Although our meal at SweetWaters on the River was more of a very filling late afternoon snack than it was a full lunch, like we normally do, we felt it was definitely worth a mention – the food was outstanding.
The Gals didn’t go to Sweetwaters to eat, but it just so happened that way, and we were glad it did. Maria, Jennifer and I originally went to Sweetwaters for the Deschutes Brewery ‘Rockin’ on the River’ River Ale Release Party. With three VIP passes in hand, we were excited to try the just-released golden ale dubbed as “a session beer with craft soul.”
Since Lunch Gal Jennifer and her husband, Nelson, own a restaurant that sells Deschutes Brewery beers, they were given passes to attend the invite-only River Ale release party. Although the Gals are well-known for their affinity for wine, we occasionally really enjoy locally crafted brews.
Established in 1988, Deschutes Brewery is located in Bend, Oregon, and it overlooks the beautiful Deschutes River. Known for an impressive line-up of award-winning beers, Deschutes Brewery offers classic brews, as well as, limited batch and experimental brews. Their iconic classic brews include: Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Black Butte Porter, and some of their small batch experimental beers are The Dissident, Hop Trip and The Abyss.
Deschutes Brewery coined the River Ale as a session beer. Not knowing what exactly a session beer is, I turned to the well-known website, BeerAdvocate.com. Beer Advocate is a community driven website that is dedicated to supporting and promoting beer through education and appreciation, and through this website, I was able to find the definition of a session brew.
“Any beer that contains no higher than 5 percent ABV, featuring a balance between malt and hop characters (ingredients) and, typically, a clean finish – a combination of which creates a beer with high drinkability. The purpose of a session beer is to allow a beer drinker to have multiple beers, within a reasonable time period or session, without overwhelming the senses or reaching inappropriate levels of intoxication. (Yes, you can drink and enjoy beer without getting drunk.)”
All three of us thought the River Ale was excellent. The hoppy, malty aromas were definitely pleasing and far from overpowering. On the palate, these subtle and mellow hops were super smooth – creating a crisp and refreshing beer that was easy to drink. Although it went down easy, there was still a good depth of character and notable complexity.
Deschutes did provide a buffet of hummus and pita, cheese and crackers, rolls, and some deli meats, but the lemon zesty, dry finish on the River Ale beckoned seafood. Blessed with a rare Willamette Valley March afternoon of sunny skies and semi-warm air, we headed to the outside patio that sits along the edge of the beautiful Willamette River. One swift look-over of the menu, we decided we’d share two appetizers: Monterey Bay Calamari and Manila Clams.
The Monterey Bay Calamari was quick fried and served with a spicy cocktail sauce and a lime orange ginger sauce. Crispy and lightly crunchy on the outside, the calamari on the inside was tender and juicy – cooked to perfection. The sauces were both absolutely delicious, but I really loved the sweet, yet tart flavors of the lime orange ginger dipping sauce – a perfect accompaniment to the calamari. The Manila Clams were some of the best steamed clams I’ve ever had. Steamed in Pinot Gris, garlic, tomato and herbs, the clams were cooked exactly the way I like them – well done, but not over steamed. Two slices of crispy, toasted baguette were definitely not enough to soak up all the heavenly juices, so we asked for more.
Although there were some issues with the service and a discrepancy in the bill, we chalked it up to the large crowd of beer enthusiasts. Our food was down-right mouthwatering and scrumptious, and our bill was just $6 dollars each – quite the bargain for outstanding food enjoyed along the banks of the scenic Willamette River.
Personally, I can’t wait to return for more of the savory, delectable Manila Clams, and a return visit will surely give us another chance to experience the service on a day that the restaurant and bar aren’t so crowded. The Lunch Gals give Three Thumbs Up to the Chef for totally tantalizing our taste buds.
SweetWaters is located in the Valley River Inn at 1000 Valley River Way, Eugene, Oregon, 97401.