A serendipitous occasion brought me to a new brewery in Salem, Oregon not too long ago. A good friend from undergrad was in Oregon for work and we decided to meet for dinner and drinks at Salem Ale Works. As luck would have it, I stumbled in to a neat event where you were given five samples of their beers and had to try and guess which one you were drinking (I guessed 4/5 correctly). Each successful guess got you a raffle ticket and entry into a contest to brew a beer with them. All in all, a neat concept created at a brewery invested in bringing quality beer to the capital city. So grab a beer, sit back, and read on to learn how they are successfully putting the ale in Salem!
- Beer – Wow do they have some interesting takes on beer! First off, they have an excellent selection, offering plenty of variety on the menu. Second, they play around with local ingredients to create some interesting flavors. Take, for example, the honey basil ale. Who would have thought to combine those two flavors in a beer, and have it work so well? Or the raspberry mint, providing a bit of tartness to the beer while not being overpowering. Even their more mundane, if you will, offerings such as the ubiquitous IPA and two stouts were well crafted. The brew masters do a great job of showing their skills of blending flavors with quality brewing techniques. Score: 4/5
- Brewery – Rather nondescript on the outside, the inside more than makes it up with plenty of character. The plethora of rough cut wood that adorns the walls, bar, and tables pays homage to Oregon’s history of timber production and gives the room a warm and earthy feel. Lots of natural lighting, complemented with Edison lamps scattered around the room create a beautiful setting, even on a blustery day like when I stopped in. They offer plenty of seating indoor and out and a separate room for private events. The food menu is small but delicious and they seem to have plans for extending their food offerings in the future. Theirs prices are comparable to most other craft breweries in Salem and they are open 6 days a week with late enough hours to spend evenings drinking their delicious beers with friends. Score: 4/5
- Ambiance – Overall subdued, with pockets of conversation lit by the aforementioned lamps, however I do not want any negative connotations implied. The ambiance was more intimate, lending a sense that you and your friends are the only ones in the room despite it being full. They host lots of events, including live music, trivia nights, and the wonderful one I stumbled upon while a television on the wall allows for sports events to be broadcast for those who want to watch. Score: 3.5/5
- Location – Set in an industrial park not too far from the interstate, there is not much to find close by. While the brewery itself can be easily found from the road and you have ample places to park, that is about all you can say for the location as it does not have much to offer amenity wise. Not that you would want to leave here before the night is done but anywhere else you would want to go, you will have to drive to. Score: 2.5/5
- Customer Service – Along with some of the best hipster beards the Pacific Northwest has to offer you get great customer service here. My drink and food orders were taken quickly and delivered without much wait. They had ample staff to ensure there was never a long line at the bar, even on an event night, and everyone was very cheerful and friendly. Score: 4/5
Total Score: 18/25
Final Thoughts: A random choice to meet a friend halfway between my home and his job in Portland led me to discover a delightful offering in the capital city. Not only were the beers tasty and creative, the brewery was homey and inviting to boot. I would certainly make this a regular if I lived in Salem and I highly recommend you check out Salem Ale Works if you are ever in town.