Thursday, October 7, 2010

An Honest to Goodness Public House in the Middle of Nowhere, America. (And I Mean 'Nowhere' in the Best Possible Way.)

We're on the road from Eugene to Bend and need a place to hole up for lunch. There is one hungry, cranky toddler and three hungry, cranky grown-ups. One of those grow-ups is also pretty thirsty. Guess who.

Luckily I've done the advance work. Scribbled in my notebook is a name and a town: Brewers Union Local 180. Oakridge, Oregon. There are some crude stars and underscores, meant as a clear message to myself: "Hey, as long as it doesn't piss everyone off, we really need to stop here." So the timing works out. And that, ladies and gents, is why we do advance work.

So besides the clever, blue-collar name, what's so attractive about this place? Why the stars and uderscores? Allow me to quote a few things from the website: "The Brewers Union Local 180, Oregon's only Real Ale Pub and Brewery, is a blend of the best of the British Public House, the American spirit of adventure, and the natural scenic beauty of Oregon's Cascade Mountains."

Come on, that's only the first sentence. There's lots more, such as "you will find a throwback to when the community gathered regularly to share news, when beer was brewed in the back of the pub and pulled from the cellar out of a cask, and when the weary traveler found a cozy nook and a good meal. ... You won't find any gambling machines, overbearing television sets, or blaring piped-in music. Better yet, expect to find yourself a comfortable spot in the quiet front parlor, enjoy a cup or two of good coffee and a good book, or show off battle-scars from that last downhill ride in the public bar over a pint of cask conditioned ale. You will not be processed through the typical restaurant theater, but instead you can stay as long as you wish, right up to the last orders bell."

I didn't mean to quote the whole thing. But I couldn't stop. It all sounds so perfect to a thirsty anglophile. And because, basically, it is exactly what we found. Go on, put it in your notebooks now. With all the stars and underscores. Start planning your detours.

The food and pints are more than reasonably priced. And crowd-pleasing. Toasted cheese and bacon with sweet potato fries for $7 strikes that balance between interesting and unpretentious. So do the beers, including a decent best bitter and a couple of impressive, stronger pale ales that make good use of fruity Northwestern hops without overdoing it. My favorite is the Baba O'Ryely. I'm spelling it correctly. Can you guess the special ingredient? Hmm.

Now I feel I ought to offer a gripe or two, for credibility's sake. So it's not all boring enthusement. I'm a serious journalist, you know. OK then. The beers were a little under-attenuated for my taste... just a touch too sweet.

But just a touch.

The other gripe is that the place is so far out of the way. Portland has a boatload of breweries and yet it ought to be ashamed that it doesn't have a place like this. Meanwhile, because of its location, the Brewers Union is flying under the radar. It's been open since 2008 yet enjoys only a couple of reviews on Ratebeer and a couple more on Beeradvocate. So I feel a certain duty to spread the good word. With apologies to all those who've been trying to keep the secret, more folks ought to know. Anyway the place is in no danger of being overrun.

It's worth the detour. Come thirsty. And if you come really thirsty, don't worry... there's a genuinely nice-looking hostel just down the street. I've also been told that Oakridge is a mountain biking paradise. One Southern Oregonian's eyes glazed with deep envy when I told him we might stop there. A veteran cyclist, he explained that Oakridge is his favorite place on Earth.

And he didn't even know about the pub yet.

1 comment:

  1. Bit of a detour from Virginia, but it is most definitely on my list of places to get to while Mrs V and I remain in the US.