Falling Sky Brewing House
For the past seven years, Falling Sky has quietly been building an empire. Though conquering Eugene was never the original plan, co-founders Jason Carriere, the brewing brains behind the operation, and Rob Cohen, who previously ran successful restaurants in New York, have opened three locations within the first four years of business, which is more than what most breweries accomplish in their entire lifetime. Moreover, since each spot specializes in different types of food—from pizza on the University of Oregon campus to East Coast-style deli meats, including a pastrami sandwich to die for, in the Whiteaker neighborhood—you'll never have the exact same, chainlike experience at any two of the properties. All are worth a visit, but pay your respects to the place where it started: the brewpub. Puffy, cumulus cloud pendant lights float over long, communal picnic tables—a family-friendly environment sure to please parents with kids in tow—while beer nerds should appreciate the wall of glass panes looking into the brewhouse and its copper German fermenters the partners found in Japan. Any of the styles that come by way of Deutschland, then, are appropriate choices, like the classic Wolkig Hefeweissen with all the banana and clove you'd expect in that cloudy drink, or the 3rd Rauch From the Sun, made with malt dried over a beechwood log fire, which fills your mouth with a cozy smoke flavor as if you were there for the burn. The brewery also gives you the perfect excuse to grab a beer on those days when the sky actually is falling—get 25 cents off a pint whenever it rains. ANDI PREWITT.
Eat this: When at the brewpub, order the Signature Back Alley Burger ($13.50), which has been on the menu since the month after Falling Sky opened its doors.
Claim 52 Kitchen
Named after the donation land claim settled by William Luckey in what is now south Eugene, Claim 52 initially wasn't as pioneering as he was—a man who made the grueling cross-country journey along the Oregon Trail. Then it started brewing hazys. Focus shifted from traditional English-rooted beers to a more spirited, experimental lineup that included the trendy New England-style IPA in 2016 with the introduction of head brewer Bryce Fisher. That same year, the brewery installed a 10-barrel system that nearly doubled production, which meant more people could easily get their hands on buzzy, canned batches of creamy milkshake IPAs. And while you don't need to travel to Eugene for Claim 52 beers, there's now good reason to make the trip. Last spring, it opened this Willamette Street location, with 24 handles—16 for beer—compared to the six at its Tyinn Street site, providing more room to show off innovative brews in the heart of downtown. Take a seat at the granite-and-stainless-steel bar opposite the tap menu displayed on a retro light box that harks back to an old-fashioned theater marquee, with beer names as bold as Hollywood stars, then order the hazy that can school all posers. As bright as liquid sunshine and easier to slurp down than an Orange Julius (no brain freeze), Fluffy's juicy citrus surges across the tongue before finishing in a slightly bitter jolt. Need more fruit? Skrrrt, a puree gose, smells of freshly cut pineapple and tastes like a SweeTart dissolved in the brightest can of Dole. While not every innovation is a winner (I'm looking at you, Double Vanilla Snail Down), sometimes that's the byproduct of adventurous exploration that would've made homesteader Luckey proud. ANDI PREWITT.
Eat this: Soft chickpea fritters ($6) are basically the perfect snack served in a Jenga-style tower with two vibrant sauces: an herbaceous salsa verde and a kicky citra garlic aioli. If you need something more substantial, the three chicken skewers ($8), brined in IPA and slathered with a gremolata that's an equal mix of earth and mint, arrive resting on a bed of vinegary slaw.
263 Mill St., Eugene, 541-636-3889. 4-9 pm Monday-Thursday, noon-
10 pm Friday-Sunday.
ColdFire owners Dan and Stephen Hughes have turned this space, situated close to downtown and the Willamette River path, into a pretty welcoming spot, even carving out territory for a kids' play area near the shiny fermenting tanks. Their beer quickly earned acclaim around town when the brewery opened in 2016 and kept getting better. The St. James IRA earned a silver medal at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival, and is a strong but balanced American beer. Brewer Stephen loves his classic styles—the delicious Czech Pilsner just came out in cans—but he's also won fans with a hefty haul of highly aromatic hazy IPAs. Add to that the coffee-infused Minute After Midnight imperial stout and a handful of subtle, sexy, barrel-aged beer releases and you have something for everyone. Get a flight, a pint, or fill up a locally made Wildwood Tower to share with friends at the table. AARON BRUSSAT.
Alesong Brewing & Blending
Alesong may take the prize for most awards per barrels brewed. The 3-year-old brewery spent its first few months building up its supply of barrel-aged beer and getting the word out, and then it won a medal at the Great American Beer Festival. And another…and another. Visiting Alesong means heading out into the pastoral wine country south of Eugene, though you'll be rewarded with an airy tasting room and ample patio, both of which are perfect gathering spaces for groups of families. All of Alesong's beer is barrel-aged. This results in a product that, while it never strays too far from tasting like beer, can be appreciated by wine and spirits drinkers as well. The fantastic French 75, inspired by the eponymous cocktail, was aged in Oregon-distilled Old Tom Gin barrels. The award-winning Terroir: Pinot Gris has the characteristic fruity notes and acidity of the wine grapes that go into barrels along with the beer. The deep, dark Rhino Suit spends months in whiskey barrels, and has become something of a cult classic. AARON BRUSSAT.
The Wheel Apizza Pub
One of the state's best breweries to open in 2018 bills itself first as a pizza parlor. In fact, there's not even a nod to beer at all in in its name. But maybe the trio behind the Wheel Apizza Pub feel they don't need to brag about the already diverse, ambitious lineup of lagers and ales coming out of the shiny tanks tucked behind the kitchen, but not completely out of sight from a seat at the bar. That could be the recipe for success: Curious customers check out the new joint baking Connecticut-style pies, then happily stumble across the tap list and become regulars. While I didn't plan on working through all 11 beers available on my visit, it was hard to stop. Each taster glass set in front of me was impressive, starting with a light, bready Pilsner and ending on a winter seasonal that could go up against Deschutes' Jubelale anytime given its robust warming notes of fig, caramel and spice. The brew was practically its own Christmas carol. So how is the Wheel this good this early on? The team is made up of industry vets: Claim 52 founder Trevor Ross, former Agrarian Ales head brewer Tobias Schock, and Eugene restaurateur Steve Mertz. If you can't hit all of their taps like I did (many of which are directly connected to the brite tanks in the back), don't miss the Vanora Amber Lager, which allows the Mecca Grade malt to sing, or Purple Haze IPA—a raspberry Clearly Canadian reincarnated as beer. ANDI PREWITT.
Eat this: The Wheel's daily lunch deal has to be one of the best in Eugene. For $7.50, you get one sizable slice of naturally leavened sourdough-crust pizza and a side salad tossed in Italian vinaigrette.
Oakshire Brewing Public House
While best known for its core brews, like the crowd-pleasing Amber or the bold Hellshire series released annually in conjunction with the popular barrel-aged festival of the same name, 12-year-old Oakshire has a lot more to offer. In 2018 alone, the brewing team cranked out 38 new beers under their Pilot and Vintage programs, many of which could only be sampled at this Whiteaker Public House. A little gritty, just like the neighborhood, the taproom looks like an old warehouse that co-founder and CEO Jeff Althouse decided to break into and install 20 taps as a rogue route to get Oakshire beer to the public. There are concrete floors, a plastic-lined ceiling, and an industrial fan nearly as big as a helicopter propeller chopping air in the center of the room. The area draws a diverse and colorful crowd—everything from stroller-pushing parents desperately in need of a night out, to workers from a nearby factory ending their shift with a pint and debating whether the downfall of humanity began with the washing machine. If you happen to be sitting next to the latter, a fresh, grassy and mildly sour Sun Made Cucumber Berliner Weisse is a fine distraction. Later this year, Oakshire kegs will be headed to you when the brewery's first Portland outpost opens in the space formerly occupied by Old Salt Marketplace. ANDI PREWITT.
Eat this: Five rotating food carts set up shop around Oakshire's perimeter, but the aroma of baking pies coming from a repurposed shipping container will have you making a beeline for Oregon Wood Fired Pizza (541-954-6484).
272 Van Buren St., Eugene, 541-344-2739. Noon-9 pm Sunday-Wednesday, noon-10 pm Thursday-Saturday.
Ninkasi Brewing moved into Eugene's Whiteaker neighborhood in 2007 and helped change it forever. People actually started showing up in this part of town, and eventually more businesses opened up on neighboring blocks. The tasting room also has a huge patio with tents, a fire pit and a food cart. In-depth brewery tours can be arranged in advance if you're interested in gazing up at the biggest tanks in town along with a laboratory for testing beer. Most Oregonians will be familiar with the brewery's flavorful flagships Total Domination, Dawn of the Red and Vanilla Oatis. The standards will remain, but a new 5-barrel pilot system in the company's Admin Building (which will add a restaurant and tasting room later in 2019) is now up and running to help to test new recipes and turn out unique and creative ideas from its brewing team. AARON BRUSSAT.
Eat this: Practically across the street, Izakaya Meiji (345 Van Buren St., 541-505-8804, izakayameiji.com) is a microcosm of Eugene hipness. With a classic Japanese bar menu—get the goma-ae ($5)—and enough whiskey to do the thing whiskey does, it is a Whiteaker neighborhood fixture and a super-fun way to spend a night.
Plank Town Brewing
It has been said Plank Town Brewing was the catalyst for the revival of downtown Springfield. The brewpub's popularity has not waned in its six years, as locals pack the wood-clad restaurant to down pints of classic beer styles and filling portions of freshly prepared food. The weekend brunch is not to be missed—best to hit it before the road home. Brewers Steve van Rossem and John Crane are steeped in both English and Northwest brewing traditions, so Plank Town is one of the places in the area to always have two real, English-style ales pouring from a traditional beer engine. The Foggy Scotsman is a luscious porter with a dose of smoky character (perfect with a burger), and a local favorite. Van Rossem is no hop slouch, and puts his aromatic touch on a range of IPAs. If you're after something light, a Blue Pool Pils or three will wet your whistle without putting you under the table. If you're off to hit the powder at Willamette Pass, Plank Town opened Hilltop Bar & Grill in Pleasant Hill southeast of Eugene, so you can get your pre- or apres-ski beer there, too. AARON BRUSSAT.
Eat this: Food options abound at PublicHouse (418 A St., 541-246-8511, publichousehub.com) around the corner. This impressive beer bar in a church is host to several food businesses, including La Granada's authentic Latin and South American cuisine, and 100 Mile Bakery, which sources 100 percent of its ingredients from local farms and orchards.