Brewers Union Local 180

Wander off the beaten path in the Cascade Mountains to the small town of Oakridge and you'll find a little piece of jolly old England ready to welcome you with an Imperial pint. Brewers Union Local 180 invited us to Oregon's only Real Ale public house and brewery to sample their hand pumped cask conditioned ales and hear their story for Hopstory #4.

It’s not difficult to find good beer in Oregon. Just about every little town has a brewpub, most serving a good beer or two. But with so many breweries, what can be hard is finding something truly different. For beer lovers willing to wander off the beaten path to the small mountain town of Oakridge, Brewer’s Union 180 offers “a chance to try something unique,” owner and brewer Ted Sobel told us. Oregon’s only real ale public house, every BU180 beer is brewed from a recipe specifically crafted for cask conditioning (as opposed to the slightly more common practice of cask conditioning a beer usually served from a keg). The difference is palatable.

“It’s really easy to make a 7.5% IPA, gas it up, and serve it at 38 degrees. Take that same pint and sit it on the bar and wait until it goes to 50 and it tastes like rubbish.” But a true cask beer, hand drawn at traditional cellar temperature (roughly 52 degrees) in a British style imperial pint (95 mL larger than a standard US pint) in a classic pub setting makes for a truly unique experience.

Open in 2008, BU180 represents not only a different direction in Oregon brewing but a complete one-eighty for Ted. “I was a highly paid software engineer with time off and health insurance and a pay check. And then I quit. I didn’t know what I was going to do.” A tour through England introduced Ted to real ale and cemented his lifelong love of a good pub. What makes a good pub? “You’ve got to have character, you have to have atmosphere, and you have to have personality,” he told us. Packed full of books, local art, and an impressive beer bottle collection, Ted has created a place to sit and enjoy a beer free of typical restaurant-style pressure. “We like to learn names, find out who everybody is, and welcome everybody and let them feel comfortable. There’s no wait staff. We don’t have somebody come to the table and take your order from you. If you want something, you come to the bar. We leave you alone.”

Free to chat, play pool, and most importantly, enjoy cask ale, a visitor might be tempted to stay. Ted will understand. “I spend more time in here than at home. This is my other living room. It’s cozy, I think.” We couldn’t agree more.