<SPECIAL NOTE FROM THE OSCAPE.WORLD TEAM: This is a special guest post by Nik M., based out of France; Nik is a long-time friend of Osman, and is also a far more proficient beer and whiskey fanatic than he could ever be. We’re grateful to have Nik’s value for Breweries and Distilleries on Oscape!>
De Garde Brewing is a craft, independent microbrewery located in Tillamook, Oregon. You’ve probably heard of Tillamook Cheese. Well, now you’ll have heard the brewery that puts the wild in the wild Oregon coast.
De Garde was founded by the husband and wife duo Trevor and Lindsey Rogers, originally out of their garage in 2013. With roots at Pelican Brewing, Trevor began brewing barrel-aged, spontaneous ales using wild yeast from the natural microflora of the Oregon coast. Simply put, De Garde is the sweet spot where beer meets wine – where common beer ingredients meet wild yeast, usually, some fruit and barrel aging from 6 months upwards of 5 years.
After two changes of locations, many beer batches, and many awards later, (including 5th best brewery in the world in 2016), the Rogers duo recently celebrated their 10th anniversary.
How I Heard About the Brewery
In 2014-2015, life graced me with the opportunity to live in the Pacific Northwest. As a craft beer aficionado for several years before this, I had heard of and tasted several staple beers, knowing the prowess of west coast hops and fresh fruited ales.
During my brief stint to barely be considered a regular, I did frequent the barrel aged sour powerhouse Cascade Brewing at least once or twice a week and got to know some of the staff, including the bar man(ager), Greg. One day tripped me off about a small spontaneous brewery on the Oregon coast that happened to be having a quarterly bottle-release party that weekend.
Little did I know what was in store other than the excitement we had to finally check out the coast…- with a bonus brewery to boot!
Getting To The Brewery
Trusting my source, my girlfriend and I headed out that Saturday about an hour and a half west of Portland along Highway 26, exiting along the 6, through the magical Tillamook forest to finally arrive at the now all too familiar town of Tillamook, home to de Garde Brewing.
At the time, they were located on Blimp Boulevard across from the Air Museum, which is a sight in itself. They had a tiny tasting room no larger than it needed to be directly adjacent to the warehouse space, housing both brew space and barrels patiently aging their beer to perfection. After tasting a full flight of what I still consider the best beers I’ve ever had…needless to say, the rest is history.
Flashing forward to 2023, I returned with some friends to de Garde Brewing, now in downtown Tillamook on Ivy Avenue, in their permanent flagship location.
Other Activities in Tillamook
To side-track a little this beer-tiful experience, the wild Oregon coast offers plenty. They say good things come in threes, so I’ll name-drop a couple:
For some food recommendations in Tillamook, all within walking distance:
- Delicious seafood found at local dives such as Old Oregon Smokehouse
- The well renowned Tillamook Creamery offers tours, a shop, ice cream, and the freshest three-cheese grilled cheese ever
- Of course it wouldn’t be a PNW adventure without a local coffee roaster, Five Rivers
Getting out of Tillamook for some nearby beach hiking:
- Cape Meares – a short under-a-mile hike to a historical lighthouse with an optional longer hike to the beach
- Cape Lookout – a much longer 5-mile roundtrip, peninsular hike with the best whale-watching opportunities on the coast
- Cape Kiwanda – a midrange 2.2-mile hike that begins with an epic sand dune, a tiny slice of forest midway and one of the most scenic sunset spots
Not to mention you’re right next to Pelican Brewery’s picturesque beachfront pub!
The Brewery Layout & Private Tour
As we arrived at de Garde for our private tour, we were greeted by not one head brewer but two! Matt poured us welcome beers in the tasting room and started us out.
The Rogers duo and their handful of employees first leased and now own their beautiful 100+-year-old building. While vastly smaller than their 2nd location, the fact that they are now owners has allowed Trevor to remold this canvas into the exact brew space needed to manifest their beers. As they are now located downtown, they are much more visible to the tourist traffic that peaks in summer.
The taproom was historically built around the storage warehouse. They usually keep 12 beers on tap in addition to a fridge with in-house and guest bottles, ciders, and wine. Two years ago, De Garde Brewing even added wine to their lineup. This made sense as their brew process veers closer to wine production methods. They source a lot of the same grapes that can become either, and not to mention it’s the same license permit for their brewery. Their indoor space has several tables and seats also available at the bar. As far as outdoor space, there are a few barrel tables with barstools. They allow BYO food as they do not currently offer any.
As we made our way into the brew space, Trevor took over for most of the tour. I first noticed how no space goes unused in their operation. While one might call it congested, it’s maximizing brewing and barrel space.
We began by observing the large stainless steel tanks holding the wort (unfermented beer consisting of everything ingredient – water, barley, hops minus the yeast). This is the first and only stage where De Garde Brewing shares its brewing methods with every other brewery. The wort may or may not include fruit or other ingredients chosen for its end-goal flavor profile.
The wort is then pumped into a cool ship akin to their lambic/geuze brethren in Belgium (i.e., Cantillon, Drie Fonteinen). The cool ship is a large rectangular open-air storage unit where the beer can cool for 24-72 hours and pick up the naturally occurring microflora in the air resulting in spontaneous fermentation. As this is the most critical stage, fans pull outside air in to control airflow while the process of “coaxing nature in certain directions with fermentation” begins (Trevor couldn’t have described this better). *This is where and when the magic happens.* The exact length of cool ship time as well as the time of year, are secrets to their ever-evolving science. The end goal is to produce a balanced acidity (hence the colloquial term “sour beer”).
The next step is also the longest one – the transfer from cool ship to barrels, where the hardest virtue of all begins: patience. Here we find the trade-off with time for quality. As this is not sour mash brewing (which shortens the fermentation stage significantly), the traditional barrel aging with wild yeast takes anywhere from a few months to a few years.
All their barrels are sourced exclusively. They source French Oak barrels (~200L) and larger foeders (~600L) selected for texture and consistency. In the usual case where the barrel previously housed wine, a large part of the labor of love is the time spent stripping the wood from the innards of the barrel to make them more neutral in character. This allows them to establish a control variable to baseline their distinctive beer profile (“base beer”). While their base beer usually begins its barrel life in these neutral barrels, it is entirely possible the brewers can do secondary fermentation in either an ex Bourbon, Sherry, Port, wine barrel or, most recently, Amphora!
Concerning storage conditions, it never gets about 65 F in the barrel aging area; there is year-round high humidity; also a temperate climate thanks to proximity to the coast, all of which result in less evaporative loss (“Angel’s share”). Winter does get quite cold, but it only benefits the quality as fermentation has a longer grace. Even some hops are aged within the frames on the roof! Talk about no space being spared. However, most of their hops are stored outside given their space requirements. Their average beer takes about three years from wort to bottle.
Finally, their bottling and kegging operations are also on-site.
Food & Service:
Breaking news (as of writing this article), de Garde Brewing just started serving a few choice eats:
- de Garde wild bread
- “Spontaneous sourdough” loaves using the same wild yeast used to brew their beers
- Briar Rose ‘butterbaby’ cheese
- Soft rind cow cheese
- Fraga Farmstead Creamery ‘Chevre’ cheese
- 4.5 oz jar of goat cheese
- JAndy Oyster Co: Smoked Oysters
- Locally harvested and smoked from Netarts
Historically, they have also been BYO food, although this may have changed per above.
As far as on-site drink consumption goes, de Garde Brewing has a menu from on-tap and bottled beer (nonalcoholic included) to house wines to cider. Bonus points if you see a carafe with Danish cherry wine from Frederiksdal.
You’ll want to pay attention to their Bottles for on-site consumption only – as this may likely be the last opportunity you have to partake in these beauties.
It is no surprise that for their 10th anniversary, they ensured ten beers would be released I will let the beers (or brewery, rather) speak for themselves with the following descriptions provided only to de Garde Keepers:
Trying Some De Garde Brewing Beverages:
Due to their limited size and scale, De Garde has always sold “Bottles to go” from their brewery – usually only a handful at a time. It is no surprise that for their 10th anniversary, they ensured ten beers would be released. I will let the beers (or brewery, rather) speak for themselves with the following descriptions provided only to de Garde Brewing Keepers:
10th Anniversary blend!
Five years of spontaneous barrels were selected for their perfect balance to celebrate our Tenth. All the years contributed to the final complexity and beauty.
Second 10th Anniversary blend!
We couldn’t contain ourselves, and the barrels wanted to be celebrated too. A blend of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez Sherry barrels that aged our beer for over three years. Our best Sherry barrel expression yet.
Third and final 10th Anniversary blend!
Oh yeah, there’s more. For its entire journey, this beer was fermented and aged in amphorae, made here in Oregon by Andrew Beckham at Novum ceramics. Over two years in amphorae initially, then refermented in XL amphora with Mourvèdre grapes and finally finished for most of another year in a third round of amphorae. It’s minerally and funky, with the Rocks District Mourvèdre showing beautifully.
Organically grown southern Oregon Chamomile flowers, matured with the perfect two-year aged barrels of beer. It has depth, spice, funk, and an overriding apple-y and mineral beauty. Reminiscent of an aged Loire Valley Chenin Blanc. Truly lovely. Possibly Trevor’s favorite of this release.
The Broken Truck
This blend is not broken.
Made each year in gratitude and love for those folks who’ve helped us along the way. Notably, the good folks from Tin Bucket (RIP). Five delicious years of barrels working together perfectly.
The Serine Réserve
Syrah grapes from The Rocks (and a whole lot of time). That worked out really damn well.
After over two years in the barrel, we transferred the base over to a secondary oak tank with freshly harvested and foot-crushed grapes. After melding with their goodness, it rested in a third round of oak for nearly another two years. It’s mature but remarkably still vibrant. It’s definitely worth the time.
We’d call it ‘Wine Jam,’ but it’d be a disservice to the maturity and vinous character presented by the beer. Yes, it’s over three-year-old barrels of our spontaneous ‘Red’ base that refermented with those beautiful Southern Oregon Tempranillo grapes (and the best character from that age is clearly present). Still, the end result has a vibrancy and concentration of fruit bespeaking of a younger composition.
What do we need to say?
It’s The Peach, our two-year aged base refermented with ripe and hand-processed whole Peaches. But, with extra things and extra flavors. We hand-processed whole Vanilla beans from our favorite regions and whole Cinnamon. They’re in there too. It’s a thing that was worth doing.
Times & Places
We brought some of our oldest and best friends in for this collaborative blend. And we’re excited to now share it with you.
Peach beer. From barrels. From each of our breweries.
We each chose our best, and it shows. We’re ecstatic about the outcome. If that sounds like something you think you might enjoy, we can confirm that you are in fact, very, very correct.
The Framboise Noire: Gin Barrel Cuvée
We’ve taken to writing letters and signing various things with this beer.
It’s inky as hell. Just really, really black, with a good heft to it too. I guess the head is red?
It’s filled to the brim with all of the spicy, forest-y, and Raspberry-y goodness you could possibly want, and what we expect from a great crop of Black Raspberries. Oh yeah, and it was matured in Gin barrels. There’s that too. It turns out they’re complementary and delightful.
The 10th Anniversary Experience
This spring, de Garde Brewing celebrated their 10th anniversary. I must say they outdid themselves with most definitely the best curated and catered brewery experience in memory.
Initially, I thought the event would be at the brewery with a block party or at least a parking lot open-air event…child’s play. In order to accommodate their 600-plus guests and highlight the coast’s beauty, the Port of Garibaldi Event Tent was chosen. As you can gather from the name, the stunning views ranged from Tillamook Bay on one side and the green coastal hillside on the other.
There were three local bands (Eric Sappington Band, Mojo Holler, Ben Rice & The Hustle) that serenaded us with smooth tunes all day, as well as food vendors, including Garibaldi Portside Bistro, Nestucca Bay Creamery, and JAndy Oyster Co. My one complaint about the entire event is that the pizza and fish & chips vendors were no-shows and made food lines much longer than necessary.
Regular tickets included four drink tickets, and VIP tickets had eight tickets with 1-hour early entry.
Between our party of 11, we were pretty split and caravanned in 2 different Pacific Taxi Services according to entry time. On arriving, to no surprise, there was already a large queue for entry. Smiles were everywhere as we greeted by none other Lindsey Rogers, who checked tickets and gave us our anniversary glassware.
The event layout was cleverly partitioned with a large area for beers and music and a side-tented area for food vendors and tables.
As a VIP member of our party, I remember the first hour being dedicated to trying only de Garde beers and enjoying the calm before the storm. The following five hours were methodically spent in lines, breaking ranks only if Trevor began pouring, as these were the most limited bottles of the entire event. I’ve never seen lines materialize out of thin air so quickly – with most people not even knowing what would be poured – only the reassurance that Trevor was stepping up to the plate.
As my most significant beer geek friend agreed… the best beer festival ever. de Garde Brewing is no stranger in the industry and not only assembled quite the lineup of their beers, but also in guest breweries. I will let the guest lineup speak for itself:
- Side Project Brewing
- Brasserie Cantillon
- Private Press Brewing
- Holy Mountain Brewing
- Sante Adairius Rustic Ales
- Toppling Goliath Brewing
- Anchorage Brewing
- Gueuzerie Tilquin
- Monkish Brewing
- Trillium Brewing
- Other Half Brewing
- Voodoo Brewing
- Hill Farmstead Brewery
- Live Oak Brewing
- Austin Beer Garden Brewery
- Block 15 Brewing
- Cloudwater Brew Co.
- Fremont Brewing
- Fox Farm Brewery
de Garde Brewing: My Favorites
From their 10-bottle release lineup, the ones that particularly stood out were:
- Clean, crisp taste and a hint of minerality due to the three amphorae fermentations with that Rocks District Mourvedre coming through
- Truly the sour of the gods imagining drinking one of the first sour beers in ancient Greece with mountain grapes aged in amphorae
- Stone fruit is such a highlight of de Garde beers, and this one carefully combines vanilla and cinnamon for a slam-dunk peach pie character
The Framboise Noire
- Local raspberries married with the botanical notes from Gin barrel aging produced a delightful sour beer cocktail experience for the palette
As I mentioned, the “Trevor bottle pours.” These were the ones I was able to try:
Insight Cellars (Denmark) made their U.S. debut at this event with two bottle releases (only as “Trevor pours”). They had only had their opening party (in Denmark) on Wednesday and then caught a flight across the pond, then all the way across the country to not only attend but acquire an Oregon alcohol server permit to beforehand in order to pour:
- Wild Ale with Grapes, Elderflower & Barbe Rouge Hops.
- de Garde Collaboration: Wild/Saison Blend with Pinot Noir Grapes.
- Absolute favorite of the day.
Side Project (St Louis, MO) is a known cult favorite nationwide and any pour was not to be missed:
- de Garde Collaboration: Blend of Wild Ales with Peaches & Nectarines.
- Second favorite of the day
Monkish (Los Angeles, CA) is another cult favorite with old-world style brews from So Cal:
- Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout with Vanilla & Coconut.
- 15% motor oil powerhouse as a creamy, malty break from the 6 hours of sour
Final Thoughts on de Garde Brewing
All in all, hands down the greatest brewery, beer fest, and tour with some of my best friends going back to craft beer inception roughly 13 years ago.
I’ll end with the beginning from the words of Trevor Rogers with the backstory to their The Broken Truck beer that happened to be the biggest make or break for de Garde.
In their third year of operation in the dead of Oregon summer (90 degrees), Trevor was on his way to a beer distributor in Portland with 60 kegs of product when his truck broke down at his friend’s house (who was going to help him unload/offload the kegs).
Step one was to save the beer. Trevor and his friend unloaded 60 kegs into his friend’s garage.
Step two was to drink beer. Clearly the duo were tuckered out and needed to hydrate and brainstorm.
Step three was to sell the beer. A friend Jason at Tin Bucket (bottleshop and beer bar), had been trying get ahold of some de Garde’s kegs for a while. I can only imagine Trevor’s voice on this surprise call to Jason offering kegs for sale.
Jason: “How many do you have?”
Jason: “Wow! I’ll take them all.”
Trevor: “Only condition is you have to take them all right now.”
Jason: “Gulp, I think I can figure it out!”
An entire day of driving one keg at a time from the friend’s house to Tin Bucket later, Jason cut Trevor a check, and the rest is history.
- Amazing Beer!
- Especially if you are a sour or wine aficionado.
- Excellent private tour.
- Personable service.
- Did I say fantastic beer? Seriously, this one has some of the best sours in the entire world.
- Two food vendors didn’t show up, creating a 1-2 hour wait for food from the primary vendor. The solution was to eat oysters and cheese instead.