Magnificent stained glass windows sprawl across the stone walls and high-vaulted ceilings. Light, wooden pews and lengthy community tables are laid out in deference to the most important part of the room, one of the most revered deities in the Eugene/Springfield community: craft beer. Even better, over 28 unique, rotating handles along with wine, kombucha and soda are offered at this church devoted to beer.
PublicHouse is a taphouse, whiskey bar and collection of food vendors all bundled into one business and dropped into the renovated First Christian Church on 418 A street in Springfield. The church is no longer operational as a religious venue, but its doors are wide open for locals to enjoy an afternoon or evening in the repurposed sanctuary With plenty of seating both indoor and out, as well as food options including Latin, German, barbecue, baked goods, a cafe and edible cookie dough, PublicHouse is an ideal gathering place for all tastes.
The Latin food vendor, La Granada, tends to serve more Peruvian food than that of other Latin American countries. With an err of comfort food in the types of dishes La Granada serves up, dishes like the Pazole and another seasonal special that pairs yuca fries with steak, add to the rainy Oregon vibe that yearns for a good beer.
The German inspired spot, Pig & Turnip, and the barbecue joint, Cascade BBQ, only go to further this theme of pairing gourmet comfort food with craft beer. At Pig & Turnip, the Bacon and Bleu Burger is smothered with silky, bleu cheese fondue (many items on the menu involve fondue in some form) and topped with delicious bacon to create a combination that is both rich and meaty. Wash it down with a local kombucha to improve your retroactive gut health.
At Cascade BBQ, a choice of tri-tip, ribs, chicken, hot links or portobello mushrooms are inserted into either a plate or sandwich of your choice. The sandwich or plate can then be paired with the option of a side — the Emerald recommends getting the mac and cheese, and when the nice lady helping you order tells you to get that with the burnt edges (small pieces of delicious, jerky-like tri-tip), say “yes please.”
PublicHouse’s tap list is full of high-end West Coast brews. It is difficult to go wrong with any, although for someone trying to pair their drink with a meal, one would not want to settle for a suboptimal drink just because it goes well with their dish. The tap list is full of IPAs, some pilsners, etc., but the nitro stout and Orange Blossom cider on the list are necessities.
The Bauman Cider Company’s Orange Blossom cider is a refreshing, crisp and sweet — but not too sweet — treat that would be perfect on a warm summer evening, yet still nice to drink in snowy March nonetheless. The cider smells like the bright oranges and lemons that are added to give its flavor, and the blossom tacked onto its name is not missed in the taste: floral notes abound, which makes it a fun drink to sip. The bright cider has a dry finish that is a wonderful quality compared to the hyper-sweet ciders that University of Oregon students pound on the regular.
Modern Times’ Nitro Black House, a nitrogenated oatmeal stout with coconut, coffee and cocoa is balanced and goes down smoothly — like a glass of chocolate milk. The head maintains itself far longer than other beers — a product of the nitrogen add-in — which contributes to the creamy and fulfilling mouthfeel. And yet, the beer isn’t too heavy like other over-the-top stouts on the market. It is a soft and rich experience abounding with chocolate and coffee flavors. This beer is a treat and won’t make you feel like you need to work off the calories.
PublicHouse comically writes the origin of their Modern Times beers as “PORTLAND, CA.” Although awkward, they may be attempting to describe the San Diego-based breweries expansion to Portland in few words — allowing drinkers to grasp the über-local beverage repertoire the draft bar offers.
While you enjoy the previously mentioned Pozole, don’t miss out on the subtle flavors of the soup for a flavor-bomb of a drink such as the Pfriem triple IPA. But, given that everyone just wants the best out of their meal, forget the pairing and go for an eclectic combination you couldn’t find at any other locale. The wide range of drinks and neo-world food court offer a hard-to-imagine dining experience.
What adds to the difficult choices PublicHouse imposes on its patrons is the “Whiskey Lab,” or what a UO student might call the Anti-Taylor’s, located just off the “outdoor patio” (covered and heated during colder seasons). This dark and moody haven has seating for dinner but includes a stacked spirit list and a homemade cocktail list. The bartenders are funny and laidback, if not a little cheeky. The cocktails are interesting, sometimes calling on local and artisanal ingredients, albeit nothing off-the-wall or unheard of. The $11 Coffee Smoke (local Tailored coffee, Laphroaig whiskey, Ancient Age bourbon, maple and Cocchi Torino vermouth) sounds exciting as does the $7 Burro (cimarron blanco, lime, ginger, and jalapeño syrup).
Despite the church walls and pews to sit on, the experience at PublicHouse isn’t heavenly. But, if you like beer and food, it might be close. Some believe Jesus turned water into wine; PublicHouse turns your hard-earned money into a great night on the Springfield Strip. The Emerald recommends you drink responsibly and get home safe.