Fresh Beer

The Fine Crafting of Southern Oregon Breweries​

Words by Paula Bandy

Southern Oregon micro and nano brews are flourishing, rivaling the well-known breweries in California and throughout the Pacific Northwest. Some existing Southern Oregon breweries are enlarging pub space, expanding production and building new warehouses: one is getting more animals. New nano-breweries are opening taprooms or selling at farmer’s markets and still more are slated to open in 2013. Southern Oregon breweries are all about people with a passion for good beers doing what they love. The brouhaha is just beginning and with our West Coast obsession for IPAs, these breweries are living up to the saying—don’t worry, be hoppy.

BricktownE Brewing Company
The Barrel House

“Beer does well in recession times,” says co-owner Scott Parker, and BricktownE Brewing is trying to fill that niche. One of their featured beers is Blue Collar Light, a lighter version of their Blue Collar Cream Ale that fills a gap in craft beers for the PBR and Coors Light crowd to enjoy.

The recently expanded brewpub opened on November 23, 2012, just in time for the Civil War game on the 24th, during which they sold about two barrels of beer (62 gallons) in one day. The place is not a sports bar, but with metal sheet wainscoting and a welcoming horseshoe shaped wooden bar (built by part owner, chef and manager Dennis McPheeters), the feeling here is lively with an industrial blue-collar feel. But the food lends itself to a much broader range…and it’s good. The menu is extensive and diverse with mac and cheese, a mezza plate, a sausage (three huge different types of sausages) and cheese platter, sandwiches, salads and a beer cheese soup that is a local favorite.

Family owned and run (and family friendly) BricktownE Brewery and Barrel House is a “passion of labor” Parker says, with a smile. Head brewer Craig McPheeters tends to focus on a more English style brewing (hence the emphasis on the ‘E’ in the name) while keeping an open eye to the Pacific Northwest love of IPAs. The Gunslinger Double IPA is their #1 seller and at 9.2 percent and 185 IBUs is a double barrel of smoothness and hops. Tribute is also paid to the historic building’s original use as Haley’s Palace Hotel—and working brothel in the early 1900s—with the Workin’ Gal BrownE, an American Brown Ale of worthy repute.

BricktownE Brewing Company
The Barrel House
(in historic downtown Medford)
44 S. Central, Medford

Standing Stone Brewing Company

Restaurant, Brewery, Farm

“We are probably one of only a few [brew restaurants] in the nation feeding real food to the masses,” says Danielle Amarotico, co-owner, marketing director and beekeeper of Standing Stone Brewing Company. It is also deliciously fresh food, and all in-house farming is a portion of it.

The restaurant brewery opened its doors in August 1997 and has been a local and tourist favorite ever since. In 2011 they received a Sustainable Business Oregon award: in 2009 they were rated 28th in Oregon’s 100 Best Green Companies. Always working from the sustainable perspective, the Standing Stone Farm Project got underway over a year ago when the City of Ashland leased them 265 acres one mile from the restaurant. Today they have 25 Black Angus, 40 sheep, 40 chicken coops and four beehives, plus gardens. They use rotational grazing practices, i.e. chickens follow the grass fed cows, which are moved daily. “Spent grain from the brewery goes to the farm and is consumed by the animals,” brewer Larry Chase says, continuing, “by-products from the brewery also go to the farm compost rather than down the drain, bypassing the public water system and all cycles back to the restaurant as healthy food.”

Their award winning brews are made on-site using over 90 percent organic local and regionally sourced grains. The I Heart Oregon Ale is so named because it contains all Oregon produced ingredients. Chase took over as head brewer from co-owner Alex Amarotico three years ago and “has brought our brewery to a new level with his love of educating staff and customers,” Amarotico points out. Coming from a theology/biology background, one of the first things he did was create the Milk & Honey Ale from lactose and honey malt that he found unused in the brewery. His current fascination is ‘session style’ beer, which is under four percent. “To put good flavor into a low alcohol beer is a challenge,” he says, smiling.

The brew world is beginning to catch up to Standing Stone’s vision. The name itself invokes sustainability as it comes from what the Takelma people call Pilot Rock, “the stone that stands.” As Chase reiterates, “fresh beer is better for you,” and Amarotico says their work, “is about keeping everything going, keeping employees happy, and making every day better.”

Standing Stone Brewing Company
101 Oak St., Ashland

Caldera Brewing Company
Caldera Tap House

Gluten-free beer? You can find it here with Caldera’s Against the Grain beer. You can also find Hemp Brown Ale, which is low on the hops and high on the hemp (pun intended). They also brew uniquely flavored beers like Toasted Coconut Chocolate Porter and Rose Petal Ale and Mogli (named after a dearly departed black Lab). With nine year round brews and 14 seasonal and rotating, I challenge you to try just one.

Caldera is the first craft brewery in Oregon to brew and can their own beer and to where those cans have traveled is attested to by a spunky photo gallery on their website. Even Buddha is holding one, with a cat on his head. Since opening in 1997 their beers have won numerous awards yearly, both nationally and internationally, including golds for their Old Growth Imperial Stout in Germany and their IPA in Australia. On any fine summer’s day you can find groups of jovial locals hanging out on the multi-level deck with the big tree growing up the middle, happily eating hearty pub fare—love the Rasta tostada, the salmon burger, the chilaquiles and a refreshing Mogli float.

The big news, though, is the 28,000 square foot brewery, distillery (scotch, vodka, gin, bourbon), soda pop, tea production and restaurant on the southern end of Ashland. Boasting a green footprint and views of Grizzly Peak from the restaurant, it will be one of the largest in Ashland and a step up from the downtown tap house. The visionary dream of Jim Mills, Caldera’s owner, is coming true. With all this new space we can be assured there will be plenty of branching out and with 27 beer taps available we can also expect more original and finely crafted brews.

Caldera Brewing Company
Caldera Tap House

31 Water St. #2, Ashland

Wild River Brewing

Brewery, Four Restaurants and a Pub

Since 1975, when Jerry and Bertha Miller opened the first set of doors, Wild River has been handcrafting savory ales and pizzas. Although the name has changed from its original, the quality and attention to detail has remained in their signature “old world” style and award winning beers. They were certainly one of the first in Oregon to introduce a “brewing revival…what beer used to be—local, fresh, distinctive.”

A broad range of traditional English, German and Pilsener styles are at WR’s core along with a rare light Kolsch. Seasonally, there are some stunners: a curious sounding Weizen Bock (spring), with aromas of bananas, cloves and bubblegum; Snug Harbor Old Ale (late fall), a rich, strong ale known as a “keeping ale’ historically made in advance of upcoming celebrations; and Blackberry Porter (summer) containing 16 pounds of Southern Oregon’s wild fruit.

With five locations in Southern Oregon, including Brookings Harbor, it’s easy to find one of their establishments to enjoy. And in true ‘old world’ style, they offer happy hours and take and bake pizza, for those cozy nights at home.

Wild River Brewing
Five locations in Grants Pass, Medford, Cave Junction and Brookings Harbor

Walkabout Brewing Company
Tap Room

Walkabout is out and about and they just made it to Boise, Idaho. Ross Litton, native Australian, founded the microbrewery in 1997 and has been crafting fine beer primarily for the Southern Oregon area ever since. But in 2010, his Worker’s Pale Ale made it into bottles, and the Point the Bone (IPA) and the famous (or infamous) Jabberwocky Ale have followed suit. Growlers are available for all your favorites.

The Walkabout Tasting Room opened in July 2012 and the beers are also available by draft and bottle in stores, bars and markets throughout Oregon. The tasting room does not make food but they welcome you to bring your own and sometimes they have specialty food trucks at the Walkabout door. So if you’re looking for some down under flair, pop in for a Platypus Porter or take home a Wallaby White tonight.

Walkabout Brewing Company
921 Mason Way, Medford

Southern Oregon Brewing Company
Tap Room

Want to know the difference between a Nice Rack and a Big Rack? The Big Rack is an Imperial IPA with over 100 IBUs and eight percent alcohol. The bartender told me it’s like the difference between a moose and an elk. Got it?

Tom Hammond, local anesthesiologist and beer lover, opened SOB (yes that is what it’s called) in 2007. Scott Saulsbury came on as head brewer and the two have been crafting premier beers ever since. Environmental consciousness means that spent grain and other by-products are donated to local farmers, they utilize a heat exchange system to cut down on natural gas and electricity, and have an onsite microbiology lab to help maintain quality control and product consistency.

But first and foremost they want everyone to know they are beer lovers! And their job is to bring forth the best tasting, freshest specialty beers available. Their style shows up in their beer names, which also include Old Humbug, Pin-Up Porter, Na Zdravi and Woodshed Red. It’s a masculine style, so I was pleasantly surprised when I tried the Woodshed Red and tasted roses. The Pin-Up Porter received an accolade in the October issue of the Oregon Beer Growler for “scary good.”

The taproom itself is quietly urban with high cocktail tables and metal piping along the ceiling. The brewery shines through the glass wall just across the long wooden bar with the large stainless steel barrels contributing a spacious reflective industrial feel.

Southern Oregon Brewing
1922 United Way, Medford

Apocalypse Brewing Company

Indiana Jones would have hung out here. The Sixth Seal would have been his choice IPA. A prophecy from the Book of Revelation inspires a local nano brewery and the people that run the place consider themselves “apocaloptimists.”

Co-owners Nick and Erin Ellis and Dennis Poncia are completely hands-on, work long days and love what they do. After Nick was given a year notice at his job, he and Erin, a cardiology nurse, decided to take their passion, and all the equipment—“beer was coming out of our ears in our house,” Erin says—and share what they love: good brews. Contrary to the name, but embracing the present, Apocalypse opened their roll-up garage door in a warehouse space of The Human Bean on September 15, 2012.

The taphouse/brewery is definitely a workspace—they call it a bunker—but in spite of the metal sheeting walls, the smoky gray concrete bar, the metal bracings and the funky black and white austerity, the place has an ambience of comfort and home. And hey, they have purse hooks on the bar! The zombie game room has a big screen TV, dartboard and kitschy Ring the Bull game. In the bathroom you’ll find a periodic table of beer styles. The Apocalypse beer style is big with deep-layered browns and bright ales that will transport you to your hoppy place.

Currently they have no outside taps but some restaurants have shown interest; they recently sold at the TallBoys concert, and they are planning beer appreciation classes in 2013. Ingredients are sourced locally and regionally and produced sustainably with an anti-apocalyptic perspective. Dennis (nearing the end of a 16-plus hour day) lightheartedly says, “We only want about 1 percent of the global beer market, which is about four billion.”

Although they haven’t named it as yet, in homage to their landlord they will be creating a white chocolate Human Bean espresso stout that is the color of pale ale. Oh my. That’s certainly worth keeping the world going for.

Apocalypse Brewing Co.
545 Rossanley Dr. Suite C, Medford

Conner Fields Brewing

Hailing from the great community of Brooklyn, Joshua Fields and Jon Conner rehabbed Conner’s parent’s barn up the Applegate Valley and began their nano brew in August 2011. Local and sustainably oriented Fields and Conner have focused on selling their brews solely at farmer’s markets.

The two have been artists—sculptors, painters and fabricators—and after 10 years of home brewing, Fields and Conner have a curiously developed palate for brews that include: Robot Small, a crisp, un-filtered rice ale with a lemony Japanese hops; Zin Saison!, a beer infused with Zinfandel grapes with a sparkling pink taste; and a variety of styles with names like Shark Attack!, Frank Lloyd Rye, Afterglow and Bankrupt State. Conner states, “Josh and I want to make a solid beer and we have similar palates.”

Much of their equipment is handmade as well. When gathering up for their move here they described it as “items were nested like Russian dolls and then loaded into a Penske truck.” In a self-imposed hibernation they have put brewing on hold so they can basically fabricate their own brew house with more and larger equipment with the goal of producing 250 gallons of beer per brew day. “With just the two of us,” Conner states, “we are looking to come out strong, but with recipe creation [there is] an attitude you bring to it, and as artists you have to be willing in letting go.” Watch for their emergence in late winter or early spring.

Creatively everything Conner Fields does has to do with a palate, a pallet or a palette.

Conner Fields Brewing

Portal Brewing Company

Like many of us growing up in the Industrial Age, Mike Dimon “thought you needed a big factory to make beer.” But when, as a teenager, he began brewing with his Grandfather Ray, he learned he was “misinformed.” Luckily micro and nano craft brewers are taking us back to our roots with locally made and distinctive beers. As Dimon reiterates, it’s also a collaborative bunch of people who love to troubleshoot and help each other out. He also says, “Portal Brewing Company would never have made it without the local love, information, support and encouragement from Bob and Tonessa Bocales at Grains Beans & Things, the local homebrew store. At his initial meeting with the Rogue Brewers, the first thing they collectively did was get him a beer.

And now Portal Brewing is about to open their own place at the old Central Fire Hall on the corner of 6th and Front in Medford’s downtown historic district. They will be serving a small menu that will accentuate their beers and also plan on having one guest tap available for a rotating local brew. Look for them to open in mid to late January.

Some of the beer labels have already won awards and tend toward a water theme. The Hoola Hop pays tribute to his grandfather, and the Hoptopus to, you guessed it, the many legged sea creature. Seems appropriate for there to be a watering port in an old fire hall.

Portal Brewing

Klamath Basin Brewing
The Creamery Brew Pub & Grill

This brewery and restaurant were recently featured in an episode of The Green Economy TV show. Why? Because they are the only geothermal brewery on the planet. Klamath Basin Brewing began in 2001, with longtime friends Lonnie Clement and Del Azevedo brewing in Clement’s garage. In 2005, their dream of opening a brewpub was realized. The old Crater Lake Creamery was remodeled and has been a Klamath Falls favorite ever since. They are famous for their Buttcrack Brown Ale, and their Vanilla Porter with hints of chocolate and coffee has made it into the Rogue Creamery’s repertoire with their Vanilla Porter Cheddar Cheese.

The restaurant is spacious and features a cozy fireplace, big screen TVs (one fills a whole corner!), large windows, large outdoor patio and casual dining. Family friendly, sports oriented—there is something for everyone here.

Klamath Basin Brewing and The Creamery Brew Pub & Grill
1320 Main St., Klamath Falls

Mia & Pia’s Pizzeria & Brewhouse

Family owned and run by Rod and Jodi Kucera, Mia & Pia’s has been serving locals for 25 years. Previously in their family as a dairy, this was the first microbrewery in Klamath County. Much of the building is from reclaimed materials, such as the old ‘udder-pump’ chandeliers that harken back to its original use. Solar panels help heat the brewing process and the restaurant is family friendly and known for pizza. They have a lovely outdoor patio for the summer months and the old western style bar has a particular charm to it.

They make a wide variety of microbrews and offer a guest tap. It’s a little off the beaten path but the perfect place for that western Klamath Falls ambiance.

Mia’s & Pia’s Pizzeria & Brewhouse
3545 Summers Lane, Klamath Falls

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