Part two of my day exploring Eugene’s beer scene was spent at Agrarian Ales, a unique farmhouse brewery located just north of town. Situated on a working farm where they grow all their own hops and many of the ingredients that go into their beers and food, Agrarian is quite possibly the most Oregonian thing I have experienced since moving here, a phrase that will really only make sense to people who have visited this weird state. Founded in 2012, they pride themselves on utilizing only locally sourced ingredients and providing constant variety to what they have on tap. This is another brewery whose beers I’ve tried at various brew fests and restaurants, so I was once again eager to try them from the source. So grab a beer, plant yourself in a chair, and read on as I recount my experience at this incredibly crunchy place.
- Beer – Variety is the spice of life, right? They certainly think so, and their tap list reflects it. Their main aesthetic is to avoid the more traditional approach of developing flagship beers and seasonals while maintaining consistency. They practice what they call “intentional variation” whereby every batch of the same brew will probably be slightly different. While this may be frustrating to those who want consistency in their favorite beer, it does allow them a massive amount of experimentation, and boy do they take advantage of it. The tap list is ever rotating and the beers have lists of ingredients that I have never even thought of using. From pineapple weed to Thai pepper, spruce tips to raspberry, they have a style for everyone. As for the actual flavors, well as with all experiments, some will work and some will not. Most of their beers I thought were decent, and a few I really enjoyed, however there were a few I felt fell flat, either in quality or flavor combinations that did not work for me. I highly suggest tasting a sample of any beer you are thinking about ordering before you commit to a full pint. The fundamentals are there but some of the flavors may not be what you are looking for in a beer. Score: 2.5/5
- Brewery – This place is a working farm and it is quite evident. The farmhouse sits on several acres of rural farmland just north of Eugene, with wonderful views of the mountains in the distance. Most of the drinking and seating area is outdoors on the acre or so of space around the brewery, often overlooking the hop bines around the farm. Tables are scattered around the grass and under a tent, though the grass is so lush I saw many people just sitting on the ground. Food offerings can be hit or miss as they have a rotating stable of food trucks on site but no active kitchen, at least for right now. Interestingly, and probably reflective of their farm nature, according to their website their hours are seasonal at the taproom and they are closed shortly after my visit. They only offer growler fills over the winter months for those that have to have Agrarian beers to get through the dreary weather. My biggest complaint about the brewery is their pricing, as it is a bit higher than many comparable breweries around Eugene. Score: 3.5/5
- Ambiance and Entertainment – It’s hard not to find a day without something going on at the brewery. Live music, brewery yoga, various live events, all these and more fill their schedule and provide a great incentive to make the trek out here on a regular basis. I mean, who wouldn’t want to participate in a scarecrow building event or a keg toss contest? Or to watch some acrobatic performances on the front lawn? To top it all off, there are plenty of lawn games scattered around the farm for those who must throw bean bags while drinking or play a giant game of chess. Not a television tuned to college football to be seen here but you really don’t need one. Score: 4/5
- Location – While the surrounding scenery is lovely, Agrarian is off the beaten track. North of Eugene, just outside the quaint little town of Coburg, they sit in prime Willamette valley farm country. Blink and you will miss the turn off to get to the brewery, though they have decent signage out front to help. There is not much else around if the food trucks don’t appeal to you, so plan accordingly. They have plenty of parking on site as that is really the only way to reasonably get out there, though I did see a few brave souls biking to the brewery. Score: 2/5
- Customer Service – Friendly if not very efficient. Despite two to three people serving beer, there was invariably a line at the counter at all times. Granted it was during one of their special events that I stopped in, though it still was not that crowded compared to some other places I’ve been. Despite that, the bartenders were very nice and made some excellent recommendations, so I can’t get too upset here. In reality, I think they fit in perfectly with the overall laid-back attitude that is Agrarian Ales. Score: 2.5/5
Total Score: 14.5/25
Favorite Beer: Hops, Tips, & Weeds – 6.3% Spiced/Herbed Pale Ale
Final Thoughts: Eclectic, crunchy, quintessentially Oregonian, you could use all of those to describe Agrarian Ales. While I appreciate their attempts at experimentation and local sourcing of ingredients, none of their beers really stood out and there were some that just did not work for me. Definitely worth a visit if for nothing more than the experience, the location and inconsistency to their beers makes it difficult for me to say I would make a return visit.