My continued exploration of Salem’s underrated beer scene led me to a true hole in the wall nano-scale beer joint, named Ratchet Brewery. Founded in 2017 they have used contract brewing with some of their larger neighbors to rapidly grow their footprint in the area, with plans to soon expand their brewing capabilities with another location in Silverton, Oregon. An apparent favorite of many gear heads in the area, this place would fast become one of my favorites too if I lived in the area. So grab a beer, sit back, and enjoy as I look under the hood of this interesting and relative newcomer of a brewery.
- Beer – First, whomever created the names of their beers deserves a high-five. While most of them are appropriately car themed, I love the tongue-in-cheek aspect of the names, with my favorite being the “Pre-owned kilt” Celtic Stout. As for the beers themselves, the tap list is small but has a decent amount of variety, and only ONE IPA, which may break the law here in the PNW. Their beers gravitate more to English styles, with stouts being the dominant option, and there are none of the more exotic varieties such as sours or barrel aged beers available, at least during my visit, though I do see on Untappd that they have brewed those in the past. The quality of the brews is great, and I would be hard pressed to find a beer that I felt just wasn’t good. You can even find some flashes of creativity, such as with a tangerine and cinnamon pale ale or an Earl Gray tea ESB. All around solid beers, I look forward to watching what they create in the future. Score: 3.5/5
- Brewery – Ratchet Brewery encompasses the tap room amid a working brewery vibe that I love so much. The seating area and bar is small, with room for only a few tables, a couple seats at a small bar top, and two small side room with a few couches and chairs. Decorated appropriately with car themed posters and gear, this warehouse brewery feels a bit garage-like during the winter when the large roll-up door to the patio is closed. With nicer weather, the door is up and there are a handful of tables outside for enjoying that wonderful Oregon summer sun. As for food, there is no onsite kitchen thought they frequently have food trucks out front serving up a variety of tasty options. The prices are quite reasonable, with most pints running about $5. If you get the taster flight, be forewarned: they pour a hearty amount in each one so make sure you have a designated driver if you go that route Closed Sunday and Monday, they open from 3 pm to at least 9 pm the rest of the week, making an afternoon of beer and food trucks a delightful proposition. Score: 3/5
- Ambiance and Entertainment – A few games and a television used predominantly for displaying the tap list round out the full-time on-site entertainment options. They host “Firkin Fridays” where they tap small casks of variations of their traditional beers, served until they run out. Add in monthly meet-ups of a local vintage motorcycle group and a few other events interspersed throughout the year and you get a decent line-up of fun things to do at the brewery. Score: 3/5
- Location – Finding this place can be a little bit of a challenge, even with GPS. Located in the depths of Salem’s industrial side of town, drive slowly and watch for the signs out on the street directing you down a narrow access road alongside a large warehouse building. Once you get towards the end you will see the brewery and probably a food truck to boot. Parking is somewhat limited directly in front of the brewery, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find some further out if necessary. While there are quite a few other quality breweries in the area, there is not much else around so plan accordingly if there is no food truck available during your visit. Score: 2.5/5
- Customer Service – The bartender during my stop was quite the amiable guy, making some good beer suggestions and pouring my beers quickly. There is no table service for the brewery, however the food truck will bring your order in to you. Since there was only one person behind the bar I wonder what happens when it gets really busy, but perhaps that is not an issue based on the smaller size of the brewery. Score: 3/5
Total Score: 15/25
Favorite Beer: A Lada Stout – 10.1% Russian Imperial Stout
Final Thoughts: Another strong entry for Salem’s craft beer scene, Ratchet is well worth a visit on the quality of their beers alone, though the tap room is a delight to sit and enjoy a beer in. I’m interested to see how they grow and recommend stopping in if you are in town. They will remain in my rotation of places to visit when in Salem and I look forward to trying some of their other beer offerings in the future.