Sour beer and the Oregon Coast
Tillamook is a top tourist destination in Oregon and is situated on the coast an hour and a half west of Portland. While mostly known for Tillamook Creamery, it is also home to one of the most innovative sours breweries in the country, de Garde Brewing. All of their beer is made spontaneously. Imagine giant metal trays (coolships) full of unfermented beer (wort) that's inoculated with wild yeast floating in from the air. While Sacramento occasionally receives a shipment of de Garde beer, to truly experience what they and the area have to offer, you have to visit in person.
How I found Tillamook
I’ve been visiting de Garde since 2014 when a friend invited me to one of their release parties. I had tried a little bit of their beer before and I had friends going nuts for them. Back in those days, you had to go to quarterly release parties if you wanted to get bottles. A friend and I drove 4.5 hours from Seattle at 5am to be there 4 hours early. We got in line early in order to get a chance to buy a 3 liter bottle. The group in front of us had shown up at midnight the night before! It was the first time I had ever showed up early for a beer release and I really didn’t enjoy sitting in a lawn chair outside in the cold. After 15 minutes of sitting around debating what to do, I wandered inside with my camera, introduced myself to the brewery owners, Linsey and Trevor Rogers, and we have been friends ever since. I’m also lucky to say that I’m their brewery photographer.
De Garde brewery and tasting room is located in downtown Tillamook in an old Napa Auto Parts building. The remodel gave it new life, including a tasting room with large windows that fill the room with natural light and a patio to enjoy outside. Taste from a selection of their beers along with others, often from Belgium, where they draw much of their inspiration. Gone are the release parties but instead, there are new bottle releases almost every week. The weekend I was there, they released “The Botanique” a wild beer aged in gin barrels with Oregon lavender added. They also had “The Peach”, a beer with Oregon peaches aged in cognac barrels. To showcase their local terroir, all the ingredients either come from the immediate area or within Oregon. Their focus on wild beer and local ingredients create a flavor unlike any other brewery in the country.
What else to do in Tillamook
Everytime I visit Tillamook I find something new. This trip we went to Pelican Brewing for the first time, just a block from de Garde. It’s family friendly brew pub where I highly recommend the Kiwanis cream ale. Then, visit the Tillamook Creamery. There’s cheese, food, ice cream sandwiches and other fun stuff for the family. Once you get that out of your way, make your way to Oceanside, about 20 minutes north of Tillamook to check out beaches, the Octopus Tree and hike Cape Meares. We were even lucky enough to see a whale from the Cape this trip. Our new favorite activity is to visit Nevor Shellfish Farms to grab a couple bags of fresh oysters. They are known for the Torkes oysters which can be found in some of the best restaurants around the country. If the oyster bar isn't open when you happen by, bring them back to your hotel room and they pair great with de Garde sour beers. If you are feeling adventurous, rent a boat and some crab traps and you can go Dungeness crab fishing year round in Netarts bay, just 10 minutes from Tillamook. Whether you want to drink more beer, eat seafood or just hang with the family, Tillamook has something for you.
There’s more to Tillamook than cows
Visiting de Garde is more than just visiting a brewery, it’s about experiencing the Oregon Coast. Tasting their beer offers a glimpse into what the local environment has to offer from fruit to herbs. The surrounding areas provide nationality recognized seafood, cheese and beaches. Next time you're looking for an escape to the Pacific Northwest, checkout Tillamook, you won't be disappointed.