I enjoyed my drive along the curvy roads heading out into the country; the windows down and the music cranked. I wondered what I would find at Agrarian Brewery as I passed beautiful fields of corn, and stacks of hay baled 6 high, 8 wide and commanding attention.
As I turned onto West Crossroads, I thought for sure Siri (my navigator) had gotten mixed up! Surely there could not be a brewery out here. This time of year it is a familiar sight seeing those large sprinklers going off in the fields. This one in particular caught my attention because it reached the other side of the road. I began my plan of attack, sneaking up on the sprinkler, to time it just right when I saw the sign for Agrarian, this side of the water.
I found a spot to park, collected my things and headed for the tasting room. There were people sitting on picnic benches outside and dogs playing, there was live music, one man standing at the microphone with his guitar and singing and the sound that came from this voice and his instrument was amazing!
There were people walking around with their glasses of beer, people tossing bean bags playing Corn Hole, there was a man out in the field tossing a stick for his dog, and another dog with a five gallon bucket and happy written all over his face! Yep, I later found out his name was Leroy and when things got a little mellow, Leroy would get his bucket out. He tossed that thing all over and showed it who was boss.
Agrarian is very dog friendly and they encourage you to bring your best buddies! I know right? Who else offers that?
There were people of all ages visiting and kids playing on the swing set and slide. I walked around the backside of the brewery and found more picnic tables, with even more people, casually sitting and talking surrounded by music and laughter, the fields of chile’s and hops were the backdrop.
Of course I couldn’t help myself so I took some photographs. Hops are a pretty thing!
I met Ben Tilley; owner of Agrarian. I needed something cold to stave off the heat, I had a feeling I was in the right place. Ben asked me what I would like.
“A girly beer” I said giggling… I don’t know a thing about beer so I won’t even try to pretend but I do know there are some real “man beers” on the market and I didn’t want anything like that, razors cost enough these days if you know what I mean.
Ben gave me a sample of Delilah and by my expression he could tell I really liked it and ordered me a tulip. While he finished up with some previous business, I found a picnic bench and became best friends with Delilah. Oh such a beautiful beer! A Belgian Blonde Ale with different local honey addition’s. A different honey source is in each batch. The one I drank had maple blueberry honey. The batch prior to mine had turnip honey, with a different honey batch coming out soon! I know why it is served in a tulip glass, because the alcohol volume is 7.5% and if you had too many you would be walking on your two lips.
Ben joined me a short time later and shared the story of how Agrarian came to be. The story began many years ago when the family; his parents and 4 other siblings moved to the farm in 1985. Selling the fruits of their labor at farmers markets over the years, the kids grew up surrounded with this culture. Once they grew up, as all kids do, they left home to find their way in life. It wasn’t until 8 years ago when they came back that an idea came to mind.
Nate Tilley began to brew his own beers while attending the U of O and was good at it. One day he approached Ben and suggested they start a brewery, and that is how a passion began.
Able to purchase the pole barn from their parents, the boys; Ben and his brother Nate transformed the barn with their hands from the ground up into what is now Agrarian Ale Brewery. I was so comfortable there it is nearly unexplainable. It was almost like going home. Ben and Nate have turned it into a wonderful place to be.
I asked Ben how they came up with the name Agrarian. With pride, he told me about his brother Lucas who is away at college on the east coast. Lucas is the one who came up with the name, the logo design and the T-shirts.
“Agrarian Means Simply ‘Farm Life’ To Us. The Farm, The Tending Of The Land, Is The Centerpiece Of Our Way Of Life. We Value Rural Society And The Independent Farmer”
One of the amazing things about their business is that it is as local as it gets. From the farm up the road where they get their honey to the food they prepare for their dinners. Most everything is purchased within a 30 mile range of the brewery, cutting down their ecological footprint. Agrarian even recycles their water back into the farmland.
Ben shared some of the local farms that Agrarian purchases from. Lonesome Whistle Farm in Junction City. Agrarian uses their stone ground corn polenta, heirloom popcorn and dry beans, they have also used their corn in some beers that they have made.
They have utilized several wheat varieties of grains and legumes as well as oats and barley from Hunton Farms in Junction City. Fern Edge Goat Dairy in Lowell; Chevre, aged goat cheese and raw milk cheese. Ben describes it as a beautiful family goat farm and creamery.
They get organic hazelnuts from Honor Earth Farm in Pleasant HIll and roast them with their own chile powders… “very tasty” Ben states. The only items they don’t get locally is the blue cheese which comes from Rogue Creamery and salt from Portland.
As Ben and I visited, I took a closer look at the sitting area just in front of the tasting room and realized the pretty vines climbing up the post were actual hops, so simple yet so inviting. I wasn’t afraid there were spiders anywhere near me or the vines, this is how comfortable it is out there!
We went on a tour of the grounds, circling the facility. Out back you could see obvious signs of construction happening. A new kitchen was being built around a newly built wood fired oven called a Cobb Oven. Max and Eva Edelson of Firespeaking located in Deadwood Oregon built the stove right where it sits. They are hoping for construction to finish up on the new kitchen in about a months time.
Ben showed me the trailer they use for Saturday Market! Yep, you can find them down there on tap. Because they are agriculture, they are able to do this, so if you find yourself downtown Eugene, check them out. You can also find Ma and Pa Tilley roasting their chile’s at the market as well. Springfield has its own market on Friday, you can find Agrarian there as well!
Each year, Agrarian holds their hop harvest the last two weekends in August, welcoming the public to partake in this fun event. $20.00 gets the car (and all the occupants you can fit into it) into the festival! This is encouraged to cut back on fuel consumption. Your $20.00 will be exchanged for tickets to use how ever you wish; to purchase a beer or two (you are going to want more than one, I guarantee it) or use towards food. They also have non-alcoholic beverages available.
Chefs Brad Burnheimer (Leroy’s dad) and Chef Ben Hoffman will be roasting a pig in the ground.
“We will be sourcing a lot of chiles, tomatoes, eggplant, squash and beans from our own farm Crossroads Farm, my parents farm. The menu will reflect the seasons bounty from our local farmers”
Brad also runs Burnheimer Meat Company (charcutieri specialty cured meats). It was really hard to concentrate on our conversation as I kept smelling the wonderful aroma’s coming from the smoke house. Their menu changes daily, as they get their foods fresh each day.
Agrarian does not bottle any of their beer. They want to stay small, yet you can find them on tap at many places! Check out their list of where you can find their brews here but I would highly recommend heading out to see where it all began.
Open year round, Agrarian is like going home. It was hard to say good-bye when the time came for me to leave, but with a promise to head back (with friends) we parted ways. Delilah will always be on my mind…
Tell em Sandy sent you and have a tulip for me!
See ya out there!
Agrarian is located between Coburg and Harrisburg. You can find more information on their website or facebook page.
This article and photos were originally published by Sandy Harris on eugenedailynews.com