Fort George Brewery.
Astoria Beer Adventure

I arrive at Fort George Brewery at noon on Saturday. I've got a couple of hours to talk with brewer and proprietor Chris Nemlowill, sample some beer, tour the brewery, and then head off to the next brewery. This seems like ample time as I sit in my car and review my agenda for the day. This assumption will prove false as I head to my first beer meeting of the day.

I sit down with Chris, who immediately offers me a beer. He asks if I have a preference, I say "Surprise me". Well, it turns out that I just threw down the gauntlet. He returned with a 10 beer sampler. Hmm, 40 ounces of beer to kick off my day. It doesn't take a long time to justify sampling the beer I'm writing about. Challenge accepted.

Fort George Brewery's doors opened up two years ago, providing it's patrons with four different styles of beer: Pale, IPA, Stout, and a Wit. Today, the brewery proudly offers about 10-12 different beers for customers to choose from, ranging from sessionable, refreshing wit-style fruit beers to huge, complex Bourbon Barrel stouts. Chris sits down at the bar after every work day and has a beer with his customers. Understanding the customer's interpretation of his creations is invaluable in his brewing decision process. From tweaks to the current recipes to deciding which styles to brew, Chris responds immediately to his customer's thoughts and input. This close relationship with his customers has not only created a great local atmosphere, but a very unique lineup of standard and seasonal beer offerings for Astoria visitors. Wits and Oatmeal Pales are a definite departure from the usual lineups at other breweries.

Astoria Beer Adventure
Chris Nemlowill, Brewer and Proprietor.
Chris has lived in Astoria for most of his life, and it's important to him to not just operate within the community, but to grow the community and contribute to the progress of the city. Providing locally made beer to Astoria is just another logical step to Fort George Brewery--a piece to the Astoria puzzle that fits perfectly. The brewery operates with equal parts of good business sense and support for it's community. And the community supports Fort George right back. Why wind down on a Sunday evening when you can keep the last remnants of the weekend alive with live music each week at 8pm? Chris also has an outdoor expansion planned to offer beer, food, and music in the fresh air.

Today's Sampler Tray:
  • Lovell Lager -- This lager has the distinction of being the first commercially produced lager in Clatsop County. Delicious, light-body--perfect for a summer's day in Astoria.
  • Golden Goose -- Hmm, no notes on this one. Just a smiley face and what looks to be my interpretation of a goose, though it looke more like a teletubby. I think I took a break from note-taking to get some photos.
  • Quick Wit -- Produced with a Hoegaarden yeast, this unique wit also contains lemongrass, elderberry, and coriander. The alcohol is well-hidden among the distinct herbal flavors. While not a monster, this beer is definitely strong enough to surprise you. 5.5% ABV.
  • Divinity -- This wit beer sits on fresh raspberries for four days, imparting a delicious fruit flavor to this beer. A very easy drinker.
  • Sunrise Oatmeal Pale -- A unique Pale ale brewed with Pilsner malt and 50lbs of oatmeal, giving this pale a great chewy body. I really enjoyed the addition of the Oatmeal, not usually seen in this style. 5.5% ABV.
  • Nut Red -- A red ale with hazelnut flavors from the malt bill. 5.9% ABV.
  • Panamax Porter -- This 5.1% ABV porter, dry and sessionable.
  • Cavatica Stout -- A big, bold, and black 8.8% ABV stout. My favorite so far--I'm a sucker for big beers. A longer, pint-sized stay with this one would have revealed a little more than the 4 ounce sample. I'll be back, my freind.
  • XVI Chapel -- Top dog, at 9.5% ABV, this is a distinct blend of tastes made possible by triple dry-hopping this beer based on a Belgian trappist yeast. Well, my new favorite of the bunch. Hard to classify with the aggressive hops, huge ABV, and Belgian yeast strain, but very enjoyable nonetheless.
  • Bourbon Barrel Stout -- Half of this brew sits in Heaven Hills bourbon barrels and is married back to the rest of the batch waiting in the fermenter after 6 months. Damn, a new favorite. A woody, bourbony sipper, smoothed out with a bit of age. More please?
Astoria Beer Adventure
Beer Sampler at Fort George Brewery.
After my sampler tray, we head off on a brewery tour where I enjoy a snifter of a new doppelbock and pint of their Vortex IPA straight from the tanks. The Vortex IPA is actually named after a tornado experience that Chris had to endure while hauling the brewery equipment from Virgina to Oregon. As if getting a whole brewing system across the country wasn't difficult enough, the truck carrying the equipment ran directly through a tornado in Nebraska. Luckily nothing was lost, and the event became just another symbol of the uphill battle in starting a brewery. Now up and running for two years, Fort George's Saaz brewing system produces about 8.5 barrels of beer per batch with around 40 kegs hitting the Portland area each month. While you can find some Fort George beers in Portland, they don't represent the wide variety of styles offered at the brewery in Astoria. The only way to get an accurate picture of what Fort George Brewery is all about is by rewarding yourself with a trip out to Astoria.

Next up, Astoria Brewing. But that sounds simpler than the reality of the situation. It is now 2pm, and I've sampled about 60 ounces across 12 different styles with no time for lunch. I did have a granola bar at 9:00am, so all is not lost--is it?

Check out the rest of the photos here.