Monday, June 14, 2010

What's Brewing Down South

Who knew that beer would be an important ingredient in the recipe for a long-term marriage? Mine, anyway.

For his birthday, the last thing Dave wanted was a gadget or a tie (yeah, right). We'd been talking about going down to Eugene to visit Ninkasi, one of his favorite NW breweries, for some time, so when I suggested a field trip for his birthday he was all up ons.

And since we would be in the neighborhood, a side trip to nearby Oakridge to check out Brewers Union Local 180 seemed like an appropriate add-on. After all, Dave was a big fan of Ted Sobel, publican and brewer of BUL180, and Sobel's blog has been a regular on his feedreader list. Furthermore, the pub has six of its cask-conditioned, gravity-dispensed beers on tap at any given time, plus guest taps on CO2. Need I say more?

Brewers Union was our first stop, and we made the trip down just past Eugene in record time, taking the very scenic, very lovely drive along the forked creeks that eventually merge to become the mighty Willamette. Oakridge itself is a small village along the middle fork, and Sobel's English-style pub is located on its eastern end, with a pleasant patio and cheery umbrellas marking the entrance.

You belly up to the bar inside to order from the nice fellow manning the taps, who on this day was not Sobel because he was up in Portland at an event (wouldn't you know it). I went for the Union Dew IPA while Dave requested a Cwrw Bach, a Welsh mild ale. Both were fairly low in alcohol and the IPA wasn't hyper-hopped like many of our Portland micros.

Or, as Sobel himself put it, "it's plain, ordinary, mundane session beer. Nothing ridiculous, over-hopped, mega-gravity or imbued with lynx droppings. Nothing aged in one of Leo Kottke's old Taylor 12-strings for eight months. No exotic herbs flown in from Ouagadougou. No cold-filtration through artisan-designed glassware embracing dust from the tombs of the Pharaohs. These ales were designed for quaffing."

We loved them. And the fish'n'chips were outstanding and cheeeeeeeeeap compared to PDX prices.

By the time we got to Ninkasi we were a bit blown out from driving and their tasting room looked like it was under construction, perhaps undergoing some major expansion due to raging popularity. We did have a token pint, though, finding it thoroughly satisfying as expected. Maybe next time the dust will have settled and we won't be two pints along already. Thank heavens the weather was fabulous and we sailed home without incident, the iPod plugged into Chili, blasting away.

Details: Brewers Union Local 180, 48329 E First St., Oakridge. Phone 541-782-2024.

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