Brews News

Lane County’s beer scene spilleth over

Our fair county is savoring a yeasty beer boom. Aficionados have celebrated a new Whiteaker tasting room for Oakshire, Ninkasi’s plans for an expansion, Plank Town’s installation in downtown Springfield and Friday afternoon growler fills at Claim 52. The rest of the year looks like it won’t have any trouble keeping pace; on tap is a neat little package of delights for your (responsible) boozing pleasure.

A tiny suds outpost just bubbled up in west Eugene. Viking Braggot, a nano-brewery, opened off of Bertelsen Road at the end of June. Traditionally, braggots are a combination of mead and beer, bringing both malt and honey flavors to the table. Co-owner Daniel McTavish says that he and partner Addison Stern are putting a modern twist on the concept by taking a honey varieties and building craft beer around them.

Viking Braggot’s tasting room is open on Fridays (see for details), and it now features four summer braggots, which are made with wildflower or orange blossom honey. McTavish describes the Valhalla as similar to red-style ale with a “nice orange taste,” and he says the Valkyrie is most similar to amber-style ale, with whole marionberries. The brewery also has braggot versions of an IPA and a red ale. Viking Braggot’s brewers are Perry Ames and Weston Zaludek, who also work part-time at Oregon Trail Brewery in Corvallis.

“We knew that it’s a pretty saturated market, even with how quick it’s growing,” McTavish, who is a year out of UO’s business school, says of Eugene’s beer scene. “We wanted to do something to differentiate, to offer something to consumers, possibly a niche product or something different than what people are normally having.”

Ingredients of viking braggot

Photo by Todd Cooper

Pour House & Delicatessen

Delicatessen meats, like pastrami and corned beef, go so well with beer that they’re natural companions, according to Falling Sky Brewing co-owner Rob Cohen. “It seems so intuitive, at least to us.” And since he couldn’t find a deli-brewery in the course of his research, he’s proud to call Falling Sky Pour House & Delicatessen the first. The deli-brewery, located at 8th and Blair, is slated for a soft open July 18.

Falling Sky is already known for experimenting with its brews and constantly changing up its taps, and Cohen says the brewery will continue in the same vein at the deli. The Pour House will have 15 taps, and between it and Falling Sky, they could have upward of 20 different brews on tap. Cohen and his partners plan to use the added space to further expand their repertoire, including more cask-conditioned ales to pair with the meaty menu. “Since we work collaboratively, we’re trying to make beer that goes well with our food, so I think that’s going to bring out some different flavors.”

Cohen says he’s excited about the beef navel pastrami, which will be brined, augmented every day, smoked and steamed. “It’s a lot of work that’s going into making this pastrami,” he says. “It’s not a health food. It’s fatty goodness — very decadent.” On top of that, the Pour House will bake up breads including rye, pumpernickel and olive.

Elk Horn Brewery

Attention lovers of the Southern-fried deliciousness that is Delacata: You will soon have brews to go with your favorite food cart cuisine. In September, owners Stephen and Colleen Sheehan will move into an as-yet-undisclosed downtown space near their Olive Street food cart and begin renovations. Delacata will stay open while Elk Horn Brewery and Barrel House is under construction, and then it will move to the parking lot outside the new location.

Colleen Sheehan says that because barrel aging is a long process, the tasting room will start with 10 domesticated and 10 wild ales on tap, and rotate in more and more of their own beer, starting with 300 barrels they plan to age three to five years. “We’ll have barrel dinners and have more complex beers with a lot of unusual flavors,” she says. The business is using a seven-barrel system that belonged to Corvallis’ Flat Tail Brewing until it upgraded.

Elk Horn has already begun the mead-making process at the vineyard of one of its investors. Stephen Sheehan calls Elk Horn brewer Matt Silva “a technical nerd junkie” who will be able to create mead, cider, ginger beer and kombucha in addition to beer. They’re looking at Belgian-style ales like saisons and whits and blonds.

To add some variety to downtown, the Sheehans are planning on installing a putt-putt course in front of the brewery. And while the brewery might be months away, Stephen says it feels more immediate. “We’re so close we can taste it.”

Hop Valley

With high, wood-beamed ceilings and ample patio space for soaking up rays, the Whiteaker’s most recently opened tasting room is Hop Valley’s second location, on 1st Avenue near Van Buren.

Co-owner Trevor Howard says the expansion is enabling Hop Valley to create brews that “our little 15-barrel system in Springfield” just couldn’t fit in its brewing schedule. “It was kind of tough trying to keep up with our flagship beers, so now we’re able to do a bunch of different stuff that we’ve always wanted to do,” he says.

That includes more lagers and English-style beers. “We’ve brought in a Belgian saison yeast,” Howard says, “so we’ve made two different beers with that so far and we’re going to keep the Belgian strain going for a while.” At press time, there were three lagers on tap at the new tasting room.

As soon as they got inside, Howard says, he and the other co-owners could see the building’s promise. “We walked in when we were first looking at the building,” he says, “and it wasn’t exactly pretty from the outside, but when we got in we saw a lot of potential for the brewery area itself, just because it’s long, rectangular and we knew we could pretty much do what we wanted with it.” Now Eugene’s Hop Valley fans can watch beer brew while they drink it.