In case you're not familiar with Brewers Union, it's a pub which brews and serves "real ale" in the sense of England's Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). Ted brews beer in 2-barrel batches -- that's British imperial barrels, about 2.8 Yankee barrels -- conditions them in firkins, and serves them at cellar temperature in 20-ounce imperial pints. The small batches are open-fermented, typically between 4% and 5% ABV, and drawn from the firkin with hand pumps. So, the proprietor must be a homesick British expat, right? Er, no, but he did learn the trade during a stint a few years ago at a Lake District pub called the Woolpack Inn.
There were only four house-made beers on the pumps Monday when Carla and I were in Oakridge, all delightful:
- Wotcha Best Bitter - 4.3%: smooth and honeyed, balanced with a touch of earthy hops.
- Good With Bacon Special Bitter - 4.9%: light caramel flavor, nice balance of bitterness.
- 3 Sigma Out IPA - 5.3%: beautiful floral aroma, light body, long hop finish.
- Cumbrian Moor Porter - 4.8%: smooth and roasty without being charred; full-bodied but not cloying.
The usual IPA -- Union Dew -- was out when we were there, but a fifth pump had on a nice malty cask of Block 15's Ridgeback Red -- at 6.3%, pretty potent compared to the BU180 beers. There are always a few guest kegs of "regular beer" on tap for non-believers. Monday's guests were Oakshire Domaine du Lane Saison, Oakshire Watershed IPA, Seven Brides Chocolate Stout, and Hale's El Jefe Hefeweizen. There was also a cider on tap from Wandering Aengus, and a mead from Eugene's Blue Dog Meadery.
A lot of attention goes into the brewing, storage, and serving of the ales, but Ted says the important thing about Brewers Union is that it provides a space where people can get together and socialize. He is a very hands-on publican, mingling with the customers, and getting to know them by name. I once needled him for setting up such an idiosyncratic pub pretty much in the middle of nowhere -- Oakridge (pop. 3220) is the only incorporated city in Oregon that lies entirely within a national forest -- but his response was simple: "Every town needs a pub". It is a cute little town, surrounded by miles of beautiful scenery, and now that I've seen it, I do think it's a great place for a pub. If you ever have the time, take the hour's drive out from Eugene and experience it for yourself.