Standing Stone Brewing

standing stone brewery

A highway sign once posted on the last bleary-eyed miles before crossing the border into Oregon read, “Welcome To Oregon/Please Don’t Stay”. Beaver state residents are known as provincial, almost to the point of exclusion.

Well, not exactly almost. They’re snobbish.

This hesitance to embrace newcomers (especially those from the south) makes the placement of Ashland just a few miles north of California, one of the most alluring small towns anywhere, curious. Anyone visiting even rolling through for lunch wants to put down stakes and stay a little while.

One part Shakespearean town, another part liberal arts college haven, Ashland is home to a few of the finer craft brews in the Pacific Northwest. Although the highway signs all point visitors to Caldera Brewing, there are others a little more off the beaten path that are worth the time. Start with Standing Stone Brewing in downtown.

On the outside, Standing Stone doesn’t appear to be much. They are situated in an easily overlooked narrow glass storefront, wedged off a northerly one-way street. I drove around the historic building in circles a few times before finding it.

The seating is modest, a few tables before the open kitchen, sounds of cooks barking to one another over the gentle soundtrack, while the evanescent staff moves gracefully between tables. Curious visitors can act like flies on the wall, looking in on the brewing staff as they toil. Around mid-afternoon, you’re sure to find that typically hearty blend of rural Oregon clientele, tweed sporting professors, exiled city folk, rugged farm workers and everyone that falls in between.

As is the case with the best craft breweries appearance means very little. Standing Stone’s merits lie in their beer menu. Their beer is brewed using 90% organic or regionally sourced ingredients, a welcome claim keeping them in step with local green living ethics. Perhaps it’s the four-hour drive south of Portland (two hours from Eugene) but the offerings are a little to the unconventional side for Northwest brewing.

Their IPA (Two Plunge Double IPA) isn’t bombastic and inaccessible; it tends toward light and coppery, pleasing to more tender palettes. They feature two excellent stouts (an Oatmeal Steel Cut, and Noble that is brewed with coffee) and an absolutely fantastic, Sterling Hopped Golden Ale that they call Commuter, which is curious since Ashland isn’t exactly a commuter town. The 4.6 ABV makes it the perfect accompaniment to sidewalk seating conversations about the Bard and year-round balmy weather.

The town of Ashland’s charm is evident. One spin up and down the main thoroughfare and it’s clear why this stands as one of the last freethinking oases in the Pacific Northwest. If you’re pulling over and have time for a pint off the beaten path, then Standing Stone is the place.

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