By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
Nobody knows for sure just how many people will flood into Lincoln City for the upcoming eclipse. Estimates range from 50,000-100,000, and that’s a lot of extra bodies for a town with a population of less than 9,000. Expectations about the impact of this onslaught also vary from “hunker-down-for-the-weekend-to-avoid-the-crush-of-tourists” to “build-a-backyard-bunker-and-stock-up-on-canned-food-like-Y2K-is-coming.” Whatever may happen on Monday, Aug. 21 when this coastal destination is the first to experience the darkness cast by the moon’s shadow, the city’s only brewery is prepared to keep its beer flowing.
Despite the months of preparation for this once-in-a-lifetime experience, Rusty Truck’s head brewer probably won’t be around to witness it. Like many residents on the central Coast, Jon Anderson plans to get out of Dodge before Highway 101 is choked with more angry drivers than a mall parking lot on Christmas Eve. But his commemorative eclipse beer will be available for anyone who can make it to the brewery on the southern end of town. While you might expect to find a Cascadian dark ale on tap to mark the two-minutes (or less, depending on location) of dimmed sky that will cross a 60-mile wide swath of the state, Anderson wanted to create something unique. Moon Shadow is a schwarzbier developed on Rusty Truck’s pilot system — a nod to both Anderson’s time spent in Germany as well as the blackness that will shroud the sky that Monday morning. The inky lager is also infused with a slice of sun in the form of blood orange puree. You should be able to order the beer earlier in the month as part of Rusty Truck’s lineup of pre-eclipse festivities.
City and state officials have warned that towns in the path of totality may be so overwhelmed with visitors, grocery store shelves will be emptied — a scenario that almost immediately evokes the image of Thunderdome-style battles over the last six-pack. But Anderson said Rusty Truck is organizing itself to become a one-stop-shop for people to get food and beer as efficiently as possible.
“They’re going to have stations set up. It’ll be a place where people can come and get stuff to go because everything is going to be pretty much on the beach because there will be so many people here,” he described.
Bag lunches and crowler fills are one way the business will work to keep lines moving. Live music in the parking lot should help entertain the idle.
The boom-and-bust of tourist season — eclipse or no — is nothing new to any brewery on the Oregon Coast, including Rusty Truck. That’s what prompted its recent expansion, both in distribution and space. Behind the restaurant originally known as Roadhouse 101 sits most of the pieces for a brand-new 20-barrel system. Next to that are the bones of what will become a tasting room with windows offering a glimpse behind the scenes and into the brewery. During a visit in mid-June, bare panels of wood awaited their layer of drywall, exposing a network of wiring like nerve fibers without skin. By the end of the summer, construction should be complete, the clutter of jockey boxes and kegerators removed in order to make way for 35 taps in a rustic space defined by copper and wood.
“It will romance you out there,” Anderson said of the tasting room, which is going to offer an intimate, beer-centric distinction from the separate bar and restaurant bedecked with hubcaps, neon and license plates. The addition underscores that Rusty Truck is a brewery that’s finally getting top billing. “This was the Roadhouse before us, so we don’t really have our own identity in a place like that,” Anderson explained.
But now the sign towering above passing cars out front proudly announces the home of “Rusty Truck Brewery” instead of Roadhouse. What looks like an open-air attic above the bar will display barrels of aging beer (rather than the brewery, which was the original plan years ago, and one Anderson is undoubtedly grateful was scrapped for a separate outbuilding). Joining the tasting room will be a Portland-area facility where Anderson can make one-offs every few weeks once the owner secures a location and hauls the old 10-barrel system out of the Lincoln City production site. Not only will that help shore up sales when coastal tourism drops off in winter; the move also gives the Rusty Truck brand more exposure. Anderson wants more people to know that the brewery has grown in scope and capability since he took over three years ago. But it was a bit of a blow to learn his perception of the business didn’t always match the public’s during a recent discussion with an industry friend.
“And he’s like, ‘Honestly man, the image you give off is that you’re not really about the beer.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, that’s horrible, because that’s what I’m about and that’s what I want us to be seen as,’” Anderson recounted. “But because this restaurant has so many things going on, I think that the locals see us as not necessarily being about the beer. We really want the tasting room out there to show them that’s what we’re about.”
It’s a unique role breweries along the Coast fulfill that may, at times, hinder their reputation in the beer community. Rusty Truck has to balance the needs of not just knowledgeable craft drinkers, but also those of tourists and locals. Sand-covered families are just as likely to stop in for a meal after an afternoon at the beach as a local who comes later in the evening to socialize, smoke on the patio and plug the video lottery machines in the bar. Neither of those customers may be particularly interested in hop varieties or the process of aging sours.
“I don’t know if all breweries have to look at themselves as being the place in town at night time where people have to come. But here we kind of do because there’s no other places in town,” Anderson said. “The coast is a hard place to live, and a hard place to work and definitely a hard place to sell beer.”
But it’ll likely get a lot easier — at least that last part — now that Rusty Truck has signed with Point Blank Distributing. After schlepping kegs to accounts on its own for six years, the brewery is ready to go statewide with sales, which prompted the purchase of the larger system. Together with the tasting room and second metro location, Anderson hopes to increase the visibility of all breweries on the central Coast that sit between the well-known Rogue and Pelican.
“You know, we’re actually putting down some really top-notch beer. And I think that people from the valley don’t necessarily come here thinking that,” Anderson said. “And so I think that’s going to change here coming up.”
The one thing that won’t change, though, is the brewery’s namesake that’s taken up residence alongside Highway 101. The faded brick red cab with a flatbed is basically the brewery’s mascot, but its fate was in question after the city tried to force the owner to get rid of it.
“And he’s just like, ‘I don’t want to move it. We have our label on it now,” Anderson said.
But the city persisted, so while the owner was cleaning up the parking lot, he discovered the beat-up Chevy that had been sitting on a patch of dirt was exactly where it belonged.
“It was a legitimate space that [the city] said was real, so now it can stay out there,” Anderson said. “It’s a real parking spot, so they can’t make him move it now.”
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The totality of August’s full solar eclipse is just going to miss the craft beer mecca of Bend.
But if you want to watch the rare event take place for yourself and then enjoy a tasty Oregon brew, it’s just a short jaunt to the north to Madras, Redmond or Sisters, which all lie in the totality’s path Monday, Aug. 21.
The biggest planned event in Central Oregon is the Oregon Solarfest in Madras. The small High Desert town is almost directly in the center of the eclipse’s route, giving viewers the longest possible glimpse.
The meat of the event is camping, live music and a surrounding festival with activities galore. Four Bend breweries are sponsors: Crux Fermentation Project, Deschutes Brewery, Silver Moon Brewing and Worthy Brewing Company. A beer garden is planned, but the lineup of brews you can try is not yet available. However, Wild Ride is working with Cascade Lakes and Silver Moon on a collaboration for the festival, appropriately named “Wild Cascade Moon.” For more info and tickets: oregonsolarfest.com.
Since the full eclipse will fall somewhere between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. in Central Oregon, most breweries and pubs won’t yet be open. But you can watch the sky show and talk it over during lunch with a beer right after — provided you can get anywhere in traffic.
There are no breweries in Madras regularly open to the public; for that, you’d have to travel south to Redmond. That’s the home of Wild Ride Brewing, Smith Rock Brewing Company and Cascade Lakes Brewing Company (served at 7th Street Brew House.)
The weekend before the eclipse is the first-ever Redmond Brewfest. The event at American Legion Park touts 300 different beers from more than 75 breweries. It takes place Friday and Saturday, Aug. 18-19. Live music, including Larry and His Flask, is featured.
If you want a prime view of the eclipse, Madras is the spot to be. The sky will go dark there for about two minutes. In Redmond, the event will last less than 40 seconds.
Be warned if you head to the area though: A lot of other people have the same plan. According to The Bulletin, the number of people in the region is expected to be double the norm. Law enforcement is preparing to deal with the surge, but area roads — particularly Highway 97 — may have a difficult time accommodating all the traffic.
If you’re just into the beer and not as much the eclipse, the safer bet is the annual Bend Brewfest, which takes place a week and a half earlier, Thursday Aug. 10 through Saturday, Aug. 12. Organizers moved it up a week from its usual dates because of the eclipse.
Want to get a view of the eclipse while also enjoying a craft beer in another part of Oregon? You’re in luck.
· BREWVANA is hosting tour that begins at the Oregon State Fairgrounds for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s Solar Eclipse Viewing Party. Then it’s off to Vagabond Brewing for lunch followed by a tour of Crosby Hop Farm.
· Albany, Salem and Corvallis in Willamette Valley are in the path of the eclipse and have several breweries.
· The chance of clouds is higher on the Oregon Coast, but there are breweries in the path of the totality in Depoe Bay, Lincoln City, Newport and Pacific City.
· Baker City and Ontario also boast breweries that will be the last in Oregon to experience the eclipse before the event continues east into Idaho.
· Be sure to call ahead to make sure the brewery you want to visit is open.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.