Story & photos by Patrick Alexander
Oregon Coast TODAY
Fans of Rusty Truck Brewing’s Cherry Chocoholic Baltic Porter had reason to celebrate this February, when the distinctive beer took the top prize at the KLCC Brewfest in Eugene, arguably the largest and most prestigious beer festival in Oregon.
And beer lovers can enjoy a celebratory pint of the top-rated tipple any time they like thanks to the brewery’s new 20-barrel system, which allows it to brew the previously seasonal ale all year long.
Brewmaster Jonathan Anderson said that in addition to expanding its range of year-round flagship beers, the new system allows the brewery to take things to the next level in distributing throughout the state.
“It transformed us from a brewpub where most of our beer was going next door to a brewery where we are able to keep up with the demand for distribution elsewhere,” he said.
Anderson has scaled up the recipes for longtime bestsellers including the fragrant Moonlight Ride Blackberry Ale, the hop-filled Road Wrecker IPA and the Fender Bender Amber Ale, with its floral nose and hints of caramel.
A larger brewing capacity also means bigger batches of Rusty Truck Brewing’s popular seasonal beers, which Anderson said used to sell out within two weeks of hitting the taps.
Current offerings include the Strawberry Wheat Tonic, a 5.3-percent brew with an effervescent quality that reminded Anderson of a summer spritzer. Also currently on tap is a Cascadian Dark Lager, a refreshing, hoppy brew known to East Coasters as a black IPA.
Brews currently making their way through the system’s gleaming tanks include a tart and lemony kettle sour and a New England-style hazy IPA. Also known as a ‘juicy IPA,’ the hazy brew is unfiltered and packed with flavor, thanks to a late infusion of hops.
“More experimentation has allowed brewers to discover that you can extract flavors right to the end of the boil,” Anderson said, adding: “It doesn’t extract so much bitterness. You get more floral and tropical fruit flavors. It’s going to be cloudy and flavorful.”
While cloudy is OK in the pint glass, the whole coast is hoping for clear skies on Monday, Aug. 21, when the highly anticipated total solar eclipse will make landfall just a few miles south of the brewery. Businesses have been urged to prepare for an influx of visitors and Anderson has already started working on an ale fit for such a momentous occasion. Made to a German Schwarzbier recipe, his Eclipse Black Lager will offer guests a suitable dusky drinking experience, enlivened by a hint of blood orange to represent the glowing corona.
Guests who have trouble picking a single beer from the growing lineup can take their taste buds on a tour with one of the sampler trays that are fast becoming one of the restaurant’s bestselling items.
Served in a rugged metal rack that perfectly fits the restaurant’s full-throttle atmosphere, each taster selection includes eight three-ounce samples, perfect for seasoned beer aficionados and newbies alike.
Manager Branden Fowler said beer is the lifeblood of the restaurant, making its way into more than 70 percent of the menu items on offer.
“We cook our St. Louis-style ribs in it, slow and low; we cook our pork in it for pulled pork; our corned beef; and the sauce for our Cavatappi Crusted Mac and Cheese. We also use spent grain from the brewery in our bread and our pizza crusts.”
And for diners looking for a full pint to accompany their meal, Fowler has a few suggestions for parings that will make the most of those flavor connections.
“I’d go for the St. Louis-style ribs with the Fender Bender Amber Ale,” he said. “It’s cooked in it, so it already has the essence.”
Meanwhile, the batter used in the halibut and chips is made using Road Wrecker IPA or its slightly tamer cousin, the Cruiser Sessions IPA, making either of them the perfect accompaniment.
And for guests intrigued by offerings from the restaurant’s brick pizza oven, Anderson recommends something crisp and refreshing to go along with it, like Low Rider Lager
“Our lager is made Mexican style, using corn rather than rice,” he said. “It goes really well with the crust and the marinara sauce.”
With pizza and beer already covered, the restaurant offers the final party component with live music every Saturday night. Rock and blues have long been the favorites, but Fowler said music fans should stay tuned for a more diverse lineup this summer and the return of Friday night music.
“We are going to be experimenting with some new musical talent,” he said. “A lot more contemporary, a little more cultural.”
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.