This morning I was lucky enough to step out of my busy office building downtown for a few minutes to check in on a an old co-worker and friend. AJ McGarry, who I met while working at Oakshire, is the manager and beer-guy at the new First National Taphouse on 51 W Broadway. He invited me in for a quick peek and tour of the restaurant before their soft opening this Friday and official opening May 9th. With the spring sunshine and downtown construction, it really feels as if Eugene has arrived. The anticipation for The First National Taphouse’s official opening has already helped to invigorate new energy into historic downtown. With 9 regional wine taps and more than you can count regional beer taps, local love is obviously huge for this new restaurant and brew-pub. Of the beer options, you’re hard pressed to find something brewed outside of the Pacific Northwest, unless it’s AJ’s recommended Razz Café beer cocktail, which is Oakshire’s Espresso Stout with a dose of Lindeman’s Framboise. I’ll admit, that sounds pretty delicious.
First National Bank, founded in 1883 couldn’t be a better sight for this new bar/restaurant. When you first walk in, you get the feeling of time-honored tradition. The feeling is not unlike when you drink a pint of beer and realize that your great, great grandad probably brewed a similar recipe on their homestead. The building uses much of the same materials including the old safe door and bar built within the safe walls. AJ tells me it’s because it was too heavy to move, but I don’t really believe him; these guys are way too cool. History is all around, and photos from founding members, Eakin and Hendricks of the 1800’s, adorn the walls. It’s the perfect fit that they paired up with The Bijou Cinemas – who will be moving in right next door. Once the theater is finished with construction, you’ll be able to buy a pint at First National and take it to your movie. They’ll even have movie times and possibly shows on the monitors in the restaurant. Talk about the perfect way to do a dinner-movie date!
The one aspect where new trumps the old is the “Beer Exchange”. Although I’ve heard of pricing-systems like this in European and big-city bars, I’ve never actually seen one in person. The way it works is like a stock exchange: beer prices change the more popular a beer is. So, for example if Ninkasi Total Domination is all the rage, the price will go up from $4 to $5 or $6 per pint. If one isn’t selling, say like Anthem Cider (Sorry guys- I’m just a beer girl!) the price will go down from $4 to $3.75. How cool is that? I know I’ll be the one buying pitchers for the table if my favorite beer hits a record low!
I have to say, it feels like a pretty great time for those of us who believe in local beer love. If how packed the new Bier Stein (1591 Willamette St) is every night of the week tells ua anything, the secret is out. Eugene is the place to be, and has truly arrived… just in time for Eugene Beer Week on May 4th!
PS- A BIG thanks to Wine Julia who took over and wrote my column for me last week. I was having too much fun tasting the product. Luckily she knows her wine AND beer!