June 2, 2017

Oregon North Coast Beer Trail

By John Rezell

What can I say? I’m a lager head.

I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, aka, the Beer Capital of the World — the home of old-school brewers like Miller, Pabst, Schlitz, Blatz and others, who started small and made it big.

They call folks from Wisconsin “Cheeseheads,” and while I consumed plenty of cheese curds and sausage, for most of my adult time there, lager also flowed through my veins.

Sending a lager head on an ale trail? Back home they’d say that’s like searching for bratwurst at a hot dog stand.

It’s a reach.

My wife Debbie and I drove to explore Oregon’s North Coast Craft Beer Trail, and while it isn’t officially called an ale trail like so many, suffice to say ales rule the roost in this neck of the woods.

Since I’m not much of a drinker these days, that wasn’t a problem. And as with any adventure, it’s the journey that counts.

One Short of a 12-Pack

Photo by John Rezell

The Oregon North Coast Trail runs from Cannon Beach north to Astoria with 11 designated stops along the way, including three in Seaside and one in Gearhart. It’s an eclectic mix, which makes it all the more alluring.

Although we didn’t eat at every stop — or even drink a full beer at each — all offer enticing menus for any taste.

Many, but not all, have patio seating where your dog is welcome, so check ahead. Our black lab Ridgely made the rounds with us and we had plenty of opportunities to sit and soak up the sun.

We didn’t make it to every place on the list, but here are some highlights — with a strict reminder to have a designated driver, wear your walking shoes or rely on the trolleys.

For a lager head, Buoy Beer Company in Astoria stole my heart. Two lagers on tap and a double-digit long list of options will please anyone, but its cheesecake dessert rocketed Buoy Beer to the top.

McMenamins always finds inviting haunts, and the historic Gearhart Hotel ranks with any. The selections push your typical beer boundaries like “Boom Gose the Dynamite,” a tart gose and top pick at the Oregon Brewers

Festival. Just up the block you can simply drive onto the beach to chill for sunset, which is always fun.

The Wine and Beer Haus in Seaside surprised us the most. Due to its location in a factory outlet mall, our expectations weren’t too lofty. But co-owner Karma Herd treated us with her bright, cheery disposition as well as vast beer and wine knowledge.

We strolled the beach in Seaside between its two downtown stops and ate lunch there. We stopped in Gearhart, then drove to Astoria.

We spent the night at the Astoria Riverwalk Inn with amazing views of the marina and the Astoria–Megler Bridge that towers nearly 200 feet above the Columbia River. From there we walked to four places and enjoyed dinner and dessert, although you can easily take the Astoria trolley to all six stops in town.

Combine the trail with everything else there is to see along this stretch of the Oregon coast and you’ll fill a weekend — or week — with ease.

Even if you are a lager head.

John “Raz” Rezell is the new editor of OutdoorsNW and even though he doesn’t drink much beer, he searches out breweries because most serve great food. Visit our ONWard blog on the new OutdoorsNW.com for more photos from Raz’s journey along Oregon’s North Coast.