Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Standing Stone Brewing Company, Ashland

Ashland, Oregon is lucky to have two fine brewpubs right in the center of town: Caldera and Standing Stone Brewing Company.  Even though Caldera is better known because of their wide distribution of kegs, cans, and bottles, Standing Stone has been open longer than Caldera's funky Ashland pub (right around the corner).  If you happen to be in Ashland -- or if you're passing through on I-5 as Dave and I were last week -- Standing Stone is a great place to grab lunch or dinner.  Tasty beers poured from serving tanks above the bar, better-than-average pub fare with a focus on local and organic ingredients, and spacious seating indoors or on the back patio in good weather.

We rolled through at lunchtime last Thursday, and checked out the Hop Night CDA that had just been put on tap, as well as the flagship dry-hopped Double IPA.  The Double IPA is a well-balanced take on the style, weighing in at 8%, don't miss it.  Hop Night was also well done, on the stouty end of the CDA spectrum, cloudy and satisfyingly full-bodied, pretty lightly carbonated, with enough hop aroma to convince you it isn't a stout.  It's been a while since I had a Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous, but that was the closest CDA I could think of to relate Hop Night to -- hopefully it's not just the similar brewery names -- though Sublimely Self-Righteous is undoubtedly hoppier.

Our burgers were quite good, served on nice fresh ciabatta rolls.  The garlic fries were not as garlicky as I expected them to be, but maybe this was a good thing for two dudes about to drive seven more hours in a small car.  I had a certain amount of salad envy looking at the large plates of fresh greens that went out to a couple of other tables on the patio.

After lunch we chatted up the head brewer Larry Chase, who has been at Standing Stone for about a year and a half.  Larry brewed for many years at the Midwestern brewpub chain Granite City, before moving to Ashland with his wife Ginger Johnson, who runs a beer marketing consulting business called Women Enjoying Beer.  Larry gave us some tastes of a couple seasonals:  the light and crisp Indie Pilsner, which he said is his favorite Standing Stone beer right now, and a tasty golden ale made with lactose called Milk and Honey, which is not quite ready but will be out soon.  There are no actual bee by-products in Milk and Honey, but the malt provides an unmistakable honey aroma and flavor.

Another cool thing about Standing Stone is the way the business has really gotten behind bicycle transportation.  A couple of years ago, they started a program where employees are given a free commuter bike if they commit to riding it to work 45 times during the next year.  We saw a few of the bikes -- labeled with the company name and logo -- parked in and around the pub.  They also installed a large bike parking corral in front.  Those two-wheeled innovations earned the brewery owners an Alice B. Toeclips award this year from Oregon's Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

We used to occasionally see Standing Stone beers in Portland -- mainly at beer festivals -- but for the last couple of years they haven't had the spare capacity to send any kegs our way.  They self-distribute, so retrieving kegs from afar is another issue -- Larry said that Geoff Phillips told him he still has an empty Standing Stone keg waiting at Bailey's Taproom for someone to take it home.  It would be nice to see more of their beers up here, but meanwhile make sure and stop in for a bite and a pint next time you're in Ashland.

2 comments:

  1. Good write-up, my parents live a few blocks from Standing Stone on Oak street, they know the people you talked to, and my stepmother goes to the WEB events down there. It's a cool town with great beer. Maybe I can swing that keg back down to Standing Stone and return a full one to Bailey's next time I go if that's something they'd be interested in. I should be down there pretty soon.

    The lamb burger is really good!

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  2. Bill - Thanks for the visit and for sharing your experience. It was a pleasure to have you stop by and chat. Hope to see you again soon! Keep up the great blogging and enjoying quality craft beer!

    pedXer - Keg return always appreciated, and deserves a little reward, too. You're the best! Email larry (at) standingstonebrewing (dot) com about this.

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