Beer Adventure in Astoria Oregon: Part Three--Astoria Brewing
Astoria Brewing lives inside of the Wet Dog Cafe, right on the Columbia River, about five blocks from Fort George Brewery.
The first thing I notice about the brewery is that it just might just fit in my living room. And after tasting the beers, I want it in my living room as soon as possible. Not sure that my girlfriend would agree with the new decor though. The 4 barrel system is tiny. To put it in perspective, a single full-capacity batch would produce at most 8 kegs of beer. With larger beers requiring more ingredients, the final production size gets even smaller.
The easiest way to expand a brewery that has this type of size constraint is to add larger fermenters. Many breweries have days where they brew their best selling beers in double batches. Astoria brewing is no different. For example, in a recent expansion, Astoria brewing has added a couple of 10 hectoliter fermenters (about 8.5 barrels). This allows the brewery to brew two consecutive 4 barrel batches and add them to the same fermenter. Of course, this makes a brew day almost twice as long, but it increases capacity in a limited amount of space.
But small size doesn't mean you have to be antiquated. In fact, Astoria Brewing is a head of the curve by becoming the second brewery in the state to use solar power for hot water. Before the solar panels were installed, bringing the water up to mash temperature would take about four to five hours. With the new system, combining direct fire to the kettle and 175 degree water from the tap cuts the time down to one hour. This is a huge time saver in a very hectic schedule. The new 1500 gallon holding tank also provides enough extremely hot water to make brewery cleaning much more efficient as well. Astoria Brewing is proof that cutting your carbon footprint in the right ways can have an immediate and dramatic positive impact on a business.
I meet up with Bolt in the brewery and we decide that it would be prudent to drink some beer while we talk. Why not start with a snifter of Imperial Wit? Why not indeed. It is evident immediately that the main function of the brewery is to meet demand. Of course, that's the goal of any brewery, but with Astoria Brewing's capacity, it's quite a chore just to keep up with demand as word of their beer spreads far outside of Astoria's borders to the ears thirsty beer drinkers.
We move the conversation over to the restaurant and sit down for some beer sampling. I put down an empty glass and realize I just drank a Bitter Bitch Imperial IPA: Astoria Brewing's flagship beer. How did that get in my hand? This beer has won the People's Choice Award for the last three years at Portland's Spring Beer and Wine Festival. So, while my notes are useless, the people have already spoken on this beer. We sample a few more Astoria Brewing beers including the Kirby Kolsch, Astoria ESB, and a fantastic Poop Deck Porter. Other beers available from Astoria Brewing today are: Great White Shark, Volkweissen, Stone Cold Strong, Kick Ass Stout, Solar Dog IPA, and Old Redbeard Amber. Yep, a total of about 9 different beers from a four barrel b rewery, in Astoria Oregon. Bolt is working hard--for the sake of beer, and for his customers. And the results are paying off--just stop by any time and check out any of the beers in Astoria Brewing's lineup. You'll have to keep your eyes wide open to spot any of their beer here in Portland, but take my advice and make it a part of your next trip to Astoria!
Okay, I can't sit here and say that working on a story while drinking beer isn't awesome. To be able to talk to the brewers while tasting their beers--those released and unreleased--makes for a great day. But now I'm up to almost 100 ounces of beer across, I don't know, 15 styles, on an empty stomach--all while trying to take notes, photos, and talk coherently about beer. And I'm plagued by the thought that I keep tilting to the left.
I have one more place to go today. Next stop, Rogue Ales Public House. Hmm, maybe I can sober up over a few more samples of beer.
Check out the rest of the photos here.
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