Wet Dog Cafe / Astoria Brewing

Bitter Bitch Imperial IPAThe first brewery we visited when we traveled to Astoria earlier this month was the Wet Dog Café, aka Astoria Brewing, located in downtown Astoria on 11th street facing the waterfront—in fact, the Astoria Riverwalk and trolley is what separates the Café from the water and if you’re lucky enough to sit on the patio on a nice day it’s likely one of the best restaurant views in town.

We didn’t get a chance to sit on the patio, instead opting for seating in the saloon as there was a wait in the main dining area. Despite the name, the saloon is kid-friendly (albeit not at the bar) and full service, a nice bit of overflow seating—in fact, it looks like it was probably space they expanded into as they grew and yes, it’s made up to look like an old western saloon, with hardwood floors, a fireplace, a faux upper level, and with a nod to our modern times, a pinball machine and video poker in a room behind swinging doors.

The main space looks perhaps like an old fishery or cannery warehouse that’s been converted, with old exposed timber rafters, concrete slab floor, exposed wiring and piping, and features ample seating, a gift shop area near the front, a small stage at the opposite end and of course the patio. It has an authentic feeling to the building and sports neon beers signs of all kinds, old license plates on the main ceiling beam running the length of the building, various signs and kitschy art. I rather loved the ambiance and decor.

The brewery space—which was added in 1997 under the name of Pacific Rim Brewing, later changed to Astoria Brewing in 2005—is a 4-barrel capacity (with a a number of fermenters and bright tanks including some 8-barrel fermenters) that looks rather tightly stuff into a small space just off the front entrance (and between the entrance and saloon). They are definitely making the most of the space but it’s no wonder that they are expanding the brewery into more of a production outfit, into the shared building on the block—and just around the opposite side of the block is where the (new) Astoria Brewing tasting room/bar/something will be located, a former bar or tavern that now has “Astoria Brewing” neon and a spinning sign out front. I’m not clear on the details, but I believe the Wet Dog Cafe will carry on as they are and this bar space will front the more production side of the Brewery. At any rate, it is still (temporarily) occupied with what sounds like the previous bar.

As to the beers: when we visited, they only had five on tap, and coincidentally their sampler trays consist of five tasters—so I got to taste everything they had at that point. Here are my notes on those:

  • Kirby Kölsch, 5% abv, 20 IBUs — Yellow and hazy with a crisp white head. Fruity and grainy, with a nice grassy hop bitterness. Crisp and bracing with more (appropriate) bitterness in this Kölsch than you usually find—quite good.
  • Da Bomb Blonde Ale, 5.3% abv, 17 IBUs — Clear and light gold in color, darker than the Kölsch. Surprising hop bitterness right up front—also bracing and like the Kölsch, bitterer than you’d expect for the style but it works. That bitterness lingers and while the malt is clean and bready, it’s the hops you remember.
  • Solar Dog IPA, 6.2% abv, 69 IBUs — Surprisingly light in body with a soft yet woody/resiny bitterness that’s very earthy… it’s a mouth-coating hop presence, it leaves the tongue sticky, and while the nose is full of citrus the flavor is all lupulin.
  • Poop Deck Porter, 6.2% abv, 35 IBUs — Coffee and dark chocolate, a bit of roasty astringency, a touch of blackstrap. A lingering sweetness in the finish, though overall it’s dry. A nicely built Porter.
  • Bitter Bitch Imperial IPA, 8.2% abv, 100+ IBUs — Big, bitter, very classic Imperial/Double IPA, full of resin and fruity hops stuffed into the beer to overflowing. Lots of resin and a sticky hop punch—not a mystery as to why this is their most popular beer. Tasty and balanced and reminds me a lot of the San Diego DIPAs, particularly something you’d taste from Green Flash.

Even though Bitter Bitch is their flagship, and a fine beer, I opted to follow up the taster tray with a pint of the Kölsch as it was the seasonal and very good. Plus, I think it complemented my dinner of fish and chips well: a three fish combo, featuring tuna, salmon, and cod, with steak fries. I don’t believe I’d ever had tuna in fish and chips before, but it was about like you’d expect: a solid slab of meaty fish. The salmon was good as expected, but my favorite of the three was the cod, which was the best (and the best fish for this dish).

No, I don’t remember what everyone else had, except for dessert—we ordered The Best Damn Dessert Ever which is an insane concoction with a simple description: “Oreo crumb crust, Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups & Hershey’s Syrup! OH YEAH!!”

Overall, while the service was a bit slow—it was a busy Friday night, after all—it was a good visit and I really liked it. It’s definitely near the top of the list of places to visit again next time I’m in Astoria (who knows when that will be though!), and I’m anxious to see what they do with the expansion space. Highly recommended.

Wet Dog Café / Astoria Brewing
144 11th Street
Astoria, OR 97103
(503) 325-6975

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