By Patrick Alexander
Oregon Coast TODAY
With a new face joining the team and a fresh lineup of brews coming down the pike, Rusty Truck Brewing is looking forward to a thriving spring and summer.
But for new Director of Operations Rose Bracken, the brewpub’s success rests in unlocking the layered history of its distinctive roadhouse premises.
“It’s got so much personality and history,” she said. “It’s telling a story.”
Built in 1972, the building is packed with character, from the vintage neon signs on the walls to a ceiling bursting with dollar bills flung aloft by generous patrons, held in place with thumbtacks and harvested several times a year to help fund local causes.
For Bracken, who joined the crew in December, the eclectic surroundings are the perfect backdrop for a menu that draws from various influences to create dishes that are perfect for pairing and sharing.
“I love the fact that we infuse our beer into as many things as possible so we can showcase our beers,” she said.
That pipeline from the brewery to kitchen results in delights like ale-marinated ribs, bread baked with spent grain and a Beer Cheese Soup made with a different ale each week.
“It’s comfort food,” she said. “You don’t want food that you need a dictionary to find out what you’re eating.”
Bracken’s job is to make sure that every guest is greeted warmly and every plate that leaves the kitchen meets the high standards developed throughout her 25-year career in the hospitality industry.
“She has brought core to our culture,” said Manager Branden Fowler, adding that the decision to rebrand the former roadhouse as a brewpub has led to different sorts of customers walking through the doors.
“We are trying to appeal to the beer crew and the roadhouse crew,” he said. “We have to have a little something for the Portland ‘goes-to-breweries-five-times-a-week person’ and then something for the steak-and-potatoes guy that wants to go and listen to some blues.”
Guests looking for shareable fare to accompany beer tastings can pick from dishes like the Hummus Platter, Sundried Tomato Spinach & Artichoke Dip and a range of Personal Pizzas that measure about nine inches across and sell for $11 apiece.
“They are hand-tossed to order,” Bracken said. “The kids actually like to watch the dough flying through the air. It doesn’t get any fresher than that.”
Those in search of something more substantial will be spoiled for choice, with the Half-Pound American Kobe Beef Burger facing stiff competition from the Pulled Pork Sandwich and St. Louis-Style Ribs, both made using owner Brian Whitehead’s sweet and smoky Sugar Shack barbecue sauce.
Meanwhile, tucked away in the brewery, Brewmaster Jonathan Anderson is making the most of the recently expanded, 20-barrel system to experiment with new beers while also keeping longtime favorites fully stocked.
One of the brews to benefit from the increased capacity is the multiple-award-winning Cherry Chocoholic Baltic Porter, previously a winter seasonal special and now on tap longer into the spring.
Fowler said Anderson’s recent experiments have also included an IPA brewed using lupulin powder, a kind of hop essence extracted from the flower via cryogenic freezing.
“Jonathan is really cutting edge,” he said. “The man eats, breathes and lives beer. Now with the 20-barrel system, we have the capability to turn him loose and let him experiment. We are beating the big boys to the gate. Every one that’s come out has been picture perfect.”
Brews slated for release in the coming weeks include a double IPA and a fruit-infused raspberry sour.
A new deal with Point Blank Distribution means Rusty Truck brews are now reaching even more of the Pacific Northwest. And Bracken is using the company’s website and social media channels to drum up crowds at the brewery itself.
As well as promoting gigs like the Saturday, April 21, performance by blues star Ty Curtis, Bracken has been spreading the word about regular painting parties organized by local artist Maxine Addington.
Having both a restaurant and a bar area makes Rusty Truck the perfect venue for these PaintnParty gatherings, allowing some guests to bring their kids for a family-friendly evening while others focus purely on the glass and the canvas.
The next PaintnParty will run from 6:30 to 9:30 pm on Wednesday, May 2. For more information, find Rusty Truck Brewing on Facebook.
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.