Swing Tree Brewing in Ashland: Good things coming

Swing Tree BrewingI wrote a bit about Ashland’s upcoming Swing Tree Brewing last week following our spring break weekend in Southern Oregon, but really there’s quite a bit more to say as our visit with owners Brandon and Tanya Overstreet was a lot of fun and yielded plenty of information about the brewery to get excited about.

And, this Sunday, April 7 they are holding a special Pre-Opening Party at downtown Ashland’s Paddy Brannan’s Irish Pub: if you’re in or near Ashland this weekend I’d highly encourage you to check this out as you’ll be among the first to taste their (pilot batches of) Porch Swing Pale Ale and Obligatory IPA.

It was in fact this Pre-Opening Party that Tanya had (via email) invited me to, and though it’s not something I’ll be able to attend, I had emailed back indicating we would be in town and inquired if there was a chance for a visit. She very generously offered not only a visit to the brewery, but (since we were doing a family trip) the possibility of heading to their home to keep the kids entertained, talk brewing, and sample some beers.

Swing Tree's location in AshlandSwing Tree bucks the trend for the Ashland’s breweries (located downtown) and is—literally—across the tracks: located in a space in the Hershey Street Business Park just a few minutes north of downtown and adjacent to a good-sized residential neighborhood, the Overstreet’s goal, despite the business park setting, is to provide a neighborhood brewery and taproom with a more relaxed and laid-back setting than you might find downtown.

When we arrived we found Brandon Overstreet working hard on the build-out of the space, which (as of a couple of weeks ago) still had work to be done: drywall and plaster is up, piles of lumber on the floors were having screws removed to reclaim for framing, and the concrete floors were due to have drains cut in the next several weeks. Despite all of that, Brandon graciously finished up what he was doing in order to talk shop—and share his Porch Swing Pale.

Swing Tree Brewing - the beginning

Here are the details on the brewery itself:

When they launch (in May) they will start with the 15-gallon (½-barrel) pilot system that they have been brewing test batches on in their garage: this is essentially a custom-built homebrewing system with the addition of some 20-gallon stainless fermenters. Shortly after launch (though I’m not sure when) they will upgrade to a 7-barrel brewing system, and will retain the pilot system for test batches.

Obviously launching with only the pilot system, there won’t be many of their own beers on tap: the Porch Swing will be the always-on, and a second tap will feature one of their other rotating house brands (in addition to the Obligatory IPA, they also plan Two Shilling Brown and Lonely Trike Red). And there will be a rotation of guest beers, most or all from the Rogue Valley area, which will likely be available even as the brewery grows.

Once the 7-bbl system is in place, they’ll be able to ramp up to the plan as they’ve listed on their site:

Eventually Swing Tree will offer all four anchor brands plus a rotating Beer of the Month. Aside from these faucets of our truly unique beers, Swing Tree will also offer traditionally prepared cask ales, which will be available exclusively at the brewery. These beers will be served directly from traditional firkins located for all to see.

And then of course, there is the most interesting aspect of the venture: wild, spontaneously fermented ales. As Brandon pointed out, the Rogue Valley is a rich agricultural area, full of orchards, vineyards and much more, and he’s hoping a terroir of the area will be conducive to experimenting with spontaneous fermentation. Accordingly there will be some open fermentation and there will be (wine) barrels of wild ale fermenting and aging along side of the regular beers.

Since the facility will only have the brewery and taproom—no kitchen or on-site food—it won’t be able to be open to minors, which is unfortunate. But they have partnered with Ashland bakery Ichigo Cakes to provide pizzas and people will be able to bring their own food in I believe.

About the beers:

I tasted two: the Porch Swing Pale Ale (and they supplied me with a bottle to bring home, as well), and the Obligatory IPA as a sample drawn from the secondary fermenter (being dry-hopped), which will be the one served at their Pre-Opening Party. I found the Porch Swing to be a great casual-drinking beer, very well put together, and in fact I’d call it a Kölsch instead of a Pale Ale—it’s crystal clear, incredibly clean, and nicely flavorful with crisp, floral, spicy hopping. Super drinkable, and honestly, it’s a gateway beer—one designed to ease potential new-to-craft-beer drinkers into the experience—and Brandon is up front about that, offering up an easy-drinking beer to the community as well as more adventurous beers for those seeking it out.

(Also, since they sent me home with a bottle, expect a more detailed review with a picture soon.)

The Obligatory IPA was a nice, solidly-bittered IPA that (being drawn from the secondary) will need to carbonate to bring out the dry hops. This particular batch was destined, as I said, for the Pre-Opening Party so the final IPA they produce in the brewery might be tweaked just a bit. I think it will be a hit and, as Brandon pointed out, “every brewery has to have the obligatory IPA.”

What impressed me most is the brewing credentials that Brandon brings to the table. Let’s face it, there are many small (or “nano”) breweries opening these days whose brewers may not have the experience in a professional brewing setting; we’ve all tasted beers from such breweries, and while I always applaud the effort, at the same time I worry too.

No such worries here; Brandon started his brewing career at Golden City Brewing in Colorado, and then brewed at Twisted Pine before moving on to brew at Rock Bottom’s Westminster location for a number of years. Coming back to Ashland saw a stint at Standing Stone before focusing on Swing Tree. He knows his beer, and more importantly, he knows how to brew it in a larger-scale environment.

All of which makes me very optimistic for Swing Tree’s future. I love Ashland and always thought the city could easily support more than the two breweries they currently have (plus, how has no one opened a “Shakespeare Brewery” down there? It’s so obvious! If anyone’s contemplating that, let me know as I’ve had ideas for it for quite awhile), so I think Swing Tree will fit right in, and with solid, super drinkable beers will do very well.

If you can make it to their Pre-Opening Party this Sunday, do so; and keep an eye out for announcement about their (as of now) May opening. You are definitely going to want to pay them a visit when they’re open.

Swing Tree Brewing
300 E. Hersey Street #7
Ashland, Oregon 97520