If you've experienced Oakshire Brewing only through its cans of Core beers, then you're barely acquainted with the Eugene brewery.
While the easy-drinking Watershed IPA, silky Overcast oatmeal espresso stout and the one-beer-fits-all Amber are all perfectly good, they're not nearly as interesting as the beverages crafted for Oakshire's Pilot and Vintage programs. It used to be that you had to drive more than 100 miles to the taproom in Eugene's Whiteaker neighborhood to sample the full breadth of director of brewing operations Dan Russo's imagination. But with the opening of its first Portland outpost, it's now a whole lot easier to really get to know what Oakshire is all about.
Housed in the former Old Salt space, the 32 taps at Oakshire Beer Hall—with a whopping 22 of them pouring beer made in Eugene—provide the Cully neighborhood with a much-needed hub for quality kegs. While it doesn't seat hundreds like many of the famed Bavarian drinking caves its named after, the exposed-wooden-beam chamber is practically vibrating with tipsy energy. It's also the kind of bar where people pay attention to what is in the glass next to them—or even across the room—to help inform their next round. One man started to breeze by my table only to stop in his tracks to admire my taster tray.
"That's the way to go!" he cheered. Then he ordered his own.
The brewery version of the variety pack is indeed the best approach. Not only will you find traditional styles, like the Kölsch made with all-German malt, but also eye-widening experiments that almost sound too fun to be beer. That includes a Mounds-inspired imperial stout that tastes every bit like a candy bar melting on the tongue. Steminist, a red rye saison featuring lemongrass, tea and honey, reads like an alcoholic cold remedy. The resinous Reclaim the Fame IPA is a seasonal brew on the Core roster that will flood your palate with deep pine flavors—try it next to an orange juice-heavy hazy like Dinosaurs Will Die to truly appreciate the evolution of this style.
Like Oakshire's flagship, the role of feeding customers is left to other purveyors. Ed Sablan, who served cuisine from his native Guam out of his PDX671 cart, has moved his kitchen to a more permanent location inside the hall. Having rechristened his business Biba Chamoru Kitchen, Sablan now fries many of the dishes on the original menu, including golf ball-sized shrimp fritters and taro root formed into chips. Just about everything listed is the perfect drinking snack—salty, crispy and crunchy.
Oakshire certainly isn't the first brewery to boldly venture into Portland, vying for hearts and taste buds. But with its ambitious volume and variety all executed to high standards, the new arrival from Eugene may end up securing a spot as one of the local beer scene's favorites.
DRINK: Oakshire Beer Hall, 5013 NE 42nd Ave., 971-323-1414, oakbrew.com. 11 am-11 pm daily.