By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The Bier Stein
It’s all about the fireplace. Get away from the crowd congregated at the front of one of Eugene’s most popular taprooms and instead head toward the back. Whether starting your evening with a beverage, dining there or nightcapping, warm up by the big fireplace and let that flickering light set the mood. This is also the time to take advantage of one of the largest tap and bottle selections on the West Coast. Get a bottle of something special from the cooler or look to the display board for the perfect small glass of wintry warming ale goodness. A round of pool or a board game can keep you occupied or simply let the time fireside lend itself to conversation and intimacy. Between the beer and the fireplace, this spot was made to help you strike a spark.
1591 Willamette St., Eugene
Elk Horn Brewery
Valentine’s isn’t a quick flash. It’s a slow burn. And that’s how your night should be too. Located just off the University of Oregon campus, Elk Horn’s rustic classiness can both impress and relax your beloved. Founded by the owners of the popular Delacata Food Cart, Elk Horn has become renowned for its ciders and beers, as well as its Southern- and Northwest-inspired menu. Special for Valentine’s Day: Elk Horn is hosting a reservations-only dinner that includes an appetizer, entree and dessert, each paired with different Elk Horn beers and ciders. For details and reservations, email Hannah: email@example.com.
686 E. Broadway St., Eugene
McMenamins North Bank
With large picture windows that let you look out on the rolling Willamette River, there is no other view like it in town. The lights are just right. The booths offer some privacy and intimacy. Burgers and salads are on the menu, but so are more elaborate and delectable entrees such as Equinox Pappardelle and Black Rabbit Red Sirloin Steak. The beers are from one of Oregon’s oldest breweries, and McMenamins wines and spirits are also available from the full bar. Maybe the weather will even be on your side: take your beloved out to the riverside patio for a moment and snuggle close together for warmth. Then you’ll know that this is the perfect place to tell them what you’ve been dying to tell them: you'll love them longer than the river flows.
22 Club Road, Eugene
Plank Town Brewing Company
Love is not always about what’s new. Love is about renewal, rejuvenation and appreciating the past while building the future. Located in the heart of downtown Springfield’s ongoing revitalization, Plank Town is the embodiment of that sort of love — and the perfect spot for your Valentine’s Day dinner and craft beer. Rich, deep woodwork gives a sense of intimacy and formality. A stage may offer some live music. Enjoy your pint and a small plate, entree or sandwich by the large street-side windows — or if you want more privacy, ask for a table in the back off to the side of the central bar.
346 Main St., Springfield
The Tap & Growler
Even when you love someone, it can be hard to agree. Beer? Wine? Mead? Thankfully, you might be Marzen and they might be Viognier, yet The Tap & Growler can bring you together. Located near both The David Minor Theatre and Fifth Street Public Market, this taproom offers excellent sandwiches, salads and shareable plates, in addition to 81 rotating taps of beer, wine, cider, mead, kombucha, and even cold-pressed espresso and craft soda. As you can guess from the name, should getting together have you ready to put aside more than your differences, you can always take a growler back to their place.
207 E. Fifth Ave., #115, Eugene
By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
Higgins Restaurant and Bar
It’s all too easy to get seduced by the hottest new restaurants in Portland while longtime favorites are taken for granted. Like an old, comfortable relationship, we just assume they’ll always be there when we need them. And at more than 20 years old, it doesn’t look like Higgins is going to up and abandon you when a warm corner bistro is what you’re looking for in the heart of downtown. But February might be the perfect time to renew that spark with the farm-to-table establishment, though not a brewery it has always boasted an impressively long beer list. Forgo the white tablecloth side of the house and slide into a well-worn, high-backed booth enveloped by floor-to-ceiling dark wood paneling. It’s a little cozier among the beer handles, cask engine and hurried keg traffic that crosses the bar floor every time one empties. Beyond the 12 taps are dozens of bottled varieties, including more than 40 Belgians on a recent visit. And if you need to impress that special beer geek in your life during a night out, Higgins has you covered with a $326 bottle of 2001 Chimay Grand Reserve. However, a $10 pour of Chimay Cinq Cents White Label will probably hit the spot, too.
1239 SW Broadway
Kells Brew Pub
If all you think of when you hear the word “Kells” is the Old Town location known for its slotted ceiling stuffed with dollar bills, raucous St. Patrick’s Day celebration and proximity to bro nightlife — blocks teeming with clubs for 21-year-olds looking to blackout the day they can legally drink — then you’re missing out. The original Portland site can be a hell of a good party on a Saturday night, but it’s not necessarily the most romantic venue — at least in the traditional sense. However, the Brew Pub, which opened on Northwest 21st Avenue in 2012, offers a more intimate experience with its oversized cobblestone fireplace and booths with hinged doors that provide you and your date unparalleled dining room privacy. Those secluded seats could be hard to come by since they’re kind of like a VIP section — everyone wants in and you can’t help but wonder what’s going on inside those wooden partitions. Ornate details also help set the mood: stained-glass windows stamped with a green clover, wrought iron-style chandeliers and even a handful of throw pillows in each enclosed area should you find yourself in need of a cushion mid-embrace while waiting for the check. In the case you can’t score a booth, sink into one of the supple leather sofas positioned next to the glowing hearth. There’s a view of the brewery in back as you share a sampler tray of Kells’ house-made beers. And if the fire isn’t enough to ward off that winter chill, nothing beats a hearty Irish dish like the velvety Shepherd’s pie or crispy Fish and Chips. You can also rely on the warmth of your lover, but don’t get too handsy -- St. Patrick is watching from the bar.
210 NW 21st Ave.
McMenamins Kennedy School
Admit it — as an adolescent you always dreamed of someday making out with your crush under the bleachers on campus. Well now as an adult, you can actually get past first base inside the school’s walls. McMenamins should hold a special place in any Pacific Northwest resident’s heart because of the franchise’s dedication to restoring historic properties. And of all the Portland locations, Kennedy School is the best because the story of its unique past is prominently displayed throughout the building and the array of rooms offer a unique drinking experience as you explore the sprawling property. Start your night in the now-unrecognizable cafeteria adorned with funky, mismatched pendant lights and mahogany booths. No miniature cartons of milk here. Just think how much more entertaining fifth period math would’ve been had the lunchroom come equipped with a bar. Although you may think you’ve experienced all the McMenamins beers — from Ruby to Terminator — don’t forget that each brewer has the freedom to create unique recipes that are only produced at that particular site. Do your homework and be sure to sample those offerings in The Courtyard Restaurant. After dinner, grab a pint to-go and roam the long corridors that have been transformed into a museum dedicated to mosaic art and the history of the school, which was founded in 1915. Then have fun discovering what kind of student you are. Skipping class and smoking? Head to Detention. Teacher’s pet with a penchant for opera and subdued debate? Honors Bar is the place for you. Remember: if the date goes really well, Kennedy School has overnight accommodations.
5736 NE 33rd Ave.
Occidental Brewing Company
Who says sausages aren’t sexy? Occidental’s Wursthaus may not be an obvious pick for a date since it lacks many of the amenities associated with the typical night out: dim lighting, table service and at least some seclusion from other diners. Instead, the space that opened this past summer has walls bathed in a bright shade of canary, wursts served six ways that you order at the counter and a long, narrow dining room with sturdy bench seating — but no booths. Now if you’re a couple with kiddos, this is actually the perfect place to get out of your house for a few hours when the babysitter falls through. You’re likely to find toddlers squirming away from their parents’ grasp since the place allows minors, unlike Occidental’s Tap Room across the parking lot. Urban Germany Grill, long a popular vendor at beer festivals and farmers markets, now provides a menu for both kids and adults at the Wursthaus. However, even if it’s just you and your partner, the sweeping view of the city’s most romantic span is reason enough to visit. Order some hot, melted cheese in the form of fondue and head to a table near the back wall covered in German beer signs. The gothic arches of the St. Johns Bridge suddenly come into view, with one end of the road disappearing into the rolling hills covered in pine trees across the river. A patio that runs the length of the second-story business awaits nicer weather. It could be the perfect spot to plan a wedding ceremony at Cathedral Park, which sits under the beloved bridge.
6635 N. Baltimore Ave.
Old Town Pizza & Brewing
It’s reportedly the site of a murder and the victim still haunts the space where she took her last breath. Sounds romantic, huh? Old Town embraces the scandalous past of the building it inhabits, and the possibility of running into a ghost is a draw for many customers as well. There’s that and the perfect date night pairing: pizza and beer. If anything, a haunted taproom is reason to hold onto your partner a little tighter, so take a deep breath, stay alert and walk through the low-clearance dining room toward the back of what used to be the Merchant Hotel. You’ll find a seating area partially enclosed by a brick wall. This is the former elevator shaft where the body of an enslaved woman was found. Legend has it that two missionaries tried to help her out of a life of forced prostitution in exchange for information about her captors. However, the woman named Nina was pushed to her death before the planned escape could take place. Fortunately, the scene there now is far less grim. Get comfortable on the red velvet couch (if you can) and as you wait for your pie from the kitchen, search for her name carved in the wall nearby. If the glowing crimson table lamp happens to flicker while you’re there, it’s probably just a coincidence…
226 NW Davis St.
By Erica Tiffany-Brown
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
I am secure enough in myself to admit I used to watch this show on Bravo called “The Millionaire Matchmaker.” In said show, the matchmaker, Patti Stanger, tells the couples they need to follow a two-drink maximum rule on their dates. While that’s probably a good idea in theory, I believe rules were made to be broken. I also believe there are far too many delicious Oregon beers out there to limit yourself to only sharing two with your significant other.
But before we get into what beer you’ll be drinking on your date, there is one important question to answer: Do you go out or do you stay in? Fortunately for you, I’ve provided options for both!
— If you’re feeling extra indulgent, pamper yourselves with a romantic trip to Bend’s Anjou Spa. For over a year now, Anjou has collaborated with GoodLife Brewing for a special “Spa Hoppiness” menu of services. It turns out the ingredients in beer are actually really beneficial for your skin. Your taste buds will take pleasure in the experience as well with some complimentary draft beer. Treat yourselves to the Ale-ing Foot Remedy, Brew & Renew Body Polish or the Stout Scalp Treatment. Or spoil yourselves to all three treatments and you’ll receive a beer-infused natural LeCol soap to keep the fun going back at home. Good luck keeping your hands off one another!
— For a fun night out, OMSI After Dark’s 21-and-over monthly event lets adults channel their nerdy side. This month, the museum will feature two events — OMSI After Dark: Gaming on Feb. 24 and OMSI After Dark: Sex & Love on Feb. 13. Formal wear is encouraged at the latter event, so it’s a good excuse to get dressed up. According to OMSI, be prepared to “get down and dirty as we explore the science of attraction.” Rumor has it Rogue will be on hand selling their beers.
Pro Tip: Stop at nearby Hair of the Dog Brewing before the event to get a little warmed up for all the dirty talk.
A night in can be very underrated when it comes to dating. Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you have to be boring — get creative! But if you’re not the imaginative type, don’t worry; I’ve done the hard work for you. First, let’s focus on what beer you should have on hand. This is one third wheel you’ll actually want tagging along with you!
Depending on your current relationship status, there’s an Oregon beer for that.
My recommendations are as follows:
— Crux Tough Love [Banished] 2015 (11.5% ABV, 70 IBUs): a barrel-aged imperial stout that has been “banished” for nine months in Kentucky bourbon barrels. According to Crux, “Tough Love is big, but smooth with tender strokes of vanilla.”
— Alameda Love Squirts (6% ABV): a chocolate strawberry stout. Too lazy to make your own chocolate-covered strawberries from scratch? Never fear, beer is here! And a hilariously named one at that. They say laughter is carbonated love, right?
— Ex Novo Friends With Benefits (10% ABV, 23 IBUs): a peated scotch ale aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels. If you consider yourselves a little more than just FWB, try the brewery’s Dynamic Duo IIPA (8% ABV, 70 IBUs) instead. Or, if you’re happy to be flying solo this year, you’ll get a kick out of their Psycho Ex Triple IPA (10.5% ABV, 92 IBUs).
Runners-Up: Upright Brewing Oyster Stout (6.25% ABV) a British-style stout brewed with both oyster liquor and whole oysters (an aphrodisiac!), Mazama White Wedding IPA (5.2% ABV, 55 IBUs) a marriage of Belgian wit and Northwest IPA — proof that opposites can attract — and Southern Oregon Brewing Black Heart (8.5% ABV) an imperial stout with chocolaty malt aromas, “Black Heart is full of body and not for the faint of heart.”
Now that we have the most important part of the evening figured out, let’s move on to the actual date ideas to go along with the drinks!
— When two people love each other very much, they get together and make … a beer! Even if you two have never brewed a batch before, Rogue makes it a little bit easier by allowing you to produce clones of their popular beers with homebrew kits you can buy online — just add yeast. I recommend the Shakespeare Stout, and not just because of the writer’s inspiring romantic poetry — his plays are also full of allusions to his love of ale.
— Cook with beer. You can even put it in the food! Collaborate together and make a unique beer-themed meal. Check out our Brew Bites column online for inspiration, like a beer-brined rack of lamb with mint pesto for dinner and some Ninkasi Vanilla Oatis Stout ding dongs for dessert. Or, considering you were too lazy to even make the aforementioned chocolate-covered strawberries, you could get extra cheesy and order a heart-shaped pie from Pizza Hut (see what I did there?).
— If you prefer to compete rather than collaborate, this idea is for you. After ordering a pizza, crack open your bottles and battle one another in a board game made for beer lovers. Beer Smarts Game 2.0 is an “intoxicating question and answer game for beer lovers everywhere.” The game includes a scorepad so you can make sure the loser does whatever the winner desires. Another fun game is Brew-opoly, which is very similar to Monopoly, although you purchase brews and taphouses instead of houses and hotels. There are fun twists, where you might have to put on beer goggles and kiss your neighbor or stand and sing “99 Bottles of Beer On The Wall.” The game even features some beloved Oregon breweries like Full Sail and Deschutes.
Whether you go out or stay in this Valentine’s Day, there’s no excuse to not invite Oregon beer along for your date. But beware of imbibing too far beyond the two-beer maximum, as it was in Macbeth that Shakespeare wrote, “It provokes the desire but takes away the performance.”
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.