Imports, Exports and Oddities

A roundup of everything fizzy and alcoholic in Eugene

che Wheel Apizza Pub x Oregon Wine Lab xollab: twice as sauvvy

as a resident Eugene beer drinker, I was flattered to find out that Central Oregon powerhouse Sunriver Brewing wanted to open a satellite pub in Eugene. Its beers, like Fuzztail American Hefeweizen and Vicious Mosquito IPA, have been catching eyes and garnering awards for a few years now, and the selection has recently expanded to include barrel-aged beer and a seasonally rotating hazy IPA can selection — no surprise there.

As rumors spread, I wondered where they’d open. The big reveal: the former Oakway outpost of Hot Mama’s Wings.

At a big opening bash, which included axe throwing and pyrotechnics (unfortunately not at the same time), the staff, carried over from Hot Mama’s, demonstrated its talents at service in a melee .

Appropriately for spring, Whiteaker-based Oakshire is budding. It’s sending its roots to Portland, where the former Old Salt Marketplace, just east of the hip Alberta Street neighborhood, will become the Oakshire Beer Hall later this year.

It’s a smart move for a business of its size. Finding other markets to move its beer at retail means better margins as well as a more focused point of sale and education (i.e. branding) for its beer.

Don’t believe the shortsighted naysayers who only read the headline: Ninkasi didn’t “sell out.” It did, however, join up as the first craft brewery (with a majority share transfer) in a startup venture called Legacy Breweries Inc. that looks to acquire several breweries across the country.

While “Legacy” sounds old fashioned, the new-ish model serves to support larger craft breweries in competition with the macro breweries and their puppet acquisitions. The leverage here is in contract brewing and distribution as well as buying power. And while I’d argue its claims of independence, this is a rational move for the times, which are a-changin’.

For a taste of Ninkasi’s hometown prowess, brewer Rich Masella recently teamed up with gastronomic wizards Mark Kosmicki and Tiffany Norton at Party Downtown/Party Bar and made a lager brewed with lime leaf.

The beer, simply called Party on the tap, is eminently crushable, and the lime leaf unveils itself several times over the course of a sip (or a gulp, in this case; better order another). Though delicate and light-bodied, it is great with much of the food on Party Bar’s menu, including the oysters.

The collaboration is available primarily at Party’s downtown and Friendly Street locations, while supplies last.

No, it doesn’t cause a nuclear reaction, though snobs in either camp may rumple their eyebrows at the hybridization. Many breweries in Oregon are incorporating wine grape juice as a fruit addition to their beers; Logsdon in Hood River, Upright in Portland and Alesong down our way are primo examples.

But it’s been some time since an actual brewer-vintner collaboration, which is what Tobias Schock at The Wheel Apizza Pub did with Mark Nicholl from Oregon Wine LAB, just a few doors down. I happened by on brew day, when Nicholl was sweating over the mash tun, contemplating a life as a brewer, not realizing the pay cut.

The collaboration, Twice as Sauvvy, will be released May 26 at the Da Nang crawfish boil at Oregon Wine Lab. The brew combines Sauvignon Blanc grape juice with a light wort of Oregon-grown malt, Nelson Sauvin (“a cat peed on my pineapple,” but good) and Hallertau Blanc (the wine grape of hops) hops in a Brut IPA fermented in a wine barrel. Girl Talk, eat your heart out — this is a true beer-wine mashup for the ages.

Awaiting a cease-and-desist from Wisconsin, Eugene’s own Rasputin of a brewery, Manifest Brewing, has canned up Manifest Best, another self-aggrandizingly named brew in the style of Mr. Pabst. Thing is, when handed this beer with no explanation, it holds a bland-but-refreshing-AF candle to “your grandpa’s beer.” It’s a remarkably hard moniker to earn.

Like many of the mass-market lagers, there is a certain mysterious flavor — like whatever blue flavor is in candy — that exists in the nether regions of the palate and gives it just enough personality to invite back to the party. The challenge will be for brewer Brandon Woodruff to maintain consistency batch-to-batch, as he’s not brewing Olympic swimming pool-sized quantities year-round.

In sad news, Agrarian Ales is closed. Judging from its popularity, most of you got out there for some beautiful summer days with the Coburg Hills as a backdrop. Don’t worry, it’s not your fault. The story is, to put it lightly, complicated, but part of the reason for its closure is bureaucratic. Oregon SB 287 had originally included language to include food service at farm breweries, but has since omitted that provision.

Agrarian was also known for its incredible pizza, which it served with less-than-complete paperwork filed. We didn’t complain, but The Man prevailed and forced the closure of Agrarian’s kitchen last year.

Other issues aside, the loss of Agrarian’s destination is huge for Eugene-area beer lovers.

Comments are closed.