Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A New Yorker Sees the Oregon Coast for the First Time

"History never looks like history when you are living through it." ~John W. Gardner

August 11: The day after conference we met up with Brooklyn Brewery's Brewmaster Garrett Oliver at 8:30 am. Garrett had never seen the Oregon Coast, having only got as close to it as Portland. Our plan was for Garrett to follow us all day in his rental car as we lead him on a "Saturday Highlights Tour." From Corvallis, we headed west.

Jon had called the Rogue Brewery in Newport, Oregon, trying to connect with Brewmaster John Maier and his lovely wife Stacey, but they were out of town with their new curly Labrador retriever puppy. Jon did connect with Rogue owner Jack Joyce, who hooked us up with Marketing guy Jim Cline, who was waiting for us when we arrived.

We walked through Rogue's red-painted former silo entrance, and Garrett was immediately shocked to find that customers of all stripes must traipse through part of Rogue's fermentation cellars to arrive at the merchandise room and restaurant. The potentially slippery-floored entry is either a foolhardy liability waiting to manifest, or a brilliant way to hook lifetime consumers of Rogue's beers. Either way it is a total-immersion experience for a neophyte beer-tourist visiting his or her first brewery.

Jim met us in the bar and took us on a tour of the brewery and museum room, which I hadn't seen before. (Photo above, L to R: Jon, Garrett, Teri and Jim.)

Rogue is famous for owner Jack Joyce, who is famous for never having bought new equipment: Ever. Jim report that Jack's a bit teary-eyed lately as the current dearth of used equipment on the market has forced even Jack to bite the ol' bullet and pony up for some brand new fermenters. Brewmaster John Maier can't be too disappointed about that! The good news is that Rogue is poised to bring even more diverse beers of John Maier's fertile beermagination to Rogue's ever-expanding marketplace.

After a nearly full tasting of the myriad of beers on tap and some yummy appetizers, we intrepid three hit the curvy coastal road at half-throttle, heading south. (This is my 8th blog post today as I'm trying to catch up. Can you tell I'm hitting the "purple prose" stretch?)

Thank you to Jim Cline at Rogue who gifted us two 22-oz. bottles of Rogue's special label beer.

From Newport we drove south to Yachats (pronounced YAH-hots), where we pulled into a beach-access parking lot. Instead of visiting the beach, we grabbed small grocery bags and tramped up the highway to a stretch of undeveloped coastal forest. Jon had experience foraging for wild mushrooms here. Garrett is a complete gourmand and is a big fan of wild mushrooms and we thought it would be fun to give Garrett an Oregon mushroom-hunting experience.

We spent about an hour in the woods, but who's checking time when you're enjoying the snap of twigs and crunch of dry leaves underfoot in a small slice Oregon's primeval wilderness. Altogether we came up with about four Lobster mushrooms, and about five early Golden Chanterelles. Then back to the car to continue southward.

Next stop was my favorite beach, which I call the Hobbit Trail Beach. We ambled down the gently sloped trail about a mile, enjoying dappled sunlight on wild rhododendrons and alder trees. We admired sparse patches of the lichen called Old Man's Beard, and walked through the scary Grimm's fairytale part of the forest. Then the trail forced us down some sandy steps. We bent low under heavily-intertwined shrubbery: The part of the trail that gives it the name Hobbit Trail. The sandy trail dug deep into the surrounding soil structure, the dark intertwined shrubs grew sparser until we arrived, blinking, in bright sunshine, and there around a bank of soil and sand was a small wide beach and the sparkling ocean.

We didn't have a lot of time to explore, so we walked left along the water's edge to the headland, then returned along the base of the cliffs. It really is my favorite beach, and I'm so glad to have visited it today as I haven't been able to visit it in about a year.

After an even steeper, creepier, almost cave-like section of the Hobbit Trail uphill, we returned to our cars and drove south about a mile to Heceta Head Lighthouse State Beach. We didn't have time to hike up to the lighthouse for a free tour, but we showed Garrett the exact section on the beach where we'd had our wedding in 2004. Back to the cars with a quick stop at the next big overlook so Garrett could see the scenic north view of Heceta Head Lighthouse and the Lighthouse Keeper's house.

Notice Garrett's jaunty New York blazer in the photo below. Could this well-dressed guy look any less like he's a local? Of course Garrett will no doubt snap a photo of me looking like a complete hick when I visit him at his brewery in Brooklyn in September!

Onward toward Eugene. Just one quick traditional stop at the Gingerbread Village Restaurant east of Mapleton on Hwy 126. The place is decorated in country kitsch, with somebody's collection of cheesy collector's plates lining all the walls from windows up to ceiling. On the way to our table, we passed two pimply teenagers just as the waitress brought their malted shakes. (I am not making this up!)

Garrett looked around as we seated ourselves and said, "Well, I can honestly say I've never been in a place like this before."

I told him, "It's sort of like a family-owned Denny's. The kind of place that has chicken-fried steak on the menu."

Laughing, Garrett pointed out an apron displayed on the wall. Beneath the picture of a gingerbread man was this saying, "He's the perfect man: He's rich, he's sweet, and if he makes you mad you can bite his head off."

The Gingerbread Village Restaurant is no village. It's a stand-alone restaurant in the middle of the woods along a stretch of a small country highway. I drove past it for years before finally stopping in to see what was there. Now it is our traditional stopping point on our way home from a day at the coast.

We each ordered a small gingerbread. It is served warm with a dollop of softserv ice cream on top. It used to cost 95 cents for a small order. Now it is about $1.50. Garrett said, "I could have had a lot more of that!" But it was time to hit the road.

We got back to Eugene without further ado and Jon set about connecting the Teardrop to his car. Garrett and I left for a quick car tour of downtown Eugene with a stop at the Fisherman's market for fresh Dungenes crab. We did a drive-by sighting of Steelhead and Ninkasi Brewing Companies. No time to stop in to chat or for a beer!

Then a lovely dinner with crab, beer, wine, bread, and grilled potatoes. We were able to get us on the road toward a Perseid meteorite shower campout and get Garrett on the road toward his red-eye flight out of Portland by 7:30 pm. Busy day!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We at the Gingerbread Village are proud to know that ou stopped for our traditional snack, gingerbread and ice cream. I actually recognize you from your pictures and I'm sure that I waited on you. Do come see us again....we're 'always running as fast as we can'!