By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Surrounded by fans of The Bier Stein taking in the game or beering up for their own football festivities, Troy Potter can hardly believe that a few months ago he wasn't the new owner of Eugene's The Bier Stein. Working in sales at Ninkasi Brewing Company, Potter was happy where he was.
“I didn’t have a desire to be a business owner,” says Potter, “unless the perfect situation came up.”
Then it did.
At the 2016 Oregon Country Fair, Potter was having a beer with his longtime friends Kristina and Chip Hardy, founders of The Bier Stein. “Around one in the morning, I happened to mention, ‘If you ever want to sell, please talk to me first,’” says Potter. “They stopped, they giggled and said they’d been considering selling the place.”
The Hardys felt ready to pursue non-business interests, but didn’t want to be absentee owners. For the next year, when Potter wasn’t working as part of Ninkasi’s national sales team and managing accounts on the East Coast, he quietly evaluated buying the business.
“I was happy, making good money at a good job,” says Potter, “but when this opportunity came up, my wife and I talked about it and realized it was an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up.”
On Aug. 1, 2017, Potter and silent partner Jon Farah officially became owners of The Bier Stein.
A Long Way From Cleveland
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Potter was 21 when in 1991 he grabbed his backpack and bought a one-way Amtrak ticket to Portland.
“I fell in love with craft beer, day one,” says Potter. “I spent six months drinking Widmer Hefeweizen with lemon, then Full Sail Amber, then Deschutes Black Butte Porter. But Bridgeport IPA was a game changer. I’ve been in love with IPAs ever since.”
After working as bar manager at an Italian restaurant and Kells Irish Pub, Potter’s interest in craft beer led him to jobs with McMenamins and Rogue. In 2007, his wife was about to graduate from Reed College, and they’d heard about a new brewery in Eugene. The day after graduation they moved south, where Potter became one of Ninkasi’s first employees. Fast-forward 10 years, Potter was learning how to be an owner.
Potter and Farah began working with a bank to navigate the “long, drawn-out process” of getting a Small Business Administration loan. Potter also worked side-by-side with the Hardys to understand day-to-day operations and get advice. Along with respecting the Hardy’s wishes to keep the sale quiet, Potter had signed a non-disclosure agreement and couldn’t say anything to his colleagues. Then, finally, “the bank put everything in writing, and I gave my 30-day notice,” says Potter. “It was a surprise at Ninkasi.”
Smooth Transition, Strong Future
Founded in 2005, The Bier Stein began as a 2,100-square-foot bottle shop and beer bar between downtown Eugene and the University of Oregon campus. In 2012, The Bier Stein moved to a 12,000-square-foot building. Now offering more than 1,000 beers in bottles and from 30-plus taps, The Bier Stein seats 185 and has 50 employees. And that, says Potter, is how he wants things to be.
“The staff and managers are amazing, and everyone was excited to stay on,” says Potter. “I didn’t change one thing. Not the menu, not the beer. That turnkey aspect was in its truest form. Why change something that’s working perfectly?”
Potter is at the shop each day, working with managers and on marketing, advertising and overall operations. “I’ve also been bussing tables, running food. I intend to work in the kitchen and the bar too — keep my finger on the pulse and connect with customers,” says Potter. “The Bier Stein is about the best beer and the best customer experience. That’s what will keep The Bier Stein strong.”
Plans include growing The Bier Stein’s reputation as a destination and craft beer institution. “About 35 percent of our customers come from outside of Eugene, based on word of mouth.”
Increased customer education is also a priority. Potter wants all staff — including himself — to have Level Two Cicerone Certifications. “New customers come in, and they might know a little about beer, but it can be hard to come up to those cooler doors and pick a beer,” says Potter. “Something we can make better is to be there with customers and help them make that bottle purchase.”
Overall, Potter sees his role not as a game changer, but as the next generation. “My goal coming into The Bier Stein is not to change anything,” he explains. “My goal is to grab that torch that Chip and Kristina created and carry it forward. We’re going to keep it about the beer.”
The Bier Stein
1591 Willamette St., Eugene
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Whether a Eugene/Springfield local or visiting for a University of Oregon (Go Ducks!) home game at Autzen Stadium, it’s nice to have a pregame or postgame stroll … with beer, of course. The walking portion of this 1.5 mile route can be done in around 30 minutes. In addition to watering holes and restaurants, you’ll also take in an iconic cinema spot and go from near downtown Eugene to the heart of the UO campus.
Sam Bond’s Brewing Co.
540 E. Eighth Ave.
After parking your car in one of the city’s downtown garages (free on weekends), make your way east on foot, by taxi or by bus to our starting point. Nestled in between downtown and campus, Sam Bond’s is a natural evolution from its namesake, local favorite Sam Bond’s Garage. The iconic bar always has a good tap list, so it only made sense that the owners (also behind the scenes at both Plank Town locations and Cottage Grove’s The Axe & Fiddle) would want to dip their paddles in their own wort. You’ll start your tour with an excellent beer in a mellow setting: Think of it as the warmup stretch for the day’s stroll. Founded in 2013, Sam Bond’s Brewing supplies the Garage, and their 10-barrel brewhouse pumps out Northwest favorites, such as Sam I Am Beer (amber, get it?) and Crankshaft IPA, along with up-and-coming beers of interest: 50-Stone Scottish Wee Heavy, Accelerator ISA, Pre-Klassic Kolsch, and a stellar Filbert Brown made with hazelnuts. If your appetite needs food in addition to excellent beer, a full menu offers pizza, salads, paninis, pastas and more. Vegan and gluten-free options are available.
Beer Nut Mix: Mixed nuts slowly caramelized in butter, brown sugar, spices and Filbert Brown
Foundry Sampler: Seasonal assortment of cured meats, cheeses, tapenades and marinated vegetables with toasted bread
Elk Horn Brewery
686 E. Broadway St.
She’s from the Willamette Valley, he’s from Mississippi. When wife-and-husband team Colleen and Stephen Sheehan decided to step up from food cart to brewpub in 2014, it was only natural that they combine the Northwest’s food and drink sensibility with warm and welcoming Southern hospitality. The whiskey bar is well stocked, but the main event is Elk Horn’s 24 taps, pouring their own beers, ciders and sodas brewed by Rogue veteran Nate Sampson. (Lemon Pils just took home bronze for American- or International-Style Pilsener at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival.) The family-friendly space has racks for board games and plenty of big screens so you can catch the big game. If it’s nice, sit outside at least a little while: the comfortable, spacious screened patio quickly and surprisingly makes you forget that you’re near busy streets. The Northwest touch of Elk Horn’s food combines with a solid Southern pedigree, including hearty bowls, burgers, sandwiches, plus some salads and wraps to keep a few light touches.
Hushpuppies filled with jalapeno cheddar, served with chipotle aioli
Bayou Gumbo: chicken, shrimp, andouille sausage, okra, celery, bell pepper and onion, served with rice
Cafe Yumm! - On Broadway
730 E. Broadway
Just down from Elk Horn, our next stop brings us to a healthier, home-grown option. While waiting for your food, Ninkasi is on tap (with other wines and beers by the bottle). Raise a glass to Cafe Yumm! on Broadway, which recently celebrated its 10th birthday. Taking home The Register-Guard 2017 Readers' Choice awards for Lunch Bargain and Vegetarian (no easy feat in a former hippie town renowned for its veggie and vegan fare), Cafe Yumm! started in Eugene. Today, the Oregon benefit company has 20 locations in Oregon and Washington. Since you’re walking today, the six electric vehicle charging stations aren’t of use, but it’s good to know that you can charge your ride for free while you eat — and that this is the first restaurant in the country to offer solar-powered EV charging. Back to that food. Wraps, sandwiches and soups are available, but you are here for the Yumm! Bowl — and specifically, the magical, mysterious Yumm! Sauce. What’s in it? How does it get its savory yet tangy flavor? You will never know. You won’t care either, because this is the sort of vegetarian food that others aspire to (though chicken is available). Cafe Yumm! elevates humble rice and beans to satisfying, sumptuous fare, with organic ingredients, generous helpings of Yumm! Sauce, plus cheese, avocado, salsa, olives, sour cream and cilantro. It’ll fill both your body and your soul.
Original Yumm! Bowl
751 E. 11th Ave.
By now you are likely ready to walk and digest — a great time for an odd detour. Strolling south down Alder Street, we’ll turn right onto East 11th Avenue for the sake of seeing something that doesn’t exist anymore. Really, we’re paying some respect. 751 E. 11th Ave. is where parts of the 1978 zany classic “Animal House” were filmed. Home of the Psi Deuteron chapter of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity from 1959-1967, the house fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1986. Today, perhaps as a sign of fate or irony, the site is now home to the School of Education and Counseling for Northwest Christian University. Head to the parking entrance and look for a boulder: it has a plaque that commemorates the Delta House location. Next time you watch “Animal House,” keep an eye out for other Eugene spots: much of the film was shot around the UO campus, the parade and road trip took place in Cottage Grove (and the marching bands were from Eugene’s own Sheldon and Churchill High Schools), and it’s thought that Greg and Mandy’s scene in the MG was filmed on top of Skinner Butte. Much of the movie’s wardrobe is local too: since John Landis had such a small budget, his wife Deborah thrifted for costumes at area secondhand stores. Nearly 40 years later, please stop and take a moment to reflect: No more will anyone dump a whole truckload of fizzies into the varsity swim meet. No one will deliver the medical school cadavers to the alumni dinner. And no more will Halloween see the trees filled with underwear. Oh well. “Grab a brew. Don't cost nothin’.”
Mashed potatoes and cheap lager
1214 Kincaid St.
After stopping to reflect on what was and no longer is, it’s time to turn around and head back to Alder Street. We’ll continue south, going past a row of little shops and eateries that continues as we turn left and head east on East 13th Avenue. Turning left onto Kincaid Street, it’s time for a classic. Right across the street from the eastern edge of the UO campus and located in the historic John Rennie house (built in the 1920s), Rennie’s Landing is a favorite watering hole. “We love our Ducks,” they say at Rennie’s, “but opponent’s fans are welcome too.” Fair enough. Also open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, sports of all kinds are showing on six TVs throughout the interior (and one more on the upper deck). Nine craft and specialty beers, two domestics and 2 Towns hard cider are pouring, but also check out the trademark Rennie’s Lemonade. Locally made art is sprinkled throughout the second floor, including sculptor David Thompson’s metalwork of a McKenzie River boatman, and paintings by George Von Der Linden (who also carved a signature whale over the fireplace). Over the front door hangs a large aerial photograph, taken in the 1930s, to help plan the site for what is now the Knight Library.
Breakfast and a Bloody Mary until 1 p.m.: ‘nuff said
Falling Sky Pizzeria & Public House
1395 University St., Room 46
Now we cross into campus itself, walking amidst the old brick and stone buildings and towering trees that give UO the world-apart feel unique to college campuses. Our final destination is at the heart of campus in the newly renovated Erb Memorial Union. The Pizzeria & Public House is Falling Sky’s third location (and part of why they expanded their downtown brewery). No stranger to local acclaim, Falling Sky recently was named one of the Best Microbreweries in The Register-Guard 2017 Readers’ Choice awards. Pouring 11 house and guest beers and ciders, Falling Sky offers a mix of seasonal, limited-release and flagship Northwest, Belgian-style, British-style, and German-style ales and lagers. Be sure to try Polar Melt Pale Ale, made with Glacier hops and a new yeast strain they’re experimenting with. This third location builds Falling Sky’s pizza menu that consists of house doughs, cured meats and produce that you’d find at the pizzeria’s sibling sites. Calzones, Italian sandwiches, soups, salads, bowls, wings and a kids menu are also available.
Vegan & Loving It: Roasted vegetables, spinach, squash, garlic, vegan white bean and red pepper sauce
The Reubenator: House-cured turkey pastrami, sauerkraut, caraway seeds, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing
Now that you’ve reached the end of our walking tour, you still have options. If you want to venture some more, you are still a stroll, bus, or cab ride away from other restaurants, sports bars and more. Want to keep your walk going strong? Head to the nearby Ruth Bascom Riverbank Trail System. A riverside walk and one footbridge can have you at Autzen Stadium in minutes.
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 Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
When it comes to college football, there is one place to be: Eugene.
ESPN's College GameDay program has broadcast from the city nine times, and earlier this year, GameDay’s Lee Corso declared that Eugene was “my favorite place, for me personally, to see a ballgame.” Average attendance in 2015 was 57,324 fans. The University of Oregon's Autzen Stadium is not only Oregon’s largest sports arena, it’s the loudest stadium in the country. It’s been called “intimidating” and “where great teams go to die.”
It’s also a hell of a lot of fun.
Tailgater Magazine agrees. In its 2016 list of Top 25 “tailgating meccas in college football,” the No. 1 spot went not to Alabama or Michigan State or Notre Dame. It went to Autzen Stadium.
It’s no surprise. Autzen is where, at the end of the third quarter, the crowd dances while the toga party scene from “National Lampoon's Animal House” (filmed in Eugene, by the way) plays — complete with the song “Shout” blasting. Autzen is where a foghorn sounds every time the Ducks score. (OK, granted, that foghorn’s been getting leaned on less this season than usual, but it’s not the destination, it’s the journey, right?)
Autzen is also set in one of Oregon’s meccas not only for tailgating and college football, but for craft beer. Eugene is where game day turns the city green and yellow, from the flags flying on vehicles driving in from all over the state to the face paint and clothing covering fans marching to Autzen en masse.
So wherever you are in the Eugene area, here are tips for enjoying the game and a good beer, whether it’s pregame, around town, tailgating outside Autzen, or finding the party inside at the Moshofsky Center (the "Mo") next to Autzen.
Transportation tip: Parking at Autzen is no picnic. The stadium is walkable from many parts of the campus area and downtown Eugene. Check your favorite mapping app for directions. Lane Transit District also offers a park-and-ride shuttle to and from the stadium.
Depending on kickoff time, you may need anything from a hearty breakfast to a little pregame snack. Maybe you aren’t going to the stadium and need to know where to be. Or, maybe you’re watching at home, but need to stock the beer fridge. Bring your growler! Eugene’s got you covered. All hours listed are for Saturdays.
The Bier Stein
1591 Willamette St., 541-485-BIER, thebierstein.com, 11 a.m. to midnight
With more than 30 taps and 1,000 bottled beers and ciders from all over the world (plus many staff are certified Cicerones), The Bier Stein is your spot to stock the beer fridge.
1689 Willamette St., 541-343-1542, brailseugene.com, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Since The Bier Stein opens at 11 a.m., cruise a block down and have breakfast first. Brails is a perennial fan favorite, taking Eugene Weekly’s “Best hangover breakfast” top spot for years running. That’s good to know — you might need to go there tomorrow, too.
20 Centennial Loop, 541-484-4355, thecoolerbar.com, 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Oddly enough, few bars are near Autzen. The closest is The Cooler, a large sports bar that prides itself on big-screen TVs; a simple, yet tasty, pub fare menu; and booze aplenty.
263 Mill St., 541-636-3889, coldfirebrewing.com., noon to 11 p.m.
One of Eugene’s newest breweries, ColdFire, is catching fire with their European beers, Northwest flair, imagination and solid brewing chops. Located just across the Willamette River near Skinner Butte, hit ColdFire for a pint or growler fill. You’re also near the city’s riverside bike paths and can walk the 1.3 miles from ColdFire to Autzen in about 30 minutes.
Elk Horn Brewery
686 E. Broadway St., 541-505-8356, elkhornbrewery.com, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Bordering the UO campus, Elk Horn was founded by the folks behind Eugene’s popular Delacata food cart. Elk Horn bridges the gap between beer, cider and wine. Also check out their Southern–Northwest fusion food menu.
Falling Sky Pizzeria
UO Erb Memorial Union, 1395 University St., Room #46, 541-485-1275, fallingskybrewing.com, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
After opening this past summer, Falling Sky’s third location has quickly become a popular spot for UO students and faculty, as well as the greater community. Enjoy game day on campus with a pint and an innovative pizza.
McMenamins North Bank
22 Club Road, 541-343-5622, mcmenamins.com/northbank, 11 a.m. to midnight (opens 10 a.m. home game days)
You’ll be able to hear Autzen while sitting by the Willamette River. Just a hair over a mile from the stadium, McMenamins North Bank has a spacious restaurant and cozy bar. Weather permitting, don’t miss the riverside deck, and TVs inside will make sure you won’t miss the game.
444 E. Third Ave., 541-653-8509, ryeon3rd.com, 5–10 p.m. (bar opens 4 p.m.)
If you want something a bit more refined for your game day pleasure, or an evening spot, Rye offers French-style cuisine, craft cocktails and a selection of Oregon beers in a rustic-chic setting.
Steelhead Brewing Company
199 E. Fifth Ave. #1, 541-686-2739, steelheadbrewery.com, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Located in Eugene’s Fifth Street Market area, Steelhead has been serving tasty pub fare and pouring beers (racking up 24 medals) for 25 years. Head here before the game or hole up in a comfy chair and watch the action unfold.
Sidelines Grill & Sports Bar
77 W. Broadway, 541-654-4690, sidelineseugene.com, 11 a.m. to midnight
Keep it simple: food, drink, sports. In the heart of downtown Eugene, Sidelines focuses on the fundamentals with pub fare and beer and 10 HD TVs ensure you don’t miss a moment.
SweetWaters on the River
1000 Valley River Way, 541-341-3462, valleyriverinn.com, 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Coming from out of town or just want a scenic riverside spot to enjoy a pregame meal and a nice beverage? Head to Valley River Inn and its SweetWaters restaurant (there’s also a lounge and bakery). One fan’s tip for early game days: head to SweetWaters for brunch (and a Bloody Mary), then walk it off on the riverside path to Autzen. Another plus? If you need to stock up on UO gear, The Duck Store is across the parking lot in Valley River Center shopping mall. You can also park there and take a shuttle to the stadium.
Tailgating Outside Autzen
Four hours before kickoff, Autzen Stadium’s parking lot opens — and is promptly taken over by thousands of tailgaters, many with RVs and tents that are ready to hold the party. Some people come just for the tailgating and aren’t even going to Autzen for the game. It’s easy to see why.
“Being outside of Autzen is a different experience on game day,” says John Procopio, a longtime Eugene resident and Duck fan. “The lead up to the game is like getting ready for a vacation or the night before Christmas. All this excitement and anticipation builds. It’s one of the best parties and people watching to celebrate not only Duck football, but being in Oregon.”
Procopio is one of many fans who come to the tailgating area with their own six-packs, growlers, bombers and plenty of cups — after all, game day is about the community and what says community more than sharing good beer with friends? “I want my ‘A’ beer — something special, something nice, like you’d want for your birthday,” says Procopio.
To get the best experience, bring something to share and just start talking with people. Offer a frosty beverage, strike up a conversation and you’ll be part of the tailgating team in no time.
Want your tailgating a bit more laid-back? In nearby Essig Field, a free, family-friendly outdoor area holds a food court, complete with a tent dining area, a beer garden highlighting local beers and televised game coverage. Some fans stay here the whole time.
In the Moshofsky Center
Once inside Autzen, you can’t have beer at your seats. No matter. That’s what the Moshofsky Center is for. The 117,000-square-foot Moshofsky, or “Mo” for short, opened in 1998 as a covered practice area for the Ducks. Today, UO uses the Mo as a massive area for food, drink and other entertainment. From sit-down meals to live music, beer taps for grownups and bouncy castles for kids, the Mo accommodates thousands of fans on game day. Your ticket to the game is also your ticket for the Mo, and fans can go back and forth throughout the game. You won’t miss the action either — there are TV monitors and even a scoreboard synced to Autzen’s scoring system.
The Mo opens three hours before kickoff and 90 minutes before the stadium itself is open to fans. Head there early to scope out a spot at one of hundreds of tables. You’ll find the beer garden in the back, with a range of craft and standard beers.
Whether around town, tailgating or in Autzen, for Procopio “it’s all about the sharing, the social experience and in our state we have such amazing access to get good beer. Game day is the perfect day to celebrate Oregon and Oregon beer.”
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Usually when a craft beer place draws in the public, they are attracting people who come primarily for the beer. But with Beergarden, the 1-year-old Eugene taphouse (and home to four food carts) gets just as many people who come first for their favorite grub — and then discover a pint of something special to go with it. Customers may start out more interested in the food than in the beer, but with 42 (soon to be 47) taps of craft beer, wine, cider, mead and more, they soon realize Beergarden is a unique blend of indoors and outdoors, craft beverages, and artisan food.
Founded in 2015 by Tap & Growler co-owners Colby Phillips and Patric Campbell, Beergarden is located in a renovated former service station at a nexus of major roads and neighborhoods. Decor was salvaged from a to-be-demolished local Marie Callender’s restaurant — look above the bar and you’ll find the old salad bar shield. Beergarden combines metal and wood in both a comfy indoor space and an airy, yet covered, outdoor space that’s filled with plants thanks to the garden center next door. Lunch and dinner crowds come for a variety of reasons, including live music, a food truck meal and the enclosed space where kids can play.
“It’s a beer garden with a true garden feel,” says Phillips. “People really seem to like it.” Local people’s choice awards would agree. During its first year, Beergarden garnered a number of honors: “Best Beers on Tap,” “Best New Restaurant” and “Best New Business.”
At the heart of Beergarden, of course, is the “beer” in the name. At the heart of the beer is beer steward Holly Emery-Walen, who has been with Beergarden since the beginning. The University of Oregon graduate has a resume that includes positions at a number of well-respected beer establishments, such as The Bier Stein, Hop Valley’s Tasting Room and Belmont Station. Managing the Portland beer cafe connected Emery-Walen with brewers, brewery owners and other figures in the industry. Around 2013, though, she was ready to return to Eugene, where she met Colby Phillips, who was conceptualizing the place that would become Beergarden.
“He approached me about something he and Patric were putting together,” explains Emery-Walen. “I wanted something full-time where I could have creative control with the tap list and bottle list. I get that autonomy.”
Now Emery-Walen is the general of the business’s taps and bottle selection. “I love drinking beer,” she says, “and I like to explore.” But developing the right beer selection wasn’t just a matter of pulling in every esoteric beer she could get her hands on. The onsite food carts pulled in lots of foodies and food cart fans. “They aren’t necessarily beer geeks or in the craft beer scene, which is different from a lot of beer places,” says Emery-Walen. “We’re at this confluence of North Eugene, South Eugene, Whiteaker. We’re near two highways, and that brings a big mix of demographics. People weren’t necessarily coming just for craft beer.”
With constantly rotating taps, however, Emery-Walen hit upon a simple solution for people whose taste in beer might be more on the stick-with-what-you-know end of the spectrum. She decided to keep Hop Valley’s Light Me Up Lager on Beergarden’s sole permanent tap, “for people who want something familiar in a place where all the beer is unfamiliar.”
That simple change puts people at ease, though, and more and more customers come in who “enjoy exploring.” That adventurous spirit, Emery-Walen observes, is a natural extension of food cart fans and foodies. “They’re already familiar with their palate, what they like. Usually foodies are pretty exploratory. You can have different tastes in food or beer, but still be able to find beer and food that suits whoever is coming with you.”
When curating Beergarden’s selection, Emery-Walen focuses on quality and freshness. As Beergarden celebrates entering its second year, she continues building relationships, expanding access to limited-release beers and keeping Beergarden’s selection a mix of the unique, the everyday, and overall, the well-crafted.
“I try to keep a diverse range of styles, and beers within styles. Diversity was our foundation at Belmont Station, and I brought that here too,” says Emery-Walen. “If you taste something and think it’s awesome, you want to share that with the world.”
(a) 777 W. Sixth Ave., Eugene
Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to Midnight
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.