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Most drinking holes on the Oregon Coast are the tale of two seasons: in summer, full of tourists requesting wine from corked bottles or lemon wedges for wheat beers while discussing stock speculation; in winter, a few locals draining cans of cheap lagers while discussing the irritating customs of second-home owners. The Sand Dune Tavern in Manzanita is exactly like this and therefore rates a visit in the winter when the locals emerge from hibernation and the joint settles into a happy torpor no doubt helped along by the availability of 17 beers on tap, the largest selection I've counted in my Let it Pour "investigations." On the main commercial drag in Manzanita, the Sand Dune can be missed. It's facade, a curious low-slung mix of brick and wood resembles a dentist's office more than a tavern. That's not the case inside. Right away one notices the beat-up plank flooring, excellently shaped wood bar, the massive hearth with ship models moored on the mantle, glass floats dangling from the high ceiling, an intriguingly designed skylight, and a sign that reads "Cash Only," which must shock the hell out of debt-leveraged tourists carrying only plastic. One also smells good food being prepared and my fish and chips order came in bigger portions, tasted better and proved less expensive than any drug testing corporate brewpub's similar offering. My only complaint about the Sand Dune, and it applies to most taverns, is: too much promotional crap (e.g. cheap mirrors) for mediocre (e.g. Bud) or gimmicky (e.g. "hard cola") alcoholic beverages. Stick to the vintage Hamm's, Oly, Rainier, Blitz and Heidelberg antiques and let some of us remember how great it once was to have these beers brewed in the Pacific Northwest and advertised cleverly (meaning without tits and ass) on television. Speaking of decorations, I do like the Sand Dune's few historic photographs and urge them to expand this practice by mounting pictures of two famous Oregonians connected to the area: radical writer and communist activist John Reed, and Oswald West, a former governor who is chiefly responsible Oregon's beaches didn't end up like California's. It was Reed, who around 1908 as a teenager, camped, fished, swam and ran naked in the vicinity of Neakahnie Beach, and then wrote an essay about it called "From Clatsop to Nekarney" which opened with the immortal line, "No Grecian or Italian skies were ever so blue, no Ionian sea air ever so joyously virile, no fragrance of Lebanon so lyric, as sky and air that September day on the coast of Oregon." Later he wrote the classic Ten Days that Shook the World about the Russian Revolution and became the only American buried in the Kremlin Wall. It was Oswald West, who as governor in 1913, road a horse from Cannon Beach over Arch Cape and Neahkahnie Mountain, through Manzanita and into Nehalem. He later claimed the experience inspired him to write a masterful 63-word piece of legislation declaring Oregon's beaches a public highway. The bill passed and placed our beaches in the public trust forever. No California bullshit like fences, video camera surveillance, and security guards. When he signed the bill into law West said, "No local selfish interest should be permitted, through politics or otherwise, to destroy or even impair this great birthright of our people." He was talking our beaches and I'll drink to that--as should all true Oregonians. And when in the Sand Dune, let's do it with special remembrance.
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