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I Like Beer the Podcast host and columnist Jeff Spanier with Charlie Branford at Rogue Ales in Oregon. Photo by Jeff Spanier
I Like Beer the Podcast host and columnist Jeff Spanier with Charlie Branford at Rogue Ales in Oregon. Photo by Jeff Spanier
Cheers! North CountyColumnsFood & Wine

Cheers from the Oregon Coast!

It’s hard for a beer enthusiast to leave San Diego’s 150 independent breweries and thousands of stellar beer selections. But brewery travels are the origin of I Like Beer the Podcast and have fueled my interest in craft beer and the folks making it.

So, this summer, I traveled up the coast to Oregon and Washington to learn more about the craft beer scene growing in those areas.

Besides the breweries, I found the coast of Oregon captivating in its beauty and variety of landscapes and outdoor opportunities. But I’ll leave travel writing to the experts and stay in my wheelhouse.

Here are a few of the 20 excellent breweries I was lucky enough to visit.

Newport Brewing Company: Located just above the historic Newport bayfront with stunning views of the bay and bridge, Newport Brewing has operated since 2019. Brody Becksted, the owner, took a few minutes to show off his 15-barrel, custom-designed brewery and talk about his beer. Becksted is a Newport native, and the pride in his brewery, beers and staff was readily apparent.

Newport Brewing Company on the Oregon Coast. Photo by Jeff Spanier
Newport Brewing Company on the Oregon Coast. Photo by Jeff Spanier

I enjoyed the fish tacos with a Surfs Up lager, an American-style lager that had plenty of flavor and body for the style. But the star of the visit was the Tangerine Crush Coastal Wheat Ale. This beer features a half wheat, half pilsner malt build brewed with local coastal waters drenched with juicy tangerine puree after fermentation. I enjoyed several tangerine ales on the trip; this was my favorite.

Rogue Ales: After visiting Newport’s newest brewery, I made the pilgrimage to Rogue Ales, one of the leaders in the modern craft beer revolution. Established in 1988, Rogue has maintained roles as both rebels and leaders in the industry.

Rogue’s general manager Charlie Branford took me on a tour of the massive facility. There, I met Renee, an assistant brewer starting a fresh batch of Rogue’s signature beer, Dead Guy Ale.

I also met Jeff, who was in charge of canning Rogue’s next release, their seasonal pumpkin ale. He was calibrating the system, which was running at about 100 cans a minute, which seemed very fast. But at full speed, the Rogue canning operation runs at 235 cans per minute.

Viewpoint on Oregon Coast. Photo by Jeff Spanier
Viewpoint on Oregon Coast. Photo by Jeff Spanier

Rogue takes risks with their beers, which always means there will be beers I love, beers I like, and beers I …well, that I don’t like as much. The sneak peek (sneak sip?) of the Pumpkin Patch Ale was a real treat, but the main attraction for me was the Hazelnut Brown Nectar.

This twist on brown ale always impresses me. Oregon is the hazelnut capital of the world (who knew?), so this was as fresh as a beer and its ingredients can get. And, because I was touring the premises with Branford, I got to carry my pint around like a big shot.

Astoria Brewing: En route to Newport, Astoria is a must-stop (or so I was told by several beer enthusiasts in Washington). It was solid advice. Lunch at Astoria Brewing overlooking the Columbia River was a visual delight for the tastebuds—more fish tacos made from fresh-caught fish.

Astoria Brewing had me at Strawberry Blonde, their flagship ale. It’s my favorite summer style, and their version didn’t disappoint. They claim the beer’s nose is “a punch of strawberry pie.” True. The flavor was milder, crisper and delicious.

With a little more drive ahead of me for the day, I had to limit my tastes.

Maizy with Pelican Brewing's Raspberried at Sea. Photo by Jeff Spanier
Maizy with Pelican Brewing’s Raspberried at Sea. Photo by Jeff Spanier

So I was excited to see Toast the Royals, a 3.4% abv mild dark ale. It’s an old English pub style, malty and a great beer to sip while watching the river float by from the patio.

Pelican Brewing: I first visited Pelican Brewing in 2012, and seeing the growth they’ve experienced since then was impressive. The Siletz Bay location in Lincoln City offers extensive seating along the deck and indoor dining. Their beer lineup has won many awards, and this team knows its beer.

The Raspberried at Sea, made with Oregon raspberries, is light, sparkling and full of raspberry flavor. The malt build balances the fruit, keeping it from being too sweet. Six packs of this fantastic beer went into the cooler but didn’t make it home.

As a habit, I like to ask brewers and beertenders where they go to get a beer when they’re not enjoying their own. This always leads me to some smaller, local locations. I found the people everywhere willing to take a few minutes to share their stories and a beer. I’m already planning a return.

Jeff Spanier is the host of I Like Beer the Podcast. Take a listen wherever you get podcasts. Follow Spanier’s adventures @ilikebeerthepodcast on Instagram.

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