Christmas in Oregon – The Beers, Part 2

On our last full day in Oregon, we grabbed a Zipcar early in the morning and set off for a beer-fueled adventure on the coast. The drive took us through the Tillamook State Forest. At some point, we passed through the amusingly named ghost town of Idiotville. Once on the coast, we drove through the town of Tillamook and saw the high school stadium, which proudly declared itself Home of the Cheesemakers. Sadly, I can’t find any mascot pictures online.

We saw no pelicans while at the Pelican Pub, though I did spot one further down the coast.

The flight of Pelican's standard offerings, plus the Bridal Ale at the far right.

Our destination was Pacific City and the Pelican Pub and Brewery, located right at the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

I ordered a standard sampler featuring a cream ale, an IPA, a Scottish style ale, a brown ale, and a stout to go with my lunch, which was a hop-crusted tuna steak sandwich. The sandwich was incredibly tasty, though I would not have guessed there were hops involved in the preparation without being told. The beers were straightforward and well made. Our waitress mentioned that Dory’s Dark Ale, the brown ale, was the first beer made by the brewpub. I appreciate details like that when visiting a new place. The beers were all solid brews, and I’d happily order any of them on tap, but the highlight of the visit was the flight of various vintages of the Stormwatcher’s Winterfest barleywine and its barrel-aged version known as Mother of All Storms.

The flight of three vintages of the Stormwatcher's Winterfest barleywine and two vintages of Mother of All Storms bourbon barrel aged barleywine.

Pelican describes the Stormwatcher’s Winterfest as an English barleywine, and that’s an apt description, though it’s perhaps a bit darker than JW Lee’s Harvest Ale, which I consider the hallmark of the style. Still, the beer is all about the barley, with an almost imperceptible hop presence. My tasting notes run something like this:

  • 2011(SW) – “Sweet gooey malt bomb. Caramel nose and flavor”
  • 2010(SW) – “Cinnamon toast in nose. Slightly sweeter. Dark fruits.”
  • 2008(SW) – “Almost a toasted nut character to the nose. Sweetness mellowed out to allow more flavors, like dates and figs.”
  • 2011(MoAS) – “Very nice. More of a bite, understated slight caramel bourbon presence.”
  • 2010(MoAS) – “Biggest bite of all the beers, though more from the bourbon and booze than hops.”

It’s safe to say we spent quite some time at Pelican as I slowly sipped my way through the flight. While sitting there, we watched a storm roll in off the ocean and chase the handful of people and dogs from the sand.

The Rogue brewery, or Rogue Nation World Headquarters, as they call it.

While looking over the map and sorting out a route, I noticed that hugging the coast for a while would bring us to Newport, OR, where we could turn eastward for a straight shot to Corvallis, our final destination of the day. Newport just so happens to not only be the end of US-20, it is also the home of Rogue Ales. To get to the tasting room/restaurant in the brewery, you need to wind your way along a path that passes between a number of fermenters and a stack of barrels before you reach the bottle store, where stairs take you up to the bar. When you sit down, you are greeted with the shot of the day, a 4oz sample of one of the 40 or so beers on tap.

The Yaquina Bay Bridge. Rogue sits at the southern end.

We sat down to two small glasses of Mogul Madness, a winter warmer. The Christmas-in-Oregon sampler madness continued with four more small pours, the highlight of which was the Chatoe Wet Hop ale.

By this point my taste buds were a bit blown out and my head was a little fuzzy. Martha drove us off to Corvallis, where we wandered around the Oregon State University campus and peered in the windows of greenhouses, wondering if there might be experimental hop varieties growing inside. We then made our way to the local brewpub, Block 15, for dinner and yet more beer. I stuck with the seasonal theme, opting for the 12 Hops of Christmas, a double IPA that was not nearly as hoppy or bitter as the name suggests, and the Chocolate Porter, which was every bit as chocolaty as the name suggests. We struck up a conversation with the super friendly bartender, who let us know some interesting info about the pub, such as the fact OSU fermentation science students get occasional opportunities to brew a batch at the pub and the OSU professors once showed up with a pile of experimental hops which they made into an IPA that sold out in a week. He also mentioned that Block 15 is building a coolship in the ‘wild half’ of their basement, so be on the lookout for some interesting wild ales to be coming out of that area. Of course, you’ll likely need to make a pilgrimage to Corvallis to try them out, but I’d say Block 15 is worth the trip.

And if Block 15 is a bit too packed, check out Les Caves next door, a more upscale beer bar owned by Block 15 with a diverse tap list and a massive bottle selection focusing on imports and more unusual craft beers. We stopped by long enough to have a glass of Beer Valley’s Leafer Madness IPA, but I easily could have spent hours of time and many, many dollars exploring their bottle list.

And so ended our day on the Oregon coast, save for the drive back to Portland, which featured lots of Speedwolf played at a high volume, which is only proper.

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