By NANCY MCCARTHY
The Daily Astorian
SEASIDE – For those who have a taste for beer, enjoy a good meal and love the beach, Seaside will haveit all, come Friday and Saturday.
That’s the weekend the city’s first “Beach, Bite and Brew” is planned, where 12 craft brewers will offer tastings of some their most popular and some of their most intriguing beers.
But what good is beer without something to eat, asked Jeanne Clark, events coordinator for the Seaside Chamber of Commerce, who is organizing the event.
So, along with the craft brewers, she invited Seaside restaurants to participate by offering their customers special dinners and suggesting the beers to accompany each meal. The food pairing will be offered on Friday night at several restaurants in town, Clark said.
A list of participating restaurants will be available at the Carousel Mall and at the Visitors Center.
But on Saturday, the real fun begins when four local chefs compete in a “cooking with beer” competition. Their meals will be offered from noon to 4 p.m. at the Seaside Elks Lodge, 324 Avenue A. Tickets for the competition and a general tasting from 5 to 9 p.m. are $35. The cost for the general tasting only is $20, which covers the three-ounce beer samples. A souvenir glass is included.
Eight food vendors will provide offerings for a charge during the evening’s beer tasting.
“We looked at what the crab festival has done for Astoria and thought a beer festival would work here,” said Clark. “We wanted to have something that people could get involved in that was close to the beach but not right on the beach. But they can still take advantage of the beach.”
The chamber hopes that the “Beach, Bite and Brew” will become an annual event. If that’s the case, then those attending the festival should probably brush up on their beer terminology.
Terms that might be studied include “IPA” or “hoppiness” (which may be what some tasters taste before they feel “happiness”), “bittering” or “secondary fermentation.”
Chris Nemlowill, co-owner of the Fort George Brewery, plans to offer the “Vortex,” the brew pub’s flagship IPA; “Divinity,” a Belgian “wit” or ale; and Cavatica stout, a bold, black American stout.
While he is happy to be promoting his beers, Nemlowill’s focus will be to “get more people in the area exposed to Oregon beers.”
“There aren’t many places in Seaside that feature craft beers,” he said. “There has been a lot of focus on macro-industrial style beers – Coors, Anheiser-Busch and Miller. The smaller, Oregon craft brands haven’t gotten a lot of exposure on the coast.”
In fact, Nemlowill said, only 12 percent of the beer consumed in Oregon is made in this state. But the potential exposure that events such as the “Beach, Bite and Brew” offers to the public, he added, is “very exciting.”
“This is an up and coming industry,” Nemlowill added.
Those who have ever entered a McMinamin’s Restaurant will be familiar with the bottled beers that will come from Gearhart’s Sand Trap Inn: IPA, Terminator, Hammerhead and Ruby.
Blair Hampson, Sand Trap general manager, said the restaurant’s servers always suggest “fun food” that will go with their craft beers.
“We hope we can make good suggestions, but it really depends on the person’s taste,” he said.
Does he prefer cold or warm beer?
Personally, he said, he doesn’t like his beer extremely cold.
“If it starts at just below 40 degrees and it warms up, there’s more flavor,” Hampson said.
A couple of customer favorites – Duck Dive pale ale and Blackberry Beauty – will be served up by David Parker, who crafts the beers upstairs over Bill’s Tavern in Cannon Beach.
Parker, who started out at Bill’s as a bartender, began crafting beers four years ago when the former brew master, Jack Harris, joined Nemlowill at the Fort George Brewery.
Duck Dive is probably made the most often because customers drink it so quickly, Parker said.
“It takes seven to 10 days to make a batch and only three days to drink it,” he said.
But if the tavern runs out of Blackberry Beauty, customers whine. “They say they have driven all the way from Seattle to drink it,” Parker said.
The science of beer-making is simple, he said: converting starches from grain into sugars.
But the secret of beer-making is the yeast and the “food” that is fed to the yeast. There’s ale yeast, lager yeast and pilsner yeast.
“All yeast is different and it makes different kinds of beer,” Parker said. “The yeast determines the quality of the beer.”
During the winter, Parker brews once or twice a week, but during the summer, when visitors are thirsty, he’s brewing three or four times a week.
“I’m running on a treadmill then,” he said. “I cannot keep up.”
But, said Parker, who remains fascinated about a process that turns bags of grain into beer, “it’s literally spinning straw into gold.”
Those who want to know what they are tasting when they sample beer should check for a taste of the grain that was used in the beer. Is there a balance between the grain and alcohol?
“Sometimes, it’s too malty, or roasty or hoppy,” said Parker, using those technical terms again.
He calls studying the taste of individual beers the “hops experience.”
“If I’m studying the ‘hops experience,’ I’m asking, ‘Is there too much bittering – does the taste stay in my mouth?”
Parker is constantly observing his brewing results and studies what makes some beers more popular than others.
“It’s fun,” he said. “I don’t think anybody should be done learning.”
And when food is coupled with beer, it becomes even more interesting because the dish’s ingredients could change the beer’s taste.
At the “Beach, Bite and Brew,” participants will be able to discover for themselves which beers might go well with which foods.
“What it boils down to, you can talk about pairing food with beer, but until you taste it, you won’t know,” Parker said.