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.
So, when the Brew Cup returned in 2023 after a three-year hiatus, the decision to move from the waterfront to the heart of downtown – now enlivened by breweries large and small – made sense.
The two-day event in the Heritage Square area used by the Sunday market is being hosted by the Astoria Downtown Historic District Association, a nonprofit devoted to nurturing the core.
“The most exciting part about it for me is that it’s downtown,” ADHDA Executive Director Jessamyn Grace West said Friday. “We’re getting a lot of feedback about how it’s revitalizing this area.”
“People really just showed up to make this happen. I mean, it’s August,” she said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better crew, better support.”
The festival, which drew hundreds of revelers Friday and continues all day Saturday, features beers by some 20 Northwest breweries.
Admission is free; pay for a souvenir glass and eight tasting tokens ($20).
It’s well worth it. Many of the beers are special releases, such as Reach Break Brewing’s Pumpkin Pie Cream Ale, Fort George’s Half Liter Fest Beer and Italian Disco Pilsner from Vancouver, Wash.’s Trap Door Brewing.
Others have won top awards, such as Public Coast Brewing’s ’67 Blonde Ale and Volatile Substance Northwest IPA from Portland-based Von Ebert Brewing.
Every Astoria brewery is represented, making the Brew Cup a good chance for the uninitiated to sample local beer.
For Brian Bergman, it was a must-do event. The Astoria music teacher has been brewing his own beer for years – a wide range of styles that he shares with friends and neighbors.
“I just love tasting other people’s beers,” he said Friday afternoon, clutching his tasting glass at a picnic table. “Festivals like this are my happy places.”
Pete Greene of Lewis County, Wash., brought his amiable 3-month-old Yorkie named Shannon, small enough to hold in one hand.
He and his wife decided to drive south for craft beer on a whim.
“We heard about it on the radio and said, ‘Sure, we can stop by for a couple hours,’” he said with a smile.
The festival taps are conveniently arranged by beer style with IPAs on one end, blondes, lagers and pilsners in the middle, and ciders and sours on the other side.
There’s plenty of live music on tap as well. Four bands played Friday, including the Bond Street Blues Band.
Saturday’s lineup features a live show by The Bridge 94.9 FM until 3 p.m., followed by performances by Harbor Place (3:15-4:15), Jesse Lee Falls (4:30-5:30), Dusty Santamaria (5:45-6:45), Wanderlodge (7-8) and Holiday Friends (8:15-9:15).
The event is family friendly, with games and diversions for children. There’s also cornhole for all ages, set up by the stage.
Snacks and meals are available from several food trucks.
The Brew Cup was originally hosted by the owners of Astoria’s Baked Alaska restaurant, who years later passed the baton to the ADHDA. The event has become the association’s top fundraiser for revitalization projects.