Driving out to Alesong’s brewery is almost like an adventure for those who rarely leave the metro boundaries. It’s a scenic drive filled with trees and twists and turns that you normally encounter when visiting one of Willamette Valley’s stellar wineries.
And when you step inside the Territorial Highway location, the presence of stemware and artistic beers might lead you to double check you didn’t end up at King Estate.
Co-founder and co-owner Doug Coombs says he wants people to walk in and know they’re not at a typical brewery. He wants that atmosphere to encourage people to open their minds about new ways of thinking about beer; it’s the sort of beer you can bring to a nice dinner.
So it’s no surprise that when it says it wants to adapt to social distancing measures, Alesong Brewing and Blending is taking a page out of the winery book: a guided tour of the brewery to make tasting an adventure. And despite Gov. Kate Brown’s COVID-19 freezes, Alesong has expanded its business to 5th Street Public Market, taking over where the Sweet Cheeks on 5th tasting room once was.
With its brewery in wine country, it makes sense that there’s a lot of care and time invested to brew Alesong’s beer. Co-founder and co-owner Matt Van Wyk says a typical craft beer can take around three weeks to make, but an Alesong brew can spend from eight months to a couple of years in an oak barrel. “The cool thing about our brewery is that we can blend different barrels like a winery does to get the flavors we want,” he adds.
Coombs says the goal of Alesong is to instill a similar respect to beer that people have for wine. “We can get more complexity out of here than other craft beer,” he adds.
There’s a cost for that complexity, though.
Coombs says during the pandemic, like other breweries that rely on sales in bottle shops such as 16 Tons 13th Avenue, their product hasn’t been moving that fast. And when people shop in places like grocery stores, they often gravitate toward the six-pack they’re comfortable with. So Alesong has opened the tasting room at 5th Street Market as a way to reach new customers.
“With the new construction that’s happening over there, we’re thrilled to move in,” Coombs says. “It’s risky with COVID-19. If the state restricts us even more, it’ll be hard, but we’ll get through it.”
For people who want to explore Alesong’s beers and learn about the complexities of the craft while surrounded by the serene scenery of the Willamette Valley, the company also offers customers guided tastings at its Territorial Highway location. The state’s current social distance measures have put the tastings on hold.
Van Wyk says Alesong’s tasting room manager will walk customers through the history of the company, an in-depth look at the company’s cellar and how the company makes its beer. The tasting is $25 per person and $50 for the upgraded version that includes paired food. The tasting is an hour long but customers can then take their drinks outside to the patio, which has a tent and heater.
“It’s going to give people a more intimate look of who we are because our beer takes more explanation than say a pilsner or an IPA,” Van Wyk says. “Also the biggest thing it does is keep us a little safer and our staff safer because we don’t have people packing in here when it’s cold and raining outside.”
Van Wyk says they’ve always wanted to offer guided tastings, and COVID-19 forced them to put it together. By inviting people to the brewery, it allows customers to sit back, enjoy the scenery and talk beer.
“We don’t just sling beers here as fast as we can,” Van Wyk says. “We’d rather chat and tell people about our inspiration for our beers and why we wait 18 months for a beer to be complete after aging.”
For more information about Alesong’s membership, visit AlesongBrewing.com. Alesong is open by appointment at 80848 Territorial Hwy but open for drop in noon to 8 pm daily at 296 E. 5th Avenue.