Southern Oregon Beer Diaries
Brewpublic ventures to Southern Oregon for yet another beer excursion. This time, our travels take us to Medford, Ashland, Central Point, and beyond, once again proving that there is great Oregon beer to be experienced outside of the state’s Northwestern quadrant.
Monday, April 20, 2009
While unusual, it happens. Monday I headed on another out of town trip for work. This week’s travels brought me to Medford, Oregon.
The drive to Medford takes about five hours and is filled with some very beautiful scenery of rolling green hills and mountainous peaks. There are many sheep farms off the highway and all of the sheep appeared to have
been just sheared for the season. Once I arrived in Medford and finished my workday, I couldn’t wait to experience what Southern Oregon had to offer in the way of food and beer. I decided to head down to Ashland, about a 15 minute drive south, and hit up Standing Stone Brewing.
Having been to Standing Stone before, I knew I would not be disappointed with their food menu or tap line-up. The only seasonal beer available at Standing Stone was a Saison, which I had to try. While it was not the most incredible Saison I have ever tasted, it was very refreshing with a light fruity taste and a subtle hop finish. It was the perfect answer to the 90-degree weather I was experiencing in Ashland. A quarter of every seasonal brew sale goes to a local charity chosen by the employees.
Standing Stone Brewing prides itself on being sustainable (check out a past Brewpublic post on this) as well as community oriented. Also, almost all the grains used at the brewery are organic and next year the hops will be grown for them at the Handley Farm in Central Point, Oregon, about 20 minutes north of Ashland.
The one thing to know about dining out in Ashland is that it is the only Oregon town to charge a “tourist” tax for food and beverages. So don’t be surprised when you see it added to the bill.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
On Tuesday, I decided to have a happy hour dinner at Porter’s Restaurant in Medford. Porter’s is located in an
old train station in the downtown area and has about 12 taps of mostly Southern Oregon area breweries. While not having experienced many happy hours in Medford, I’d have to say that overall, Porter’s has a great one for the food. There are about 16 items; two of each are daily specials (one from the grill and the other a pizza) plus a range of items from small appetizers (fries and salads) to mini meals (wraps and finger foods). The happy hour food starts at $2.50 and ranges to about $5.
As for the beer, I was excited to see the Workers Pale from Walkabout Brewing on the tap list. What a great Pale! In true Northwest fashion this pale had a nice hop bit to the finish, which was not overly bitter. This was also a very refreshing beer to have on a 90-degree day.
Located in Central Point, OR, Walkabout Brewing is probably the most elusive and hard to find Oregon
microbrewery. The only places to find their beer are in Southern Oregon bars and restaurants. The brewery has no tasting room and when I tried contacting the brewery, I received no response. The voice on the answering machine had an Australian accent and, with some of the names given to the beers, it makes me wonder about the history of this place and who owns it. Some beer names include; Wallaby White, Jabberwocky Strong and Outback Stout. Maybe on another trip to Southern Oregon I’ll be able to get a hold of someone and find out more about Walkabout.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
On Wednesday, after a busy and frustrating day of work I had to indulge myself with some local cheese, chocolate and beer. My first stop was the Rogue Creamery located off of Highway 99 in Central Point. The Rogue Creamery, of course, has a line up of cheeses made with Rogue ales. The very friendly cheese lady behind the counter let me sample the Morimoto Soba ale cheese. This cheese was very mild with a light nutty taste. Some of the other Rogue beers used in the cheeses made there are the Chocolate Stout and the Chipotle Ale. For a cheese and beer lovers traveling through the area, this is a must stop.
Located in the same parking lot is Lillie Belle Handmade Chocolate. While
there are no beer-flavored chocolates, there were some liquor chocolates, and what I think is starting to be the newest craze in the chocolate world, chocolate covered bacon. I have some bacon friends that would probably just be thrilled to death to sample such an item. BTW, there were free samples of the bacon chocolate (I’m a vegetarian so I did not partake in sampling it) along with a few other samples. Probably the most notable thing about Lillie Belle chocolates is the sculptures and painting that are on display made from chocolate. Just image a blooming cheery tree in a park setting made entirely of chocolate. Amazing!
The last stop on my indulgent tour was Southern Oregon Brewing (SOB). Located in the outskirts of Medford off Highway 62 towards Eagle Point, SOB is mainly a production brewery with a taproom that is open Wednesday through Saturday. The beers available are the same beers that are currently available in bottle (Gold, Pale, Porter and Red). SOB did have a keg of their Barleywine left but with the hot weather I was experiencing in Medford I was really not in the mood for a sample of the barleywine. What I liked about the tasting room is that you can order 4, 12, 16 or 20 ounces of any of the four main beers. I opted for the sample tray, which included 4-ounce pours of each beer.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Thursday came fast and it was time to head back to Portland. Of course, my lunch time stop would be at a brewery. I did not mention stopping at the McMenamins in Roseburg on Monday because to be honest, it was nothing special. Having said that, I knew I was not going to stop there for lunch again this trip. I decided to stop in Springfield at Hop Valley and see how the place is doing. Back in January, before Hop Valley opened, I stopped by and interviewed Brewmaster Trevor Howard. There was no beer available for sampling at the time of the interview so this was the perfect opportunity to stop in and have a taste.
Well, the name of the brewery says it all, this place is a hop lovers dream come true. I think I counted the word hop at least a hundred times throughout the restaurant. The décor of the place consists of pictures that tell the history of the Willamette Valley hop fields. The beers are very full-bodied and each sip packs a punch of hops to the palate. Despite not have a full pint of anything while I was there (I had to drive and I was on the clock), I did have a sample of the Vanilla Porter and the Alphaholic IPA. These were two great beers that I hope to fully enjoy another time. The porter had a great chocolaty vanilla taste. It was almost like a dessert in a glass. The IPA had a very intense hop taste to it. Think West Coast IPA but with even more hop flavor, if that is even possible. Hop Valley is definitely to place to watch carefully in the next year. They are really going to take off and become an Oregon favorite amongst the hopheads.
My trip to Southern Oregon was really just a sampling of breweries and pubs in the area. Some honorable mentions that I did not visit this time around but will when I return for another work trip in, I think, September are: Wild River Brewing in Central Point, The Black Sheep Pub and The Siskiyou Pub in Ashland and the Osprey Pub in Medford. Oregon really is a bounty of libations.
You are right about the Australian connection for Walkabout. Brewer Ross Litton is indeed from Australia (that’s his voice on the recording). The brewery is actually at his home in a small subdivision, so the “tasting room” is his backyard. It’s a catch-as-catch-can proposition to visit, but if you are persistent, there are great rewards. His beers a worth searching out and his hospitality is unrivaled. If you catch him, tell him I said, “G’day!”
Cheers from the Fourth Corner,