Thursday, June 4th, 2015

Hitting the Eugene Ale Trail

Ron Swarner

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Close you eyes. Now think about your favorite beer being poured into a glass vessel at the right, chilly temperature. Think about the first sip, the touch of frothy head and rush of effervescence, the flavor balanced between sweet and bitter notes. Now, open your eyes. You’re in the brewery where this beer was brewed. Bags of grain are piled in the corner and bottles are stacked in another. In front of you, a stainless steel tank holds thousands of gallons of this precious liquid. You can hear the light gurgle of liquid fermentation. There are posters promoting their Tuesday open mike. This is a transcendent experience, one that you will measure all other experiences of drinking beer against. You have tasted the fruit off the vine.

Now imagine this experience at seven other breweries and you walking away with a kickass growler.

Last Thursday at 16 Tons Café in downtown Eugene, Oregon, the folks at Travel Lane County officially launched the Eugene Ale Trail 2.0, offering beer trekkers an organized incentive to visit 18 Eugene area craft beer destinations. Similar to the South Sound Craft Crawl, beer lovers carry a passport map earning stamps for each stop along the way to collect a prize — a 32-ounce mini growler on this trail. Collect eight stamps from eight different breweries, turn in your passport at the Adventure Center in neighboring Springfield and the growler is yours.

The Eugene brewery deck has been shuffled this year. Last year’s Ale Trail map included 11 breweries, plus taphouses and bottleshops for a total of 19 options. This year, more breweries grace the map, but the bottleshops are listed as only an option to fill your prize growler. Rogue closed their meeting hall location in Eugene. Elk Horn Brewery, Sam Bond’s Brewing Company, Hard Knocks Brewing and Viking Braggot Company are new faces.

Most of the destinations on the trail are located within the Eugene’s urban hub, within easy pub-crawling distance of each other. You can walk between Ninkasi Brewing and Hop Valley Brewing. Brewers Union Local 180 returns as the road trip destination, 45 miles southeast of town. But, you’ll be awarded for draining the gas tank with a bonus 16-ounce stainless steel cup.

Learn more about the Eugene Ale Trail and download the map at EugeneAleTrail.org. You can also pick up the map at any of the participating venues.