“I think it’s pretty fuckin’ cool.”
Mark Mark’s words: he’s right. Downtown Eugene’s locavore hangout and cocktail bar Party Bar (part of Party Downtown) has tapped a collaboration with Ninkasi Brewing, and will be celebrating with, appropriately, a party on Thursday May 2. It is a rice lager brewed with lime leaf (the rice was brown, don’t worry you crunchy Eugeniuses!), but before you start crying “-rita!” you should understand how this beer bridges the gap between swillable and think-drink. And then go have a few, it’s only 4.7% abv.
Honestly, it’s not what I expected Party’s co-owner to be excited about, but there he was, parting out loaves of sourdough bread from the bulk fermentation and raving about it, while I dodged passing cooks and tried to keep flour out of my glass. Past experience, from bringing him bottles of homebrew and tasting random things with him, tells me he’s into funk; anything with brettanomyces, including wine. Stuff that might taste to someone else like a dried out sock pulled from a Kentucky pond is his jams. Again, he’s right: those things are awesome when you take a moment to understand what the ingredients are trying to say, what the brewer or vintner wants you to taste, and try not to put it in your own box. It’s art.
So I never really thought I’d hear Mark say, “I like drinking a beer that tastes like Budweiser but is actually good.” I think he’s onto something.
Party Beer, the eponymously named collaboration, is fun as hell and doesn’t have a thick skin. It’s clean, but perfumed with the lime leaf in a heady, lemongrassy way. Mark says it’s like Fruity Pebbles and vitamin C, which I love because I love applying relatable sense memories to beer. There is a subtle umami character there that gives it depth, but not too much. This is a bright beer, a lively beer that will go streaking at the drop of a hat, for no reason. It has evolved over the course of weeks; at last sip the lime leaf had actually gotten stronger.
This is the first collaboration Party has done with a brewery. Jeff Long, Party’s Ninkasi rep, made the suggestion and connected Mark and Tiffany with brewer Rich Masella; it wasn’t a stretch, as Party catered Rich’s wedding (and mine! Woohoo!). Party and Ninkasi have also worked together on several pairing dinners (which are always epic at Party).
The beer was brewed on Ninkasi’s new 5-barrel pilot brewery. After some pint-sized experimentation with the lime leaf, they decided to add it at the end of the boil, which avoided any soapy flavors and helped to meld the flavors in with the beer, rather than having it stand on top. The lime flavor could almost be mistaken for a hop.
Party Beer works for Party Bar. It works with oysters, which is a feature of Party Bar. It works in multiples, as it is crazy drinkable. That’s trouble, because it may be the only batch ever produced. Maybe.
Mark inferred there would be a permanent Party Beer tap moving forward, so I’m sure it’s reasonable to expect more coolness flowing from the hip epicenter of downtown. If you’re late to the game and haven’t been to Party Bar, which opened in October 2018 as the street facing, separate-but-connected casual dining and drinking department of Party Downtown, the transition inside from Broadway is not dissimilar from stepping into a scene in Goodfellas. The canopy of potted plants, giant beveled mirror behind the bar, and color scheme down to the accent wallpaper is, to be basic, unique. And fun, especially if DJ Sleeve is spinning records and you’ve had a few cocktails. So go. Party!
55 W. Broadway
Eugene, OR 97401