Over Memorial Day weekend we took a family trip down the southern Oregon Coast to Bandon, a small town of about 3,000 on the Coquille River 24 miles south of Coos Bay. It wasn’t ostensibly a beer trip, but naturally opportunities to explore a bit of the beer scene presented itself.
First off: there is a Bandon Brewing Company, but they are not yet brewing their own beer on-site. My wife and I stopped in there on Saturday to pick up a pizza to bring back to the vacation rental for dinner. As I learned, they have equipment on hand that should be installed and ready to go “in four weeks” (which with brewery construction could mean four weeks, or four months), and what beer they did have in the past was brewed in Portland by owner/brewer Jon Hawkins. In fact, he was in Portland for at least part of that weekend at Labrewatory working on the latest beers.
Yes, Hawkins had been driving to Portland to brew the Bandon beers—a good five hours away. And thus far it was infrequent; the last time they’d had their own beer on tap was early March. That doesn’t stop Bandon Brewing from stocking taps of mostly local brews, as well as serving up tasty pizzas.
On tap at the time we visited were 7 Devils Brewing Endless Summer Blonde Ale and South Slough Spruce Pale Ale, as well as Defeat River IRA (out of Reedsport) and Bandon Rain Cranberry Cider (locally made). While waiting on our pizza I enjoyed a pint of the South Slough Spruce Ale, brewed with locally harvested spruce tips. It was a nice take on the style, and the spruce was pretty subtle.
This of course, segues into my take on 7 Devils Brewing, located up the coast in Coos Bay. While we did not visit the brewery itself, what I found is that they have become the dominant local brewery in Bandon and on much of the southern coast. When we last visited Bandon, some six years ago, Rogue was the Oregon coastal beer you would find everywhere (and still is, up around the central coast). Now, it’s 7 Devils, and I ended up drinking and sampling through a number of their beers.
Besides the South Slough Spruce, I actually started with a pint of their Trillium IPA which was on tap at the local farmers market on Saturday morning. (More on that in a bit. Also, you can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning, as they say!) And in looking at the locations page on their website to see where they were pouring, I found that they had growlers available in Bandon at The Beverage Barn (more on that in a bit, too). What better way to get to know a beer and its brewery than by picking up a growler of it? Which is also a great way to enjoy a local beer during a vacation.
At The Beverage Barn I sampled their Arago Amber Ale and Arch Rock State of Jefferson Porter (Arch Rock Brewing is also relatively local, from down south in Gold Beach), and settled on one of the 7 Devils flagships, Groundswell IPA. I wrote about that beer here, while still at the coast, with a great picture from the deck of the rental house that looked out onto Face Rock. (The house itself was barely four driveways away from Face Rock Scenic Viewpoint.) You can check out that picture on the other post—taken on Saturday—and then there was this one I took on Sunday as I was finishing the growler:
This was an eminently pleasant and drinkable IPA, appropriately west coast/northwest styled, and as I wrote, a “nice coastal IPA for the Oregon climate.” I enjoyed it and would recommend finding 7 Devils to anyone visiting the area, if you can.
7 Devils has also been bottling some of their beer, and while in town I can definitively say it was available by the bottle at the beverage stand at the farmers market, as well as The Beverage Barn and Face Rock Creamery. And in fact it’s The Beverage Barn that I’m going to talk about next.
The Beverage Barn
When my wife and I stopped in at the farmers market on Saturday, we found a wine and beer station (“Beverages & More” I guess is what it was called):
Actually my wife first found the wine tasting and I then noticed the taps and the coolers, and the fact that beer and cider (as well as kombucha and soda) were for sale. I ordered the pint of Trillium IPA from 7 Devils and struck up a conversation with the people behind the counter, one of which turned out to also be the owner of The Beverage Barn: Lori Osborne.
In fact Lori and her husband Barry also own the Beverages & More stand there at the farmers market, and she gave me a good rundown of the Bandon beer scene. She’s the one who told me about the Bandon Brewing situation (brewing in Portland) and clued me in to 7 Devils’ presence on the coast, as well as a bit about Bandon Rain Cider Company. And of course talked up The Beverage Barn—4,000 square feet of drinks (beer, wine, soda, liquor) that is the “Cabela’s of drink stores” and the only one of its kind in Oregon. (Having not visited every liquor/beer/wine store in Oregon, I cannot confirm this, to be fair.)
(That’s Lori Osborne but not her husband Barry.)
What’s funny is, I had already decided to visit The Beverage Barn because they had the growler fills of 7 Devils beer available. So this was a fortuitous stop!
She also generously sent us on our way with two complimentary bottles of beer:
Gilgamesh Brewing’s ABandon Brew (made with Bandon cranberries and aged in port wine barrels) and 7 Devils Winter is Coming Pumpkin Ale (obviously this had been on the shelf for a while).
Our next stop was, of course, The Beverage Barn.
The “Cabela’s” comparison comes from the open wood/barn decor and the many taxidermied animals (heads, birds, etc.), of course. They have a decent overall selection of products, including local offerings (including liquor from the local Stillwagon Distillery), but really it was the growler station I was there for.
This was a repurposed diesel fuel tank they acquired from Redmond, Oregon.
That’s a pretty good representation of the kinds of beers (and ciders etc.) they have available. As I mentioned, I tasted several and filled the growler with 7 Devils Groundswell IPA. Overall I think this was an excellent selection for what I was expecting to find, and I was happy for the stop.
The Beverage Barn is well worth your time when you find yourself in or around Bandon.
Bandon and Face Rock
And of course, there’s the town itself. Founded in 1873 by Irishman George Bennett, he named the town after his hometown of Bandon, Ireland. Among their notable industries is cranberry production, which accounts for 95 percent of Oregon’s cranberries and about five percent of the national crop. As such, the cranberry is prevalent—in the foods, in the cider, hopefully in the beer when Bandon Brewing gears up, in the annual Cranberry Festival.
The other feature I’ve always found fascinating—and which our vacation rental was literally facing—is Face Rock. This is a peculiar rock just off shore that from directly east looks strikingly like a face rising out of the water, facing north. In fact the Coquille Indians had a legend of how Face Rock came to be (at the previous link): Ewauna, daughter of Chief Siskiyou, was beset upon by Seatka, the evil spirit of the ocean, and in her struggles was turned to stone, eternally avoiding his treacherous, capturing gaze.
Another view of Face Rock along with nearby Cat and Kittens Rock.
On weekends, volunteers create elaborate labyrinths on the beach near Face Rock for visitors to walk.
Find your way to Bandon (beer or no beer). It’s worth the trip.