By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
When it comes to college football, there is one place to be: Eugene.
ESPN's College GameDay program has broadcast from the city nine times, and earlier this year, GameDay’s Lee Corso declared that Eugene was “my favorite place, for me personally, to see a ballgame.” Average attendance in 2015 was 57,324 fans. The University of Oregon's Autzen Stadium is not only Oregon’s largest sports arena, it’s the loudest stadium in the country. It’s been called “intimidating” and “where great teams go to die.”
It’s also a hell of a lot of fun.
Tailgater Magazine agrees. In its 2016 list of Top 25 “tailgating meccas in college football,” the No. 1 spot went not to Alabama or Michigan State or Notre Dame. It went to Autzen Stadium.
It’s no surprise. Autzen is where, at the end of the third quarter, the crowd dances while the toga party scene from “National Lampoon's Animal House” (filmed in Eugene, by the way) plays — complete with the song “Shout” blasting. Autzen is where a foghorn sounds every time the Ducks score. (OK, granted, that foghorn’s been getting leaned on less this season than usual, but it’s not the destination, it’s the journey, right?)
Autzen is also set in one of Oregon’s meccas not only for tailgating and college football, but for craft beer. Eugene is where game day turns the city green and yellow, from the flags flying on vehicles driving in from all over the state to the face paint and clothing covering fans marching to Autzen en masse.
So wherever you are in the Eugene area, here are tips for enjoying the game and a good beer, whether it’s pregame, around town, tailgating outside Autzen, or finding the party inside at the Moshofsky Center (the "Mo") next to Autzen.
Transportation tip: Parking at Autzen is no picnic. The stadium is walkable from many parts of the campus area and downtown Eugene. Check your favorite mapping app for directions. Lane Transit District also offers a park-and-ride shuttle to and from the stadium.
Depending on kickoff time, you may need anything from a hearty breakfast to a little pregame snack. Maybe you aren’t going to the stadium and need to know where to be. Or, maybe you’re watching at home, but need to stock the beer fridge. Bring your growler! Eugene’s got you covered. All hours listed are for Saturdays.
The Bier Stein
1591 Willamette St., 541-485-BIER, thebierstein.com, 11 a.m. to midnight
With more than 30 taps and 1,000 bottled beers and ciders from all over the world (plus many staff are certified Cicerones), The Bier Stein is your spot to stock the beer fridge.
1689 Willamette St., 541-343-1542, brailseugene.com, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Since The Bier Stein opens at 11 a.m., cruise a block down and have breakfast first. Brails is a perennial fan favorite, taking Eugene Weekly’s “Best hangover breakfast” top spot for years running. That’s good to know — you might need to go there tomorrow, too.
20 Centennial Loop, 541-484-4355, thecoolerbar.com, 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Oddly enough, few bars are near Autzen. The closest is The Cooler, a large sports bar that prides itself on big-screen TVs; a simple, yet tasty, pub fare menu; and booze aplenty.
263 Mill St., 541-636-3889, coldfirebrewing.com., noon to 11 p.m.
One of Eugene’s newest breweries, ColdFire, is catching fire with their European beers, Northwest flair, imagination and solid brewing chops. Located just across the Willamette River near Skinner Butte, hit ColdFire for a pint or growler fill. You’re also near the city’s riverside bike paths and can walk the 1.3 miles from ColdFire to Autzen in about 30 minutes.
Elk Horn Brewery
686 E. Broadway St., 541-505-8356, elkhornbrewery.com, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Bordering the UO campus, Elk Horn was founded by the folks behind Eugene’s popular Delacata food cart. Elk Horn bridges the gap between beer, cider and wine. Also check out their Southern–Northwest fusion food menu.
Falling Sky Pizzeria
UO Erb Memorial Union, 1395 University St., Room #46, 541-485-1275, fallingskybrewing.com, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
After opening this past summer, Falling Sky’s third location has quickly become a popular spot for UO students and faculty, as well as the greater community. Enjoy game day on campus with a pint and an innovative pizza.
McMenamins North Bank
22 Club Road, 541-343-5622, mcmenamins.com/northbank, 11 a.m. to midnight (opens 10 a.m. home game days)
You’ll be able to hear Autzen while sitting by the Willamette River. Just a hair over a mile from the stadium, McMenamins North Bank has a spacious restaurant and cozy bar. Weather permitting, don’t miss the riverside deck, and TVs inside will make sure you won’t miss the game.
444 E. Third Ave., 541-653-8509, ryeon3rd.com, 5–10 p.m. (bar opens 4 p.m.)
If you want something a bit more refined for your game day pleasure, or an evening spot, Rye offers French-style cuisine, craft cocktails and a selection of Oregon beers in a rustic-chic setting.
Steelhead Brewing Company
199 E. Fifth Ave. #1, 541-686-2739, steelheadbrewery.com, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Located in Eugene’s Fifth Street Market area, Steelhead has been serving tasty pub fare and pouring beers (racking up 24 medals) for 25 years. Head here before the game or hole up in a comfy chair and watch the action unfold.
Sidelines Grill & Sports Bar
77 W. Broadway, 541-654-4690, sidelineseugene.com, 11 a.m. to midnight
Keep it simple: food, drink, sports. In the heart of downtown Eugene, Sidelines focuses on the fundamentals with pub fare and beer and 10 HD TVs ensure you don’t miss a moment.
SweetWaters on the River
1000 Valley River Way, 541-341-3462, valleyriverinn.com, 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Coming from out of town or just want a scenic riverside spot to enjoy a pregame meal and a nice beverage? Head to Valley River Inn and its SweetWaters restaurant (there’s also a lounge and bakery). One fan’s tip for early game days: head to SweetWaters for brunch (and a Bloody Mary), then walk it off on the riverside path to Autzen. Another plus? If you need to stock up on UO gear, The Duck Store is across the parking lot in Valley River Center shopping mall. You can also park there and take a shuttle to the stadium.
Tailgating Outside Autzen
Four hours before kickoff, Autzen Stadium’s parking lot opens — and is promptly taken over by thousands of tailgaters, many with RVs and tents that are ready to hold the party. Some people come just for the tailgating and aren’t even going to Autzen for the game. It’s easy to see why.
“Being outside of Autzen is a different experience on game day,” says John Procopio, a longtime Eugene resident and Duck fan. “The lead up to the game is like getting ready for a vacation or the night before Christmas. All this excitement and anticipation builds. It’s one of the best parties and people watching to celebrate not only Duck football, but being in Oregon.”
Procopio is one of many fans who come to the tailgating area with their own six-packs, growlers, bombers and plenty of cups — after all, game day is about the community and what says community more than sharing good beer with friends? “I want my ‘A’ beer — something special, something nice, like you’d want for your birthday,” says Procopio.
To get the best experience, bring something to share and just start talking with people. Offer a frosty beverage, strike up a conversation and you’ll be part of the tailgating team in no time.
Want your tailgating a bit more laid-back? In nearby Essig Field, a free, family-friendly outdoor area holds a food court, complete with a tent dining area, a beer garden highlighting local beers and televised game coverage. Some fans stay here the whole time.
In the Moshofsky Center
Once inside Autzen, you can’t have beer at your seats. No matter. That’s what the Moshofsky Center is for. The 117,000-square-foot Moshofsky, or “Mo” for short, opened in 1998 as a covered practice area for the Ducks. Today, UO uses the Mo as a massive area for food, drink and other entertainment. From sit-down meals to live music, beer taps for grownups and bouncy castles for kids, the Mo accommodates thousands of fans on game day. Your ticket to the game is also your ticket for the Mo, and fans can go back and forth throughout the game. You won’t miss the action either — there are TV monitors and even a scoreboard synced to Autzen’s scoring system.
The Mo opens three hours before kickoff and 90 minutes before the stadium itself is open to fans. Head there early to scope out a spot at one of hundreds of tables. You’ll find the beer garden in the back, with a range of craft and standard beers.
Whether around town, tailgating or in Autzen, for Procopio “it’s all about the sharing, the social experience and in our state we have such amazing access to get good beer. Game day is the perfect day to celebrate Oregon and Oregon beer.”
By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
Let’s face it, Portland State football fans — our team is never going to get the attention received by those two Pac-12 schools elsewhere in Oregon. Our playing field isn’t bark dust blasted with $100 bills from Uncle Phil Knight’s money vault like the University of Oregon (even though he taught at PSU before founding Nike). You won’t find ESPN sat trucks lining the blocks around Providence Park on game day or Viking shirts hanging from the racks at most national retailers.
It takes grit and heart to passionately follow a team nobody else gets excited about. But that’s what makes a PSU fan so remarkable. We manage to carve out a sense of community in the core of a bustling city with a non-traditional student body made up of people who primarily commute to campus while holding down jobs and raising families. Finding time to support the home team, while also juggling classes, can be a challenge, yet many do. Oh — but there’s one big thing that PSU fans have during games that no other team in Oregon does: access to craft beer. In the stadium. While watching the action.
While you don’t need to leave the venue to get a great drink, the following itinerary will help you make the most of your football experience on any given Saturday, both before kickoff and after the final seconds have slipped away on the play clock.
1717 SW Park Ave., 503-219-8000, rogue.com, 11 a.m. to midnight
There aren’t many colleges with a bar in the middle of campus, but not a lot of college campuses are as woven into the fabric of a city as PSU. Rogue Hall occupies the ground level of a multi-story apartment building towering over the South Park Blocks just across from Smith Memorial Student Union. While this space used to house an Italian-style bar and a greasy spoon (complete with rotating pie rack) featuring a speakeasy-style watering hole tucked in the back, the latest incarnation finally has a collegiate feel. Warm-toned wooden floors and ceiling beams are the perfect neutral backdrop for Rogue’s usual mashup of self-promoting banners, bottles and flags. But this location also recognizes its customer base and displays an impressive array of PSU swag.
Begin your day drinking at one of the tables cozied up to the indoor fire pit. You won’t miss any of the early college games since a TV behind the bar is still within sight. If it’s a crisp fall day, head to the back patio equipped with long picnic tables and heaters. Snack on juicy Kobe Blue Balls stuffed with cheese made at the Rogue Creamery. And since you’re on campus, complete your assignment by ordering a Rogue Portland State IPA.
PSU Football Urban Tailgate
2021 SW Morrison St., three hours before kickoff
Since Portland State plays its games at Providence Park, there’s no sprawling parking lot for tailgaters to spread out and set up camp. Hop Valley Brewing Co. helped remedy the lack of open pavement last year by hosting the first PSU Football Urban Tailgate. The party proved to be a hit because they brought it back this season, now before every home game. A stretch of Southwest Morrison Street between 20th Avenue and 20th Place is taken over by fans clad in green, black and silver for three hours leading up to game time.
Inside the gates you’ll find a one-stop-shopping experience that includes a beer garden; games ranging from cornhole to a giant inflatable Quarterback Toss in the shape of a football helmet; food vendors cooking up hot dogs and hamburgers; and even a booth selling shirts, hats and scarves so that you’re appropriately decked out for the matchup. River Pig Saloon’s beermobile is on site pouring $3 Bud Light and $4 Hop Valley Citrus Mistress IPA. Entry is free, but there’s a $5 suggested donation. If you’re not listening to live music or gazing at the TVs under tents, it’s actually entertaining to watch sleepy old men nurse beers at the nearby Kingston Sports Bar & Grill. They’re surely scowling at the riffraff who’ve invaded their Saturday routine.
If you prefer a DIY tailgate, there’s a plot of land across from the stadium for people who packed coolers and grills. You’ll be able to spot the sea of blue E-Z UPs in the space just behind The Cheerful Bullpen.
1844 SW Morrison St., providenceparkpdx.com, hours vary
Yes, the beers are $9.50. But there’s beer! On a rain-blowing-sideways, Pacific-Northwest-kind-of stormy day, you can remain in the comfort of Providence Park when grabbing your next brew rather than leaving the stadium and braving the elements to obtain a refill in a neighboring building (NCAA regulations, most stadiums). Widmer Brothers Brewing Replay IPA, at 4.5% ABV, is a beer that will get you through the entire game. If you’re a Bi-Mart member, bring your card to the box office for $10 general admission. The price break will help justify spending nearly $10 for 20-ounce pours inside. And if the Viks win, Coach Bruce Barnum will buy your next brew at Kingston.
The Civic Taproom & Bottle Shop
621 SW 19th Ave., 503-477-4621, thecivictaproom.com, noon to midnight
After the game, take a short walk to the next block and soak in some of the history associated with the venue where you just watched PSU play. The Civic Taproom & Bottle Shop’s name is a nod to Civic Stadium, one of many monikers given to the site before Providence Park. The business’s high ceiling creates plenty of space on the walls for black-and-white and sepia-toned photographs that documented life in and around the neighborhood. Some images are now iconic, like the player who crashed through the Flav-R-Pac wall trying to make a catch during a baseball game. Others reveal some fun bits about the city’s past that haven’t gotten as much recognition (see if you can find the picture of actor Kurt Russell when he played for the Portland Mavericks). Order a beer from one of the 22 taps before you examine the photos. Also feel free to explore the bottled selection behind seven cooler doors.
The Cheerful Bullpen
1730 SW Taylor St., 503-222-3063, cheerfulbullpen.com, 9 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.
The neon markers of big domestic beer makers like Bud, Coors and Miller may rule this realm, but craft is on tap at the divey sports bar with a sister location across the street from one of PSU’s larger dorm buildings. The Cheerful Bullpen is the place to finish your night since it’s right on the MAX line. There’s also a pool table and pinball machine in the back of the bar, which will look like a good way to lighten yourself of any pocket change after drinking all day. And if you’re still watching any late football games, you’ll appreciate the unobstructed view from booths equipped with their own TVs. Regulars will look you in the eye and size you up when you walk in, but the service is as pleasant as Wilbur the smiling tortoise who greets you on the front door.
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