Oakshire Brewing in Eugene is a shining example of a family-owned enterprise that based on creativity, good management and community involvement has thrived since its founding in 2006 by CEO, Jeff Althouse, who attended Oregon State before graduating from the U of O and is a former high school math teacher.
Thebeerchaser has not been to the Brewery or it’s Eugene Public House to this point, but the opening of its new Beer Hall in Northeast Portland offered a chance to have a Beerchasing gathering and gain my own impressions of this Oregon craft brewery’s excursion to Portland.
The Beer Hall opened in July in Northeast Portland (NE 42nd Ave. on the border of the Cully/Concordia neighborhoods) and now occupies an expansive space in what used to be the popular restaurant Old Salt Marketplace.
The question below was asked and answered in a July 23rd post on Portland-based New School Beer.com – an excellent website dedicated to craft beer and news and commentary about Northwest beer and cider:
“Why open an Oakshire Beer Hall in Portland when its beer is readily available in cans and bottles? Consumers demand variety and like to go straight to the source; this way Oakshire can showcase a much more diverse selection with its signature brand.
Oakshire Brewing is known for its Overcast Espresso Stout, Watershed IPA, Amber Ale and somewhat for its fruited Gose can series. Anyone who has been to the pub in Eugene knows that they offer much more than can be found elsewhere; from crisp lagers to milkshake IPAs, classic pub styles, and their highly underrated barrel-aged mixed culture ales; all are available at the new Portland beer hall.”
This post will focus just on the Beer Hall itself rather than be a descrition of the Brewery and pub in Eugene and it’s many beers.
I was also interested in covering this new establishment because my good friend and former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Dr. Sam Holloway, a professor at the University of Portland joined us that day.
He is also a consultant on the craft brewing industry and serves on the Oakshire Board of Directors. The story of how he and Jeff Althouse met and Sam got on the Board is interesting and can be gleaned at the second link below:
Sam is also President of Crafting a Strategy – a global consulting firm and resource for micro-brewers. See Sam’s interesting background by clicking on the link below: https://thebeerchaser.com/2015/08/25/sam-holloway-educator-craftsman-and-beerchaser-of-the-quarter/
The picture below shows Sam with Brother Thomas Buttrick, OSB and former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Fr. Martin Grassel – both monks from the Mount Angel Abbey near Salem. Fr. Martin is also the General Manager and Head Brewer of the Benedictine Brewery.
Fr. Martin is a devoted follower of the Crafting a Strategy resources in business planning for the Mt. Angel Brewery – one of three in the country owned and operated by Benedictine monks.
While the Beer Hall exceeded expections, like every Beerchasing escapade, the companionship was the highpoint, but I will address that below. However, it needs to be stated up front that this was the first time ever that six Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter congregated in the same room.
It would have been seven but for attorney, Jim Westwood’s prior commitment as the Constitution Team Coach for De La Salle North Catholic High School at the same time. (And if there is ever a time when knowledge of Constitutional principles is important……..)
You can see most of these in the photos below and Thebeerchaser is kicking himself for not getting a group photo of this august group. (I guess it will have to wait until they are all in the ethereal realm with mugs of I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost – a sour Berliner Weise – listening to Jack Faust recite from Goethe.)
Art Vandelay – https://thebeerchaser.com/2014/01/31/beerchaser-of-the-month-art-vandelay/ (He sometimes adopts the moniker Carson Bowler)
Now let’s take a look at why this place is recommended by Thebeerchaser:
The Beer: I was amazed that the number of taps at this outpost was rivaled the number of “Breaking News” captions on a Cable New Broadcast in an hour.
The Beer Hall has twenty-two of its own beers on tap with ten more offering draft white and red wine, guest hard cider and kombucha. The taps are displayed behind the attractive dark wood bar and also on an electronic display to the side.
I stuck to the “core” offerings rather than the “vintage” or “pilot” options – these three comprise Oakshire’s distinct small-batch brewing programs. Their brews are also available in cans and bottles distributed throughout Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Colorado.
For example, Jim Finn, a retired litigator Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt who was there with his wife, Alanna, reveled in the name and description of the pilot program’s new Dinosaurs Will Die Brachiosaurus.
He did so with the same enthusiasm he showed when he approached the jury for his final argument in trial – “hazy and brewed with galaxy, mosaic, motueka and citra hops” – this is the description of the beer, not Jim’s oratory.
Similary, Fr. Martin was curious about both the contents and the theological implications, if any, of the Hellshire IX – “Imperial Stout aged in freshly dumped Kentucky Bourbon Barrels.”
(I also assume he will be interested in comparing Oakshire’s Smokin’ Hell Helles Lager brewed with smoked Oregon Spruce Tips to his own Helles Lager – he brews it at the Benedictine Brewery to rave reviews.
He discussed homebrewing with another retired Schwabe lawyer – Jack Faust – who in addition to being one of Oregon’s premier appellate lawyers, is still a homebrewer notwithstanding the results when he tried to brew his infamous “Rasberry Red Ale.”
(Faust may also have been asking about the possibility of indulgences for that experiment in his basement years ago although he maintains that his current batch of Dark IPA is one to die for….)
The staff stopped us at one point to announce in advance introduction of the new Oakshire’s new Novemberfest Lager – their second lager and one with an orange hue. Evidently, they announce a new release at the Beer Hall every Tuesday at 6:00 PM.
The Space and Ambiance – We had about thirty people there, all of which fit comfortably in the half of the establishment’s space dedicated to the bar. Besides seating at the bar, there were two nice long tables and several booths.
There are plans in the future to put in an a large room for events and a beer garden where there is now an adjacent parking lot. (They currently are having a Trivia NIght every Monday evening.) Several small tables on the sidewalk in front offer additional seating. Ample street parking is another benefit.
One factor which added to the experience on both of my visits was the personable staff – friendly, but also very knowledgeable about all the beer offerings and very accommodating in offering samples to determine one’s preference for a pint. Brian, Jake and Hannah were great ambassadors for their company.
The Food – Only a few in our group took the time to eat during the event. While there is discussion about multiple food carts at the site in the future, a very interesting and attractive option is offered inside the Beerhall currently.
As stated in a recent review in the Portland Mercury:
“:….BIBA! CHamoru Kitchen, operated by Ed Sablan….BIBA’s menu showcases the cuisine of Guam with an emphasis on grilled meats and bright spice…….
The kelaguen is unique and habit-forming although for something more traditional you can go for the fiesta plates, with barbecued chicken, pork spareribs or veggies. They’ve got an array of of starters and snacks too; the shrimp fritters were a perfect blend of airy puff, crispy batter and shrimpy succulence.”
Since it is new, there are few reviews on social media, but almost are all positive and this one was typical (9/14/19 Yelp):
“Great addition to the neighborhood! Nice place, nice people, very prompt and helpful service. The food was all stellar, I’m super excited to go back and try the rest. All very fresh and delicious.
*1 It should be noted that in the picture above, Amy Faust and Fr. Martin are having an animated discussion about cats since both are feline fanciers.
Amy’s Facebook posts are filled with references and she even embarked on a self-admitted foolish business scheme to sell cat-related merchandise “made for my talking cat, Ted, for the recent Cat Festival in Portland.” (If you are interested, check out this Instagram post. This cat also is involved in an Internet romance – but that’s another story….)
Fr. Martin adopted a stray cat forteen years ago in the hills above the Seminary and Monastery and “Cecelia” now follows him around the Abbey Hilltop and sits on his desk each day.
“There are a lot of feral cats in Rome and I took comfort feeding some of them. I was the only one they would approach. Feral or abandoned cats roam our grounds, too, one of which was Cecelia. I started feeding her and she adopted me.”
Especially vocal in their praise were the present and former members of the Schwabe Natural Resources Group who have been loyal Beerchasers from the beginning. Many of the lawyers in this group attended that day (Brian Flanagan – Group Leader, Patty Dost, Jay Waldron, Cheryl Rath, Carson Bowler and even Tim Sullivan who is now practicing in a law firm in Baltimore.)
They were drinking and particularly interested in the Watershed IPA – not because it might pose some issues that would generate billable hours.
The description of this beer simply reflects their collective personality and approach to Super Fund sites: “strikes a balance between bitter and sweet, finishing crisp and clean.”
Note: One of those sites may be Jack Faust’s basement where he disposed the remains of the batch of Raspberry Red down his drain.
That reference also allows me to finish with another kudo to Oakshire for supporting the environment. They have partnered with the McKenzie River Trust:
“One percent of Watershed IPA sales revenue is set aside for the protection of local watersheds in the territories where the beer is sold, helping to preserve the clean water that is so vital to our community and our beer.”
Oh yes. I forgot – it’s a family-type place and kids are welcome until 11:00 PM. One of the stars that day was my youngest granddaughter, Rylee Dawn Keene. This ten-month bundle of joy is shown here with her other grandfather, Ron Keene.
To sum it up, the Oakshire Beer Hall deserves its recent designation in Willamette Week as one of the five best places in Portland to get a drink. (The week of September 11th)
Whether its the beer, the nice space, a chance to sample good food from Guam or you just want to support an Oregon company with great values, you will not be disappointed. The feedback I got from the group attending was universally positive.