Brewery Showcase | The Pelican Pub & Brewery (Pacific City, OR)
Photo Courtesy of Paul Erlandson
Pacific City is picturesque.
Located two hours west of Portland, Pacific City is one of the quaintest towns that you’ll find in Oregon coast. The downtown, unassuming and peaceful, is in complete contrast with the ocean. The beach is rough, dramatic. Large rocks jet out of the water and reach towards the sky amidst crashing waves, pine trees, and a heavy mist. It’s a truly unbelievable and addictive place. If you set foot in Pacific City, it’s not likely that your departure will come willingly or without regret.
Perhaps all of this is why, in 1995, Mary Jones and Jeff Schons purchased a piece of property – an old run down pizza shop – and thought up the idea for a coastal brewery. Now, over twenty years later, Pelican Pub & Brewery has established themselves as the Oregon coast brewery. And for good reason. Their team is passionate. Their expansion has been swift. And of course, their beer is unbelievable.
Darron Welch, decorated head brewer and a pillar of the Pelican culture, has been with the brewery since the start. It all dates back to a bulletin board, in fact, and a fateful ‘help wanted’ sign. Welch, an Oregon native who had been brewing in Appleton, Wisconsin, had come back to his home state for a small conference that had been put on by Brewing Techniques Magazine.
“I saw an ad on a bulletin board for a startup brew pub in a beach town I hadn’t heard of,” says Welch. “I called the number and met the couple who was starting the brewery, landed the job, and a little over twenty years later I’m still here.”
Welch is now a partner in the business with those same two people (Jones and Schons) that hired him all those years ago.
And it’s safe to say that business – and the beer – has been good. So good, in fact, that expansions have been a necessity to support the business. The first expansion dates back to 2003, when Pelican expanded to Tillamook, Oregon. The Tillamook location serves as the primary distribution center, sending out roughly 5000 cases of beer a month. It will soon be expanded by 14,000 square feet due to demand – and beer will soon be sent to the masses from Tillamook at 150 bottles a minute.
But perhaps the most anticipated growth for Pelican is what is on the horizon for this spring – a brewpub that will open their doors in the neighboring beach town of Canon Beach, Oregon.
“We will have three locations,” Welch says excitedly about their “teeny, tiny chain.”
Jim Prinzing, CEO of Pelican since September of 2014, echoes Welch’s excitement.
“We try to do things with purpose, and things have to have a reason – and we tend to think that way about our business property as well. Canon Beach was a location that was a really good fit for the brand. We embrace the coast, we love where we are. That was the natural progression,” says Prinzing.
And we couldn’t agree more. Pelican exudes the culture, beauty, and at times unpredictability, of the Oregon coast and the Pacific Ocean.
“We really think of Pelican as being inextricable linked and tied to the beach.” Welch says. “It’s an intrinsic part of who we are and the brand history, and we like to try and pay homage to our local area.”
Prinzing agrees, pointing out the benefits of being close to the ocean. “The coast has a slower taste of life, but we aren’t slow paced people. But [being by the ocean] forces us to be more thoughtful about things, and to take our time with the right things.”
This thoughtfulness, of course, comes across in their beer. Which is near perfection, if we say so ourselves.
“We put a lot of effort making sure each beer in our lineup has a unique reason for existing – that is has a flavor profile that is different from anything else we offer, and that we aren’t creating the same flavor profile in five different colors and shades.” says Welch. “It’s always uppermost in my thinking that the purpose of having five different beers on tap is that each one has something specific and unique and particular about the flavor, color, texture and aroma, and that says something about the world of possibility in beer flavor.”
Taste test a few Pelican beers and you’ll realize that Welch isn’t all talk. The beer that Pelican produces are thoughtful, purposeful, consistent. The lineup covers all bases and flavor experiences that a beer lover could hope for. This being said, we do have a few favorites.
Kiwanda Cream Ale
ABV: 5.4% | IBU: 25
Named after the state park that’s in Pacific City, the Kiwanda Cream Ale is Pelican’s flagship brew. This pre-prohibition cream ale is kick-started with sweet and malty notes that are finished off with a creamy and tangy finish. This is available year round at any location, and is also one of the more widely distributed Pelican brews.
Mother of All Storms
ABV: 14% | IBU: 40
A storm is brewing, and it isn’t one to miss. The Mother of All Storms is one of Pelican’s limited releases – making its debut in November of each year. Aged to perfection in Kentucky bourbon barrels, this beer starts with a mouthful of oak, bourbon and malt, only to be finished by sweet hints of sweet vanilla and caramel. At 14% ABV, this storm is strong, and bites your palate in the most satisfactory of ways at the end of each sip.
ABV: 7% | IBU: 45
As soon as this stout fills your glass – black as night and with a thick foam head – you know that you’re in for a treat. This stout – both in flavor and aroma – exudes strong notes of espresso. The body of this brew is perfectly rounded between its roasted malts and unmalted barley, and is a sweet find on Pelican’s roster.
Though these brews are what have recently filled our glasses, you cannot go wrong with a Pelican beer. Pelican has been collecting awards including GABF and World Beer Cup medals for the past 14 years for their lineup. These awards are testaments to the team’s ability to brew truly excellent beer.
You see, the Pelican team doesn’t settle for good. Pelican is – from location to culture to beer – is great. And great they will continue to be.
Stay tuned for more PorchDrinking coverage as Pelican opens its doors of its Canon Beach location.
33180 Cape Kiwanda Dr, Pacific City, OR 97135
Hours of Operation
M-T: 8am – 10pm
F & S: 8am – 11pm