By Patrick Alexander
Oregon Coast TODAY
There has never been a more appropriate time to get a second round in at Lincoln City’s Rusty Truck Brewing, with an influx of new equipment allowing Brewmaster Jonathan Anderson to double his production.
The shift from a 10-barrel to a 20-barrel system will allow the brewery to offer a wider variety of beers throughout the year, while also making the process much more efficient. Larger tanks will allow for bigger batches, while an auger system from the milling room to the mash tun means Anderson will spend less time shoveling grain and more time devising new brews.
“He’s got all kinds of new ideas brewing up in his head,” said Manager Branden Fowler. “He’s already produced a phenomenal wheat IPA and a black lager.”
The new system allows Rusty Truck to produce almost 3,000 barrels per year, building on the growing popularity of its beers throughout the state. It was that growth on the beer side of the business that prompted owner Brian Whitehead to spearhead the recent rebranding, which saw Roadhouse 101 take on its sister brewery’s name and transform into a brewpub.
Fowler said the rebrand put beer front and center, with sales of taster trays increasing fourfold and bar staff filling 10 times as many growlers as before.
And anyone who misses the former name can console themselves by looking above the bar, where the old, neon Roadhouse 101 sign sits in pride of place — a fitting centerpiece for décor that features everything from road signs and traffic lights to, occasionally, fully functional motorcycles winched into the rafters.
This rustic, madcap style could not be further from the look envisioned for Rusty Truck’s future tasting room, which is starting to take shape in the brewhouse building behind the restaurant. Fowler said the new facility will have a sleek, contemporary feel, designed to tie in with the stainless steel brewing equipment. Once the tasting room opens, guests will be able to sample the Rusty Truck’s award-winning beers and pick from a select food menu while watching new batches come together in the background.
Fowler said he hopes to have the tasting room up and running this spring, with the aim of being open full time during the summer.
Meanwhile, in the restaurant, the revamped brewpub-style menu is proving a hit, packed with items perfect for sharing and crafted to pair well with everything from a hoppy IPA to a malty stout.
New items include Sundried Tomato, Spinach & Artichoke Dip and a Hummus Platter as starters, along with main courses such as cod and halibut fish and chips in beer batter; and Cavatappi-Crusted Mac & Cheese bathed in a sauce made with Rusty Truck Ales.
Replacing the previous list of seven separate burgers is a build-your-own option, starting with a half-pound Kobe beef patty and offering options ranging from smoked bacon and Ortega chili to blue cheese and the famed Sugar Shack BBQ Sauce.
In addition to a full slate of year-round brews, guests will find taps loaded with seasonals including a Fresh Hop IPA, Low Rider Pilsner, a Wheat IPA, an India Pale Lager and their newest addition, Milk Chocolate Baltic Porter.
For anyone overwhelmed by the options, Fowler and his bartending crew are on hand to offer advice on which beers pair best with which flavors.
“I would probably suggest the Wheat IPA with the cavatappi mac and cheese,” he said, “The Kobe burger goes well with a stout or porter and the India Pale Lager with the fish and chips.”
Helping people navigate their way through the world of craft beers is one of Fowler’s favorite parts of the job — and a task that becomes particularly important around the holidays, when large family groups often contain a mix of craft brew aficionados and relatives who have never strayed beyond a domestic lager.
“I steer people toward the Low Rider Pilsner,” Fowler said. “Then over to the Beach Blonde, which has a tiny bit more body. Then my goal is to get them to heavier, more flavorful beers.”
Along the way, Rusty Truck guests will likely develop opinions every bit as definite and Fowler and Anderson, who continue to differ on whether it’s ever OK to serve beer in a chilled glass.
“On a hot day, with a pilsner I would recommend a chilled glass,” Fowler said. “Brewmaster would disagree with me on that.”
Rusty Truck Brewing is located at 4649 SW Hwy. 101. For more information, including a list of upcoming events, go to rustytruckbrewing.com or call 541-994-7729.