For those that haven’t traveled to Astoria before, it’s located on the northernmost coast of Oregon. A town of roughly 10,000, it’s the home to many parts of the Northwest’s early history (like Lewis & Clark’s expedition, trade, and military settlements). Pop culture has changed the town over the years, as it’s where iconic films like The Goonies and Kindergarten Cop were filmed. Museums, state parks, and a delightful downtown area offer hours of entertainment.
About a two hour drive from Portland, Astoria is well worth the trip. It’s especially rewarding because it’s the home to four breweries, three of which I’ll cover in my post: Buoy Beer Company, Fort George Brewery, and Reach Break Brewing. I hope what you read inspires you to take a drive!
Buoy Beer Company
Location: Built within an old fish processing plant, Buoy Beer Company opened for business in 2014. It sits on the edge of a pier that overlooks the Columbia River, a quick walk from the other gems of downtown Astoria. The mostly wooden brewpub has two different spaces to enjoy beer, a main area with large windows that showcase passing ships and a secondary taproom with a major amount of seating. There’s a glass section in the floor that lets you see sea lions that frequent the space underneath, a spot where most children can be found hovering and squealing. I enjoyed being able to see the brewery from within the building, but was instantly mesmerized with the view of the water (how could I not be?). A full menu is available, satisfying the need for fresh seafood.
Branding: Buoy’s branding pairs modern and vintage imagery nicely. Bright colors mixed with bold fonts make it a very pleasing brand. The main mark, the buoy, sits upright on the moving waves. It’s a testament to Astoria’s weather-worn landscape, and that they’ve been through a storm or two and come out alright. The branding and packaging were produced by Grady Britton, an agency based in Downtown Portland, Oregon.
Beer: Buoy offers a regular lineup of beers year-round, as well as a seasonal menu that’s in constant rotation. They pull this off by using their smaller pilot system that’s in the secondary taproom and their larger production setup in the warehouse portion of the building. They’re most known for their lighter german-style beers, their cream ale, and their flagship IPA. The seasonal beers are good too though, check out my favorites from this visit below.
🍺 Bee-Yonce IPA
8.2% ABV 50 IBU 🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4)
Bee-Yonce is an IPA Queen. Brewed with a restrained and light malt bill featuring a blend of 2-Row and White Wheat Malt and fermented with local honey from Knappa, Oregon. We hopped this IPA assertively with Citra, Amarillo, Chinook and Columbus for a citrus and floral forward hop profile that complements the subtle background flavor of wildflower honey.
My Notes: Not bitter, good citrus/floral flavors come through. Sweet honey on the finish.
🍺 Ruos S’natas
5.5% ABV 5 IBU 🌟🌟🌟 (3.75)
Our Sour IPA was dreamt up by one of our fabulous bartenders Katie Heater. Aiming for a pleasantly tart, hop forward sour ale that is refreshing and aromatic. We soured this IPA base with Lactobacillus culture and fermented with our house ale strain. Dry hopped with Calypso, Vic Secret, Citra and El Dorado. The result is a well balanced and approachable IPA that has a big tropical nose, sturdy hop flavor and a crisp acidity.
My Notes: Crisp acidity is right. I liked the level of sour combined with traditional IPA flavor.
🍺 Strong Gale
7.8% ABV 70 IBU 🌟🌟🌟 (3.75)
Winter Ale 2017. Winters in Astoria can get cold, windy and downright nasty at times. In other words, perfect beer drinking weather! Our Strong Gale Winter Ale was brewed with Caramel, Special Roast and Chocolate malts providing just a touch sweetness and a slight roast character. This malty goodness is balanced by copious amounts of Mosaic, Ekuanot, and Centennial hops to give it a hoppy punch. Grab a pint and let the wind blow! Similar to the 2016 version which had Simcoe, Meridian and Chinook hops.
My Notes: Roasted/chocolate malts lend well to the balance of the beer. Not overly sweet.
Fort George Brewery
Location: Fort George Brewery opened to the public in 2007 in a building that had previously been the Lovell Auto Co, Blue Mouse Theater, and original settlement site of Fort Astoria. It was constructed in 1921, and was widely renovated to become what it is today. Fort George occupies half of the downstairs and the entire upstairs of the building. The first floor contains a bar, restaurant seating, outdoor patio (now enclosed), kitchen and the Sweet Virginia pilot brewing system. Take the stairs to the second story, where there’s copious amounts of seating, a two-sided bar, kitchen, new outdoor patio, and a beautiful view of the city.
I love the atmosphere of the brewery: Warm, spacious, and full of life. The detail work keeps me entertained, and the views enamored. The history in the building is fascinating too. For example, Fort George was able to snag a section of the spiral metal stairs from the Astoria Column when it was upgraded.
Branding: Fort George Brewery has a powerful ally in Plazm, a creative studio based out of Portland, a relationship that’s grown over the years. Many dazzling can designs have come out over the years, something I really appreciate from them. I always look forward to new releases.
The building itself IS the brand. It has become an iconic space in Astoria, and it’s not hard to see why. The logo is offset, weathered and bold on it’s own. Pair it with their other supplemental imagery and you have a beautiful design showcase. Big slab serif fonts are paired with rich illustrations.
Beer: Of the three taprooms within Fort George, the two within the main building carry the current seasonals and staple beers. The Lovell Taproom, located in the brewery building, has more specialty and small batch beers on tap. They’re known for their IPAs (both hop-heavy NW styles and juicy NE styles) and their bold stouts. While they distribute most of their beers in the Pacific Northwest, there are quite a few taproom exclusives that encourage a trip to Astoria.
🍺 I Like Me
7% ABV 🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4.5)
My Notes: Another solid Hazy IPA offering from Fort George.
🍺 Three Wise Men
11% ABV 🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4.25)
You may know the Three Wisemen a different way, but we know them as Mr. Jack Daniels, Captain Morgan, and Jose Cuervo. We couldn’t get a hold of those guys so we called up the barrels respectively from Four Roses (Bourbon), House Spirits (Rum), and Jose Cuervo Tequila. We strategically aged different portions of this Oatmeal Stout in these barrels and allowed them to hang out for a while. The brewers then blended them by taste to create a specifically boozy, yet light-bodied stout.
My Notes: Damn. This heavy hitter didn’t disappoint. Got a bottle to take home.
🍺 Holiday Friends, collaboration with Block 15 Brewing Company
8% ABV 🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4)
Brewed in cooperation with Fort George Brewery, Holiday Friends is a wild ale infused with locally-foraged spruce tips and matured in oak barrels. This beautifully complex wild ale balances notes of tropical funk, raspberry jam, and resinous spruce with a bright, acidic finish.
My Notes: A delightful sour beer. Just the crack I was looking for on the trip. Yum!
Reach Break Brewing
Location: Reach Break Brewing, the newest Astoria brewery that I reviewed in May, is looking great approaching their one year anniversary. The outdoor space is more organized than before and is home to a couple food carts. The taproom now has taster sized glasses, woohoo! It feels more homey overall with the addition of local art on the walls and additional seating. It’s still a great space to play games and sip on delicious beer with a friend.
Branding: While I reviewed this logo before for trending a bit too basic, I’m very happy with how it’s been used on the bottle labels. A metallic shine and rustic barrel texture give the logo that push it needed. From what I was told, the unique bottle shape made it more difficult to label. A group of generous volunteers helped hand-stick each and every one, a definite labor of love.
Beer: Reach Break has finally released their sour beers! They had five beers aging for many months, and all are now out in bottles that can be purchased at the brewery or at local bottleshops. I was able to try a few in the tasting room that day, and grabbed a couple to take home. The draft beer available was also very good. I particularly liked the Brett Saison and the IPA.
🍺 Mr. Smarty Pants
5.8% ABV 🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4.5)
My Notes: Nice and light, great mouthfeel. Love me a good Brett beer.
🍺 Proprius Mykiss
5.4% ABV 🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4.5)
Wine barrel-aged Brett Saison
My Notes: An amazing blend of flavors. This style has been my favorite recently.
🍺 Auratus IPA
6.8% ABV 🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4.25)
My Notes: Not the least bit hazy, and has excellent hop flavor. A great IPA.
One Last Thing…
(Beer Descriptions in italics are provided from the breweries.)