Namaste For A Beer: A Beercation To Beervana Pt. 1

Portland, Oregon, known to many beer geeks as “Beervana,” has been on my beer bucket list for years.  This summer’s beercation blog series, “Namaste For A Beer,” is all about learning about the craft beer culture that has been alive and well in Oregon for decades.  My travels will lead me on a pilgrimage of sorts to Portland, the craft beer crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest.   My beercation purpose is threefold: to meet great people, drink great beer, and understand what the Oregon craft beer culture is all about.

Tillamook, OR

Tillamook Cheese

When I think of the perfect day, beer, cheese, and coffee are usually prime variables in the equation.  For this reason, I decide on staying in Tillamook for my first night in Oregon.  Locationwise, it is a great place because you experience the sea and the smalltown atmosphere all at one time.  There are also great options for freshly caught seafood, a plus for a Midwesterner like myself.  My first task was visiting the Tillamook Cheese Factory.

However, as luck would have it, they are in the midst of a massive renovation and so the main facility is closed to the public and opening up the day after I leave.  Oh well, they still had their sample building where they have ice cream to eat and cheese to sample.  Being an out-of-towner, I decide to live dangerously and go through the sample line thrice.  I figure if I have a different facial expression on my face each time, it will throw them off the trail a bit.  My plan works marvelously and I immerse myself in cheese heaven.  Aged cheddar, Colby, and Pepperjack are all fantastic.

As I am leaving, I notice a crazy line and a bunch of different ice cream flavors.  People are walking around with ice cream cones the size of the torch that the Statue of Liberty holds!  I have to try one, so I get in line and soon discover that you can sample before you buy.  I approach the lanky teen wearing a baggy apron with a lust for frozen leche that burns like a forest fire.  After working my way up and down the list, I decide on 2 scoops: chocolate peanut butter and hazelnut salted caramel.  The ice cream is sensational.  Creamy, rich, and the flavors are the real deal.  However, I am not in an ice cream-cation, I am on a beercation so I have to get on my way.

Pelican Brewing Company

The Pelican Brewing Company has been on my radar for a few years.  My fellow Beerploma blogger, Eric Wentling suggested it as a must visit and he has never lead me astray.  Pelican Brewing Company has 3 locations and I visited 2 of them.

Pelican Brewing Company-Tillamook

The Tillamook location for Pelican Brewing Company is a brewpub, but also their biggest production facility.  There are behemoth 90 and 180 bbl fermenters in the brewhouse that the dining area overlooks.  They place pumps out a lot of beer.  Since it is late and my body is still on MN time, it is really 9:30 and I am thinking that I might just have a pint and relax a bit.  I opt for the Kiwanda Cream Ale.  The beer is crisp, clean, and uncomplicated.  If you talk to anyone who is knowledgeable about beer, they will say that you can get the measure of a brewery by their pilsner.  Pilsner is a style that has nothing for a flaw to hide behind.  Being that it is a flagship beer, the cream ale would be a good way to see if I would like the rest of the beers.

There is a steady stream of diners although it is a Monday night and definitely not slammed.  The food looks good, but I had already dined on some prawns which were as big as sea krakens.  The Kiwanda Cream Ale is spot-on and assures me that a stop in Pacific City at their original location is worth my time tomorrow.

Pelican Brewing Company-Pacific City

Several years ago, an online article “17 breweries to visit in your lifetime,” caught my eye.  Now, I am sure the criteria for breweries on this list is quite subjective.  Several of the breweries listed in the article are located outside of the United States.  I thought if I ever have the chance to visit one it would be a good idea.  The picture of the Pacific City location is so peaceful and enchanting.  It was taken at night, the brewery alit in a magical way and there is a haystack rock out in the water behind it.  I knew if I ever made it out this way, I would have to give this place a try.

After checking out of my Airbnb and snapping some pictures of seals frolicking on a sandbar in Netarts Bay, I am en route to beauty and beer.  I pull up and the sun is shining amidst a cool breeze.  I could not have asked for a more perfect day.

I take a few pictures of the exterior of the building and then head inside.  The host is kind enough to introduce me to Zach, the brewpub manager.  Zach is more than willing to show me around.  He introduces me to Dan, the Head Brewer, and gets me back in the brewhouse.  The Pacific City location is the original of the 3 Pelican Brewing locations (Tillamook and Cannon Beach are the other 2) and it is a 15-barrel brewhouse.  Dan explains that they have a few more beers on tap here because they can be a bit more creative with what they brew on a smaller scale.  Most of the beers that are distributed are made at the Tillamook location.  After chatting a bit with Dan, I let him get back to work and head for the bar.

It is early afternoon on a Tuesday, but the place is packed.  Zach is nice enough to set me up with a taster tray of 8 of their beers and it is one of the coolest looking beer flights I have ever had.  A wooden Pelican tap handle acts as the handle for the tray and it is surrounded by the 8 taster goblets.  The beers are flavorful and well-made.  A picturesque location is great, but for a brewery to have staying power, the beers have to be well-made.  This is definitely the case for Pelican Brewing.

Of the 8 beers I try, the range of styles is broad.  From Pilsner to Export Stout, there is something for everyone.  It is tough to pick a favorite because, stylistically, everything is as it should be.  My favorite malty offering is the Sea N’ Red Irish Ale because of its roasty malt character.  I also like the bit of caramel from the malt to balance out the roast.  If I were staying for more beers, I would definitely get another pint of this.  For hoppy, the Beak Bender is a nice blend of citrus and bitter hop flavors.  Beak Bender is easy drinking and appeals to a wide range of drinkers.  The Five Fin West Coast Pilsner is crisp and delicious, just like the Kiwanda Cream Ale, but it has a special blend of hops that include Mandarina Bavaria, a hop that I cannot get enough of these days.  Their seasonal brew is the Citrcumulus Belgian-style Pale Ale.  This beer is a seamless amalgamation of clove esters and a crisp and refreshing spice notes of citrus.

Despite the shining sun and the nice breeze, I have to get on the road to Newport, OR.  I can only hope that the folks at Rogue Brewery are as nice as the fine people at Pelican Brewing.  Pelican Brewing’s Pacific City location has everything you could want in a brewpub: well-crafted beers, delicious food, friendly staff, and breathtaking views.  I suggest you put Pelican Brewing Company on your beer bucket list.  I can now say I have seen firsthand why this brewery is on a list of 17 places to visit in one’s lifetime.  Prost!