In April we went down to Silverton for our second year at the Oregon Garden Brew Fest but we were running ahead of schedule and decided to make a detour to Salem. Two choices were available: Vagabond Brewing and Santiam Brewing, neither of which we'd visited nor had beer from before so it was a horse apiece. The decision ended up being made by the clock. It was just past 3pm and with Vagabond opening at 3, but Santiam not until 4, the decision was made.
We followed the map to, no surprise, a light industrial area with a helpful sign at the driveway letting us know beer was ---->. Walking in we were greeted by a large space, much more than necessary for brewing and a simple taproom. Ample seating, all made in house except for the collection of leather sofas grouped together in an area that doubles as a stage for live music, dart boards and a pool table easily fit into the space.
With beer being our mission we bellied up to the bar where Alvin introduced himself and poured us our first flight. He told us the operation is a collaboration of four former Marines, two hailing from Salem and two from California. As with other multi-owner breweries, each person contributes their strengths, be it brewing, marketing, handling the business operations, etc.
We started out with one flight and added on three more samples so that we could sample all nine Vagabond beers that were available. The All Rye, All Rye, All Rye and NW Passage Stout, which surprised me by being their highest ABV beer, were my favorites. Mag's tastes lean a bit more malty and he found the On the Road Red to be right up his alley.
Once our thirst was quenched Alvin graciously offered to give us a tour of the place. The brewery space dwarfs the existing 4 bbl steam system; an intentional move to ensure that a physical move would not be needed when they were ready to scale up. Currently that also means that there is plenty of room for 4 Spirits Distillery bourbon barrels and Kings Estate Pinot Noir barrels, which will of course be filled with beer.
There are also plans to open a kitchen, a project that will be spearheaded by one of the Vagabond wives, following her completion at culinary school. In the meantime, customers can bring their own food in and food carts are encouraged to come around, especially on the weekends when the place fills.
The visit, while unplanned, turned out to be a great lead-in to the festival and fell in line with nearly every other small brewery visit. The brewers/owners were happy to tell us as much as we wanted about their operation and the beers showed promise. Since the visit I've been following them on Facebook and let me tell you, if I lived in Salem you can bet I'd be spending plenty of time at Vagabond. It seems as though there is always something going on, from live music to game night to cheering on a sports team.
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