By Abram Goldman-Armstrong
Honorary Beer Scribe for Guest on Tap
A plaque in Astoria’s Fort Astoria Park, proclaims that the fort was home to the first white woman west of the Rockies, in 1814. She is described on the plaque only as “Jane Barnes English Barmaid,” so it’s fitting that the former home of a barmaid should house a brewery nearly 200 years later.
Fort George Brewing Co. brewed its first beer Feb. 7 and opened March 11. Brewer-owners Jack Harris and Chris Nemlowill had brewed at other breweries on the north Oregon coast and teamed up to open Fort George last year.
The pair bought the 10 hectoliter brew system from a brew pub in Virginia Beach, Va. They flew out to pick it up, hired a trucker to drive the brewhouse and loaded the other bits and bobs into a U-Haul truck, and headed back to Oregon.
Crossing Nebraska, a tornado did its best to whisk the brewhouse off to the Land of Oz.
Nemlowill describes watching the mash tun and brew kettle “dance” out of their tie-down straps on the 56-foot trailer in front of them. After buffeting the brewers and their equipment the storm swept off into the distance, leaving them shaken but unharmed.
The system was re-secured, and they continued on to Astoria without further mishap. To appease the storm demons the Fort George brewers have dubbed their IPA “Vortex.”
The brew pub is located in part of the Fort George Building, a large car dealership from the 1920s. An iconic art-deco image of the building is the brewery’s logo.
A stylish glass garage door separates the brewhouse from the pub and harks back to the building’s automotive heritage, as does a mural in one of the unisex bathrooms. The other, painted to resemble the log walls of the original fort, is replete with detail.
Slightly upscale pub-grub complements the beer. Try the spicy oyster poor boy with the massively hoppy Vortex. House-made sausages also are a good match for the beers.
The brewery offers a range of beers, including the 4.3 percent abv Weisse Berry, fermented with the renowned Weihenstephan yeast, giving it banana phenols in the aroma which blend with soft red berry notes.
The Sunrise Oatmeal Pale 4.8 percent has a dry oaty aroma with some malt, the flavor is dry from oats, and very quenching.
The 4.9 percent Red Ale has a roasty, toasty aroma, full tawny red color, and robust roast flavor balanced with sizable hop flavor. The roast comes through as a light nuttiness in the finish.
Vortex IPA clocks in at 7.5 percent abv, with a resiny sawmill hop buzz, like a logger stomping into town from the woods. The spicy hop flavor pairs with woody bitterness from kettle additions of Cascade and Simcoe hops. After fermentation the beer is dry-hopped with Palisades, Simcoe and Cascade.
Cavatica Stout at 8.5 percent abv is named for a common brown spider which protects barley from insects. According to Nemlowill, breweries and spiders have long been linked.
“In Belgium it is illegal to kill a spider in a brewery — they keep flies and bugs out of the (open) fermenters at lambic breweries,” he explains. Alcohol appears in the roasty, caramelly aroma, and the flavor has notes of spicy alcohol, a woody dryness, and licorice.
For youngsters and nondrinkers, the brewery makes a Wasabi Ginger Ale with a spicy ginger beer aroma and a syrupy sweetness, which dries out with the spicy flavor.