UPDRIFT ADVENTURES: FEATURING CAT WIEST
By Charlotte Austin
When brewer Cat Wiest starts brainstorming about a new beer, she and her team at Pelican Brewing don’t necessarily start with a recipe or a list of ingredients. “The process of creating a beer begins with picturing how it’s going to look, smell, and taste,” she says. “We imagine holding the finished product, and we ask ourselves: what flavors am I getting? What’s the perfect situation to drink this beer? When I drink it, what do I want to feel?”
Once she has that vision, she works backwards. “Brewing is where we get to marry science to art,” she says, describing the unique reverse-engineering that was brought to Pelican by brewmaster Darron Welch. “Once the team knows what we’re trying to achieve, we get to explore which ingredients are going to give us these flavors and this drinking experience.”
While she moves deftly through the brewing process, Cat hasn’t come by her prowess lightly. After growing up in a series of homes — including time spent as a child in Guam — she spent her twenties traveling and living internationally, and has worked as an adult in a wide variety of spicy jobs: burlesque dancing, commercial fishing in Alaska, and even serving as a bouncer at a nightclub in San Francisco. It was there, in the Bay area, where she landed her first job as a brewer.
The learning curve was steep, she recalls, but rewarding. Today she’s a proud board member of the Pink Boots Society, an international nonprofit organization that was created to assist, inspire, and encourage women beer professionals through education. “I’ve been a member as long as I’ve been brewing. Women are still underrepresented in brewing, but I’ve learned so much from the women I’ve met, and I absolutely love being inspired by women of all skill levels. I currently serve on the board of directors, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that if it weren’t for the community and support I found in Pink Boots, I would have left the beer industry a long time ago.”
“My time in the fishing industry prepared me for working in brewing in several ways,” she says. “Nothing is ever the same when you’re fishing: there might be chop, or a big swell, or unexpected breakers. There’s a million and ten things that can go wrong — and they constantly do. So later, when I discovered brewing, I realized there were many parallels between the two industries. I’m not perfect, but I know how to adapt, fix my mistakes, and deal with chaos. I believe that my time on the water taught me not to panic when things go wrong. When you’re brewing, the list of specific hazards is different — there’s pressure, steam, heat — but the mindset is the same.”Cat had been working as a brewer for several years when she joined the Pelican family, and she and her husband first discussed the move to coastal Oregon. “The North coast [of Oregon] was on a very short list of places we’d consider relocating to,” she recalls. “So when this opportunity came up, it felt very serendipitous. It was a very deliberate decision to move here, and we love our new slice of Pacific coast.”
Today, they hike, surf, swim, forage, and tend their spectacular garden, which includes herbs, huge barrels of lavender, tropically-inspired plants, and — of course — a row of hops. Cat glows with health and vitality, and the home she shares with her husband is tastefully and playfully curated with nautical artifacts, friendly cats, and collections from their travels around the world. She owns a sextant, a set of brass mugs that were used by the Royal Navy for grog rations, and a collection of Tiki mugs. There’s a rubber shark on the dashboard of her car.
With Updrift, Pelican’s newest IPA offering, Wiest and her team were specifically tasked with creating the perfect adventure beer. “We wanted an IPA, and we were thinking about something canned, because they’re the perfect lightweight traveler. We live in this amazing wonderland of outdoor possibility, and cans are so easy to throw in a backpack, kayak, or drybag. We also wanted to make sure this IPA stood out from our lineup and offered something new for our fans.” Updrift, it’s clear, is a love letter to the North Coast.“We all live here for a reason,” Cat says. “And this landscape absolutely influences our work. We wanted a finished beer that was refreshing, bright, and crisp. I wanted to see the bubbles coming up from the bottom of the glass. I wanted a nice thick head. And I wanted a beer that was so bright that when I held a glass in my hand, I could see my fingerprints clearly on the other side. I wanted a beer that worked on grey beachscapes throwing crab traps, or warm bright evenings exploring tidepools, or even enjoyed nights at home listening to storms. Updrift is all of those things, and it also enjoys chilling on the patio.”
Cat’s creativity also shines in her kitchen, where she loves to incorporate beer into her cooking. “When I smell Updrift, I get whiffs of pineapple and sweet pine — and notes like that influence each recipe. Tonight I’m going to marinate some Alaskan salmon, shuck some oysters from down the road, and season them with some herbs from my garden and a splash of Updrift before tossing them on the grill.” She also creates custom beer-infused cocktails, often using the hops she grows in her backyard as garnishes or in her favorite new creation, the Hopijto.At the end of the day, Cat talks about Updrift with the same tone she uses when she talks about a cherished friend. “When I drink this beer, it doesn’t have the weightiness of our other IPAs — it has the same depth, but no lingering bitterness. It’s unique because it’s a crushable IPA. It’s cleansing. If I’d just hiked to the end of Cape Lookout, or hauled out of the water after a swim in the bay, this is what I’d want. The first can would be gone pretty quickly, because it’s so easy to drink. So then I’d crack open another, and linger over it, while I enjoy everything in this incredible place I get to call home.”
Charlotte Austin is an award-winning adventure writer and mountain guide living on Bainbridge Island, Washington. She works for International Mountain Guides, where she leads climbing and mountaineering expeditions around the world. She is a Wilderness-EMT, a Leave No Trace (LNT) Trainer, an extra class ham radio operator, and holds Level 2 certification with the American Institute for Avalanche Education and Training (AIARE). She has written for Outside Magazine, The New York Times, Seattle Met, and many more national and international print and online publications. She summited Mount Everest on May 22nd, 2019; since then, she has been icing her knees, drinking cold beer, and falling off her surfboard.
Alexandra Pallas is a freelance photographer based out of Pacific City, Oregon. A native Oregonian, she was skiing by the age of three and backpacking by the age of seven. Her life-long love of the outdoors and an adventurous spirit inspires her photographic work. When she isn’t behind the lens you can find her skiing, surfing with her husband, hiking, and playing with her Sheepadoodle Napoleon.
To learn more about our Updrift Adventures or for media inquiries please reach out to Natalie@PelicanBrewing.com.
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