During the kickoff to the last full weekend in July, two men lifted their glasses to the Oregon Brewers Festival, which has held that spot on beer lovers' summer calendars for nearly 30 years.
The salute did not take place at the event itself—it was called off in early May. Instead, the toast happened 30 miles south of Portland, in the middle of a tranquil farm, an environment far removed from the tangle of sweaty drinkers that usually takes over Waterfront Park this time of year.
Clearly, the opening of Crosby Hop Farm's TopWire Hop Project is well-timed. At a moment when crowds are a health hazard, the safest way to experience that communal prost rush is on a carefully spaced-out beer lawn tucked within a 600-acre estate in Woodburn.
TopWire—a reference to the trellis structure hop bines use for their clockwise climb skyward—also offers drinkers the chance to immerse themselves in a part of the brewing industry they rarely get to experience in person. Most hop farms don't offer public pop-ins, even in Oregon, the third-largest hop-producing state.
At Crosby, those bushy, 18-feet-tall emerald walls make it feel like you're slipping into the state's most secretive beer garden. The fifth-generation farm has parted the bines to create "Lupulin Lane," a half-mile gravel road leading to the tasting area. Wander the path and, seemingly out of nowhere, you'll hit a patch of land that's been stripped of its hops and is now dotted with umbrella-topped spools and a 40-footlong shipping container repurposed as a serving station.
TopWire's 10 rotating taps exclusively feature batches made with Crosby's hops. On opening weekend, that included pFriem's Jammy Pale Ale and a smooth double IPA called When Is the Future by Dallas' Celestial Beerworks. The selection is evocative of the brewfest experience: There's likely to be something you've had before and want to order again as well as something you've never tried but would very much like to.
Once served, take your drink to the yard to admire the view. Take it in while you can: In just a few weeks, this landscape will look vastly different. By late August, when the green veil enveloping the garden is harvested, the farm won't be nearly as photogenic.
TopWire's appeal will last beyond that point: No matter the season, it beats drinking in a parking lot. Still, it's best not to wait. Get there while the bines are high.
Number of tables: 28, plus two bar tops under the awning.
Space between tables: Approximately 8 feet.
Additional safety measures: Flippable placards on tables reading "Dirty" and "Clean"; masks required when not seated; sanitizer stations.
Peak hours: 3-6 pm.
GO: TopWire Hop Project at Crosby Hop Farm, 8668 Crosby Road NE, Woodburn, 503-982-5166, topwirehop.com. 11 am-8 pm Thursday and Sunday, 11 am-9 pm Friday-Saturday.