The Kind Hop and A Beer Club provide respite along busy corridors
Eugene’s beer scene hasn’t seen a new beer bar for a couple years, and two have opened up near high volume intersections in the last couple months: The Kind Hop on River Road south of Beltline, and A Beer Club on the southeast corner of 7th and Washington.
Breweries and tap houses often draw their aesthetic cues from a particular hobby or passion of the owner, and these two are no exception. The Kind Hop is “beswagged” in the alt-sports oeuvre as a BMX and soccer pub; it’s the only place in town I know of that caters to the former. A Beer Club follows in the footsteps of Beer Geek Bars like The Bier Stein and 16 Tons, and steps up the game with the most impressive wall of beer in the state (there, I said it). Here’s my take in order of opening date:
The Kind Hop (2023 River Rd., @thekindhop) opened just before St. Patrick’s Day, and is attracting locals who were in dire need of a craft beer bar in the River Road neighborhood (myself included). The 12-handle taplist is broad in scope and features a good mix of local and further-afield breweries and one cider, and there is a small cooler with bottles and cans to go.
The unpretentious pub is run by Nick and Zena Benson, a friendly couple who recently moved from Lincoln, CA, and have prior experience at brewery taprooms. If one wishes to ingratiate oneself to the local community, opening a pub is certainly a good way! The vibe is driven by Nick’s lifelong love of riding BMX, as well as soccer, with several screens showing games and BMX events.
There are bars, and there are bars-with-activities (video lottery doesn’t count). There’s a Super Nintendo situation at one of the tables, and they host a popular trivia night on Saturdays. Even a couple months young, The Kind Hop jumped onboard with Eugene Beer Week, hosting a barrel-aged beer & movie night (Ghostbusters) and a Gratitude Brewing tap takeover. The Bensons have also mentioned organizing a beer fest in the lot behind the building.
The Kind Hop is 21+, and allows outside food. Current hours are
Wednesday: 1PM – 9PM
Thursday: 1PM – 9PM
Friday: 12PM – 9PM
Saturday: 12PM – 9PM
Sunday: 12PM – 8PM
A Beer Club (472 W 7th, Ste. 5, @abeerclub11) opened June 9th, and is the realization of George Keim’s passion for the culture of craft beer. Upon entry, one is greeted with beer history. The walls, and even the front of the bar, are clad in bottles and cans (remember Oakshire’s Line Dry Rye?), and Keim claims to have fairly specific memories of each of the thousands-ish vessels. It’s this foundation of set and setting, using the experience of drinking great beer to help define a positive experience, that Keim is after. It’s the sort of place where having opinions about beer is totally ok.
The “club” part of A Beer Club comes from an optional yearly membership program with three different levels: Ambassador, VP Club, and President’s Club. Each level offers increasing benefits of discounts, merchandise, and gift cards, up to an unheard of offer: the opportunity to choose and share a bottle from Keim’s private beer cellar.
With 26 taps and nine cooler doors, there is no shortage of beer and cider to enjoy, and the roster is packed with MVPs. At the outset, the taplist looked like no other in town. It’s rare to find an ESB, altbier, and New Zealand-style pilsner on tap at the same time, not to mention Fremont’s rare Brew 6000 served from a nitro tap. And, while supplies last, there’s a generous selection of Hair of the Dog bottles to choose from, among many other goodies in flashy wrapping.
Keim remodeled the former Growler Guys taproom himself, going so far as to build his own beer cooler and draught system (and the bathrooms get a solid A from me). He started scouting after being laid off from his longtime job at Autohaus repair shop. The location was far from his first choice; he even tried to get the original Bier Stein space but couldn’t get bank backing (because gee, that sure didn’t work out last time eh?).
Though young yet, the place has a solid feel and definite personality. Access to the parking lot comes from 7th Ave (first driveway east of Washington) or headed north on Washington (last driveway before 7th). Bike and pedestrian access is a little trickier, but the location is adjacent to both the Whiteaker and West Jefferson ‘hoods. Outside food is allowed, and minors are allowed til 9pm.
A Beer Club’s current hours are Wednesday 12pm-8pm
My only comment here is no fault of anyone’s; the locations are not what I’d call “good.” The Kind Hop is right next to a Dollar General and can barely be seen from River Road, and A Beer Club is on the less visible corner of the intersection. Foot traffic may not be a huge factor in folks finding these spots.
Both The Kind Hop and A Beer Club were a long time coming; I’d watched on social media as both places posted build-out shots and started finding their sea legs as new businesses in the virtual world. I visited both in real life on their opening days and was greeted with welcome, thanks, good beer, and a healthy new business owner-type nervousness. While there are bars that sell craft beer in their respective neighborhoods, most are not as conscious or intentional about their taplists, and don’t rotate through brands regularly.
Building a well-rounded and interesting beer list is no easy task; a large number of distributors and self-distributed breweries, not to mention the staggering number of brands to choose from, exert their own unique pressures and influences. A beer bar in the now-classic format of constantly changing handles shows the preferences of the beer buyer-as-curator, and offers visitors an opportunity to engage with their own tastes, to try something new. And right now, newness is hot.