Astoria Co+op beer selection

The shelves of Astoria Co+op are stocked with selections from local breweries.

At first glance, the cooler cradling Astoria Co+op’s selection of craft beer seems modest, even small, by supermarket standards.

But on closer inspection it’s a work of art, which helps explain why operations manager Meagan Young sometimes refers to her team at the co-op as “beer curators.”

Four Astoria breweries are represented in the cooler and space is being made for a fifth.

“We always want to be showing some local love,” said Young, who was the market’s beer and wine buyer before getting promoted. “We have so many people coming here asking, ‘What do you have that’s local?’”

Specialty shelves at Astoria Co+op

One of the many specialty beers available at the Astoria Co+op.

The co-op’s selection of hoppy beverages has evolved along with the city’s beer scene, which is booming.

It’s become a close relationship, with brewers sometimes introducing limited-release beers at the co-op. Special brews supporting state and local charities get extra support from the market. Reach Break Brewing’s recent beer benefiting firefighters, for example, was provided both space in the cooler and a wall on which to hang a poster.

Fort George Brewery’s barrel-aged Tide Land stout debuted at the market last month, tasting table and all. “We had it here before they even had it at the pub,” Young said. “That’s pretty cool.”

It takes extra work to manage the beer case the way she wants, with selections changing with the seasons and individual tastes. The stouts are phasing out. The session ales, pilsners and lagers are multiplying.

“Lighter and brighter, welcoming the sun — the patio days,” the manager mused. “Hopefully soon.”

Another time-consuming part of the job is ordering the dozens of single cans and bottles of special beer available for sale. On a recent afternoon, Buoy Beer Co.’s Love Lost at Sea, an aged barley wine, was in the mix alongside other Oregon beers and European imports.

Dwayne Smallwood

Dwayne Smallwood is the owner of Bridge & Tunnel Bottleshop & Taproom on Duane Street in Astoria.

“It takes work to curate, but I think it’s really worth it,” Young said. Dwayne Smallwood, of Bridge & Tunnel Bottleshop & Taproom, couldn’t agree more. He spends the bulk of his time hand-picking beers for his refrigerated wall.

The downtown bottleshop — Dwayne’s on Duane — has a devoted following. Regulars are drawn like moths to the flame that is Smallwood’s unmatched selection of more than 400 beers. He emphasizes special releases that aren’t around for long. The aged brews are the most prized, with price tags to match — up to $60 for one.

“I deal with seven different distributors and some breweries directly,” he said. “I may tell them, ‘I see you’re sending something (special) out to this event. Are you sending somewhere else? Because I’d like to have it for my shop.’”

Smallwood doesn’t dedicate a cooler to Astoria beers. He figures the breweries’ taprooms are all around him. But he’s always on the hunt for special batches.

Cradling the brown bottle in his hands, he shows off an aged stout crafted by North Jetty Brewing on the Long Beach Peninsula. Only 45 were bottled, he noted. “A very small batch.”

Like the co-op, he’s hosted some brewery pre-release events heralding new beers. One of those was for Dwayne’s World — a Fort George IPA brewed to mark his shop’s fifth anniversary.

As a customer prowls the coolers, carefully selecting six different beers, Smallwood is asked whether he considers himself a beer curator. He nodded. “It’s a weird word because you think curating is more about art,” he said. “But beer is definitely a craft. So...”

William Dean is an author with a passion for craft beer. His suspense novels, “The Ghosts We Know” and “Dangerous Freedom” are available in bookstores. Contact him at

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