the tourist-rich North Coast is vulnerable to slumping craft beer sales and rising operating costs.

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Q/A WITH CHRIS NEMLOWILL OF FORT GEORGE BREWERY

When Fort George Brewery opened in March 2007 few could have imagined how transformative the business would be. For the city of Astoria. For North Coast tourism. For craft beer lovers. 

Today, the brewery founded by Chris Nemlowill and Jack Harris is a regional powerhouse. Beer production has eclipsed 32,000 barrels a year. There are 160 employees.

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BEER FESTIVALS ARE COMING!

A cold and dreary winter is still upon us, but take heart – fun beer-related events are on tap! 

We’re talking festivals, people. Right here in Astoria.

Buoy Beer Co.’s Lager Fest and Fort George Brewery’s Lupulin Ecstasy are scheduled for weekends in May, and that’s a wonderful thing to look forward to.

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STOUTS REIGN SUPREME AT FESTIVE DARK ARTS

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.

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PUBLIC COAST INTRODUCES ANOTHER SEDUCTIVE BLONDE

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.

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CALLING ALL PINBALL WIZARDS!

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.

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Q/A WITH KYLE CHRIESTENSON OF BREAKSIDE BREWERY 

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.

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FORT GEORGE DIVES INTO HOP WATER

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.

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North Coast craft breweries still riding high

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.

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REACH BREAK BREWING CLOSES

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.”

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OBELISK FINALLY BREWS AT HOME

It’s been a long, bittersweet year. Thirteen months, to be precise.

For Astoria’s Obelisk Beer Co., a series of mechanical issues kept the shiny brew tanks empty since the Bond Street brewery opened in November 2022.

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CHECK OUT THESE FUN TAPROOMS

Taprooms!

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.

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THE NOMADS OF CRAFT BREWING

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.

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GROWLERS FADE, REPLACED BY CROWLERS

Pity the growler.

The big brown glass jug that’s been a symbol of craft brewing for decades is in the midst of a slow fade. Fewer customers are bringing them in for 64-ounce refills. Many breweries aren’t bothering to sell them anymore.

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DOWNTOWN TAPROOM DOUBLES IN SIZE

Reach Break Brewing, known for its sunny patio dotted with picnic tables, now boasts an enviable winter space as well.

The downtown Astoria brewery has doubled the size of its taproom, expanding into the former home of Reveille Ciderworks.

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Q/A WITH ANDREW BROWN OF ASTORIA BREWING

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.

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‘CARNIVAL OF STOUT’ RETURNS

Isn’t it great when the reality of something matches or exceeds the hype that precedes it?

That’s always been true for the Festival of Dark Arts, hosted by Astoria’s Fort George Brewery.

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CHEERS TO THE LAND!

Astoria breweries are helping to preserve Oregon farm and ranch lands for future generations.

Fort George Brewery and Buoy Beer Co. have released their frothy versions of Cheers to the Land, a benefit for the nonprofit Oregon Agricultural Trust (OAT).

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WITCHES, BREWS AND BATS

Halloween Hellorium. Kiss the Witch. Nightmare on Bond Street.

Better get that costume ready. Maybe two.

Several breweries are throwing parties in Astoria that promise loads of spooky fun. Best of all: There’s no cover charge.

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Gluten-free brewery in 2024?

Construction has begun on the exterior of the old Sunflower Dairy building in the heart of the Astoria Beer Zone.

It’s the first outward sign that a microbrewery specializing in gluten-free beer is coming – as soon as next summer.

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Public Coast Brewing’s Fantastic Farm

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

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Q/A WITH TITUS BENTLEY OF NORTH JETTY BREWING

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.

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THE STORY OF A FRESH HOP BEER

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.

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FRESH HOP FRENZY!

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.

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BREW CUP DRAWS REVELERS TO ASTORIA

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.

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PNW BREW CUP RETURNS TO ASTORIA

Ending a three-year hiatus, the Pacific Northwest Brew Cup is returning to Astoria, featuring craft beer and live music.

Admission to the Aug. 18-19 festival is free. Beer fans can buy souvenir mugs and tasting tokens.

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TRY THESE CRISP SUMMER BEERS

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.

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Q/A WITH BRIAN BOVENIZER OF FORT GEORGE BREWERY

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.

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Warrenton may finally get its brewery

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.”

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REACH BREAK’S BUBBLY BREAKOUT

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.

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FORT GEORGE’S SUDSY PIER TO OPEN ALL SUMMER

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.

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NEW ASTORIA BREWPUB 

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.

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FESTIVAL LURES BEER LOVERS AND A WATCHFUL DOE

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.

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BEER FANS FLOCK TO LAGER FEST

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.”

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Q/A with Dave Coyne of Obelisk Beer Co.

Astoria Beer Zone sat down with Dave to chat about his craft brewery – Astoria’s sixth! – opened recently in a refurbished warehouse on Bond Street, just west of downtown. He and co-owner Nathan Lampson were previously at Fort George Brewery.

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Astoria Brewing loses general manager

After guiding Astoria Brewing Co. through a promising revival, general manager Brad Kenoyer is moving on. He’s landed a top management post for a private company that provides restaurant and visitor services at Yellowstone National Park.

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MEET FORT GEORGE’S ‘RESIDENT HUMORIST’

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.

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