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/// THE OREGON TRAIL
 
FEBRUARY/MARCH 2008
 
The Oregon Trail
Yes, Virginia, there really is a HUB. If Cupid smiles on us, your Valentine's Day plans might include a trip to Hopworks Urban Brewery (aka HUB). Owner/brewer Christian Ettinger says they hope to have the doors open and the kinks worked out by February 14, making HUB the most highly anticipated brewpub opening and Valentine's Day destination in recent memory. Ettinger and brewer Ben Love have been making beer and getting some cash flowing in the doors with both outside sales and dock sales, but Ettinger says the long-awaited opening for the brewpub is nearly a reality, and it feels oh-so-good.

"It's great to say there is a light at the end of the tunnel — and I can see it," he says.

Corvallis Brewpub Opens for Beaver Beer-lievers

Corvallis, home of the Oregon State University Beavers, situated in the heart of the Willamette Valley, always seemed like it would be a prime location for an independent brewpub. It's definitely a beer town, being home to two McMenamins pubs and the Oregon Trail Brewery. But Corvallis never had its own local, independent brewpub. Until now.

By late January or early February, Corvallis's first brewpub, Block 15 Restaurant and Brewery, will be opening on the corner of Southwest Jefferson Avenue and Third Street. Owner Nick Arzner and his wife, Kristen, have spent the past nine months and about $400,000 to $500,000 to transform the space. They intend to have six standard beers on tap, plus seasonals and a rotating tap for other specialty beers. Steve Van Rossem, who used to brew for West Brothers and McMenamins High Street in Eugene, will be doing the brewing honors at Block 15.

The name of the establishment, by the way, comes from an old map of Corvallis, when it was originally called Marysville. The plot map showed the location of Jefferson and Third in, you got it, Block 15.

McMenamin Brothers Tap North Coast

The McMenamins empire is expanding its boundaries to the North Coast with a new depot in the idyllic resort town of Gearhart, just a short drive north of Seaside on Highway 101.

You never know — your stories might end up in a wall mural at the Sandtrap.

The brothers McMenamin are taking over a restaurant and bar called the Sandtrap that graces the greens of the Gearhart Golf Links, one of the oldest 18-hole public golf courses in the Pacific Northwest. The pub, which is a short chip away from the sand and surf, will seat about 120 inside, with an additional 100 outdoor seats overlooking the golf course. There will also be special event and meeting spaces — reservations are already being accepted for 2008. As part of the deal, McMenamins will also offer course refreshments (Hammerhead on the greens, perhaps?).

McMenamins establishments are known for reflecting the local history within and on their walls, and the McMenamins Sandtrap will be no exception, according to company representatives. Expect to see colorful murals depicting the history of the Gearhart area, the venue itself and the golf course. Historians are asking people with stories, photographs or artifacts of the area's rich past to contact them at past@mcmenamins.com. You never know — your stories might end up in a wall mural at the Sandtrap. In the meantime, the company is driving for a hole-in-one grand opening on St. Patrick's Day, March 17.

Rogue Goes Topless in Astoria

Hurricanes don't hit the Left Coast, but that doesn’t mean the wind doesn’t blow just as hard every now and then. Rogue Ales Public House in Astoria got a firsthand look at the power of a Pacific storm when winds topped 129 mph on December 3 — and gave Oregon's northwestern-most Rogue outpost a bit of a redesign in the form of a ripped-off roof.

No injuries were sustained by the Astoria staff as they moved quickly to cover as much as possible with tarps to keep out the impending rain and continuing wind. In true Rogue style, employees had generators humming — power was out in many surrounding areas for nearly a week — and a new roof within three days after the storm subsided. So Astorians were able to come in and share their storm stories and commiserate over a pint of fresh beer.

The gang celebrated Astoria's survival of the big storm with a party on December 30, complete with a band made up of several members of the original Kingsmen, the Portland group that made "Louie Louie" a classic.

Holiday Ale Fest-Goers Set Record

The Holiday Ale Fest took place in downtown Portland the same weekend as the storm that ripped off the roof at Rogue in Astoria. But driving rain and gusting wind didn't keep a record-setting number of beer fans from attending the 12th annual event.

More than 17,000 beer lovers, an increase of 10 percent over the previous year, showed up to sample from more than 40 robust winter craft beers on draft, the majority of which were created specifically for the event.

The People's Choice winner, which was determined by the beer that went through the most kegs, was Jim II. This was a blend of oak-aged Hair of the Dog beers based on a recipe created by homebrewer and event organizer Preston Weesner and Hair of the Dog owner/brewer Alan Sprints in honor of the late, great Jim Kennedy. Jim II, available only at the festival, sold 12 kegs. The People's Choice runner-up, with 11 kegs sold, was Collaborator Hallucinator Olde Ale, part of the Collaborator project with the Oregon Brew Crew and the Widmer brothers. The beer is based on a recipe by homebrewers Gary Corbin and Michael Rasmussen (who preceded this reporter in writing this column).

Spring Beer & Wine Fest Time

There are usually not too many weeks between beer fests in these parts, and sure enough, it's already time to start thinking about the Spring Beer & Wine Fest.

The event is slated for March 21–22. It is always held the Friday and Saturday of Easter weekend at the Oregon Convention Center. This year, look for a bigger presence at the Tour de Cheese area, which offers samples of artisan cheeses to pair with your libations. The Chef's Stage will once again be featuring local culinary experts making tasty treats with beer and wine, and there also promises to be some more seminars on subjects involving beer, wine, cocktails and food. Last year's Cheese Smackdown seminar, for instance, was standing-room-only: Hair of the Dog's Alan Sprints and an area winemaker went head-to-head, pairing a beer and a wine, respectively, with three of the cheeses offered at the event, with attendees voting for the better pairing. (Beer won.)

There always is a great lineup of beers at this judged event, along with good music, good food and good times. Word has it that a certain Celebrator Beer News publisher plans on gracing the event with his presence this year as well. Will the Rolling Boil Blues Band be kickin’ it up at the fest? You might just have to show up to find out for yourself!

 

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