It’s a well-established fact that Oregon has contributed mightily over the years to the nation’s craft-brewing scene with hoppy, malty, citrusy creations that have forever altered the image of what it means to be an American beer. After all, its breweries have been winning awards for decades, like Grants Pass’ Wild River Brewing, which won silver at the Great American Beer Fest for its Steelhead Nut Brown Ale way back in 1992.
Today Southern Oregon’s breweries do much more than make great beer. With the cornucopia of fresh, local ingredients at their fingertips, chefs at the region’s flagship brewpubs now wow travelers and locals alike with food that lives up to the quality of the drink. Try these spots to sample the best of both.
Pizzas and “Pivo” in Klamath Falls
Don and Nancy Kucera didn’t set out to become the purveyors of fine beer and eats – they were dairy farmers – but today the family’s Mia and Pia’s Pizzeria & Brewhouse is a K-Falls institution. It’s all thanks to Rod, their son, who 26 years ago started repurposing farm equipment to make beer. The rest is history.
Grab a seat on the outdoor patio and choose from more than a dozen beers on tap, including Emmet and Anna’s Pivo, a Czech-style lager named after family relatives, and the Applegate Trail Pale Ale, an homage to the historic immigrant trail. Pair your choice with a seasonally rotating selection of salads and pizzas. Meat lovers can’t go wrong with the bacon-cheeseburger pizza – complete with Thousand Island sauce.
Common Block Brewery (Photo by Jak Wonderly)
Rogue-Inspired Suds in Medford
When Medford’s Common Block Brewing Company first opened in late 2016, the business had to rely on other regional brewers like Climate City Brewing Co. in nearby Grants Pass to transform its original recipes into brews. That’s no longer the case – today the family-friendly brewpub, located at The Commons downtown, makes all of its own beers in a 15-barrel system on-site and serves them in an airy, welcoming atmosphere.
Start things off right with a pint of the Rogue Runner IPA, the brewery’s flagship beer that’s made with local hops. On hot days, few beers go down better than the light, sparkly Gold Ray Wheat. For eats, the Rogue Roots pizza comes packed with the region’s famous blue cheese while the Chefslayer burger comes with onions cooked in an IPA.
While in town, check out other breweries like Walkabout Brewing Co. for grilled sandwiches and Wallaby White wheat ales, Portal Brewing for cream ales and lamb gyros, and BricktownE Brewing Company for Cajun mac and cheese and a pint of Table Rock Red.
Dark Ale and Burgers in Roseburg
Roseburg is sometimes hailed as Oregon’s timber capital, but these days another commodity is fast becoming king – great beer – with breweries like Backside Brewing and Two Shy Brewing to fell the city’s thirst. But what brew is complete without a great burger, brisket or basket of wings? For those pub pleasers, you’ll want to head over to North Forty Beer Company.
Childhood friends R.J. Mills and Arin Forrest returned to their hometown from Portland to open their Roseburg hot spot in 2018. Today they brew up barrels of red ales, kolsches and IPAs, including the Stargazer, a Cascadian dark ale – aka a “black IPA” – in a century-old building downtown.
When it comes to eats, they don’t skimp on flavorful ingredients. Think half-pound burgers like the N40 bacon cheeseburger that comes slathered in a special “N40 Goop” sauce – a mix of ketchup, mayo and Beaver hot mustard. Their Trailhead Kolsch bolsters the base of a hearty beer-cheese soup.
Caldera Brewery and Restaurant (Photo by Travel Oregon)
Sustainable Wood and Root-Beer Floats in Ashland
From the outside, Caldera Brewery and Restaurant could be mistaken for just another workshop space situated in Ashland’s industrial zone off Interstate 5. But it’s what happens inside that counts.
When Doves Cryo Hazy Mosaic IPA – a beer whose name alone is a mouthful – may just be one of the most delicious beers in Southern Oregon these days, but the brewery takes sustainability just as seriously. The tap handles for each of the 46 beers are repurposed scraps from Sawyer Paddles & Oars, an Oregon institution. Brewers harvest nitrogen from the air to give some beers that distinctive, creamy “nitro” head. And the cooking oil used to prepare those delicious French fries? That gets recycled into biofuel.
Belly up for the locally sourced, pan-seared wild mushrooms on toast or the loaded tots and you’ll notice how each table is different. The cat table has pictures of our feline friends, and the tree-ring table offers an annotated illustration of what happened during the tree’s life before you took a seat. Kids will be delighted, especially if they’ve got their own Caldera housemade root beer float.
Story by Tim Neville