Brew If by Sea

Yachats Brewing creates a community hub on the central Oregon Coast

Nathan Bernard strolls through the third-story lookout and swings open the door. Salty breezes from the sea float over the tiny town of Yachats and up to the rooftop. Bernard steps out to the middle of the flat roof, built into the side of a cliff.

“This is where the tap house will eventually be,” he says, motioning to the open air and pointing to where a bar and wood-fired oven will sit. Thirty feet below, Hwy. 101 passes through the sleepy downtown, past antique shops and the Green Salmon café, winding by the ground floor of Yachats Brewing, where the tap house currently sits below.

Bernard wants to capture that wild salty air in a pint glass.

A carpenter by trade, he opened Yachats Brewing in 2012. It houses not only a brewery and tap house, but also a little indoor farmers market and café, as well as a garden store. While the company is entering its third summer, Bernard says, “The brewery is just now launching.”

Patrons can currently get a pint of the CDA, or Coastal Dark Ale, a hoppy lighter-bodied ale, and the Perpetua Pale Ale, what Bernard describes as “super crisp” session beer.

“It’s an emerging scene,” Bernard says of coastal brewing.

The Portland native relocated his family and business to Yachats in 2005 after visiting the town. “It’s paradise,” he says. The Bernard family now lives on a 5-acre farm along the Yachats River, where Bernard grows hops and he and his wife Cicely Bernard run Perpetua Design & Build, a permaculture company.

After settling in town, Bernard observed a community with an abundance of food and culture, but no central hub. “It needed a place for it to come together and interact,” he says. “There were not many places that had beer culture” in Yachats.

So Bernard spun his love of good wood, good food and good beer into a hub of social activity and exchange. The building was formerly the site of a bank, but Bernard put his sustainable ethos and carpentry skills to work, creating a glowing ode to timber, a cozy tap house market with soaring beamed ceilings, skylights and a spiral staircase.

The majority of the wood, he says, was reclaimed from Portland’s Brooklyn Roundhouse for servicing automotives, which was demolished in 2012. The cabinet wood was sourced from the nearby Big Creek site purchased by The Nature Conservancy, which cleared it of young alder trees to make way for an Oregon silverspot butterfly sanctuary.

“There’s hardly a thing in here without a story,” Bernard says as he overlooks the tap house from an office nook at the top of the spiral stairs.

And while he notes that he’s an amateur brewer, he tapped his friends, the Charlies — Charles Porter of Hood River’s Logsdon Farmhouse Ales is the consulting brewmaster, and Charlie Van Meter, formerly of Logsdon and Portland’s Sasquatch Brewing, is the head brewer.

“We all love the Northwest classics,” Van Meter says, noting that Yachats Brewing will also brew lagers and farmhouse saisons. “It takes time to develop these programs, but we’ll get there.”

Van Meter and Bernard say they are looking to their coastal peers to the north, de Garde Brewing in Tillamook, for using wild yeasts, or spontaneous fermentation.

The beers will capture the flavor of the coastal winds and “the kind of wild yeast that exists on the coast,” Bernard says. “The taste is a reflection of the place.”

That place is also a reflection of the community. Yachats City Councilor Max Glenn sits on a bar stool in front of a row of taps featuring sours and some batches from other seaside breweries, like Wolf Tree Brewery just a stone’s throw north in Seal Rock. He’s sipping an “awesome” Perpetua Pale Ale.

“I made the first purchase in this place,” Glenn says with pride. The purchase was a $13 rake from the Bernards’ 5-year-old son. Since then, he comes to Yachats Brewing “not quite every day, but just about.”

Glenn notes that the brewery and market have changed the town in two ways. “It’s a gathering place,” he says. And, “It’s an outlet for people who believe in organic production and food stuffs.”

He motions to the food counter where a cooler is packed with kimchi, krauts and other pickled accouterments. A chalkboard menu boasts smoked wild-caught salmon in a morel mushroom alfredo sauce, and piles of fresh garlic, onions and other produce spill out of wooden shelves and baskets.

“We’re designing a community hub,” Bernard says. “There’s a lot of contributions we can make in the community that aren’t measured in dollars and dimes.”

The third-floor construction of that hub, where the tap house will relocate 30 feet up, will begin in the summer of 2016. Eventually, Bernard also hopes to build a “coolship,” or an open fermentation vessel that captures that salty wild yeast.

“Our greatest goal is to be a reflection of the place that is Yachats,” he says.

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