By Sam Wheeler
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Ashland-based nano-brewery, Swing Tree Brewing Company, is located a little off the beaten path of its Shakespeare-centric Southern Oregon hometown, but its beer and atmosphere are spot on.
Swing Tree got off the ground in November 2013 and although the brewery is experiencing a few growing pains, finding people to drink Swing Tree’s craft beer isn’t one of them, said Brandon Overstreet, founder, owner, and lead brewer.
“Ever since we opened we still haven’t been able to meet the demand,” Overstreet said. “We are clawing away to upgrade as soon as we can.”
The brewery is currently operating a 3 1/2 barrel system Overstreet called a glorified homebrew system. Pulling quality beer off of the setup isn’t an issue, but keeping up with the thirst of the brewery’s patrons is.
Optimistic, Overstreet is inching closer, one pint at a time, toward upgrading to a seven-barrel system, but that’s only a piece of Swing Tree’s grand scheme.
“We need a kitchen,” he said, waving his hand around the brewery/tap house digs inside the No. 7 space of a business park at 300 East Hersey Street — across the tracks from Ashland’s Historic Railroad District.
Within the next two to three years, he said, he’d like to see Swing Tree opening up a second location — a brew pub — along A Street in the Railroad District.
It’ll be more of a family atmosphere than the current brewery/tap house, and it will serve top- notch pub food, he said.
Swing Tree’s current home base offers a relaxing atmosphere with a clear view of the mountains above Ashland. A shuffleboard table — the only one in Ashland — flanks one end of the space while six retired wine barrels filled with a soon-to-come specialty sour beer are stacked on top each other.
“It’s a really relaxed, fun atmosphere and even if you don’t know anyone, you’re bound to make a friend,” said Teri Badenhop, Swing Tree tap house manager. “We’re geared definitely toward the locals — we do get some tourists, but they are usually beer geek tourists.”
If you want some grub with your brew, come by Swing Tree on a Sunday for one of Badenhop’s Sunday Funday feeds – sometimes tacos, other times barbecue — always tasty.
With five faucets, the tap house tries to keep its four mainstay brews flowing all the time along with a guest beer.
Swing Tree currently offers its flagship Porch Swing Pale, an easy-drinking American pale ale; Obligatory IPA, a hopped-to-the gills lip smacker of an IPA; Lonely Trike Red Ale, it has a hoppy IPA kick with more malty quench, and Two Shilling Ale, a rich-flavored brown that rolls easy off the back of your tongue leaving a fruity tingle.
“We want the community to really take ownership of our pub and these beers, but the nation will know us for our traditional series specialty beers,” Overstreet said.
Take, for instance, the specialty sour beer Overstreet has aging in the old Petite Sirah barrels. It’s being brewed in the traditional Belgian Lambic style using spontaneous fermentation and will be bottled in 750 milliliter bottles just in time for the holiday season.
“I don’t want to work in a brew factory and I don’t want brewers that want to work in a brew factory. I want brewers that are going to be creative,” Overstreet said. “We don’t want to be a distribution brewery, ever.”
Swing Tree is currently open Thursday through Saturday 3 to 10 p.m. and 3 to 9 p.m. on Sundays. Check the brewery’s Facebook page for regular updates on its rotating tap and Sunday Funday menu schedule, Overstreet said.
“I try as hard as I can to just create this environment where it feels like you’re going over to your buddy’s house to have a beer,” he said.
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