By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
All year we’ve examined the breweries in the Roseburg area. But before these relative newcomers were around, there was the McMenamins Roseburg Station Pub & Brewery, established in April 1999. At the time, Roseburg was home to two other microbreweries: Umpqua Brewing (1991-2001) and Hawks Brewing (1996-2006). McMenamins has hung on — though the Roseburg location hadn’t even been planned.
Before it was a brewery, Roseburg Station served as the Southern Pacific train depot dating all the way back to 1872, linking the then-thriving timber town to the nation’s rail network. A bar seat places you near the site where the depot operator oversaw the telegraph. Trains coming through area carried Civil War Gen. William T. Sherman, frontier scout and performer Buffalo Bill Cody, musician Sammy Davis Jr., and even a dying President Warren G. Harding. During the 1980s the timber industry declined, and the station fell into disuse.
“A friend of my cousin owned the Roseburg train station property. When we heard he wanted to sell it, we all flew down to Roseburg to see it and take a tour,” says McMenamins co-founder Mike McMenamin. “We knew we wanted to buy the building right away. It was love at first sight.”
Renovation preserved the station’s vaulted, 16-foot-high ceilings, tongue-and-groove fir wainscoting and marble molding. Period photos and art provide a visual timeline of Roseburg’s history. Today, head brewer Tom Johnson makes 700 barrels of beer a year — both McMenamins standards and his own creations on a 6-barrel system.
“We had a core crowd from the beginning,” says Johnson, who came to Roseburg Station in 2001. “When Umpqua Brewing closed, a lot of their regulars started coming to our place, but growth was pretty slow for the first five or so years.”
Johnson’s own beer journey began with imported beers at a shop in Eugene in the 1980s, which was followed by his first taste of McMenamins in 1988 and a homebrewing class. His homebrews began performing well in competitions, and he went through the Master Brewers Program at the University of California, Davis. While pursuing various brewer positions around western Oregon, Johnson connected with Steve van Rossem (now brewmaster at Springfield’s Plank Town), who was brewing at now-closed Eugene City Brewery. A couple of days later, van Rossem told Johnson that McMenamins was looking for someone to brew at their new Roseburg location.
“I had been hoping to get involved with a startup or a small brewing operation,” says Johnson. “I wanted a lot of say in recipe development, brewing different things that I wanted to brew.”
Today Johnson enjoys that creative freedom, making beers such as You've Made Me So Very Hoppy (“dedicated to the woman I'm marrying”), a Northwest pale brewed with, aptly enough, Golden Promise malt. Lately he’s been brewing fresh-hop beers, such as Hopqua, which is a nod to the Umpqua River Valley where Roseburg is located. “Most hops come from a couple who lives here in Roseburg and have a sizable hop garden in their backyard,” explains Johnson. “A lot of people help us pick those, get them to the brewery that night and brew a beer the next day.” This year’s Hopqua was brewed with 54 pounds of fresh cones — “The hoppiest beer we’ve made here.”
Local hops star in another new release: Hubbard Creek Red Ale, brewed with Centennials from Melrose Vineyards. Winemaker Cody Parker planted three acres in 2012 to bring more local hops to the area’s growing craft beer scene.
Roseburg Station also supports different community organizations, such as the popular 600-acre animal park Wildlife Safari in nearby Winston. To support this year’s Tiger Oasis fundraising project, which will provide additional living space for the facility’s two Sumatran tigers, Johnson brewed Tiger Tales American Wheat Ale. The beer featured special ingredients like blood orange and a 48-ounce box of Tony the Tiger’s own Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes.
The experimentation and variety reflects the area’s changing palate. The local homebrew club, the Umpqua Valley Brewers Guild, has grown. Seven breweries are now in Roseburg and nearby towns such as Winston and Tenmile. “Brewburg” now has a vibrant Beer Week.
“More craft beer has become available, and more and more people are interested in craft beer and seeking it out,” says Johnson. “They bring their friends along and find out that they like it too. It all helps to promote craft beer and bring interest to other places as well as ours.”
McMenamins Roseburg Station Pub & Brewery
[a] 700 SE Sheridan St., Roseburg
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