The North Coast’s more established beer festivals — Fort George’s Festival of Dark Arts and Seaside’s Pouring at the Coast — take place in the offseason. The timing makes some sense: Rainy months leave us with more time to fill.
But summertime is peak beer-drinking weather.
By placing their burgeoning fest, Hayday, in August, it would seem Martin North — owner of Public Coast Brewing in Cannon Beach, among other establishments — wants to tap into that backyard-BBQ, beer-drinking idyll.
In Hayday’s second year, however, Mother Nature sneered.
The last weekend of August was ugly, damp and gray. The misting began midday and became full-fledged rain by last call (which, at 7 p.m., is too early).
At Haystack Gardens in midtown Cannon Beach, Hayday’s team was prepared with a big tent to keep things relatively comfy and dry. But the dreary clouds dampened that summertime spirit.
To be sure: Martin controls the weather about as much as my dog controls the stock market. So no point dwelling on it. Despite less-than-ideal conditions, Hayday has a good reason for being, and plenty of room to grow.
Beyond spotlighting Public Coast beers and the Martin North brand, Hayday’s raison d’être is the showcasing of Oregon beers. (There were a few out-of-state breweries, like Seaview’s North Jetty, whom I’m happy to consider an honorary Oregonian.) Of the 48 varieties, 11 came from the North Coast, including kegs from Fort George, Buoy, Reach Break, Astoria Brewing, Seaside Brewing, Pelican and, of course, Public Coast.
Unlike Seaside’s Pouring at the Coast, Hayday is not a contest. There’s no judging, no medals, no brewery representatives pitching. It’s simply for the pleasure of tasting.
The wide swath of styles includes lagers, ales, porters, ciders and more. If Hayday spoke to any regional trends in craft brewing, they are that sours and hazy IPAs are in and pilsner may be resurgent.
Hayday works like this: You pay at the door ($20 in advance, $30 at the door) for a commemorative pint glass, six tasting tokens and a sliver of paper listing the beers.
Which leads to my first note: Hayday’s beer menu needs more info. Beer geeks — and I think that’s who Hayday is for — are looking for more than just a make and model. At the very least, ABV percent (alcohol by volume) and IBU (International Bitterness Units) should be posted, if not accompanied by a brief description.
I’ll admit here that I’ve been somewhat spoiled by Fort George’s Festival of Dark Arts, which provides an in-depth, many-paged “passport” for reference. Hayday’s menu need not be so hyper-stylized, but it should scratch the surface.
Another aspect of the Dark Arts’ allure is the hunt; pouring stations are scattered. At Hayday, the 48 taps were centralized. Just call out a number, give your tokens and beer appears.
Depending on how many you buy, tokens cost $1 to $1.50 each. Three-ounce tastes run a token or two (mostly one). Full pints were four or eight tokens. I didn’t bother with any full pints.
I began with a taste of Public Coast’s Marron Chipotle. It had the slightest suggestion of spice but only upon first contact, for it was submerged by the deep and mesmerizing complexity that is the chipotle pepper. Indeed, the host’s tequila barrel-aged double brown was an arresting start.
An imperial stout that is, perhaps, the crown jewel of Fort George’s line, this latest iteration of the Matryoshka featured a twinge of Marionberry and a lingering vanilla perfume. But by the end of the 3 oz. pour I found the sweetness overbearing.
The Zoigl Pils from Portland’s Zoiglhaus (ja, Zoiglhaus do it German-style) was a gold medal winner in the Pilsner category at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival in Denver. It was crisp and golden as the summer sun rising on a wheat field.
Portland’s Old Town Brewing took the GABF Pilsner category this year. It was crisp, dry and light, almost disappearing. The Zoigl had more character.
If there were medals at Hayday, mine would’ve gone to Oakshire Brewing’s Sunmade Cucumber Berliner Weisse. The Eugene brewer has concocted the perfect daytime summer beer: fresh and nuanced, tart and cool.
From the ambitious tinkerers at Astoria’s Reach Break, the Sun Rays Hazy IPA was hoppy but not hoppy, if that makes any sense. You see, the M.O. of the New England-style Hazy IPA is a mellowing of the hops. You can smell them up front, but flavor and finish are subdued. Less bitter, more creamy. Miles removed from nuclear-hops-race of NW IPAs.
Cascade Lakes’ Salted Caramel Porter was as dessert-worthy as it sounds. Hi-Wheel’s Blackberry Habanero Cider was a bait and switch — not spicy in the least! Xylem’s Mimosa Cider was convincingly mimetic.
Public Coast’s Guava Kettle Sour was twangy and inviting, fruity and balanced, and it whispered of white wine. At 7.2 percent ABV, it’s stealthy-strong for a sour. A friend dubbed it accordingly: the “power sour.”
There was food at Hayday, too, overseen by chef Josh Archibald from the Wayfarer. Chef Aaron Bedard from the Stephanie Inn Dining Room was on hand, as well. Both Martin properties, the Stephanie and Wayfarer are some of the premier ingredient shoppers in the region. As such, food at Hayday exceeded what you expect from a festival.
It’s hard to imagine any outdoor beer fest where I’d consider ordering a salad, but Hayday’s pedigree left me with a hunch. (It didn’t hurt that I could see the big ol’ buttery prawns for the salad being grilled to order over flames in the background.) The greens were fresh, the crumbles of Cotija massive and the nectarines ripe and juicy. I couldn’t really zero in particularly on the beer-y-ness of Public Coast’s award winning ’67 Blonde Ale vinaigrette — suffice it to say that it worked. Still, in the future there’s more room for cooking with beer at Hayday.
The Center Cut New York Steak Sandwich ($13) was a more familiar find at the beer festival, though it was created with more care than you’re used to. Forget, though, that the supple beef was cooked to a fine medium-rare, or that the fresh mozzarella was thick and stretchy — it was the cheese sauce that did it, an entrancing, gooey swirl, something like Velveeta cheese enlivened with local peppers from Gale’s Meadow. We’re talking character, the odd couple, a compelling combination of high and low culture.
Noshing and sipping, I surveyed the grounds of Haystack Gardens, recalling my previous visit: last summer’s ’Stackstock Music Fest. Alas, while ’Stackstock was one-and-done, Hayday’s already has a 2019 date.
I imagined mashing the two together, combining ’Stackstock’s premium on-stage entertainments with the beer medley of Hayday. Now that’d really be something. Might even give Dark Arts a run for its money.
Suddenly, a raindrop splashed my face, and I awoke from the daydream.
Nevertheless, I look forward to returning to Hayday and watching it grow. And next summer, hopefully, the sun decides to show its face.