To get to Topwire Hop Project from I-5, divert yourself onto beautiful, bucolic Butteville Road, and turn west on Crosby Drive. Lupulin Lane is on the left, and ushers you through the bines to your destination. Don’t listen to the voice on your navigation app. In all honesty, I missed a critical turn because, as I whizzed by the tautly strung poles and wires of nearby hopyards on I-5, the brown coir twine blurring past gave me the illusion of a brown fog hovering above the ground. I was daydreaming about how to begin this article when I missed my exit.
Topwire Hop Project is located on the property of Crosby Hop Farm, and is an immersive hop experience outdoor pub. Crosby, one of several hop growers in the Willamette Valley, has been the most visible from a marketing perspective, and works with breweries across the country and beyond to showcase its wares. Topwire brings it all home with a taplist rife with salmon-safe terroir.
At the grand opening weekend of April 30, the hops were knee-high to a grasshopper; evenly spaced tufts of spring green tendrils sat anxiously on the ground. In the coming weeks, they will start their seasonal spiral up the twine and lush out; August is the month visit for one-time visitors, but it’s easy to appreciate the entire growth cycle of hops. The agricultural aspect will be on full display year-round, from winter’s dormancy to the bustle of harvest, when workers trundle down the rows in trucks and top cutters, stirring up a pungent dust on the way to the Goldbergian processing plant. (I made a fun video of the hop harvest at Crosby here.)
The pandemic (because it just can’t go unmentioned) created a super bloom of outdoor seating, so the near complete lack of walls at Topwire is unsurprising, especially during a warm patch of day. However, the green grass lawn and framing by acres of Centennial hops is certainly a treat that will provide a huge “wow” factor as the season progresses. Ordering at the counter (a converted shipping container) is straightforward and well-signed, and there is plenty of well-spaced seating in a variety of configurations; in that regard it is not much different than the average brewpub. I met up with Ezra of The New School and his wonderful wife, Heather, by a gas-fire table to enjoy the newness of the place, and were met by other industry folks cruising in to drink at the source. The obvious first choice of beverage was tap 1: Topwire IPA Series Vol. 1, a Crosby collaboration brewed at Grains of Wrath in Camas, WA. It featured Amarillo, Strata, and Columbus hops, and was a classic, clean and drinkable West Coast IPA with a touch of sweetness and juicy citrus hop aroma and flavor. While half of the ten taps were IPAs, there were also two lagers, a wild ale, a N/A beer, and a hopped cider.
Food is provided in the form of small snack/cheese plates at Topwire, or by ordering from Luis’s Taqueria, which serves up a small but tasty menu of taco truck fare.
A handful of families were scattered around the green as well. One thing Topwire lacks is a dedicated kid’s space. I was spoiled, even as a non-parent, by Agrarian Ales’ inclusiveness and provisions for kids and families in the form of climbing structures and giant Jenga. The “issue” of kids at pubs is a minefield, but unless the staff and farmers want kids getting into the hops (which I’m positive would have been my kid’s first destination), or expect parents to pack enough diversions to keep them reined in in such an open space, they’d do well to install a focal point for kid play. Kids need community, too, and yeah, parents need a beer break.
Topwire is situated west of Woodburn, about an hour-and-a-half north of Eugene. It’s open Thursday-Sunday at 11am til 8 or 9. The marketing team was kind enough to provide me with a couple drink tickets and a cool stainless pint glass, though I would have gone anyhow. Making the trek from Eugene isn’t something I’m likely to do frequently, but as an extended rest stop on the most boring stretch of the highway it is most appreciated, even more so as the only place for the public to drink on a hop farm in, I believe, Oregon. The experience is only matched in concept by the pub at Admiral Maltings in Alameda, CA, where you can peer into the floor malting facility while drinking beer made with Admiral malt. It is also close to Salem, which has a good beer scene in the form of Vagabond, Santiam, and other breweries and beer bars.
Topwire Hop Project
8668 Crosby Rd NE
Woodburn, OR 97071