DRINK LOCAL: Gil’s Growler’s and Bottle Shop – Springtime Selections
On the surface, the stylish, rustic Oregon taphouse, set in Ashland’s railroad district and, inside, with a handwritten chalkboard listing dozens of craft brews and a simple, relaxed atmosphere, could be just about anywhere. But, it is what isn’t immediately evident that sets Gil’s a world apart.
To start with, “beer manager’” Josh Gehr holds bona-fide Cicerone certification—more than a mere “sommalier of beer,” the term connotes expertise and guidance skills through a world of flavors and ingredients, brewing practices, food pairings, history, culture, folklore; more like a docent or curator of malt-based drinks. For Gehr—and how he explains the drinks—each brew is a universe unto itself, as complex, artistically combined notes intrigue or assault the palate. This deep appreciation and understanding about beer also translates into a far-reaching selection of drinks—from some of the more obvious contestant to nano-production holes-in-the-wall across the Pacific Northwest.
That the brews at Gil’s offer exceptional quality and variety is an understatement—and the variety here makes a strong argument that beers have achieved a broader range of sensory stimulus even than wine. (If you want to test that argument yourself, Gil’s offers a half-dozen top shelf local wines by the bottle or glass: Jaxon, Cowhorn, Cliff Creek, Quady North, to name a few. As well, adjacent, Ruby’s next door shares management and kitchen with Gil’s, making this a two-fer of rustic elegance as back and forth between establishments is allowed and encouraged.)
Notable beers for spring include the Santiam Flemish Red Sour, tang softened by woody wild cherry from its three-year slumber in oak; BTU Brasserie & Brewery’s Ghost Man White Lager (Portland), whose Belgian-strain yeast induces character beyond expectation in a lager; Hood River’s Pfriem Bretta Sour Blonde, named for the wild yeast strain that boldly suggests earth, straw, sweat—“under the saddle,” as Gehr explained—an inexplicable sensation of sunshine and physical exertion satisfied; Elysian Barrel Aged Strong Ale, like the familiar Bifrost Ale but then aged in gin barrels—woody dry spice, nutmeg, anise, a wafting memory of sweetness; and, Wildcraft Blueberry Cider, as enchanting as a nap in a spring-green meadow.