By Beau Eastes
Small-scale breweries in Eugene
Every beer geek in Oregon owes it to themselves to spend a day at Agrarian Ales, the closest thing to a traditional European farmhouse brewery we have in the state. The taproom is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Plan to spend some time there as Agrarian is about a 20-minute drive north of Eugene. Make sure to try the chile beer and the seasonal saison.
Hidden nicely off of 13th street on Oak Alley, Falling Sky combines exceptional food and brew in a former tractor repair garage. Sixteen in-house brews are on tap and on the weekends there is sometimes a firkin as well. Long bier hall tables make it easy to strike up a conversation with soon-to-be friends. The Dreadnut Foreign Export Stout makes those dreary rainy days in Eugene a little easier to handle.
Sam Bond’s Garage
The best place for live music in Eugene started brewing its own beer less than six months ago, and like everything else at Sam Bond’s, the beer is something you can’t wait to tell your friends about. Two weeks ago, Sam Bond’s, a resident of the Whiteaker Neighborhood long before it become cool, had seven of its own beers on tap, but the brewing operation seems to be growing daily. (Beers are brewed about 15 blocks away on 8th and Ferry in an old warehouse dubbed The Foundry. A tasting room is expected to open soon.) Dana’s Alt — as in Duck basketball coach Dana Altman — was excellent, as was the Renaissance Rye.
— Beau Eastes
When brothers Ben and Nathan Tilley first started looking for a space to open their own brewery nine years ago, their father offered a simple, yet brilliant plan: Take over the old dairy barn on the family farm.
“We were both very into Belgium and French farmhouse breweries and those type of beers, so we dove in on learning that history,” Ben Tilley said about the beginnings of what would become Agrarian Ales, a microbrewery about 15 miles north of Eugene, between Coburg and Harrisburg.
“We learned as much as we could, talked to people (in the Eugene area) and just really immersed ourselves and decided, ‘Yeah, we’ve got a barn here, let’s do an old world farmhouse brewery,’” Ben said.
Located on the chile farm that Ben and Nathan grew up on and that their parents still work, Agrarian Ales is a bit of beer-geek heaven plunked down in the middle of the Willamette Valley. Ben, who owns the brewery, which opened in November of 2012, harvests all his own hops from the 1,200 plants that grow about a frisbee toss away from his seven-barrel brewing system.
“We put in some hops about nine years ago, so that by the time we opened (in 2012) we were able to supply 100 percent of our own hops,” said Ben, who now has approximately 50 different varieties of hops planted on the farm. “We’re probably the only people in the state, if not the country that are able to do that.”
Staying true to the farmhouse tradition, Agrarian brews with seasonal ingredients and does not have a year-round staple beer.
“In our first 12 months, we brewed 44 different beers,” said Ben, who has several beers on tap at Bend’s two Growler Guys locations. “But we do have some threads of consistency.”
Brewers Nathan Tilley and Tobias Schock always have on hand a Field Bier, a light, single hop, single malt brew that uses whatever yeast the brewers are using for other beers.
“That’s our farmhouse session, a light, easy-drinking beer,” Ben said. “That’s how saisons were originally created. You used your leftover ingredients that didn’t make it to market in the fall and winter and brewed something light and refreshing to sustain you during the summer.”
Agrarian also brews a seasonal saison, released on the spring and fall equinox and the longest and shortest days of the year. And of course, Schock and the Tilley brothers always have a chile beer on hand.
“We really hope to redefine chile beer,” said Ben, whose Poblamo Amber Ale was easily the best chile beer I’ve ever guzzled. “Chiles have been used for a while (in beer), but they can be used improperly very easily. We have access to this incredible quality and freshness and variety of raw materials that other brewers can’t obtain.”
These 20-ounce pints of seasonal wonderfulness are reason enough to trek out to Agrarian Ales. But once you’re there, you won’t want to leave.
Picnic tables with 360-degree views of the Willamette Valley surround Agrarian’s tap room. A custom-made wood fired pizza oven serves up delicious eats, and bands often play on the weekends.
“When we were first getting off the ground, we looked at business models and how breweries brand themselves a beer and brand a product,” said Ben, using Deschutes’ Black Butte Porter and Widmer’s Hefeweizen as examples. “We’re branding an identity, a way of life and experience.
“There’s enough people looking for craft beer and unique life experiences,” he continued, “that we can exist in this part of the beer world.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0305, firstname.lastname@example.org