February 9, 2006 Written by Oakes
Vancouver, CANADA -
Oregon is chock-full of tiny breweries making great beer. Itís one of the thing that makes it such an amazing place to be a beer lover. On the coast, 100 miles southwest of Portland, the Pelican Pub and Brewery fronts the Pacific Ocean. Founded in 1996, Pelican has quietly made a name for itself as one of the stateís best. They donít just win awards, they win Best of Festival (Dorymanís Dark at the 2005 Australian International Beer Awards) or Top-Rated Beer in the style (Tsunami Stout in the Foreign Stout category at Ratebeer.com). Like a lot of Oregon brewers, they donít do it with flash, just a commitment to making solid brews.
Well, that and a killer location. Right on the beach with a bluff on one side and a giant rock in the sea on the other, and waves crashing into the shore just metres away from where youíre drinking, I donít know if Iíve seen a better location. Even other beachfront brewpubs like the Hopf Brauhaus in Pattaya, Thailand are farther from the action (and donít have the same frequency of storms).
Brewmaster Darron Welch is the driving force behind the brews. He was in fact a somewhat unlikely choice to head up Pelicanís beers. A native Oregonian, he was home from his brewerís job in Wisconsin for the Oregon Brewerís Festival in 1995 when he saw an ad for a brewmaster. Despite not being a brewmaster, he applied and clicked with the management team. The pub opened the following year with four house brews, two of which were Tsunami and Dorymanís. The latter was based on one of Welchís old homebrew recipes.
By 2000, Welch and Pelican won the Best Small Brewpub category at the Great American Beer Festival. This and other awards have proved invaluable in helping to get the word out. Small brewpubs in small towns often have a hard time building reputations, so the award was a big boost to Pelicanís image.
The concept behind Pelicanís beers is surprisingly simple. Welch feels that a lot of people are introduced to craft brews via their local brewpubs and as such, he aims to provide a wide variety of colours, aromas and flavours at all times. ďWeíve all had that experience of going into a brewpub and all the beers look different but they taste the same. I hate that. I want clean, well-defined flavour profiles where you can clearly taste all the ingredients. I envision a profile and then I use the science of brewing as a means to get there.Ē
That outlook is typical of the Oregon scene Ė no flash, no dash, just pure brewing.