What I was surprised to find was that despite all the amazing stops I planned, one of the best beer experiences of the trip was completely accidental. I found great beer in the last place I thought to look for it.
Has this happened to you? Maybe you stumbled upon a no-name brewpub somewhere and found the perfect pale ale. Maybe, buried in the back of your local beer store, you found a dusty bottle of rare barleywine. Perhaps a friend turned you on to a beer that changed your mind about a brewery or a style. Write about a beer experience that took you by surprise.
There are two experiences that spring immediately to mind for me. The first I mentioned back in July 2009 during a trip to Hood River:
On the way out of town, we were passing through Parkdale, and stopped at the Mt. Hood Country Store for some water (literally… it was 95 degrees today and we were out in a lot of it picking fruit—hydration!). This is notable because for what looks to be literally a country store, it turned out to be quite a beer oasis! They have amazingly well-stocked coolers, with some beers I haven’t seen in Bend even, and they even have six beers on tap.
Six good beers on tap. I don’t remember what all of them were, but they had a beer from Portland’s new Upright Brewing, one from Lazy Boy up in Everett, Washington, and Big Daddy IPA from Speakeasy Brewing in San Francisco.
It’s quite a disconnect to pull into what looks like a rustic rural store—you know the kind, where you comes across not only the bare “convenience” essentials but also jars of pickled eggs, homemade beef jerky, and hand-tied flies for fishing—to find what might be the best beer experience for 50 miles around (outside of a brewery). But that’s the best kind of disconnect!
The next discovery was during a trip to the Oregon Coast—a day spent in Pacific City, in fact. It was after we’d discovered Twist Wine Company that I’d realized that I had, in fact, already known about it previously—Stan Hieronymus had told me about it, but I had forgotten all about it until we found ourselves there. I wrote about the experience on Hop Press:
There is a winery tasting room in town, Twist Wine Company, that we stumbled upon mostly by chance, who’s owner is the sister of… wait for it… Vinnie Cilurzo.
Yes, that Vinnie Cilurzo, of Russian River Brewing Company. What that means is, not only does this wine tasting room and lounge offer their wines to drink and sell by the bottle, but they also have Russian River beers on tap: Pliny the Elder and Damnation currently, and they sell bottles of Damnation, Temptation, Consecration, and Supplication as well.
I daresay it may well be the only place on the entire Oregon Coast that one can get Pliny the Elder on tap. And since it’s Vinnie’s sister, well… Pliny is always on tap.
They have four taps in fact: the two Russian River taps, one hosting a beer from the Pelican Pub down the street, and I don’t remember the fourth—something from Portland, I think. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a Russian River beer while we were there, so I ordered a goblet of Damnation and checked the rest of the place out (my wife enjoyed their wines and bought several bottles).
It’s a funky, comfortable tasting lounge where kids are welcome and you can bring your own food in. In fact, one corner is devoted to the kids: they have a vintage Atari 2600 game console hooked up to a TV with some two dozen game cartridges on hand, and this kept my kids busy while we were there. They also have a large collection of vinyl records—in fact, all they have in music is on vinyl. The atmosphere is very relaxed and casual and friendly; there was a decent crowd while we were there and everyone was friendly and chatty.
Honestly, while our visit that day to the Pelican Pub & Brewery was quite good, it was this discovery that was the highlight of the day. And those are the best kind of discoveries.