With the recent openings of two local brew houses taking place in the ecelctic, free-spirited Whiteaker Neighborhood, it’s hard to imagine that others like Claim 52 and Agrarian Ales aren’t pondering a similar move. What they and other hip breweries decide to do remains to be seen, but even with just three in the Whiteaker for now, Hop Valley Brewing, Oakshire Public House and Ninkasi Brewing, Local Lunch Gal Jennifer and I made a day out of crawling from one brewery to another – and it was a whole load of fun.
Starting at the recently opened Hop Valley Brewing, located at 990 West 1st Street, Jennifer and I pondered whether we should sit outside on their spacious patio or inside at one of the gorgeous, natural-cut wood planked tables. Aside from the patio and indoor seating, there’s a covered area open to the outdoors that has large windows that look into the the new state-of-the-art brewery, giving beer goers an unobstructed view of the staff hard at work.
We opted to sit inside, near the bar where beer and food orders are taken, and we each ordered a flight of six 4 ounce beer samples, along with a Candied Bacon and Basil pizza to share. With plenty of beer options, from every day brews to single-batch specialties (displayed on two flat screen TVs right next to the bar), the price of $6.95 for a flight of six beers is unbeatable. Of the six I ordered, I really loved the Citrus Mistress with its super aromatic, hoppy and fruity aromas of pineapple, grapefruit, peach and lemon. Jennifer’s favorite was the Hombre – a Vienna-style lager that was designed as a homage to the original Lagers in Mexico, brewed with all German hops and malts. Although our preferences in beers was certainly on opposite ends of the spectrum, we both agreed that the Candied Bacon and Basil Pizza was pure bliss. Loads of bacon, fresh basil and perfectly melted cheese were piled high on a crispy, thin crust and baked to sublimity – delicious.
With the newly opened Oakshire Public House being 1,484 feet from Hop Valley at 207 Madison Street and Ninkasi just 792 feet away at 272 Van Buren Street (we know this because it’s displayed inside Hop Valley), we decided to visit Oakshire next and finish our brewery crawl at Ninkasi, which is closer to our beloved Sam Bond’s Garage – where we were thinking we’d possibly end the day with some live music and a glass of wine.
Much like Hop Valley, Oakshire’s new space is large, open and has generous seating. Although flights of beers are also an option at Oakshire, I’m a long time fan and knew exactly what I wanted: Overcast Espresso Stout. The Overcast Espresso Stout has inviting aromas of oatmeal, dark roast coffee beans, chocolate and molasses with hints of vanilla. Similar flavors create a palate pleasing brew that’s well balanced and super easy to drink. Jen wanted something light and refreshing, so she ordered a pint of the Line Dry Rye, a summer pale ale that is brewed with Oregon Blackberry Honey that has softened citrus aromas and flavors with a bit of acidity on the finish.
Since it was a Tuesday early afternoon, we had our choice of places to sit, so we headed through the large garage-style doors that were up and open to the outdoor picnic tables in their beer garden – perfect on a sunny, warm day.
From Oakshire, a stroll through the Whiteaker landed us at Ninkasi in less than ten minutes, and as most Eugeneans know, a stroll through the Whiteaker is never dull. With as many beers as I like from Ninkasi, making a decision on which beer to order was difficult. In the end, we shared a flight that included some of my favorite Ninkasi brews: Sterling Pils, Radiant Northwest Pale Ale, ERA (Emeralds American Red Ale), Oatis Oatmeal Stout and Imperiale High Gravity Stout. From lightest to darkest, each beer was unique and completely palatable. The Sterling Pils was crisp and refreshing, and the Radiant was malty with a nice depth of character. The ERA was brewed with the Eugene’s baseball team in mind, the Emeralds, and it was lighter than most Red Ales I’ve had but very tasty and delightfully hoppy. The Oatis Oatmeal Stout (my all-time favorite Ninkasi brew) and the Imperiale have similar aromas and flavors as Oakshire’s Overcast Espresso Stout but split into two separate beers: Oatis has the oatmeal, chocolate and vanilla characteristics while the Imperiale carries the molasses and coffee notes – they’re both completely awesome beers. Once again, Jen and I had different preferences. while I loved the rich, creamy stouts, she loved the light, crisp and hoppy Sterling Pils.
Having looked as if Wine Julia had likely turned into Beer Julia for the day, Jennifer and I decided that Tuesday would be our new Brewsday – as much as we love our wine, we enjoyed having a day out to enjoy some stellar local beers, and there’s no better place to do it than in Eugene’s trendy, funky neighborhood – the Whiteaker.