Eugene on the Rocks: Beer Cocktails


Summer is fast approaching, bringing the finest of locally grown foods, barbeques and seasonal cocktails.  Few things are more welcome after a long winter than a bit of sunshine and a refreshing drink.  Enter the beer cocktail.  A beer cocktail can be one of two things: it can be a beer mixed with a distilled beverage where the primary ingredient is the beer, or it can be a beer mixed with a non-alcoholic beverage – called a shandy.  The beer cocktail I experienced was an amazing combination brought about by two local establishments.

Grit sign

Grit is quickly becoming a staple in the “foodie” community and rightfully so.  The food is amazing, the ingredients are farm-fresh and absolutely top notch and the staff is a joy to talk to.  But how is the bar?  Does it live up to the well-earned hype of the kitchen?  The simple answer is a resounding, “yes!”

The bar at grit is serving what my friend and I were calling grown up drinks.  These drinks are not packed to the brim with alcohol but rather with flavor and creativity.  I spent a moment to glance through the menu and the Rhubarb Shandy immediately grabbed my eye.  A beer cocktail?  Yes please.  Mixing beer with spirits and other beverages may not be a new idea, but it’s not a common menu item either – especially here in Eugene.  Perhaps its popularity is on the rise.

grit 2

The Rhubarb Shandy is Plank Town Brewing’s Odd Fellow Beer with added rhubarb syrup, and let me tell you, it is delicious!  The Odd Fellow is a low alcohol content beer with a citrus nose and alluring subtle spices.  Our bartender described it as, “a beer for mowing the lawn.”  It’s light, it’s tasty, and you can have more than one without needing a nap.  It is the quintessential summer beer!  I just had to check out Plank Town Brewing after experiencing the Rhubarb Shandy.

Just walking through the door at Plank Town gives one the immediate feel for the craftsmanship they’ve readily embraced not only in their décor, but in their crafted beer as well.  Plank Town is a new and welcome addition to a quickly growing downtown Springfield, and it is well worth the trip to the other side of the river!  The people are warm and welcoming, the wooden fixtures are pleasing to the eye, and the beer is a revelation.

Planktown at night
Plank Town Brewing | photo: Plank Town Facebook page

Back to the delicious Rhubarb Shandy.  The Odd Fellow being so light means that it could be easily overpowered with other flavors.  The fine line between just right and too much was well handled with this most delicate of cocktails.  The rhubarb syrup added sweetness and complexity while still allowing the beer to shine.  It even brought out an undertone of black pepper previously unnoticed.  A tip of the hat to all from this happy drinker!

If you’re looking for a venue (or two) to eat, drink and be merry while welcoming the warm summer breeze, come belly up to the bar at Grit or Plank Town or better yet, both!  I can assure you, there will be no disappointment involved.

Growing up in the Napa Valley meant that Ben was surrounded by food and wine culture from a very young age. It began a life long love of food, and all of the wonderful libations that go along with the perfect meal.
Ben attended the Napa Valley Cooking School, in St. Helena, California. Under the tutelage of Chef Barbara Alexander, and other renowned chefs such as Master Chef Dieter Doppelfeld, Ben honed his skills in the kitchen. He was fortunate enough to spend time in some of the best restaurants in the country, including a stage at The French Laundry.
After working his way through the kitchen ranks, Ben decided it was time to try a new challenge. That is when the opportunity to become a partner at Hard Times Distillery was seized, and the rest of the story remains to be seen.
Being an owner of a distillery has helped him bring together the love of food, and drink. Since one is never complete without the other, it only makes sense to write about them both.
Ben lives in Eugene with his partner, Dr. Beth Washak, and two year old son, Jaxson. When they are not busy working and chasing a baby, they enjoy nothing more than relaxing with a local brew and friends.

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