Come for the beer, stay for the weekend.
That's the motto for the fourth annual Pacific Northwest Brew Cup, this Friday and Saturday on 12th Street in downtown Astoria.
"It's definitely for the beer-lovers of the world," says Jennifer Holen. She and her husband, Chris Holen, own the riverfront restaurant and lounge, Baked Alaska, at the foot of 12th Street, where the first Brew Cups were held on the dock as part of Astoria's Regatta Festival.
After two years, the Brew Cup became so popular it outgrew that venue. It split off from the Regatta and moved a few blocks south along 12th Street to downtown Astoria. Now it's more of an Oktoberfest, with designer brews flowing and vendors serving sandwiches and sausages that taste great with beer. There's lots of live music, too, but instead of oom pah pah, the Brew Cup features classic rock and old fashioned rock and roll.
"It's evolving. It's really fun," Holen says. "It's a fun time for people to come and talk beer."
A 'Who's Who' of microbrews
Last year, 800 beer aficionados attended. This year, 1,000 beer-lovers are expected to quaff the best of the best from an impressive array of microbreweries. They'll drink from souvenir pint glasses with the Pacific Northwest Brew Cup logo, an overflowing beer stein modeled after the Astoria Column. It's free with the $5.00 admission price.
Among the 35-plus breweries attending are Rogue, which won the People's Choice Award at last year's Brew Cup; Astoria Brewing Co., headquartered inside the Wet Dog Cafe, on the riverfront at 11th Street; and Bill's Tavern, located in Cannon Beach, winner of the 2004 Thar She Blows Award, given to the brewer of the first keg that runs dry.
At least 30 different kegs will spew forth their frothy elixirs from trailers lining 12th Street between Commercial and Duane streets. The heady brews flaunt monikers like Rogue's Dead Guy Ale and Old Crustacean. Astoria Brewing Co. offers up concoctions ranging from Bubba Jango Mango, which won a prize at the Buoy 10 Brew Fest in Hammond, to Moonbeam Blue, Shipwrecker Stout and Battle Bitch IPA (India pale ale). Duckdive Pale Ale, Thundermuck Stout, Clearcut Lager and Blackberry Beauty are among the brews purveyed by Bill's Tavern & Brewhouse.
A new component this year is a home brewers' competition. "Home brewing is definitely becoming more popular," Holen says. "There are tons of little supply stores popping up and lots of beer tastings." Judges will rate the beers on Saturday and award prizes in various categories.
"It's a really fun hobby," says Astoria Brewing Co.'s Chris Nemlowill, 26. He says a lot of people get into homebrewing when they can't buy the beer they want and decide to make it themselves. That's how Nemlowill, a graduate of Astoria High School and Southern Oregon University, got started.
Jack Harris, the brewer at Bill's Tavern & Brewhouse, shovels malted barley out of a mash tun as he works on a batch of his award-winning Duckdive Pale Ale. File photo by Lori Assa.All you need is two stainless steel pots, a couple of five-gallon glass jugs to ferment the beer in and some bottling equipment, he explains. The equipment can be bought locally, he says, at the Wine Haus in Seaside and elsewhere, and so can the four main ingredients: malted barley, yeast, water and hops. The average homebrewer makes five gallons at a time, he says.
Nemlowill did some home brewing, then moved to Holland for six months after graduation. He enjoyed the beer there and when he came back to the U.S.A. he decided to turn pro. He completed an internship at Bill's Tavern, then worked there as an assistant brewer for over a year before starting at Astoria Brewing in March of this year.
Chris Nemlowill, right, brews a variety of distinctive beers, ale and stout at Astoria Brewing Co. John Dalgren, left, a cook at the Wet Dog Cafe, is learning the brewing process and often assists Nemlowill. Photo by Sandra Swain."He's putting out some really great beers. He has a total love for it," Holen says.
Nemlowill's passion for his calling is obvious as he moves about the brewery in shorts and cannery boots, fiddling with knobs, talking about his recipes and checking on the huge stainless steel vats that hold beer in various stages of completion.
For Moonbeam Blue, he uses 40 lbs of blueberries and 30 lbs of marionberries for 124 gallons of purplish brew. "It's very mellow. Sweet, but not too sweet," he enthuses. His prize-winning Bubba Jango Mango is wheat ale made with 60 lbs of frozen mangoes that has a golden orange hue.
Nemlowill will be one of the judges for the homebrew competition. He says he'll be looking at taste, color, clarity and creativity - "something I haven't had before," he says.
Always looking for the next challenge, Nemlowill says he's thinking of branching out into distilling. But for now, it's all about beer.