This past weekend my wife and I were over in Lincoln City for our weekend anniversary trip, and though the Oregon Coast isn’t as populous with breweries as certain other parts of the state are, they are still to be found. Accordingly, I got in touch ahead of time with Lincoln City’s second (and newest) brewery, Rusty Truck Brewing Company, and arranged a visit with their Brewmaster Paul Thomas.
Rusty Truck has only been operating for a little over a year, and in fact it’s the brewery operation of the Roadhouse 101 restaurant, a classic, er, roadhouse-style bar and grill, with buckets of peanuts on the tables (sweep the shells onto the floor!), dollar bills pinned to the ceiling, live music in the bar many nights, and big portions of American dining fare. When we stopped in, we were between meals—already been snacking earlier and were planning dinner not long after—so we skipped the food this time and stuck with drinks while waiting to meet Thomas.
The drink prices are hard to beat: three samples of beer for $1—really!—so the full sampler line ran me only $3 for the nine beers available. My wife’s drink (a
margarita or similar cocktail Cosmopolitan—just got the word) only cost $4.50. I didn’t find out what a pint of the beer costs, but for a buck for three samples, I honestly can’t remember a better deal on beer! More on those below.
Thomas joined us while we were still working on our drinks and I picked his brain on the details of Rusty Truck. He himself has only been with the brewery since April, when he took over as Brewmaster. Previously, he had been brewing up at Pacific City’s Pelican Pub & Brewery for two and a half years, and in fact Thomas is a veteran of the craft brewing industry: he started in 1990 at Denver, Colorado’s Breckenridge Brewery where he learned the trade and attended Siebel, and from there brewed at the Tommyknocker Brewery in Idaho Spring Colorado, and then Bitterroot Brewing in Hamilton, Montana before coming out to the coast to the Pelican.
Even though only being with Rusty Truck for about two months, he’s already bringing his experience to the table and tweaking things (in a good way). For instance:
- Switching from all whole hops to pellets: This might seem like a counter-intuitive move for homebrewers and purists, but the fact of the matter is, unless you’re a very large brewery that can broker (and store!) large amounts of whole hops, you are at the mercy of the market and availability. This time of year, they can only maybe get two varieties of whole hops, while there are many more pellet varieties available. So switching to pellets provides recipe and quality consistency as the desired varieties are available. The other problem? The brewhouse was set up to primarily only handle whole hops—necessitating some equipment modifications to handle pellets. Oh, they’ll still use whole hops but they won’t be limited by them.
- Recipe tweaking and formulation: Other than not touching the Road Wrecker IPA and the Stupiphany Imperial Red Ale (the brewery’s best sellers), Thomas has leeway to tinker with the recipes, and when possible start developing his own. A new Imperial IPA, for example, was in the fermenter that he had just brewed the day before, in the midst of a very vigorous fermentation. And the next iteration of the Moonlight Ride Blackberry Ale will have quite a lot more fruit in it (as it should): it’s looking purple, Thomas said.
The brewery itself has a 10 barrel brewing capacity, and it currently outfitted with five 10bbl fermenters; and there are two 20bbl fermenters on their way that will increase their output significantly. The building is a nice large space with room to grow, and is still being built out: besides the planned brewhouse expansion there are plans to install a loft apartment that will be available to visiting bands playing in the Roadhouse (and possibly others).
One other sneak peek: the new refrigerated beer trailer they’re customizing that will be mounted on the back of a classic truck (an old Ford or Chevy I don’t remember which). It’s getting a really nice custom paint job and will be outfitted with tap handles on the side: loaded with kegs they will be able to drive it to festivals and events and serve up their beer, somewhat Deschutes Woody-style. I grabbed a couple of pictures (in the gallery below); when it’s completed it will be hard to miss!
As for the beers, here are my notes, in the order than they are in my picture in the gallery (from left to right).
- Fender Bender Amber Ale, 6.2% abv: Toffee and malty, light hopping that has a balanced bitterness on the back. [I had this one at the Oregon Garden Brewfest previously.]
- Slant 6 Pale Ale, 5.5% abv: A bit heavy for a Pale Ale in my opinion, malty and a bit muddled. Mellow hopping.
- Moonlight Ride Blackberry Ale, 5.3% abv: Grainy/wheaty [Thomas told me there's actually no wheat in it] and subtle berry flavor. Mellow and drinkable, though I’d love to see more fruit in it.
- Road Wrecker IPA, 6.7% abv: Fruity, big up front, not terribly hoppy on the nose but green and full of tropical fruit on the palate. Malty, more of an English style IPA (though with the tropical fruitiness it’s perhaps an English-American fusion. Is that a thing?). [Another I tried previously as the Oregon Garden Brewfest. Much fruitier and brighter than the Brewfest pour.]
- Low Rider Lager, 5% abv: Light, a touch of DMS, spicy noble hops, crisp and drinkable.
- Back Seat Wheat, 5.2% abv: Crisp American-style wheat ale, clean and drinkable. Mellow flavors.
- Taft Draft Toffee Porter, 5.2% abv: Roasty coffee, sweetly malty, reminiscent of molasses, nicely drinkable.
- Procrastinator Stout, 5.3% abv: Nice example of a stout, dark and drinkable. I want to say soft, rounded flavors.
- Stupiphany Imperial Red Ale, 8.5% abv: Nice bit chewy maltiness with a bit of warm alcohol kick and flossy cotton candy hops. I quite enjoyed it.
All in all a decent lineup that has some well-dialed-in beers and some with room to improve, which I’m sure they will with Thomas helming the brewery and tweaking the recipes.
Overall I’m impressed with what Rusty Truck is doing over there in Lincoln City, and I’m looking forward to seeking out and trying their beers over time (they have some distribution in a few parts of the state—including Bend possibly—which will expand as they grow), as well as an excuse for a return visit.
Rusty Truck Brewing
4649 SW Highway 101
Lincoln City, OR 97367