The Accidental Palate

After nearly ten wonderful years of editing Northwest Palate magazine in Portland OR, I've handed over the reins and am now enjoying the leisurely (not!), ever-changing (and then some) life of a freelance bon vivant. Hope you enjoy these posts, and if you want to reach me, contact ajabine (at) yahoo (dot) com. Cheers! Angie Jabine

Monday, November 05, 2007

Remedial Beer at the Beach

If there's one thing I learned on last weekend's trip to the Oregon Coast it's this: I am a complete beer ignoramus.

I attended the Pelican Pub & Brewery's Fall Brewers Dinner on October 27 and by the time dessert was served, it struck me that if I'm so ignorant about the complex and enormous world of beer, chances are a lot of Northwest Palate's readers are, too. Therefore, I have resolved in 2008 to commission a full-length story entitled "Remedial Beer for the Wine Lover." Something like that, anyway.

The Pelican Pub & Brewery is just one component of a development complex that has been growing on the beach at Pacific City, OR, about 20 miles north of Lincoln City. Pacific City isn't really a city; it's a little town at the south end of the Three Capes Scenic Drive. Its beach sits just beneath the dunes of Cape Kiwanda, where surfers come in search of good waves. The other notable landmark is a haystack rock that puts the better-known one at Cannon Beach to shame. (Not only is it bigger, it has an arch. Also, if you look at it just right, it resembles the profile of King Kong rising from the ocean. But I digress, as usual.)

Pacific City is still a small town, but in the past dozen years, it has seen the arrival of the Pelican Pub, the adjacent Inn at Cape Kiwanda, numerous large homes and vacation rentals, and, most recently, the Cottages at Cape Kiwanda. As the Pelican Pub's guests at the Brewers Dinner, my husband and I were put up in one of the Cottages at Cape Kiwanda. I didn't know what to expect, but I have to say, for good looks and comfort, our cottage rivaled any place I've stayed on the coast, including the Inn at Spanish Head, the Stephanie Inn, and Cannery Pier Hotel.

"Cottage" is a bit of a misnomer, as these are attached units. Ours included two bedrooms and two bathrooms, one of which featured a whirlpool-style bath with a view across the master bedroom to the ocean. We also had a fully equipped open kitchen, dining area, and living room with gas fireplace, as well as three flat-screen TVs, which seems a bit like overkill, but the TV in the living room was concealed by handsome carved panels of happy whales.

A sandy path just off our semi-private deck led downward to the beach and southward to the Pelican Pub, just two minutes' walk away. We had arrived at our cottage just in time to watch the sun disappear behind an ocean horizon that was almost clear enough to show us the fabled "green ray." (No luck this time, but the green ray, like the northern lights, is a meteorological phenomenon I intend to experience before I die.)

The Brewers Dinner was held in the Pelican Pub's banquet room, and when we arrived, the room was packed, mostly with visiting doctors from Boston. We were assigned to sit with the head brewer, Darron Welch, and his wife Stephanie. Also a lovely couple named Don and Dana and, on my left, a woman named Madoka Myers who told me she and her husband, David Myers, had flown in from Boulder, Colorado just for this dinner. It turns out the Myers are the owners of Redstone Meadery, a proud practitioner of the ancient art of fermenting honey into wine. Their motto: Good Enough for Zeus, Good Enough for You! The Pelican Pub carries one of their meads on tap, and if it weren't for the full roster of beers we were already sampling, I would have had to try it.

About that beer. If you sign up for one of these Pelican Pub brewer's dinners, stand warned: you will be served six pints of beer. So pace yourself! Apparently my husband took a ribbing during my final trip to the ladies room because all six of my pint glasses were still on the table and mostly full. "She goes to a lot of wine dinners," he said by way of apology. "She knows better than to finish everything in front of her."

Before dinner even started, we were served the pub's 2005 vintage Bridal Ale. Already, a first for me: a vintage beer. The Bridal Ale is bottled with a Champagne-style closure and is, I imagine, as close to sparkling wine as a creamy, frothy beer can get...

The dinner was a close collaboration between the aforementioned Welch and the Pub's newly promoted executive chef, Pieter Vanden Hogen, and perhaps you will be relieved to read that I do not intend to reprint the entire menu here. I will simply tell you what we and our seatmates thought was the best food-beer pairing of the evening: The Doryman's Dark Ale, matched with a "Black Tamale" i.e., a tamale of mole-braised pork with masa over orzo with ancho chile vinaigrette. I think there must have been a bit of the dark ale in the mole to seal the deal.

Ah, but dessert was a close second: A Hood River Starkrimson Pear poached in Le Pelican Brun over a bed of phyllo and Le Pelican Brun caramel, topped with Le Pelican Brun ice cream, a chocolate-covered candied hazelnut, and a Le Pelican Brun Beer battered Starkrimson chip.

Got that? This was served with bottle-conditioned Le Pelican Brun, a deep reddish, Belgian-style beer.

If you could have heard brewmaster Welch's between-the-courses discourses on the historic roots of each of his beers, along with their respective malt-hop ratios, brewing protocol, and complex flavor profiles, you would truly understand why I now officially proclaim myself a beer ignoramus.

Possibly the only cure for my ignorance--any way, the most enjoyable cure--might be to attend the Pelican Pub's next brewer's dinner, which is slated for January 26, 2008. My hosts, Pelican Pub owners Mary J. Jones and Jeff Schons, told me the dinners routinely sell out, mostly by word of mouth. You've got to check it out. Beer and the beach--now that's a winning combination!


Blogger sarah said...

Sounds like a blast! There isn't a nicer beach on the Oregon Coast than Cape Kiwanda... and the secret is out. My advice to readers of your blog—visit soon, while the town of P.C. is still small. It makes for a great weekend getaway.

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