Eugene, Oregon, home to the University of Oregon, is in the heart of the Willamette Valley known for wine and outdoor recreation. But what is drawing people to Eugene is their vibrant craft beer scene. Now you can explore it along the Eugene Ale Trail complete with a tasting passport to help you discover local brews.
Eugene Ale Trail Passports
Pick up your Eugene Ale Trail Passport at participating breweries, bottleshops, the Adventure Center in Springfield or at the Downtown Eugene Visitor Center on 8th and Olive St. Make sure you get your passport stamped at the participating pubs and breweries. When it’s filled, redeem it for Ale Trail souvenirs.
Oregon Beer on the Eugene Ale Trail
Oregon beer has earned national recognition with sustainable brewing, award-winning craft brews, distinctively cool microbreweries and rustic gastropubs.
Brewers tout their ultra pure water from nearby McKenzie River. As you tour, you’ll notice an emphasis on local and regional ingredients from hops to grains. Breweries also develop specialty and seasonal brews to keep you returning to taste what’s new.
Eugene has a long tradition of home brewing. After all, it’s a college town where people take advantage of the mountains, rivers and coastal recreation opportunities and love relaxing with a beer after a day outdoors.
On the Eugene Ale Trail
With our Eugene hosts to lead the way, we went across the bridge to Springfield, Oregon to start our Ale Trail explorations. Springfield serves as inspiration for TV’s Simpson Family. In fact, the art center has a huge mural featuring the family. Of course, Homer has a beer in his hand making it a great photo op for Eugene Ale Trail followers.
A highlight on the Eugene Ale Trail is Springfield’s Plank Town Brewing Company, on quaint Main Street. Springfield’s downtown is undergoing a renaissance and is worth spending some time exploring.
Plank Town (named for the area’s logging industry) serves up 20 beers on tap and tasty northwest pub cuisine. The brewery is housed in the beautifully restored Odd Fellow building, home of the two-story Ken Kesey mural. The pub is large and takes advantage of the light streaming in the front windows. There are long wooden tables with benches surrounding a central bar.
We met the owners, toured the brewery and found out about their plans to support river clean up. Rivers are important to brewers as good, clean water is key to their success. The Eugene area has a Riverbank Path System and the Delta Ponds natural area in the heart of the city. People run, walk and bike on the paths and value keeping things clean and natural.
We then toured Eugene's Whiteaker neighborhood, home to regionally-distributed Ninkasi Brewing Company where we checked out their colorful modern tasting room and outdoor patio.This funky neighborhood has become a fermentation district featuring cider houses and distilleries alongside the breweries. You’ll also find newly legal recreational marijuana shops dotting the area.
The Falling Sky Pour House and Delicatessen is also in the Whiteaker neighborhood. It’s a lively place where you can get a great locavore meal to pair with your beer. They serve 15 house beers, homemade sodas and fresh, local comfort food.
They make everything from scratch including the condiments and smoked meats. For those wanting a break from beer, they have a list of specialty cocktails. The restaurant and outdoor patio is family friendly and busy.
Eugene Ale Trail for Non-Beer Drinkers
I love hanging out with my beer-drinking friends. The art of brewing is as interesting as the art of making wine. And the food is always great at brewpubs. But—I admit it—I prefer wine.
I was pleased to find out, as we toured the Eugene Ale Trail, that most places also cater to wine drinkers and include local wines on their beverage lists. If you don’t drink alcohol at all, many brew pubs offer specialty soft drinks ranging from Marionberry soda to Root Beer. So go along with your beer aficionado friends. You’ll enjoy it.
When You Visit the Eugene Ale Trail
The Eugene-Springfield area is a great home base for exploring the Lower Willamette Wine Country, hiking or fishing along the beautiful McKenzie River or taking a day trip to Florence on the Central Coast.
We stayed at Valley River Inn and had breakfast at Sweetwaters on the Willamette River. The Valley River Inn was convenient and comfortable and, we heard, will be undergoing a renovation soon. They are pet friendly with a large outdoor pool that's perfect for summer!
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations and meals for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.