If you’re headed south on I-5, you go almost all the way to Eugene to get to Agrarian Ales. It’s about five miles north of the city and also five or six miles along double-lane roads that lead into large fields of crops. Agrarian is among them, and indeed is one of them–a farm with patches of vegetables, grain, and small plots of hops. It’s one of the growing number of true farmhouse breweries, and it has aspirations to make some of Oregon’s most interesting beer. It only took me a couple years, but I finally made it down over the weekend.
The space itself is very charming. There’s a low-slung building that functions as brewery, taproom, and half-outdoor pub. Behind it is an expanse of lawn interspersed in seemingly random places by groves of bamboo, trees, and one bushy hop tower. Picnic tables abound, as do games for the kids, including a sand box and playground equipment. On the day we visited, a large piece of John Deere equipment was moving back and forth through the field next to us. Kids sped around nearer by (and safely away from the harvester) and I felt my muscles relax.
Agrarian could serve pretty mediocre beer and still get a recommendation from me. Instead, they serve very good and appropriately rustic beer I wish was far, far closer to me. My favorite, and the excuse for this post, was the exceptional Field Bier, a hoppy saison. It is rare to find a beer that evokes Dupont, but this one does, and impressively. It’s quite a hoppy beer, made with an herbal infusion that works well with the phenolic, herbal yeast. It is dry, but partly because it’s not especially effervescent (contra Dupont), it has a fullness that strongly belies its 4.0% alcohol content. It is truly a mighty mite. I could drink gallons of it for months and never get tired. A truly great beer.
Before I got a twenty-ounce mug of the stuff, Sally and I did a sample tray just to get a sense of the place. Here are my notes on the other beers we tried:
- Sylvan (herbal saison, sans hops) – Great yeast character, phenolic. Aroma has a touch of chamomile, sweet, wildflower honey. Mild, integrated sense of herbs. Yeast dries the beer nicely so it doesn’t cloy. They use tricitale, a wheat-yeast hybrid, and I suspect it helps accentuate the herbal quality.
- Purple Rain (wheat ale with blueberry and lavender). Well done for what it is, but the lavender is on the soapy side. A good bit of acid, dry.
- Sommer Steiner – Very bitter! Nothing like a Kolsch, which it claims to be. Sort of like Dupont’s Redor Pilsner in that it’s rustic and yeasty. Franconian instead of Bavarian.
- Cumulus Wit (herbal witbier, sans hops) – slightly tart, lemony nose. Creamy mouthfeel, herbal, lemony palate. Finishes with a particular kind of herbal quality.
- Kashyyyk Black Ale – Hoppy stout. Totally tasty, but not summery. A hair too many hops, but there’s a nice chocolatey sweetness to offset it. And along the way is a luxurious dark-chocolate roast. Boozy. (8%)
They have a limited menu, with cheese and meet plates plus pizzas. Though limited, the food is tasty and satisfying. A great line-up and a great place. You could do worse than taking a day trip down, and leaving a lot of time for lounging once you arrive. It’s also an excellent destination if you have kiddies in tow. I’ll put some photos below the fold.
“Beer Sherpa Recommends” is an irregular feature. In this fallen world, when the number of beers outnumber your woeful stomach capacity by several orders of magnitude, you risk exposing yourself to substandard beer. Worse, you risk selecting substandard beer when there are tasty alternatives at hand. In this terrible jungle of overabundance, wouldn’t it be nice to have a neon sign pointing to the few beers among the crowd that really stand out? A beer sherpa, if you will, to guide you to the beery mountaintop. I don’t profess to drink all the beers out there, but from time to time I stumble across a winner and when I do, I’ll pass it along to you.