Located one block north and two blocks east of Block 15, Flat Tail occupies a corner building nearly right up to the Willamette River, separated only by a street and a stretch of riverfront park. It’s a nice languid setting that they’ve taken well advantage of with ample outdoor seating wrapping around the corner and several half-barrels of hop vines by the main door that are just starting to climb.
The first impression you will get from Flat Tail—both from their website and the restaurant itself—is that it is very much a sports bar, and indeed it is: Corvallis is a college town, after all, and here the OSU Beavers reign supreme. The space is open and airy with high ceilings, Oregon State memorabilia adorns the walls, several flat screen TVs are broadcasting sports, and it has the dark wood and clean open layout befitting a sports bar.
A sports bar is one thing, but where Flat Tail has been making a name of itself is of course with the beer. A quick glance at the beer menu reveals some of the most interesting beers I’ve seen in a lineup from just about any brewery, and like Block 15 they have a huge number of beers on tap—especially for only being a 7 barrel brewery (also like Block 15). For a brewery that’s only been open for two years that’s pretty remarkable, and that’s due to brewer Dave Marliave—a 24-year-old graduate from OSU’s Fermentation Sciences program who previously brewed for Oregon Trail Brewery and Carlton’s Fire Mountain Brew House. In addition to a regular lineup of classically-styled beers, there are any number of experimental beers on the menu—sour beers, wood-aged beers, alternatively-spiced beers, you get the idea.
So I was definitely interested in trying the beers. From a list of 15 currently on tap, you get to pick any eight for the sampler “paddle” which you write down on a slip of paper and they bring out to you in that order. For my eight I picked:
- Hibiscus Blonde (4.5% abv)
- Smokin’ Wheat (Grätzer, 5% abv)
- Roggenbier (5% abv)
- MC Abbey (4.5% abv)
- Eight Man Amber (5% abv)
- Licentious Goat Herbed Double IPA (8.5% abv)
- Big Fin Baltic Porter (7% abv)
- Pale Ale (5.5% abv)
I was going for a mix of standards plus specialty beers. For instance, Jeff talked up the Grätzer-styled Smokin’ Wheat so I had to try that (he also has a good overall review and photos of Flat Tail), and with a Double IPA made with damiana and horny goat weed, how could you not go with it?
Here are my notes:
Hibiscus Blonde: an “oatmeal blonde ale” brewed with wildflower honey, honeysuckle, and hibiscus. It has a creamy body befitting the oatmeal, though it has an earthy character that’s almost chili pepper-like. Hibiscus is light and lightly tart. [Muddled flavors and not as good as it should have been, in my opinion.]
Smokin’ Wheat: The Grätzer brewed with 100% smoked wheat malt [Jeff says 96% and 4% acidulated malt]. Nice light smoky nose to it, really nice! Body is light and smoky and a touch spicy. [Is this an illusion from the smoke? Or from the frickles appetizer?] Mellower than I’d expect and really, really drinkable. This is a good, interesting beer.
Roggenbier: 50% rye malt. Surprisingly fruity [though it has a touch of nail polish], thick mouthfeel without quite being chewy… a bit of the rye spice and a sweet note that seems out of place.
MC Abbey: A “session Abbey.” Light, a bit fruity, rather nice. Almost cask-like, low carbonation and a smooth mouthfeel.
Eight Man Amber: Malty amber with a bit of roast, and somewhat light(ish). Decent, leaning towards the “classic” style. [Bearing in mind that I have a particular profile in mind when I talk about a “classic” Amber Ale style.]
Licentious Goat Herbed Double IPA: Brewed with damiana and horny goat weed (I’ll let you work out the details on those). Pungent and herbal, almost like fresh cut milk thistle. Vegetal note in the flavor—dandelion or nettle greens. Bitter but more herbal than hoppy. Interesting—I’ll give it marks for originality.
Big Fin Baltic Porter: Sweet, slightly roasty, chewy, and a touch fruity. Really quite nice, easy drinking despite the strength.
Pale Ale: [Don’t ask me why this was last, I just forgot what order I had ordered them in.] Pretty standard Pale Ale, a bit herbal, and nice toasty malt character.
I ended up filling a growler with the Bourbon Big Fin Baltic Porter, a 10% version of the Big Fin aged in bourbon barrels for two months. (Review forthcoming on that one.)
For appetizers, my wife got the chicken tamale and I got the frickles—fried pickles and ever since I saw them on the menu I knew I had to have them. They were really good: spicy garlic dills breaded with (I think) cornmeal and milk and deep fried, and served up with black pepper ranch for dipping. They had a bit of spicy heat to them (to which the ranch probably contributed) but now that I’m thinking about them again I want more! The chicken tamale was decent, and both were on happy hour prices so a good deal.
All in all a good visit and I’d definitely like to come back again to try more experimental beers and see about getting a tour of the brewery and meeting Dave Marliave. Plus, just sitting outside during the summer right by the river seems like it would make for a good afternoon.
Flat Tail Brewing
202 SW First Street
Corvallis, OR 97333