By Anthony St. Claire
Like mushrooms after rain, a Brewing District has sprung up in Eugene's Whitaker Neighborhood. With four area craft breweries now pouring in "the Whit", plus options for food and beverage everywhere you look, it's time to take a walking tour of the Eugene Brewing District.
Ninkasi Tasting Room
272 Van Buren St., Eugene
We're starting our pub crawl at Ninkasi for two reasons: Oregon's 4th-largest brewery is the first of the four breweries to locate here. Plus, if you're driving or biking, Ninkasi is the best place to find street parking in the area.
If you've come with an appetite, you'll usually find a food cart outside the Tasting Room entrance (but fear not, you'll have plenty of chances to eat your fill). Head inside for the swank interior and a pint of Radiant Northwest Pale Ale, Ninkasi's summer seasonal release. You'll also find outdoor seating (rain or shine), old favorites like Total Domination IPA and other special releases—some of which you won't find anywhere else.
Need a sweet treat after leaving Ninkasi? Snag a frozen yogurt from the Vanilla Jill's location on Blair, right behind Ninkasi, for the next stage of our journey.
Hop Valley Tasting Room & Brewery
990 W. 1st Ave., Eugene
From Ninkasi, turn left, walk to 1st Avenue and turn right. This won't be the prettiest part of the tour, but press on. The coffee-brown exterior wood and bright, fresh-hop green tones of Hop Valley's new Tasting Room and Production Brewery make it all worthwhile.
The off-street raised deck seems to take you to a different world, with plenty of seating for solo sipping or group gatherings. Inside, enjoy your pint of Double-D Blonde Ale or 541 American Lager at the bar. Or, go next door to the separate dining room, where a large glass window gives you a pint's-eye-view to the massive steel tanks of Hop Valley's brewing operation. While there, reward your walk with a varied food menu based off favorites from Hop Valley's original Springfield brewpub.
Oakshire Public House
207 Madison St., Eugene
Tongue relishing all those hoppy finishes, we continue our tour—with one quick diversion.
From Hop Valley, turn right onto 1st Avenue. Have your pints and sample trays inspired you to make your own beer? At 1st and Monroe, head to the yellow building that is the home of Home Fermenter Center. For over 25 years, Jim Stockton has provided advice, ingredients and gear for homebrewers at all levels. He stocks supplies for making beer, wine, cheese, soda and other fermented foods and beverages.
New brewing kit in hand, turn right down 1st Avenue and go one more block. Turn right at Madison. On the left you'll soon see the bright windows and warm woodwork of the Oakshire Public House, which opened in May. You'll find your favorite Oakshire beers on tap, such as Overcast Espresso Stout and Watershed IPA, as well as seasonal releases and single-batch beers. Food carts also set up outside the pub.
Falling Sky Delicatessen
790 Blair Blvd., Eugene
After turning left from Oakshire and crossing the railroad tracks, you'll turn right onto W. 4th Avenue. Let your full belly digest while walking this quiet, tree-lined residential street. But don't be lulled into a false sense of security, for our tour now brings you to the temptation of distraction.
Soon you will arrive at Blair Boulevard, the epicenter of the Whit. The options will dazzle you, and the aromas will entice you: the music and grub at Sam Bond's Garage. The timeless Tiny's Tavern. The tangy sweet barbecue aromas wafting from Papa's Soul Food.
You will be tempted to stay here, but you will persevere. For once you turn left onto Blair, you are only a couple of blocks away from the true prize: house-cured hot pastrami on fresh-baked rye with a cold pint of Falling Sky Bare Hands Northwest Bitter.
Open as of mid-July and self-described as what happens when an East Coast delicatessen meets a Northwest brewpub, the Falling Sky Delicatessen is the newest member of the Eugene Brewing District. Falling Sky Deli pours beers from their Oak Alley Brewpub, while also making house-baked bagels and breads, plus house-cured pastrami, corned beef and smoked chicken. Settle in at the covered beer garden, or make new friends at the 90-ft. indoor communal table.
The Rest of the Whit
Are your thirst—and your wanderlust—still pulling at you? Back on the streets of the Whit, discover more treasures from this ever-funky Eugene neighborhood. Options abound: dessert at Sweet Life, iconoclastic sushi at Mame, a neat single-malt at Izakaya Meiji, the incomparable chef's special at Pizza Research Institute. Or maybe you'll return to your favorite brewery location for another pint.
Whatever you decide, you've now walked the Eugene Brewing District—and you know all the better where you'll start next time.
Beyond the Whit
Not in the Whit? Fear not. Here are 7 more places to have a good beer and a good meal in the Eugene/Springfield area.
The Bier Stein The Eugene favorite recently moved to a larger location, expanding their seating and taps in the process. 1591 Willamette St., Eugene. (541) 485-BIER.
The Cannery Located in The Bier Stein's former home, this new gastropub highlights local food. Twenty taps pour beers from Oregon and the West. 345 E 11th Ave., Eugene. (541) 345-5435.
Sizzle Pie The funky Portland pizzeria recently brought their mix of veggie, omnivore, classic and imaginative pizzas to a new location in the heart of Eugene. 910 Willamette St., Eugene. (541) 683-7437.
The Barn Light By day, this humble cafe serves an amazing cup of coffee. By night, people pile in for beer, wine, cocktails and events. 924 Willamette St., Eugene. (458) 205-8914.
Plank Town Brewing Seeking to be a new public meeting spot for a revitalized downtown Springfield, this brewpub is the brainchild of Bart Caridio, of Sam Bond's Garage and Axe & Fiddle fame. 346 Main St., Springfield. (541) 746-1890.
The Cooler Co-owned by Hop Valley founder Jonas Kungys, The Cooler is close to Autzen Stadium. Check out their Prime Rib Fridays. 20 Centennial Loop Eugene, OR 97401. (541) 484-4355.
Hot Mama's Wings Wings and beer... need we say more? Voted Eugene Weekly's 2nd Best New Restaurant 2011-2012, Hot Mama's features 6 rotating beers, deep-fried desserts and 14 different wing sauces. 420 W 13th Ave., Eugene. (541) 653-9999.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.