By Sean Sullivan
As Oregon's craft beer craze continues to spread, so do the options for road trips. Winding highways with views of the Pacific Ocean lead to the towns of Gold Beach and Brookings, which are home to three new breweries. But the seed of this new craft beer community began in a modest, roadside tap room.
“When we moved here eleven years ago it was a beer desert,” says Chetco Brewing's owner Michael Fredrick. “What really started it was Vista Pub and Raymond."
1009 Chetco Ave., Brookings
In downtown Brookings Raymond Ross and his father Bill serve big, messy burgers in the tradition of the families original Island Vista restaurant, but also offer a large variety of microbrews on tap which has included local breweries Chetco and Arch Rock. Prior to Vista Pub opening their doors two and half years ago craft beer had little or no foothold on Oregon's Southern coast.
“I feel like I was the first out of the gate,” Raymond says, “and showed it would work.”A small stage hosts local musicians, art decorates the walls, Vista Pub has the vibe of a big city speak easy blended with the warm friendliness of a coastal town. No one seems to be in a hurry here, smiles come naturally and the food arrives in large portions.
Raymond adds that a real craft beer community has developed in this region. As an example he tells of Arch Rock's master brewer lending out equipment to help another start up brewery.
Arch Rock Brewing
28779 Hunter Creek Loop, Gold Beach
Located in Gold Beach, Oregon, about 30 miles North of Brookings, Arch Rock earned a gold medal this year from the North American Brewer's Association for their State of Jefferson Porter. The brewery doubles as a tasting room, where locals and tourists can sample the beers, fill their growlers or pick up “Arch Rock” merchandise.
Head Brewer James Smith and his wife Kristin both left Grand Teton Brewing in Idaho to team up with owners Larry Brennan and his wife Marjie. James has also worked at Uinta Brewing in Utah and his experience shows up in the flavors of the beers he brews on the 15 barrel system.
The Gold Beach Lager delivers a light, crisp taste that makes it perfect for hot summer days, while their Pistol Rive Pale Ale brings all the hop flavors that have defined Pacific Northwest IPAs with only a fraction of that style's bitterness. Yet it manages to present as a dry beer with very little malt sweetness.
Look for Arch Rock beers on tap in pubs from Brookings to Florence and coming soon to the Rogue Valley.
Tight Line Brewing
625 Chetco Ave. Ste 120, Brookings
Dave Faires and his son-in-law Nathan Heath have the only brewery located within Brooking's city limits. Their beer will be on tap again soon at the Black Trumpet Bistro, which is located directly above the brewery. Their initial batches sold out quickly, which has left both men optimistic.
“People come to Oregon just to tour breweries,” Nathan says. “And if they come up the coast we'll be the first one they hit.”
Although Dave has been brewing beer since the 80s, his venture with his son-in-law began in 2009 in his daughter's kitchen, but quickly was relocated to the garage when she kicked them out.
Their signature beers will be the RIP Pale Ale and the Dog Hair Porter. The latter is a smooth, dark beer with roasted malt flavor upfront that transitions to toasted caramal tones with very little bitterness in the aftertaste. Very drinkable!
Two and half miles up North Bank road, looking out over the river, Chetco Brewing officially started on April, 19t of this year and already has beer on tap at Vista Pub, Ray's growler fill station, Port of Brooking's Harbor, The Black Trumpet and the Farmer's Market.
Eight years ago Michael's wife Alex bought him a homebrewing kit. The hobby became such a passion that he now grows eleven variations of hops.
“They're beautiful plants,” he says.
Michael says they try to be community friendly and environment friendly.
“We're a mom and pop thing,” he says. “We grow our own raspberries. We're running on a borrowed system.”
He says on a brewing day he will brew two 40 gallon batches using the equipment lent to him by James from Arch Rock. Michael adds that he is building a refrigerated trailer because he sees wider distribution is the brewery;s future, including a partnership with friends in Portland.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.